Quadragesima, 40 Days, Lent. Today is Ash Wednesday the beginning of the season of Lent that leads up to Easter. As it began, I've had one friend accosted by a Bible Thumper online and my wife made fun of at work for having ashes on her forehead. Interesting.
No one would fault a Yogi for meditating for months at a time, no one dares say a word against Muslims praying 5 times a day, the neopagans and wiccans celebrate the spring equinox freely, nothing much is made out of Jews celebrating Passover, but smear some ash on your Catholic forehead and offer to give a little something up for 40 days and suddenly the Earth spins off it's axis. Curious.
Lent as we know it began early in Church history as adults fasted and went through the rituals to become full members of the Church. By the 4th century, the practices began attracting particiption from people already baptized alongside those waiting for admittance. Between the 6th and 8th century, "Confession" or Reconciliation became the focus of absolution for personal sins and the 6 week period of Lent began to take serious shape into traditions we'd recognize today in the 11th century. Though some of the severity of the fasting and abstinence were gradually removed, it wasn't until 1966 that modern guidelines governing the Season made them less stringent.
Why do it? So many people from Baby Boomers on down make the statement that it's all ritual and no spirituality in the Church. Yet here's a tailormade spiritual season of 40 days leading up to Christians' most important holiday and the very tools that in any other religion would be seen as key to kick off and/or enhance the physical and mental process of embarking on a spiritual journey are ignored, mocked or generally disregarded as outdated practices with no modern application.
For whom is there a spiritual vacuum?