Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why I Am Not Giving Up Blogging For Lent

“Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.”

Today, any number of participants in the Catholic blogoshere will announce, with some measure of fanfare, that they are giving up blogging for Lent. We're supposed to admire them. You're welcome to if you'd like, but as for me, what follows is why I'm not giving up blogging for Lent. In addition, while not a complete treatise on the subject, this piece will serve to clear up some heretofore little-known aspects of the season.

The Christian calendar has traditionally had numerous periods of fasting in anticipation of great feasts. For example, in some parts of Europe, especially the east, the "Saint Martin's Fast" would begin on the 11th of November ("Martinmas"), and continue until Christmas. There were also Ember Days, three days of penance occurring on a quarterly basis. But it was the season of Lent which is known as "The Great Fast" of the year of grace. Other parts of Europe, especially in the west, did not begin their penitential season until the four Sundays before Christmas, the time of which is known as "Advent."

People assume that Lent is the only time for giving up anything, when it isn't. People also assume that giving up anything involves making a big to-do about it, when it shouldn't. Attending daily Mass is a popular exercise, and in most major cities where there are urban parishes near a business district, there will be an extra scheduled weekday Mass -- and extra time for confessions -- during the season. These things don't always call attention to themselves. They shouldn't.

And speaking of the season, it didn't always just start right away. The traditional Roman calendar preceded Lent with three Sundays collectively known as "Septuagesima" (or literally "seventy days"). They were termed "Septuagesima Sunday," "Sexagesima Sunday," and "Quinquagesima Sunday," respectively. The priest would wear violet vestments, the Gloria was not sung, and the Tract replaced the Alleluia before the Gospel. But the musical accompaniment was not restricted, and flowers and other suitable decor could be placed on the reredos behind the altar as normally done during the year. To this day, the Byzantine calendar of the Eastern churches has five special Sundays preceding Lent: "Zacchaeus Sunday" (if only in the Slavic tradition), "The Sunday of the Publican & Pharisee," "The Sunday of the Prodigal Son," "Meatfare Sunday" (or "The Sunday of the Last Judgment," when the faithful begin abstaining from meat), and "Cheesefare Sunday" (when they begin abstaining from dairy products, which for them would include eggs).

In addition, there was a time when weddings were not permitted during Advent or Lent, unless there was a serious reason. And if one was allowed, the altar and sanctuary could not be decorated as it could otherwise be for the occasion. (Try that today, and see a young lady get in touch with her inner Bridezilla, eh?)

So right now you're saying, “Wow, Mister Black Hat Guy, you are a veritable fountain of arcane and useless knowledge. But how does it explain why you're not giving up blogging for Lent?”

Well, my little minions, it doesn't. But I had to work in all that arcane and useless knowledge somehow. As to the point of all this ...

To the extent that mwbh identifies itself as "Catholic," its author is engaged in what could be considered a propagation of the Faith. And in case it isn't obvious by now, you don't give up an apostolate for Lent, you big dummy! So it's settled then. Now if you'll excuse me, my tailor is here, and I'm to be fitted for a new sackcloth. Hmmm, something in light brown ....


matthew archbold said...

make my sackcloth an XL.

Dymphna said...

I don't think most of the bloggers who are giving it up for Lent want us to admire them. Probably they don't want blog friends to think something has happened to them if they suddenly stop blogging.

David L Alexander said...

Glad I don't have that problem. I could probably get hit by a bus and no one would notice my hiatus.

Now watch. No one else will notice that I just wrote that.

Mulier Fortis said...

Yup... I'm not giving up blogging for Lent... however, blogging has been so sporadic for a while that no-one would notice if I did!!