Today is Ash Wednesday -- the beginning of the Lenten Season. Music at church will be solemn from now until Easter when it becomes glorious again. This is always such an amazing time of the year.
At the Cathedral we use the same song at the beginning of Mass every Sunday of Lent. It's slow and solemn and very repetetive. When I played with the music ministry, my parts were either very simple or non-existant. Instruments (except organ & piano) are discouraged. Also, we started using some chant during Mass last year for Lent and we will be continuing that this year as well. I think it really adds to the solemnity of the season. The hardest thing to get used to is the end of Mass. During the Recessional no music is played at all. The priest and the rest of the entourage leave in silence. This makes people feel uncomfortable, so many leave as soon as Mass is over and don't wait for the recessional. They miss the point. Recessional music is supposed to life our spirits as we head out into the world after celebrating the sacrifice of the Mass each week. However, during Lent we're not joyful so it doesn't make sense to send us forth with joyful music. This is a solemn and contemplative time. Thus no music. It feels awkward and unnatural, even pretty uncomfortable, but that's the whole point. It's supposed to feel that way. Think about it when you're at Mass today or this coming Sunday.
Today, Ash Wednesday itself, is actually not a Holy Day of Obligation. Most people don't seem to know that, but why bother correcting them. There are usually more people at Mass today than there are on actual Holy Days of Obligation. So we'll keep it a secret so that they continue showing up each year. Chris and I will be attending the 7:30 Mass tonight and then going to dinner afterwards. I'm sure we'll be pretty hungry by then, we're following the rules of fasting and abstinence today.
Fasting and abstinence is something we do during Lent to remind us of the sufferings Jesus went through for us. Ash Wedensday and Good Friday are days of fast: two small meals that don't equal one normal size meal when combined together and one regular meal. All the Fridays of Lent plus the two previously mentioned are days of abstinence: no meat. In truth every Friday of the year is a day of penance. Before Vatican II meat was not allowed during any Friday. Since then that has been changed, we are still supposed to do a penance on Fridays during the rest of the year, but it doesn't have to be meat. Chris' family always did no meat on Fridays and he still keeps that up, so I have been following suit lately.
Lent is also a time to give something up, to make a sacrifice as (again) another reminder of what Jesus sacrificed for us. So for Lent this year we have decided to give up TV. We can watch a rented movie, but no actual TV. I did this several years ago and it was such a good thing to do. I'm not sure that this is much of a sacrifice, but it will be difficult. We are also going to say a Rosary every day, together whenever possible.
Next week I am going to Pittsburgh for a conference. I don't recall ever going to a conference during Lent. It might be a bit of a challenge, especially in the hotel room with two roommates. I can't really expect them to not watch TV just because I can't.
Anyhow, I wish everyone a good Lenten Season. May this time of year bring you closer to our Lord!