Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, a 40 some day period of penance, abstience and preparation for Easter. For some reason 40 signifies the time that is required for discipline, testing, and separation prior to achieving a goal or new beginning. It is also the time that Jesus spent in the desert. But don’t challenge me on that. Like a good Catholic I know little about my own religion.
Lent comes quicker than I want it to every year and I observe it as I have for the past 15 years in the same way. My penance has remained the same through time with a few variations, of course.
In the beginning my penance was to abstain from smoking and drinking for the whole 40 some days. When I gave up smoking permanently I continued to abstain from drinking. Since my drinking now only includes wine, I give up wine.
It is no longer a religious penance though. It is how it started but it is not what it is anymore. Although I believe that penance and discipline are good for the soul, mind and body, I don’t hold God liable for my success. I no longer offer to give up something for something. I don’t believe God will grant or deny me a wish based on how long I went without a drink.
I don’t drink for a period of time because I decide that I am not going to. It is my check and balance, it keeps me in control and not controlled. If I followed some traditions, I could have a drink every Sunday but I don’t, the same way that I haven’t had a cigarette since that day on April 2001 and if one day during the following 47 days I decide that I am going to have my wine, I will and there is no shame or sin in it. I’d simply choose to.
I observe Lent in my own way for my own reasons, none that anyone would need to understand. I don’t look for a pat on the back but I don’t seek the criticism either. So if I am seen with a glass of seltzer in my hand or a glass of wine, if no one is paying for it, no one has anything to say about it. Maybe a good penance would be to abstain from criticizing my choices.