The idea of Mardi Gras has always been an odd one to me; a wild party where any kind of indulgence is readily available as a prelude to a period of prayer and fasting seems amazingly incongruous. (I say this as one who is not all that familiar with Mardi Gras and its surrounding events, so proceed at your own risk).
Oh, sure, not all Mardi Gras celebrations are orgies of whichever deadly sin you wish to participate in before you proceed to a drought of pleasures of the flesh. But there Mardi Gras stands on the eve of Ash Wednesday, an invitation to revel in something, none the less.
Maybe it is human nature to want gorge oneself on any or all indulgences that may not be available for a time. (I, for example, may or may not have done the same thing with Cadbury mini-eggs at this time of year.) But this kind of behavior makes more sense if one is a bear and will be hibernating for the winter and the indulgence is the necessity of food. Of course, if it's a necessity, it's not really an indulgence. But it seems counter-productive if what one is actually seeking is spiritual purification and enlightenment.
I suppose if you see the season of Lent as one of deprivation as opposed to spiritual growth, then the revelry of worldly indulgence makes sense. But it's a shame if that's the case. It seems symbolic of a world rushing headlong into pleasure regardless of the consequences, spiritual or otherwise. Party now, pay later.
My family does not celebrate Lent, although we certainly celebrate Easter and the resurrection of Christ. But I like the idea of Lent.
Spiritual preparation has always been essential in order to receive what gifts certain spiritual occasions have to offer. Like the parable of ten virgins at the wedding feast in the New Testament, we need oil in our lamps.
Anyone seriously awaiting the bridegroom will have long since been storing up oil, because while repentance is possible and necessary for everyone, if word comes that the bridegroom is coming on Ash Wednesday, and you were out all night Fat Tuesday, you may find yourself ill prepared.
I once attended Mass on Ash Wednesday, long ago for my birthday. Maybe because my birthday tomorrow will fall once again on Ash Wednesday these things are on my mind.
"Remember (O man) that you are dust, and to dust you shall return" is what the priest intones to the parishioners. And not because he wants to depress everybody there, but because he wants to remind us that those worldly pleasures of the flesh can come with serious consequence for the soul.
"A charge to keep I have," wrote Charles Wesley, lovely man, "A god to glorify. A never dying soul to save and fit it for the sky." I love those beautiful words.
I have a feeling those spiritual alterations can't be done on a rush order.