Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Peeve: Lent

So, what are you giving up for Lent? I want to give up poverty.

It's like the day after Thanksgiving, No Buy Day. If you're poor, every day is No Buy Day, unless there are big sales with massive discounts. Let's think of a day of the year that has big sales with massive discounts. Hey, I know, how about the day after Thanksgiving? Thank you Concerned Middle Classes. Enjoy those big screen TVs and X-Boxes you buy the day after the day after Thanksgiving with the extra money you have that we don't.

Lent's like that. When the churches that push giving up for Lent do without tithes and collections for forty days, I'll believe they know what they're asking of people. It doesn't have to be the same forty days. They could still gouge people during Lent, while backing off during Advent, so folks would have more money for Christmas. And post-Thanksgiving and post-Christmas specials.

Let's see the Pope wear plain clothes and live in a single room at a Motel 6 for 40 days. Then he can tell harried housewives they shouldn't touch that Valentine's Day chocolate.

[Left: Only 12 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge, San Rafael's new Motel 6 is ideally located to serve the needs of the major religious leader during any Advent papal cut-back. Above: Of course, his home-sweet-home will still be there when the 40 days are up.]

You may wonder why I care. "Wes," you may be saying, "we know you don't consider yourself a Christian, so why do you get worked up about Lent?"

This is a good question and I am glad I asked it. The fact is that Christianity is part of my ambient culture whether I like it or not. They even baptized me without my expressed consent!

While I'm at it I can't resist relating the etymology of the word "noon", which I found by reading the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Lent. The original phrase was Latin nona hora, meaning the ninth hour of daylight by Roman reckoning, meaning 3 PM.

When the church started you were supposed to eat only one meal a day after nightfall. But already by the 5th Century it was acceptable to break the fast at the none hour.

By the 9th Century the "none hour" came to be understood as a duration which began around 2 PM and ended at 3 PM.

[Right: Nobody tells Charlemagne "Big Charles" he can't start breakfast by 2 PM.]

Following that, people simply started their none meal sooner and sooner.

By the 12th century it was common for the word none to refer to noon.

A shift in spelling and pronunciation later, and "noon" means noon.

Ironically, I don't even get up most days until after noon and I take my breakfasts between 3 and 5 PM. My wake up times are post-industrial, depending on the availability of artificial light, but at least during Lent my breakfast times are right in step with the Middle Ages. Cool.

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