After the church and the empire had joined hands, the rhythm of the church year was overlaid on the rhythm of the ancient celebrations of humans.
Ash Wednesday, the day of penitence, became a massive event; a “full Nineveh moment” in the face of the “holy” church’s Jonah proclamation: “Repent, lest ye be damned!”
Sackcloth. Ashes. Solemnity. That was the prescription. Interestingly enough, the diagnosis was proclaimed by the entity who also claimed to have the cure. Religion tends to do that…
But the people, used to more festive holidays, demanded some revelry before the fast. Intrinsic in our human bones, divorced of any religious pietistic profundity, we all know that a fast is seen best through the lens of a feast, and vice versa. A little bit of denial needs a little bit of indulgence to truly know what you’re missing, right?
And so Carnival was declared, a time to fatten our stomachs, our spirits, and our souls before the sobriety of Lent.
Masks were handed out so that, if you were in hiding for a crime, you could come out of your shelter and join in the fun. A hall pass of sorts. Acts of extreme gluttony are best done anonymously, right? On Carnival, everyone is criminal in some way, everyone is queen and king of their universe for just a bit.
The time for bending a knee will come; for sure. One day all masks fall.
But today is a day for reclining, gesticulation, and for pretending we don’t fear fat and sumptuousness, if only for a bit!