If you are at least a semi-serious Catholic or some other perturbation of high churchian, you are probably well aware that today is Ash Wednesday. It marks the first day of what is to be a 40 day fast leading to Resurrection Sunday. The actual date of Ash Wednesday fluctuates with the phases of the moon as does Easter in the semi-pagan Catholic Christian calendar.
On Ash Wednesday, tradtionalists will go to church and receive ashes from the priest on their foreheads, sometimes in the sign of the cross. It is to be a reminder of man's sinfulness and mortality as in the curse in Genesis 3.
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”
For the next 40 days a fast is to observed. This is done today by giving something up like red meat or chocolate or sex or or or. In past centuries, they would starve during the daylight hours and eat at night - not all that different from Ramadan in Islam. The purpose was to commemorate the fast of Jesus in the wilderness after His baptism.
As a protestant, I find the whole thing to be silly, but some would say that I am mired in my own traditions that are not necessarily biblical. So be it. I have known many Catholics over the years; some have been good friends or family. I will not judge them, though I might enjoy a spirited discussion with them.
For me this is another day of the week. I seem to get reminded regularly by the Holy Spirit of my sinfulness and mortality. I do not have the need for a public mark of humiliation to indicate this. I am not sure what drives the need for these ceremonies or rituals. Some people derive a spirituality from it. My personal opinion is that it is more of a feeling than anything spiritual per se, but who am I to judge? Had I been raised Catholic, I might feel differently. I can accept that.
So I hope you are having a good Ash Wednesday if you observe such things..may God empower you for the fast. Go for it.
For you other schismatic Christians - like me - eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we may die! See y'all in heaven.