Late Winter weeks have been observed by many Christians with various changes in ordinary life: no feasts or parties, reduced pleasures, and time for reflection. Now everybody is doing the same. All over the world people are having a Lent whether they want to or not, whether they are religious or not, whether they get any benefit or not.
Traditionally people had less to eat after Fall harvests were exhausted. Pickling and salting preserved some food but were not sufficient. Oils and lard were used up by Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday. So a Lenten fast was necessitated by circumstance.
Fear of God or hell might have motivated some Lenten practice. Fear of a virus, sickness, and death do the same today. Religious rites are voluntary but health regulations are more powerful. We are pushed by media and social organizations to abstain from normal life for fear of contagion. Government, social institutions, and the whole fabric of communal life observe this new Lent.
I am afraid of paranoia, both personal and societal. It is not healthy and a poor motivation for good behavior. Both religious and governmental Lents should be undertaken with goals of spiritual, medical, and social health. That includes some courage to change one’s life. We can’t expect complete transformation but we can work toward improvement..
Meanwhile life goes on and cancelling all entertainment is severe. At least we have TV, radio, internet, and books. Easter is not too far away but the current government Lent might last much longer.