Lent and New Implications for the Practice of Restraint

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to speak to a group on the topic of Lent and creation care. It’s an interesting subject. I appreciate connecting traditional practices with current problems. There’s something about the discovery of new ‘uses’ of old things that I find encouraging. Some people concerned for the future of nature advocate for creating entirely new belief systems. I’ve never been convinced that this is possible. To me it looks like consumerism in disguise.

Here are a few ideas I shared with the group:

  • We can understand Lent as a time to allow ourselves to be reset spiritually. The practices of fasting, giving and prayer help us check in on what it is that we desire and whether or not those desire are helpful or harmful to ourselves and those we impact.
  • The ascetic element of Lent is ancient. It goes back at least to the 4th century. It’s interesting, then, that in the 21st century we find ourselves still in need of learning to renounce or give up consumptive habits.
  • It’s curious that some of the food items ancient Christians (esp. during the medieval period) gave up can be some of those with the biggest carbon footprints: red meat, dairy, eggs. Today we would probably want to add coffee, chocolate and a few other things.
  • What’s old is new again: fasting is working it’s way back into the cultural mainstream. Can we expand our notion of fasting to include other forms of consumption beyond eating?
  • Here’s a great line from Sally McFague: “Just as God emptied the divine self in creation, incarnation, and the cross, renouncing power as the force for change or for good, so we too are called to lives of radical love as the way for fulfilling personal and public life.”
  • McFague argues that we should embrace and be transformed by God’s renunciation: “Voluntary poverty does not call us to a life of sackcloth and ashes; rather, we are called to lives of simplicity, restraint, moving way down on the index of material comfort so that others may have their fair share.”

If you’re interested in exploring Lent as a time of fasting and caring for creation, check out this initiative from Climate Stewards.

*Though the views expressed here are my own, I am inspired by the work of my A Rocha colleagues. If you would like to learn more about A Rocha Ontario or support our work of creation care, please look us up on the web and consider signing up for our e-newsletter.

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