From Lent To Easter And Winter To Spring: The Journey Of Hope And Promise
As I write this short piece for the “Green Window” we are nearing the beginning of Holy Week and looking forward to the joy of Easter and Spring with all the hope that accompanies the liturgical season and the natural season – both times during which we celebrate resurrection and new life. The Paschal Mystery celebrated in our churches and reflected so clearly in the “nature of things” – of all created life, reminds us of continuity and wholeness: cross AND resurrection, winter AND spring.
This Lent I have been reflecting on (and trying to practice) some ways in which our traditional Lenten practices have been “greened” in churches. Four years ago, for example, parts of the Anglican Church proposed that rather than fasting from usual things like chocolate or other favourite food items, members consider participating in a carbon fast. Examples included carpooling or taking public transport or being more careful with the use of electricity, shopping for local produce and resisting items from far away requiring long-distance transportation to our supermarkets. All of these practices were recommended in light of the urgent call to Christians to respond to the devastating consequences of climate change
The following Lent, the Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales recommended a return to Friday fast and abstinence. This was not solely about the externals of a former “Catholic identity” but was closely linked to current environmental considerations. In particular, the conference of bishops suggested that abstinence from meat at least one day each week during Lent as well as being a “spiritual discipline” reminds us that the over-consumption, especially in wealthier countries, of red meat leads to environmentally problematic farming practices and a reduction in grain so necessary to feed the hungry worldwide.
What was of special interest in the Catholic bishops’ recommendations was the proposal that the practice of Friday fast and abstinence be continued beyond Lent. The Lenten practices were about forming new habits spiritually, or conversion, that could be linked closely to ongoing contributions to wellbeing in the world. So rather than putting a “damper” on our Easter celebrations perhaps some reflection on traditional Lenten practices might lead us to a “green conversion” that will truly allow us and the world to rejoice in new life. What if my prayer became a contemplative prayer of thanksgiving and rejoicing in the gift creation? What if my lifestyle were such that my “fasting” from some things becomes “almsgiving” for the wellbeing of the environment and my poorer neighbours? This truly would be a celebration of resurrection: Lent into Easter, winter into spring, love for life!