... and all the while it's really been about cutting carbon emissions:
Two of the Church of England’s most senior Bishops are today (5 February 2008) urging people to cut their carbon rather than give up chocolate this Lent.
Part of the problem is already evident: giving up chocolate, as far as I can tell, may be commendable and may be an additional act of Lenten penance, but it really misses the central point of fasting during Lent. But, then, so does this:
Bishop of Liverpool and Vice President of Tearfund, James Jones and Bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres, are joining with development agency Tearfund in calling for a cut in personal carbon use for each of the 40 days of Lent, which begins tomorrow.
At the same time a Tearfund survey reveals that three out of five adults in the UK are willing to take an energy saving action this Lent.
Tearfund and the Bishops have launched the fast because of the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions, and to protect poor communities around the world who are already suffering from the ravages of climate change.
Which are? Seriously, I'd like to know what "the ravages of climate change" are, along with evidence that such "ravages" are indeed caused by man-induced changes to the climate. One doesn't have to deny climate change to question such vague and hyperbolic language.
Bishop of Liverpool and Vice President of Tearfund, James Jones said, `Traditionally people have given up things for Lent. This year we are inviting people to join us in a Carbon Fast.
And, pray tell, why have people "given up things for Lent"? This would be a good place to explain.
`It is the poor who are already suffering the effects of climate change. To carry on regardless of their plight is to fly in the face of Christian teaching.
And, of course, a key part of Lenten practice is also almsgiving, which can take various forms, all aimed at helping those who in need, as Pope Benedict XVI explained so well in his 2008 Lenten address.
`The tragedy is that those with the power to do something about it are least affected, whilst those who are most affected are powerless to bring about change.
Really? Again, this sounds more like politically correct blathering than pastoral wisdom.
`There’s a moral imperative on those of us who emit more than our fair share of carbon to rein in our consumption.'
Don't get me wrong: if you want to adjust the size of your carbon footprint—go for it. But don't act as though this is somehow an imperative for a true Lenten observance. Besides, it completely misses the point of fasting from food during Lent. The basic principle is put this way in the Catechism: "For this reason the Church, especially during Advent and Lent and above all at the Easter Vigil, re-reads and re-lives the great events of salvation history in the 'today' of her liturgy" (CCC 1095). One of those great events, of course, was the forty days Christ spent in the desert, fasting and praying and rebuking Satan. The reliving of those great events and participation in the Church's liturgy prepares man for his ultimate end: eternal life with God. An excellent reflection on what that is can be found in this article, written by a Greek Orthodox bishop a few years ago:
The benefits of fasting or abstinence are enormous. This does not have anything to do with the reasons many today use the discipline of fasting. For in our day we see individuals fasting as a political tool or other type of protest, a way of losing extra pounds, or even as a desire to die. Christian fasting is blessed by God Himself for it is the message of the believer to God that he de-sires the eternal blessings that are to come rather than the finite blessings of this life. Its benefits include increased spiritual strength, true obedience to God and total patience with one's fellow man. It assists the believer to take control of his lower appetites that involve the physical senses. The believer becomes mentally alert and sensitive to what is happening all around him. Moreover his understanding of life is also expanded.
Spiritual fasting for the Christian believer, then, makes him more watchful and vigilant to the expectations which God has established for His people. Fasting to an Orthodox Christian is what physical and mental exercise are to a professional athlete who aspires to win the big title and the trophy. Fasting of mind and body to the Christian, based on the obedience of prayer, renews the health of the soul, which in most people is parched and possibly dying. The achievements experienced by the believer include spiritual grace and an inner peace and joy that no one can take away. It is this blessed state that allows one not only to focus on, but to continually be mindful of the heavenly blessings that Christ promises to His people.
Christian fasting is the most effective weapon one can have next to prayer. The two together in the name of Jesus can do wonders. One day His disciples asked Jesus why they could not heal a boy by expelling a demon from within him. They asked, "Why could we not cast it out?" The Lord's reply was, "This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."
In the Gospels Jesus instructs us to fast in secret. Why? Obviously, faith is an inner power; the real power of a person is in his spirit. This spiritual power is developed by the heart and the mind, which work in concert to strengthen the inner man. Man is energized and renewed by God esoterically, through his inner being and his inner heart. Anyone can have this kind of spiritual strength and power if he practices the Christian discipline of prayer and fasting. It is important to remember that many of God's most devout servants, who had the power of healing others because of their inner strength, were themselves physically infirm, such as Saint Paul the Apostle. Fasting, moreover, makes one realize that he is dependent on God, even if he may have no infirmities. He knows that without God he can do nothing.
Increased prayer and fasting are encouraged by the Church during Great Lent as a means to purification and preparation. Both physical and spiritual purification are stressed so that the believer may feel prepared to experience a spectacular event, the event of the Lord's return. His Bride, the Church is always in anticipation of the glorious return of Her Bridegroom. This anticipation is brought into focus during the first Divine Liturgy of Holy Week, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, which is celebrated on Holy Monday morning. The Gospel reading of the Liturgy, which is taken from Saint Matthew's Gospel (24:3-35) speaks of the disciples of the Lord asking Him when His return will take place, as well as the end of the world. Fasting and prayer, therefore, during this time of the year is not simply because it is Great Lent but because the Church is awaiting the return of Her Bridegroom.
Read the entire piece.
Related Ignatius Insight articles:
• Lent: Why the Christian Must Deny Himself | Brother Austin G. Murphy, O.S.B.
• Lent and "Our Father": The Path of Prayer | Carl E. Olson
• Thirsting and Quenching | Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M.
• Seeking Deep Conversion | From Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer | Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M.