On Ash Wednesday, the presiding celebrant invites us to step into Lent with these words: I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Lord, to observe a holy Lent, by self-examination, penitence, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, and by reading and meditating on the word of God. While the practice of fasting has long been a part of the Christian tradition, especially during Lent, it’s not one that I have observed very well. I have made attempts in the past with some degree of success, but to be honest, somewhere around Lent 4 my focus wanes.
This Lent feels different, however. The Lenten Fast came early to our home this year. Mary and I decided to participate in our own version of Dry Feb, by abstaining from alcohol for the month. We invited our circle of friends to offer recipes for alcohol-free mocktails for us to try. We would rate the recipes at the end of February and choose our favourite. A donation would then be made to a charity of the winner’s choice, equal to the value of what we might have spent on alcohol. I won’t tell you how much that was! Part way through February, we decided to extend the practice of fasting by participating in A Fast for the Earth: Lent 2021. The Fast resource created by Dr. Sylvia Keesmaat and the members of the Bishop’s Committee on Creation Care is available on our website.
The resource invites us to be mindful, soulful and deeply aware of the footprint we are leaving behind as we tread this life. What better time to do so than during a global pandemic. Navigating our lives during this time has been very difficult. Social distancing, living through lockdown and staying home has helped to flatten the curve and save lives. Many of us have made the necessary adjustments and we work from home. And yet at the same time, many have lost their employment, suffered economic hardship and struggled with mental health issues and the effects of domestic violence. Being mindful and deeply aware of the plight of our neighbour as we pass through this time is critical. After all, like it or not, we are on the threshold of a paradigm shift, for the sake of the whole creation.
Scientists are using this time of pandemic to measure the effects of lockdown on the environment. And the benefits are noticeable. The reduction in air, water and noise pollution levels has had a beneficial effect on ecological restoration. As industries and transportation have shut down, there has been a drop in greenhouse gas emissions. It was reported that levels of air pollution in New York were reduced by nearly 50 per cent because of the measures taken to control the virus. It was estimated that levels of NO2 and CO2 emissions were cut in half in China during the lockdown. Nitrogen dioxide is emitted from burning fossil fuels, the biggest culprit being motor vehicle exhaust. Across Ontario, the level of NO2 demonstrated a reduction from 4.5 ppb to 1 ppb.
Week by week, A Fast for the Earth: Lent 2021 invites us to curb our appetites, watch our consumption, manage our waste, preserve resources, loose the bonds of injustice and unplug for the sake of the earth. The global climate crisis compels us to change. Dwelling during this pandemic proves that we can change. For the sake of all life, we must do our part – together. By being intentional and prayerful in our choices, old patterns will fade so that new life will come. It’s the promise of Easter, and that same promise rests with you and me. As St. Paul reminds us: Moreover, if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his Spirit who lives in you. (Romans 8.11)