Lent and the environment – making a connection

Easter Lilly (iStock513212)The season of Lent is arguably the oldest of Christian holy days.

Lent lasts forty days, recalling the forty days Jesus fasted in the desert to prepare for his ministry.  This year it runs from February 13 to March 30, Easter Eve (some denominations end on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter commemorating the Last Supper Jesus had with his friends.)  If you count, you will notice there are more days than forty, but Sundays are always thought of as ‘little Easters’, so they don’t count.

Traditionally, people have often thought of Lent as a time to give up luxuries (chocolate is a favourite!) to prepare to walk with Jesus through Holy Week and to celebrate his rising from death on Easter.  This is a time to reflect deeply on the practice of one’s faith, a spiritual time.

I’d like to suggest we look at what we throw away in the light of three attitudes that characterize Lent and how we might look at our waste practices as part of our spiritual lives.

1.  Gratitude:  I want to give thanks!

All things are given to us by a gracious and loving God.  How do we say thank you? By valuing the gift. It is a spiritual discipline to stop and look at what we discard and to say “thank you” before throwing it away.

  • Suggested Action:
    This Lent, take a moment before you throw anything away to feel gratitude for the use it had for you.

2.  Penance:  I want to be forgiven!

We are valued by God, but so is creation.  We live in complex lives where it is difficult to be pure about our waste practices.  Lent has been a penitential season since its beginnings in the fourth century, doing penance for our carelessness about the natural world.

  • Suggested Action:
    Perhaps one might choose not to purchase a desired object because of its excessive packaging.  And to go one step further, contact the seller or manufacturer (or both) and indicate why you are not purchasing the product.

3.  Sabbath:  I want to give the earth a rest!

Farmers leave fields fallow, employers give time off.  What can you do to give the earth a rest?  A New York Times reporter asked himself this question and decided to plant one thing that he could eat, as a spiritual practice, and to curb in a tiny way, all of the effort that intervenes between us and our food.

  • Planting seeds (iStock16199350)Suggested Action:
    If you have land, spend some time this Lent, digging out a section — even a small section — of your grass and prepare to plant some rhubarb, or herbs, or a berry bush.  I did this a few years ago — right in my front yard, and now we enjoy rhubarb, blackberries and tomatoes.  (Did you know every pioneer family in our area planted asparagus and rhubarb to eat and lilac next to the house for the smell?)  
    If you don’t have land, buy a basil plant from a local farmers’ market and put it in a sunny spot.  I carry mine with me.  Even when you’re visiting friends, you can offer to make a fresh salad with your own fresh herbs.


This Lent, take a moment to give thanks, to be kinder towards the earth you have taken advantage of, and to let the earth rest just a bit from working so hard to fulfill your wants.

About this guest blogger:

Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes, Guest Blogger; photo by Rudy Louis Cappelleto

Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes,
Guest Blogger; photo by Rudy Louis Cappelleto

The Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes has ministered at Maple Grove United Church for 25 years.  She is a founding member of the Interfaith Council of Halton.  Prior to moving to Oakville, she taught at Queen’s and UBC.  She is happy that her church composts and recycles, thanks to the efforts of Halton Waste Management staff and dedicated members of her church.

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One Response to Lent and the environment – making a connection

  1. Suzanne Elvidge says:

    Love this post – but something to add to feeling gratitude for something before you throw it away. Think about whether it could help someone else – find a reuse group or see if a charity shop/thrift store could find a new home for it. Or make it into something else!

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