Coronavirus as an Involuntary Lenten Practice

Part of “praying the news” is sticking around for the dark times and what they have to teach us.  Part of the practice of Lent in the Christian tradition (or Ramadan in the Muslim tradition, etc.) is to voluntarily go without—to fast, to withdraw from everyday habits of satisfying our cravings such as food habits, to choose to abstain and go without.  All this is to “cleanse” our senses with the result that when we get around to indulging them again we will be more able to enjoy what we might otherwise take for granted or do only from routine.  (The same is true of partial celibacy or other practices or “tactical ecstasies” that are meant to get us in touch with what we might otherwise take for granted.) 

ASAP Science informative video on what happens if you contract the COVID-19 virus.

With the current coronavirus emergency we are facing a parallel Lenten practice of going without—though it is involuntary and not voluntary.  It is being foisted upon us by circumstances none of us chose (though the fact that some government officials chose denial and therefore ill-preparedness is sure to impact the severity of the emergency for many).

Lenten ashes in the form of a cross on a penitent’s forehead. Photo by Ahna Ziegler on Unsplash.

One does not have to be a practicing Christian to recognize Lenten parallels and elements in the current coronavirus situation.  The instruction we received as children about Lent was to “give up something that meant something to you.”  That often was translated by the children’s mind as: candy.  Or specifically chocolate.  Or sleeping in in the morning, etc. Or by adults as giving up cigarettes.  Or an alcoholic drink.  Some discipline was learned in the process of trying to stay true to these promises of letting go over a forty day period.

Woman presents hand sanitizer, which is being encouraged during the coronavirus situation. Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.

Here are some involuntary fastings that are in our face today:

–Fasting from gatherings.  People as a whole like to congregate, to come together—whether for sporting events or theater events or whatever.  We are being asked today to surrender that satisfying socializing for a greater good—to lessen contaminating one another with the virus.

–Fasting even from watching NBA on television.

–Fasting even from playing in the NBA and achieving honors that get us to the championships and to perfecting one’s excellence and reputation in a sport.

Placard declaring a message of love. Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash.

–Fasting from the “March Madness” NCAA collegiate basketball championships.

–Fasting from playing in the same.

–Fasting from going to theater as in Broadway and elsewhere.

–Fasting from playing in the theater as actors and actresses.

–Fasting from flying on vacations or elsewhere.

–Fasting from making a living flying airplanes or being stewards/stewardesses on them.

–Fasting from going to work or hanging out in malls and stores.

–Fasting from attending church services.

A certain synchronicity obtains when these Lenten-like practices are occurring now during the Lenten season.

For fasting as a tactical ecstasy, see Matthew Fox, Whee! We, wee All the Way Home: A Guide to Sensual, Prophetic Spirituality, pp. 46-55.

Banner Image: Human cell being infected with a virus. Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

What additional Involuntary Fastings do you see on the horizon?

Does it make a difference or strike a bell to recognize what is facing us parallels a Lenten practice, a fasting?

Recommended Reading

One of Matthew Fox’s earliest books, this title explores the importance of ecstasy in the spiritual life. Fox considers the distinction between “natural” ecstasies (including nature, sex, friendship, music, art) and “tactical” ecstasies (like meditation, fasting, chanting); he names the spiritual journey as taking us from ecstasy (Whee!) to a community consciousness (We), to our battling forces that prefer control to pleasure shared or justice (wee).

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12 thoughts on “Coronavirus as an Involuntary Lenten Practice”

  1. Avatar

    May I ask a question
    Can I be a Pantheist
    And also practice my catholic faith
    With all the sacraments etc
    I have 4 books of father Michael fox & I love them
    I’m drawn to creation spiritualaltity
    How does Jesus fit into Pantheist/ Christianity/ Roman Catholic
    Can you recommend anymore books
    Have a great day
    From bonnie Scotland

    1. Matthew Fox

      Matthew responds:

      Panentheist is better than pantheist. Pantheist says “everything is God”; panentheist says: “everything is in God and God is in everything.” Leaves more freedom and surprises for Divinity!

      Without knowing which books he has, it is hard to answer. Original Blessing surely (if he doesn’t have it yet)–and where panentheism is discussed among many other things; Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth; Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior For our Times; HIdden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine; Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint for Our Times; That Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times.

      1. Avatar

        Thanks for your reply
        Original blessing
        Cosmic Christ
        Breakthrough meister eckhart creation spirituality
        Meditation,meister eckhart
        God in search of man, Abraham Heschel

    2. Avatar

      Billy–another book “How I Found God in Everyone and Everywhere” is an anthology of spiritual memoirs with essays by Matthew Fox, Fr. Richard Rohr, Sister Ilia Delio and many others. I think you will find it helpful.

  2. Avatar

    I am really enjoying the articles I have been reading this morning which are looking at the connections between the coronavirus hotspots and air quality and therefore our economic engines. Others are pointing out relationships with areas with 5G which again is a result of being willing to sacrifice health to increased business profit. I particularly liked the article which described the virus as nature saying enough is enough and taking things into her own hands to slow us down. Time to wake up and also to listen deeply. May we open and hear what is truly being asked of us.

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Thank you for sharing this, Anita. There is certainly a lot of speculation and interpretation of the causes of this virus. We are trying to understand what is going on in our bodies and what large scale activity could have caused this outbreak. Little spores within us. large planet around us. According to the Second World Congress of Environmental Law, Rio, March 2020, the virus has come to us from the animal world and the crisis has everything to do with the environmental upheaval we have caused the animals and ourselves.

      I see the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality embodied here, particularly the Via Negativa and the Via Creativa. (If you haven’t been with us long, look up Matt’s meditation, On Naming Our Spiritual Journeys, posted on July 20, 2019 to learn about the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality.) Through this crisis, the divine has created a dark and death defying challenge. In the face of communal grief and a quiet chaos, I believe people are being reminded of the joy of family, simplicity, and the richness of the inner life. Its up to us to create new ways for humans to live together. So much has been dismantled in such a short time. Could this be our chance to create a wiser more eco-centric world? The Via Creative leads to the Via Transformativa.
      Gail Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  3. Avatar

    There are quite a lot of people whose economic means and location have not included attending sports events or theater or flying on airplanes. Their involuntary Lenten discipline is turning into deprivation of cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper–and perhaps food–through the greed/fear of others.

    1. Avatar

      More and more disasters of every kind–including worse storms and this virus–can look like Biblical judgment–apparently there is the worst locust invasion in history in parts of Africa. But really, I think it is all the result of corporate and individual greed and selfishness on a monumental scale that has damaged our environment–and our souls. As Matthew has pointed out before, the opposite of evil is not good but rather the sacred. I think we must return to the sacred attitude toward everything. And as Adele points out, and as the Poor People’s Campaign in the U.S. is saying, it is “the least of these” who suffer the most. At my local grocery store yesterday, there was no toilet paper. There was food, and I pray that it continues to be available, but apparently in some areas everything is scarce.

    2. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Adele,
      Thank you for this reminder that life-saving essentials are not available to all of us. Do you have a suggestion for how creaaation-centered mystical activists might address this? I know of one elder group, the End in Mind Project. that is writing letters to people in nursing homes to help alleviate their isolation. You can find them on Instagram, (or just start writing letters). Next step, how to help those without means or access to cleaning supplies, hand sanitizers, and toilet paper. The people of Phiadelphia are petitioning their City Council to cast a much wider net with their relief programs. Is there another organization we can support?
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  4. Avatar

    Thank you for making the connection between the 14th Cent. Black Death time and how the interpretation of it’s causes led to the end of a theology of Creation Spirituality.
    In our time, with science and Creation Spirituality showing such congruence, perhaps we will also experience theological maturity into a more widespread understanding of our sacred interrelationships.

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Sally,
      Thank you for your comment. I share your hope that this experience will shift more of humanity into a consciousness of sacred interrelationships. I’ve been told by several spiritual teachers that it takes 10% of the population to create a shift in consciousness. Times of crisis can bring out the best in people. May many discover their sacred connection to all life this time around.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

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