Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
As we begin the Holy Season of Lent, it is worth recalling once again that, like so many of the practices of our religion, Lenten fasting and abstinence draw much of their meaning from the sacred history of Genesis. On Ash Wednesday, Catholics of the Roman Rite receive ashes on their foreheads while they are reminded, in Latin or in a vernacular language, "Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return." (Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.) This is hardly compatible with theistic evolution which would have the body of Adam conceived in the womb of an evolved chimpanzee!
In the Byzantine Tradition, the strict fast and abstinence of Great Lent (which began on Monday) is a special reminder of the original goodness and harmony of the first created world. Melkite Greek Catholic priest Fr. Philaret Littlefield explains that abstinence from all foods that come from animals is directly related to the Christian vocation to cooperate with God's grace in restoring the original harmony of Paradise:
Fasting is depriving the body of food from midnight till noon. For the Christian the hunger that results is a real call to be mindful of our thirst for God. It is a call to identify with the poor, whom God loves especially. It is a way for us, as mature men and women to take charge of our body and of our needs, rather than to allow the body, its needs and passions to rule over our life.
Fasting is also a beautiful opportunity to express our solidarity and communion with Christians all over the world. There are many deeply moving stories of our brothers and sisters who observed the periods of fasting during harsh famines and wars. Imagine the power and the grace that is filling the world during this time of darkness and cold, as men, women and children, rich and poor, virtuous and sinful alike, together offer up penance for the sins of the world and in anticipation of the Coming of Christ!
Abstinence refers to the practice of foregoing all foods that come from animals (meats, poultry, dairy products, eggs).
From the creation of our Parents in Paradise to the time after the great flood, people ate only fruits, grains and vegetables. This is the food of paradise! The practice of abstinence reminds us of our high calling to manage all creation in the Name of the Lord. Our hunger for meat and other rich food serves as a reminder of the enmity that exists in creation as a result of sin. Especially during this holy season when the liturgy reminds us of the role that the stars, the angels, the earth itself, the beasts of the field, the ox and the ass all played in receiving the Savior of the world, abstinence calls us to set aside our enmity even with the animals in order to restore peace on earth.
Thus, we fast to experience hunger and, realizing our emptiness and dependence, to seek the One who alone satisfies our needs.
We abstain in order to strive for peace, to cleanse ourselves body and soul to worthily receive Our Lord (emphasis added).
May God grant to each of us to live as a "new creation" in Christ, walking in freedom from all sinful attachments, united in love for God and for each other, as good stewards of the creation that He has entrusted to our care.
Yours in Christ through the Immaculata,
P.S. I will probably need to make a trip north on I-81 from Virginia through Pennsylvania to upstate New York between March 27 and March 30 to help one of my grandchildren. If anyone who lives anywhere near my route could arrange a Kolbe talk or seminar during that period of time, please let me know as soon as possible.
P.P.S. Our seventh annual leadership retreat will take place at Our Lady of Corpus Christ Retreat Center in Corpus Christi, Texas, from August 2-8, 2020. The retreat is open to all Catholics (and their families) who are committed to advancing the mission of the Kolbe Center in their spheres of influence. If you would like more information about the schedule, facilities, and suggested donations for the retreat, please email me as soon as possible at firstname.lastname@example.org.