Second in line On the Square today is theologian Francesca Aran Murphy‘s reflection on Lenten fasting. A Lent-long abstinence from meat, she submits, is not an exercise in trendy vegetarianism, but an ancient practice rooted in the desire to reset our spiritual sensibilities.
Here’s the thing: the spiritual writers know that we are carnal creatures, and that we cannot skip that step in the ladder of ascent. When we try that, we’re aiming to leap up a step before we’re ready. We won’t make it. When we can’t make it, we will think of Lent—and possibly other disciplines as well—as a brief but necessarily failed resolution to do something impossible. You might say, rightly, anything is possible with the grace of God. But, why not let the grace of God work with your animal nature? Grace, as St. Thomas Aquinas taught, “does not destroy nature, it perfects it.” God’s grace works against our fallenness. But it does not eliminate our created human nature. It makes our natures whole. As carnal, embodied creatures, our desire to eat meat works in us at a more elemental level than desires for cognitive pleasures. Our carnality is at the rock bottom of what forms us as persons. Our fallenness, it goes all the way down too, so why not let God’s grace rebuild you from the bottom up?