Embracing simplicity can be seen as a response to Lent, the appointed time for conversion and repentance. It is also a positive move towards a more sustainable way of living for our planet in crisis.
Conversion means to seek God above all things, according to St Benedict. This involves a “turning away from” certain habits of our life “in order to return wholeheartedly to Him who is the only reason for our lives”, writes Benedictine monk, Br Victor-Antoine D’Avila-Latourrette, in The Gift of Simplicity.
Authentic simplicity, he adds, is one that “reflects genuine Gospel values”. It is this simplicity of the heart which makes for “the best preparation for undertaking the work of repentance”.
Although it comes from the word “simple”, simplicity is a complex concept. So one can be forgiven for asking the question again: What is simplicity?
A good definition is found in the book, Less is More, by Cecile Andrews and Wanda Urbanska.
The core meaning of simplicity, say the authors, is that it is “a voluntary limitation of our outer wealth so that we can have greater inner wealth”. So, if you are one of those who believe that being rich will make you happy, research has shown that this is simply not true!
Christians know this too, and yet, the lure of outer wealth continues to be a great source of temptation.
When we make the choice to live simply by reducing our spending, we set off a chain of actions that actually translate to: less is more.
For example, a mother chooses to work part-time or give up work so she has more time for her children. A parishioner’s family walks or takes public transport to church and reduces their carbon footprint. They get more exercise and have zero parking woes.
When we choose simplicity, we walk more lightly on our Earth, at the same time remembering our deep-rooted connectedness with Creation’s great gifts of earth, water, air.
This natural simplicity is one that comes from “a deep reverence for the community of life on Earth and accepts that the non-human realms of plants and animals have their dignity and rights” (Andrews and Urbanska) as much as humans do.
As Br Victor-Antoine reveals, repentance is “an invitation to true inner freedom”.
What has repentance to do with simplicity? It is simplicity that “impregnates in us a clear, single-minded sense of purpose” and this is what forms the basis “upon which to embark on the path to conversion or true repentance”, says the Benedictine monk.
“Repentance stirs in us the awareness that we must work at changing ourselves daily, and that this effort must include every aspect of our lives.”
Now, let us with renewed vigour, take the path of transformation for, whether we like it or not, we are all in this together.
By Anne Lim
The writer is a parishioner of the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary with a special interest in Creation Spirituality.