This is from the
reading for the 6th Tuesday of Pascha, Acts
17:19-28. The Holy Apostle Paul, blessed by the wisdom of God to be able to
"give an answer",
capitalized on this tendency of those in Athens to bring their attention to
their "unknown God", and to enlighten them regarding the "God that made the
world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth,
dwelleth not in temples made with hands".
There were many converts that day, including St Dionysius, the Aereopagite,
who would become a great saint.
St Paul was successful because he was anointed, and persuaded
men who were ready to hear the truth in a face to face encounter. I daresay
he would be hard pressed to have such success with people in the modern age,
who also strive to spend "their time in nothing else, but either to tell,
or to hear some new thing". We moderns who have modern technology and
connectivity can hear some new thing every moment of the day, at opportune
and inopportune times, and the vast majority of the new things we learn, via
email, our smart phones, trashy magazines, talk radio and all of our social
networking is actually not new at all. It is mostly a curious hodgepodge of
time wasters, the odd, the interesting, the frivolous and depraved, and
almost none of it is useful to our salvation in any way.
I have a smart phone now, after calling them stupid phones for
a long time. They are useful devices, and especially the texting feature
saves me time, gets me *important* news that directly applies to my family
and pastoral work, and organizes my appointments. It may even get somebody to
come to church, since I use it to announce services.
The problem is that this phone, and all the other devices we
swim in daily, makes it very easy to veg out with useless (at its best)
information, and to avoid prayer and sobriety. As with any tool, it can be
As a pastor, I see that very few people have an attention span
greater than that of a hummingbird. They flit around every day, and do not
have the legs, attention or desire to stand in a beautiful, long service, or
hear a theological sermon, or read even a line of Scripture in the day. I can
see why the big box churches are growing. They feed the addiction of people
for shallow information, entertainment and video closeups. They do not
challenge because that kind of stuff takes too much time and effort! Let's
not kid ourselves. Our Orthodox churches do not have two big TV screens above
their altars, but our people have just as many big screen TVs in their houses
as anybody else.
I think we must fight this tendency on our modern world to feed
ourselves with the trivial. All the "new" things that we see in status
updates, tweets, email messages, and all the rest are really old things. The
old news is that it is difficult to pray and to be sober and to remain "in
the spirit", with watchfulness and attention. Almost everything in the world
takes us away from this condition, and we moderns are particularly at risk,
because there are distractions that we carry in our pocket or that sit in our
rooms or backpacks that are unique to our technological culture.
The preacher said that there is nothing new under the sun..
This is an apt saying worthy of all acceptation, when it refers that anything
that takes us away from God. Of course, with God, all things are new, and if
we learn of Him, then were are truly learning new things.
Let us focus on some old things before we seek new and
I have some ideas. Who will join me? If we can do 1 "new" thing
from this list, we will be profited. Perhaps incorporating all of them is
just too tough, after all, we are weak and easily distracted, addicted
creatures. I would love to hear some ideas from you.
1. Pray in the morning before anything else. That includes
checking our email, our Facebook page, our texts. At least do the "Four Bows".
2. Pray for others before anything else. This is too easy to
put off and forget. It is very hard, and there is nothing "new" about it at
all. It is the most important, and the most difficult time of the day for me.
I have written a lot about this because it is important. I wish I knew 20
years ago what I know now.
3. Read something holy before anything useless. I think the
daily readings are a good place to start. The Psalter is also important. It
will teach you how to pray. I read the 17th Kathisma every morning. I
recommend you try it.
4. Limit the times you check your email, Facebook page, etc.
This is a hard one. Perhaps we can modify this one a bit. Force yourself to
pray before you check it. Maybe a psalm, or the Prayer of the Optina
Elders, or a "rope" of the Jesus prayer. You would pray when you perceive
danger, correct? There be dragons out there in cyber space, and they are
trying to steal something precious from you - time, and with it, sobriety and
5. Go to church, already! You have no good, logical reason to
not go, and no good logical reason to leave early. Admit it! The problem with
this suggestion is that the vast majority of you who rarely or incompletely
go to church do not have the patience to let this practice bring fruit in
your lives. Going to 10 vigils in a row will not make you an appreciably
better person, but after a hundred or two, you will feel the effects. Are you
willing to make this commitment, and "endure to the end"? History says that
few will, but you can determine YOUR future. You can choose to do a truly
"new" thing, and become truly renewed.
6. Get RID of your TV service. Especially do this if you spend
more on it than you give to the church! Who are you trying to kid? If you
spend more on entertainment than on God, then you value entertainment more
than God. In any case, you can get a lot of this junk for free online.
If people gave to the church what they spend on themselves to be able to
watch American Idol (aptly named!), then we would not have such small, poorly
attended churches, and poor, overworked priests. That is a new fact
Okay, are you going to
do anything new in your life after if you have read this far?
May God help you!