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 used
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
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
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 for you!
Okay, are you going to do
anything new in your life after if you have read this far? May God