Monday, December 8, 2014

For whom, when, and where?

It’s funny how the use of the internet has changed the face, and maybe even the spirit, of contemporary Orthodoxy. The ease with which we can find and post images and ikons of the church fathers, but especially of the recently reposed great elders of the last two centuries, and selectively share snippets of their various writings and advices, seems to have turned the ancient, holy faith into a kind of religious platitudes bazaar.

I am bombarded, when I open up my Orthodox social networking sites, with billboards of the elders, staring me in the face with their sullen, or joyful, eyes, till I wonder, ‘what do they think of all this?’

If I were a holy elder, alive in the body or reposed, I would have to try very hard not to be annoyed by all this repetitive activity and imagery, and wished instead that, if anyone felt they could be helped by anything I did or said, they’d just be helped, and not keep spinning it, like yarns or pagan prayer wheels.

Can there be such a thing as Orthodox consumerism? Or, even, a weird and unacknowledged competition among believers as to who can accumulate more patristic stories and teachings? I don’t know, but I do know there’s something about this that bothers me, and so I usually look the other way.

But not this morning. When I saw Elder Joseph the Hesychast staring at me in his iconographic glory for the hundredth time, something inside me just screamed, ‘No!’ and I asked the elder for forgiveness, for me and my brothers and sisters.

For in our human weakness and desire to be noticed, we adulate beyond measure, instead of secretly imitate, those who have gone before us, and like collectors of rich treasures greedily accumulate for ourselves what we should rather lose.

Yes, we search and find and share, we tell ourselves, but what are we really doing, for whom, when, and where?

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