Lent Reflection Day 9
Today Unseen Warfare addresses a pernicious evil which is more insidious and prevalent today than it was when the book was first written so many years ago. To quote: Just as it is necessary to guard the mind from ignorance, so is it equally necessary to protect it from the opposite, namely from too much knowledge and curiosity. For if we fill it with a quantity of information, ideas and thoughts, not excluding such as are vain, unsuitable and harmful, we deprive it of force, so that it is no longer able to understand clearly what is useful for our true self-correction and perfection.
Some time ago my wife and I visited a monastery. We were there for some hours – we went to a service, to lunch, and to confession. I noticed at one point that my phone was not doing its usual beeps and shivers, and I took it out of my pocket. There at the top were the dreaded words: No Service. I felt such a strange sensation, as if I had been cut off from the world. What if people needed me, or I them? What if I needed to look something up, or what would I do if I was bored and wanted to check my messages? I walked outside to see if I could catch a signal – I couldn’t. For the rest of the time there, I tried to reconcile myself to the fact that I was off line. My mind started spinning from acceptance, to anger at the monastery, to concern for the hundreds who were probably looking for me, to a desire to leave as quickly as possible, and back to anger at the monastery for making us wait to go to confession.
When I got home later that day I felt like a fool. Do I think myself so important? Do I need to be entertained every moment of the day? The first thing I did was to delete most of my social media apps. Enough is enough.
To continue the quotation from Unseen Warfare: Therefore in relation to the knowledge of earthly things, which is not indispensable, even if it is permissible, your attitude should be as one already dead. Always collect your mind within yourself, with all the concentration you can, and keep it free of thoughts about all worldly things. Yes, there is some degree to which it is necessary that we maintain a connection with the world and with loved ones. And also to know what the news is that affects us and the community we live in. But the stinging swarm of information has become too much for many, and most of us don’t know how to handle it. Whenever there are controversies within the Church, and there are always going to be controversies within the Church, I have two or three friends who contact me in order to talk about them. They have looked up things on line, on blogs, in chat rooms, and in news feeds. This latest issue, whichever one it is, becomes the most important thing to talk and speculate about.
Brothers and sisters, Lent is the time when we should back away from these things, social media and 24 hour news. As we fast from food also we should fast from screens. It is very difficult for us to collect our minds within ourselves while we have these voices constantly screaming in our ears. Unseen Warfare says: They are the nets and shackles of the devil, and quotes from St. Basil the Great: Let listening to worldly news be bitter food for you, and let the words of saintly men be as combs filled with honey.
Indeed. The authors of Unseen Warfare knew the ways of human life and culture, and they offered their warnings. Let us, on this blessed ninth day of the fast, heed their warnings and seek continually unity with the Living God.