Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Day Two: Cell-Phone Fasting?

Dear Parish Faithful,

As we begin the second day of saving abstinence, we cry to Thee, O Lord: Pierce the hearts of us Thy servants with compunction and accept the prayers we offer Thee in fear. Grant us without stumbling to complete the course of the Fast, and bestow upon us cleansing and great mercy. (Tuesday Matins of the First Week)

In addition to all of the wonderful material that our webservant has assembled and posted on our parish website for Great Lent; there is currently playing a series of superb talks on Ancient Faith Radio entitled “Journeys Through Great Lent” (www.ancientfaith.com). You will hear Fr. Thomas Hopko, Frederica Matthews-Green, Fr. Melitios Webber, and Scott Cairns.

In a recent gathering with our Young Adult Group, we got on the subject of cell phones – their use and misuse. Both Johnothon Sauer, our Youth Group leader, and I, spoke about the pervasiveness and invasiveness of the cell phone when they essentially become an extension of our very being – or so it may seem. Texting, twittering, cameras, internet – it is all there as ubiquitous as can be. There is no end to the limitless “delights” that the more sophisticated cell phone of today can now provide. Of course, we also explored the beneficial use of the cell phone in today’s society. Everyone probably has a “cell-phone story” about how its presence and use “saved” us from one calamity or another in a crisis or emergency situation. However, we both ended by issuing something of a challenge to our young adults: When Great Lent arrives, incorporate “cell-phone fasting” into your over-all Lenten effort. This may be even more fruitful for adult Orthodox Christians!

If we have reached the point of dependence wherein we are convinced that we “cannot live” without our cell-phones (though the category of “civilization” actually pre-dates the arrival of the cell-phone); then are we able and willing to practice some form of abstinence in relation to it, as Lenten fasting is meant to liberate us from an overwhelming dependence on the things of “this world?” Are we currently using our cell phones when necessary; or have they also become toys that we periodically play with out of boredom or a sense of needed amusement/distraction? Are we calling others when there is no real reason to?; and are we texting the usual semi-vacuous “luv u?” messages? My pastoral suggestion is to formulate a strategy that helps liberate us from precisely this kind of dependence and need for distraction. Is it possible to limit our cell-phone use to calling others when needed through the normal course of the day, and eliminate the superfluous? Can we limit our cell-phone usage to times other than when we are behind the wheel of our cars? If we try some of this kind of “fasting,” perhaps we will be surprised – if not mildly shocked - as to the extent of that dependency I just mentioned above. It is more than food and drink that hold us in bondage.

I am not trying to romantically resurrect the Middle Ages; or take us back to a pre-technological – if not pre-industrial – age. I am trying to locate those areas of contemporary living that seem to sweep us along with an unquestioning adherence to its norms and practices. And the cell-phone readily came to mind!

Just some thoughts …

In Christ,

Fr. Steven

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