In his weekly message to the faithful of the Antiochian Archdiocese, His Eminence Metropolitan SABA, wrote about the intersection of modern electronic imagery, human disconnection, and fasting. We share an excerpt from his message below, in which he urges all Christians to consider carefully the effects of electronic information and imagery on the spiritual life. Indeed, we as a Brotherhood have been carefully rethinking the role of computers and cell phones, imagery and information, when it comes to maintaining the vital roles of "custody of the eyes" and "watchfulness" in our life of withdrawal from "the world."
Couple with Mobile Phones at Senso-ji
(c) William Warby Creative Commons Attribution 2.0
"People nowadays spend a significant portion of their time using their smartphones and similar devices, preoccupied with trivial matters that keep them distant from meaningful interactions with their loved ones. It has become commonplace for a group of people to gather in a café or at home, each engrossed in their own cell phones, even as they sit together.
"What is strange is that people lament a lack of time for activities that would truly benefit them or aid in ridding them from their addiction. They also complain of boredom despite being occupied with an abundance of information. Their problems take a back seat in their lives as they immerse themselves in unproductive pursuits. They remain adrift at sea, unwilling to dive beneath the surface in search of the pearls hidden in its depths, returning to the spiritual emptiness that slowly erodes them.
"Why do I say this? Because the situation raises various concerns: epistemological, psychological, social and spiritual. It is imperative for believers and their conscious to recognize these issues and find ways to free themselves from this addiction while mitigating its negative effects.
"As believers, our fasting and abstinence from food are not enough. Fasting must extend to many other aspects of our lives. In the past, fasting of the eyes from impurity was not emphasized as strongly because images were not as prevalent as they are today. Moreover, the direct and explicit nature of sin was more apparent then.
"We need to introduce ascetic practices related to the use of modern media and information consumption. We might consider setting specific times for information consumption, limiting it before and after receiving Holy Communion and on fasting days, utilizing this time for prayer, beneficial reading, or acts of love. Being human, created in the image of God, demands that we live with inner freedom that makes us masters of our actions, rather than followers led by external influences."