A hermit said, “Cover a donkey’s eyes and it will walk in circles around the mill wheel. If you uncover its eyes, it will not continue to walk. The devil obscures our vision and leads us into all kinds of sins. If we keep our eyes open, we will more likely escape.
Keeping your eyes open is perhaps one of the harder spritual feats of our present age. So much of the material of our culture is specifically meant to mislead and deceive. And then again, so much of our culture has a “virtual” existence rather than a real. To a large degree, keeping your eyes open means keeping them focused on what is known to be true:
1. Avoid rumors
2. Avoid gossip
3. If you share something you expect someone else to keep secret, you are doing something you are asking them not to do (confession is obviously exempt from this).
4. Avoid information that is shared in anger
5. Avoid information (or treat sceptically) that is disseminated for profit (which would include almost all media).
6. In religious matters, novelty is not a virtue
7. Do not take delight in the sins of others.
St. Silouan of Mt. Athos never read newspapers. When asked how he could pray for the world without information about the world, he answered that the newspapers never tell us what we need to know for prayer. God will do this. My heart weeps when I think of the noise that will only increase in our culture as its election year heats up in earnest. So much money spent and so little truth told. I plan to vote, and I will look for information before I do, but it will not be by watching campaign ads.
Of far greater importance is to pray for a nation that thrusts itself into such a maelstrom so regularly and for the peace of mind of everyone around you – and to avoid those things mentioned above. Christ said:
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light (Matt. 6:22).
And St. Paul:
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you (Phil. 4:8-9).
I’ve been thinking about watchfulness lately. It seems it’s a word that comes up a lot in most good spiritual reading, Orthodox or not. It’s funny that us westerners tend to be great at observing (rather than participating), but missing out on watchfulness in that observation. For me, it’s all in the attitude. The St Seraphim quotes you posted a week ago are a great guide to this attitude. When I’m observing what’s gong on around me, it’s typically to deconstruct at best and to pridefully criticize at worst. The best watchfulness, in contrast, would be to keep one open to what’s going on in my heart (or nous?) and to keep the other eye on finding signs of God in those I encounter, in order to serve Christ through them or to learn what I can from them, etc. Of course, I don’t know much of this from experience.
Pray for me.
Well said. May we both know more about it from our experience.
Yes, indeed. Thank you.
I spent most of my professional career in the news business but two years ago I cut off the cable and have recently canceled my newspaper. I hesitate to congratulate myself because now I’ve got the blog habit, and my bookmark list keeps getting longer!
Lord have mercy.
It appears that the only resolution I need to make is to keep my eyes open. Thank you so much for this post. As always, you write what I need to read.
Should any man be in doubt as to what sorrows, sicknesses, diseases, travails, sins, and wickedness that we need to pray God for deliverance from, forget newspapers and TV news, just read the Old Testament. “Its all been done before.”
Thank you, Fr. Stephen!
I am a new child in christ and now things are looking up for me and I need things in my life that is different and now that I’ve decided not to do ugly things I go with GOD Thank You