I don’t watch TV. Well, I will watch a ballgame sometimes but, other than that, I try to stay away from TV. That means I don’t watch the news. I think it has become obvious to anyone paying attention, especially over the last few years, that our news outlets are either outright lying to us or, at very least, not telling us the whole story.
I do, however, pay attention to several independent journalists. You know, the ones that are on the ground in the places from which they are reporting, not sitting in some studio wearing makeup. I was listening to one the other day talking about corruption and such within our government and I heard something that resonated with truth.
“Convenience is the carrot.”
Now, she was not talking about spiritual things; she was talking about other things. But man, there is so much truth in this when it comes to our spiritual life as well. What is it that keeps us from living the life Christ has called us to? What is it that keeps us from taking up our cross and following the Lord Jesus, no matter the cost?
“Convenience is the carrot.”
We do not do what Holy Scripture demands of us because it’s inconvenient. We do not do what Holy Tradition demands of us because it’s inconvenient.
We are slaves to our convenience.
Not too long ago, I visited a monastery in West Virginia and spent the weekend there. I have longed to spend time at a monastery for some time, but the past two years have made that rather difficult. I have always been attracted to the monastic way of life and ethos. I was not disappointed. The weekend was wonderful.
The entire weekend was spent away from all the conveniences of my life in the world. My cell phone would not work (what a lovely thing!), there were no TVs anywhere to be seen, no music blaring, no sound of traffic, no social media. There were hours of prayer and silence. The monks chanting, the candles burning, reverencing the holy icons, being soaked in incense…it was soul-filling, peaceful and challenging.
Saturday night at the monastery was spent standing in the Vigil service for over three hours. Yes, you read that correctly. We stood and prayed and gave confession and received absolution and prayed some more for three hours. And it was glorious.
There was no convenience to be had. It was hard work but also highly rewarding. The carrot for me that weekend was a deeper life of prayer and union with Christ.
I have spoken a lot about this but the sooner we divorce ourselves from the convenience of this world, the better off our souls will be. I’ll give you an example. What do we do on Saturday evenings? Most of us will spend Saturday evenings immersing ourselves in whatever entertainment venue we choose. Could be family movie night, could be a card game, going out to eat, drinking, whatever.
The point is that rarely do we spend Saturday night in silence. Rarely, if ever, do we spend Saturday night in prayer or reading Holy Scripture or some piece of spiritual writing, in preparation for worship on Sunday. No, we spend our time indulging in our pleasures.
St. John Chrysostom (Homily 13 on 1 Timothy) has this to say about those who live in pleasure,
“A man who lives in pleasure, is dead while he lives. For he lives only to his belly. In his other senses he lives not. He sees not what he ought to see, he hears not what he ought to hear, he speaks not what he ought to speak. Nor does he perform the actions of the living. But as he who is stretched upon a bed, with his eyes closed, and his eyelids fast, perceives nothing that is passing; so it is with this man, or rather not so, but worse. For the one is equally insensible to things good and evil, but the latter is sensible to things evil only, but as insensible as the former to things good. Thus he is dead. For nothing relating to the life to come moves or affects him.”
Read that again. A man (or woman) who lives in pleasure is dead. He lives only to satisfy his appetites. He cannot see or hear what’s really going on and he cannot speak as he ought. St. John says, if this is how we live our lives, we’re as good as stretched out on a bed, passed out and blind to the world around us. Nothing related to the life to come moves or affects us.
This is us, dear reader. We are the dead ones. We spend our time in useless and trivial pursuits, satisfying our appetites for entertainment and our belly, our lusts and our conveniences. And we are largely dead to the things of the life to come.
One of our biggest problems is that we don’t really believe that there is such a thing as eternity. Our minds can’t grasp it and so we don’t truly believe it. Or, what we’ve been told about eternity is this nebulous notion of “heaven” in which we’ll all sit around and live this disembodied and ethereal life and float around. No, friends. We are flesh and we will be in the life to come. Albeit, redeemed and made new, born again into true humanity as it was in the beginning. And that life will last forever.
C.S. Lewis talked about this truth when he said,
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Our desires are too weak. We are half-hearted, seeking the carrot of convenience and our ease when infinite joy and communion with our God is offered to us. We are far too easily pleased and placated. Our souls will pay the price.
When we are tempted, brothers and sisters, to pursue the things of the world, to compromise, to be distracted, to be lulled to sleep by our appetites, we must never forget: Convenience is the carrot the devil offers us. It is far too inconvenient for us to pick up our cross and follow Christ. But if we do not, our souls and the souls of our children will pay the price.
If you are anything like me, you have been paying attention to what is and has been going on in the world over the last two years. Specifically, I want to talk about what is called “The West.” Basically, the US, Canada and Western Europe is “the West.” I want to specifically talk about America though because, unfortunately, that’s where I live.
We’ve all been watching as our society disintegrates right before our very eyes. The last couple of years has seen societal decay accelerate at an alarmingly rapid pace. The whole “woke” movement and transgender and queer agenda has been force fed to us repeatedly. Riots, commercials, TV shows; nothing is safe. Even our sporting events have been taken over by this nonsense. Disney has openly said they want to promote more queer programming.
Nothing is safe anymore. Even so-called Christians are going woke.
The bombardment on the psyche and soul of the American people is relentless. I experienced this firsthand this last weekend. I went to a conference in a U.S. city that will remain nameless. What I experienced was mind numbing, soul crushing and deeply terrifying.
Here’s a funny thing that happened though. During a panel discussion on the first night of the conference, someone said something that was applause worthy. Rather than applaud, a bunch of people began snapping their fingers. I was utterly confused and was looking around wondering what was happening. I was informed that clapping can be disruptive and aggressive.
Disruptive and aggressive.
That should have been a warning sign of how the weekend would go. There was a whole lot of talk about being “inclusive” and a “safe place.” That’s code for woke, I discovered. You’re only inclusive if you accept as normal the transgender ideology and LGBTQwhatever ideology. In fact, these things were openly discussed as being ideal and totally normal. Pronouns were being thrown around. There were openly trans people and openly gay and openly whatever proudly flaunting their demonic ideologies all over the place. It was disgusting and disturbing and troubling and all I could do was pray. I prayed for those in the room who had lost themselves and whose souls are enslaved to this rot and for my own soul and I prayed fervently for the souls of my children.
Our kids are going to grow up in a society (in the West) that all this nonsense and godlessness will be “normal.” They will grow up being either numb to it or a part of it.
Unless we act. I believe with all my heart that we only have one of two choices left for Christians in the West. We are either going to have to hunker down with like-minded faithful brothers and sisters or flee.
For me to hunker down (as an Orthodox Christian), that means I must be where there is a strong and vibrant Orthodox community. That is hard to find in the U.S. I’m not being disparaging, I’m simply saying that Orthodoxy is not well known or easy to find, especially where I live. For most of us that’s true. That means we’d have to move. And the biggest problem with that is that, even if we move within the U.S., you still have to deal with a rapidly declining morality in society. In fact, I would say at this point that it’s basically already gone.
Which leaves the option of fleeing. Now, I’ve talked to several people about this and many of them have said to me things like, “But we are called to be a witnesses and lights,” and other such things as that. That is true. We are called to be witnesses to the Light in a dark world. But flight is also something Holy Scripture talks about repeatedly. Consider our friend Lot from the OT and the famous story of Sodom and Gomorrah. He was told to flee before the wrath of God descended on the city. As he and his family fled, his wife looked back and was turned to a pillar of salt. She was still attached to Sodom and her comfortable life and was punished for it. Let that sink in for a minute.
To say that we are living in a modern Sodom in America is not a stretch by any definition.
Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 10 that when they are persecuted in one city, flee to another. In Matthew 24 and Luke 21, He told them when they see the abomination of desolation to flee into the mountains. We are witnessing abominations by the droves in our society. In Revelation 18, when the future Babylon is prophesied, God tells His people to “Come out of her, my people.”
Flee, He says.
And the great Apostle St. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18,
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
What fellowship do we have, brothers and sisters, with the darkness that pervades our country? What part do we believers have to do with the pagans who dominate our society? Are we not the temple of the living God? We are told not even to touch the unclean thing (pretty much our whole society).
Flee from it. Don’t have anything to do with it. Don’t touch it.
Lest you think it’s just the New Testament, we see the same in the Old Testament. In Jeremiah 51, we read,
“ Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the Lord’s vengeance; he will render unto her a recompence…We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed: forsake her, and let us go every one into his own country: for her judgment reacheth unto heaven, and is lifted up even to the skies.” (vs. 5, 9)
Flee. Forsake Babylon. Judgement is coming.
The Prophet Isaiah also, when speaking of coming out of bondage (and can you say we’re not in bondage in the U.S.?)
“Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.” (Is. 52:11)
Flee. Get out. Don’t even touch the unclean thing.
I don’t care about me. It’s my children. My children are going to grow up in a society that is utterly godless, a society that embraces its own “truth” and abandons Truth for their own pleasure. I cannot stand by and let this happen. What kind of father am I if I don’t do something to save my children from this coming flood of wickedness and judgement?
I think it’s time to go.
Pray for me and my family. Pray for each other. Pray for Christ’s return. Pray, brothers and sisters.