Last week I pulled out a stack of old newsletters, called Doxa, that I receive from the Monastery of the Holy Archangel Michael. Have you ever been there? It’s in Canones, NM about an hour northwest of Santa Fe. I pulled these out because I know Abbot Silhoun’s feeling on internet and the social media world and I know that he often writes of such things. I’ve been feeling pretty convicted lately about my social media usage, “screen time” usage in general actually.
I knew I would find words of wisdom and encouragement within the pages of this newsletter.
The first one to catch my attention was the Great Lent 2018 Spring Issue.
I posted a snippet of one on Instagram and got an outstanding response. Many agreeing and positive response. Even someone wanting to know how to subscribe.
So, I decided the entire article would be a good one to share in its entirety
Here is the article: Well worth the read…in the newsletter it is only one page.
Medicine for Mortals
by Abbot Silhoun at Monastery of the Holy Archangel Michael
A time of great silencing is upon us. Great Lent turns our vision toward a different level of being. In this season, many faithful opt for an increase of bodily asceticism such as fasting, extended prayers and almsgiving in an attempt to more deeply unite to Christ (St. Matthew 6). The more courageous look deeply into their souls to discern what spiritual diseases afflict their ability to love. Seeing our inner darkness, we search out ways to clear the path to the heart of every stumbling block. Usually some inner struggle for detachment will ensue. In some monasteries, services increase, and, with the extension of psalmody, a steady stream of repentance for the world begins to flow. Some monastics seek refuge in the desert, and like St. Sabbas the Sanctified, St. Zosimos and other great Fathers of monasticism, find solace silence.
Silence is the mother of repentance. In a world nauseated by an exponential multiplication of distractions, silence is the medicine we need. Our hearts simply need space in order to slow down from the abnormal speed at which the modern mind whirs within. So that we may listen to the still small voice of our inner Horeb, our pace of life must first abide in calm. St. Isaac the Syrian tells us that were we to put all the virtues imaginable on one side of a scale and silence on the other, silence would outweigh everything altogether. From the perspective of inner silence, all disorders, passions and sins are seen for the dust that they are: The Light of Christ begins to dawn.
Often our religious expressions swim in the shallow end of the ocean of understanding. Great Lent can be a crushing bore for mere waders in the waters of Wisdom. Yet, when fasting is seen as that flame which detaches us from the burden of a grumbling heart, we eagerly search out the fiery knowledge of abstinence. Its wisdom expands from lightening the body of excess heaviness to quieting the mind from unnecessary noisy activities, to stilling the heart from every evil thought. When one discovers the Life-giving revelation of a silent heart, the mysteries of the Cross and Resurrection are approached with the knowledge of mercy.
Saint Isaac the Syrian tells us to love silence above all things. True repentance is living in God, and silence is the language of the Bridegroom Who cometh in the middle of our nights. Our oil lamps of unknowing may be lit, but does our repentance study the semantics of silence? Practice (praxis) is required, and Great Lent is a wonderful time to take up the alphabet of asceticism and create sonorous sonnets of stillness. When our very flesh has put on the creative calm of Christ, our hearts soften towards those whose thoughts are lined with the veneer of despair. The ability to listen is what heals our ailing world.
We live in a noisy, hurried world. Many find themselves entangled in the World Wide Web, with the deadly sting of non-attentiveness wrapping them in the cocoon of ignorance. Others are in the suffocating squeeze of cell phone signals, sinking in a tide of texts, thinking relationship abides in a din of distracted tedium rather than in the silence of presence. If we simply take two steps back from the world’s onslaught of noise and meet the ever-present face of silence, we begin to notice new ways to live the Orthodox ethos of hesychia, the atmosphere of stillness. Many minds molded by modern devices have limited attention spans; to be still in the present moment without distraction proves ever more challenging. The Orthodox ethos cannot be captured in the hurry of information. It can only be understood by sitting at the table of experience where the noetic wine of good will toward all is shared.
Unripe fruits are bitter, and unripe virtues lack the sweetness of authenticity. Silence is the place of spiritual maturity, cultivated impatience—and harvested throughout the shifting seasons of life. A wise mind is in wonder of the ordinary, opening within the heart a responsibility for the entire world. Charity begins at home, and, in community, we share our being in the silence of understanding.
“Be still and know that I Am God.”
Silence is the mother of tears. Tears are the true path to the deep heart. The deep heart is a spring of compassion for our neighbors. Love of enemies is the fasting of the mind, which manifests itself in a still heart. The calm heart is the mounting of the cross, and her vision is the resurrection of mercy. In the Resurrection we are beyond death, and silence has swallowed up all fear. The end of silence—Christ is risen!”
Reading this again to write this post and a 2nd time within a week, I cannot say anymore than I already have said on Instagram. But it is still deeply how I feel…
My heart is yearning for silence. Reconnection to some old ways. Intentionality. Less [noise and stuff]. Peace. And silence. Molly Sabourin and her Filled with Less crew said something recently on Instagram that has been mulling in my mind ever since. “Less stuff means less to clean, less to manage, and more time for living out my eternal priorities—connection, hospitality, fruitfulness, pursuing peace.”
Yes! I need less stuff to clean and manage but I also need less noise and less distraction in my life to carry out those things. To have ‘more time for living out my eternal priorities.’ Those words just really struck deep to my core!
I’m not quite sure what this will look like in my life yet but I do know it is time to figure it out and pursue it!
If you are interested in more Doxa you can subscribe to the Monastery of the Holy Archangel Michael by visiting their website HERE. It is free. But I know it isn’t free for them to publish this. They are completely offline and send only via snailmail! Please, if you are able, give a donation with your subscription. You’ll have the opportunity when they mail you your first mailing. You won’t regret it. Each and every newsletter is rich with wisdom!