Whenever we think of fasting it usually revolves around food. The guidelines the Church tell us what foods we are to abstain from. More importantly the fathers say we are to fast from evil and that we would not use our time in lent consuming each other through in-fighting, gossip, jealousy, envy and bitterness. The hymnography from our lenten services tells us that we fast to cope with the passions for things in life that have enslaved us and to recover the right and good use of them; to use them and direct them in a manner that glorifies God and bears witness to the very goodness of Creation.
When it comes to the wonders of modern technology, we have no guidelines from the church. Within the last 10 years, we have You Tube, Facebook, Twitter, texting, surfing on the internet with I-Phones that are now a walking wealth of information. People literally live on them throughout the day. If anything happens whether good or bad; it isn’t long before the news of it gets out on one of these ever-growing and popular means of communication. Former Governor Romney’s infamous comment on “47% of the American people” was first reported on one of the above new forms of communication (it certainly did not help him in this campaign to get elected). Multi-tasking is the norm of the day. It is common to see some sitting at a meeting or a restaurant (church too?) with heads down as they text. It has gotten to the point that working at a desk top computer and sending out an e-mail is out dated. Leaving a voice mail on someone’s cell phone is too much trouble and cumbersome. When I was at my first parish in 1994 up until I got a cell phone, I knew almost every person’s phone number associated with the Kokomo parish by heart. Now I couldn’t even tell you my own sister’s phone numbers without first having to look at them to be sure. One last memory I have is about a man who was on the Today show in either late 1990’s or early 2000 years. The story was about him attempting to not use his cell phone for a two-week period over the Christmas holidays. He gave up on his fasting from the cell phone after two or three days because he had to have it.
My point in this litany of observations is to ask; should there be some abstaining from our use of these technologies during lent? I want you to understand that there is nothing wrong or inherently sinful about their use. These technologies can be used for good or for bad. The technology is not the problem; it is whether we get so dependent on them we believe that we can’t live without them. The convenience of having them is great but does it sometimes lead to enslavement?
Here are some things I would ask you to consider incorporating into Great Lent and the Advent Fasts
1. Abstain from getting on Facebook or Twitter on Wednesdays and Fridays.
2. Limit your texting to certain hours of the day. (Since I don’t text, I don’t know how realistic that is.) Do not text while driving at any time!
3. If you are going to surf the web on your I-phone; use some of that time to read scripture or to edify yourself with spiritual readings to help you through the Lenten fast.
4. How about calling someone at times instead of texting? Speak with them directly so you can hear their voice
Finally when attending church services, cell phone rings need to be turned off and there should be no texting during the service (Except of course in the case of an emergency). I know people are good today at doing two things at once. But how can we fix our minds on God and worship him when we have other things on our mind? Even if we don’t text during services, I know that doesn’t stop the devil from tempting us to wander off and think of other things during services. Double-mindedness is struggle for all of us whether we text or not. The words of the Cherubic Hymn should be our rallying cry: “Let us who mystically represent the Cherubim and who sing the Thrice Holy Hymn to the Life-creating Trinity, now lay aside all earthly cares that we may receive the King of All who comes invisibly upborne the angelic hosts. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! May the rest of Lent be a time to discover our poverty of spirit and “look to Jesus Christ, the Pioneer and Perfecter of our Faith” and see that it is He who we truly need above everything else! Take care, Fr. Paul