Tune Out the World's Noise
29 November 2020
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in thy sight, o Lord, my strength and my redeemer.
Advent comes around each year to remind us to tune out the world’s noise, its distractions, and its delusions. This is ever so welcome and needed this year, 2020, the year that no one will ever forget. Advent and Lent are the two great seasons of the year that the Church gives us to prepare ourselves for eternity. It is a time to look inward, to examine ourselves, and to nurture our souls. This is especially true in today’s world of instant information and constant competition for our attention. In our digital, fast-paced culture, it is vital to set aside time for fasting, spiritual meditation, and prayer to enrich our souls in the same way that many of us set aside time for activities that exercise our bodies and strengthen our physical stamina.
Today’s Gospel reading comes from the 21st chapter of St. Matthew when our Lord enters Jerusalem. First, he sends His disciples to look for a donkey and a colt. This was to fulfill the old prophecy, “Say to the daughter of Zion, see your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey; and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Christ then rides into the city where “A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest!” Yet this jubilation dies out quickly. As many as there were there to greet our Lord that day, there were just as many of those who were ready to kill Him. I suspect though, that the majority of the people in Jerusalem were indifferent. God Himself had arrived and most people didn’t even notice. They were too busy or too self-consumed.
Would it be any different today in our own lives? If God spoke to us, would we be able to hear Him over the deafening noise of our world? If God revealed Himself to us, would we bother to notice, with our heads buried in our cell phones, and our hearts tangled up in self-indulgence? Advent reminds us that we need to be silent and focused on God in order to be able to hear Him. Christ calls Blessed are those who hear the word of God.
Today’s gospel lesson is about Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem. Other Advent gospels refer to Christ’s second coming and the end of the world. All last week, the daily office lessons were from the Wisdom of Solomon, Joel, and the Book of Revelation. They focused on the end times and what we can expect. Advent is about more than Christmas and Christmas is about more than remembering something that happened in the past. Advent and Christmas are about the coming of God. They are seasons for preparing our hearts for the day when we will face God and our souls will be bare before His Divinity.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul reminds us that, “the Lord comes, who will bring light to the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” What are the purposes of the heart? God searches for our inner devotion. He wants to know what we truly worship. God’s judgement sheds light on the things that we are truly made of. This is why prayer, fasting, alms-giving, and focusing on God - listening to God are so important. Advent is the time for self-examination and re-alignment. It is the time to hone down on the noise, the temptations, and the distractions of the world and put our affections back on God and his purpose for us. Advent is about seeking the pure heart. Attend to yourselves and what God wants for you, not what the world wants. Asceticism, fasting, meditation, alms-giving, and confession are the basic building blocks of living a complete and good life. Advent is the Church’s gift to us that gives us the opportunity to change our patterns and re-dedicate ourselves to God.
Why can we not find peace? We have all of the modern conveniences. Technology has surrounded us with comfort and self-indulgence, yet we are stressed. The Church Fathers have called distractedness the greatest consequence of the Fall of man. Our minds wander and our thoughts are scattered a hundred different ways. We forget God. All the screens and gadgets of this age only make that worse. Fr. Maximos of Mt. Athos writes, “Having promised us a technological utopia, our ubiquitous and intrusive cyberculture has instead precipitated a spiritual crisis. Living in a culture of organized distractions, our thoughts are isolated and disconnected, preventing us from seeing and experiencing the wholeness of life… in a realm of illusions, mesmerized by the images flitting about on our screens, we become dull, predatory flies buzzing on the chamber window, desperate to consume all the futility of this world.” Remember that Christ offers us peace. The Church gives us the medication for our ailment. Meditation, fasting, prayer, and confession are the keys to realigning our hearts. If we use them, we will enter into God’s peace.
Christ came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. He entered the city as an archetype of peace, simplicity, and quiet. This should set the tone for our four weeks in Advent. May God help us to enter into that peace, the simplicity and quiet of Advent. And there to turn our hearts to Him.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, one God. Amen.