To borrow the opening lines of the famous 19th English novelist Charles Dickens in his A Tale of Two Cities (1859): "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness..." Though Dickens was referencing the pre and post-French Revolution state of political, social and spiritual affairs in London and Paris, we can well apply these words to the state of the contemporary world as we enter the 21st Century.
On one hand, we have the "light" of unsurpassed scientific and technological innovations unimagined a couple generations ago. Here we can think of space travel, medical knowledge and treatment, the humanities and the sciences; smart-phones can especially be singled out as they are more powerful even than the previous generation of computers, allowing for instantaneous social communication and transfer of text and visual information throughout the world. Much of this can be seen as "wisdom." By analogy, we can see it as one edge of a two-edged sword.
On the other hand, we have the "darkness" of the age: the exponential disparity in the standard of living, economically and politically, between 'haves' and 'have nots.' We have a new form of warfare: combatants, disguised as ordinary citizens, carrying out massive terrorism. We see hijacked planes being flown into skyscrapers, brutal public executions of innocents, such as beheadings, and suicide bombings (many of which are motivated by radicalized religious adherents2 or militant atheistic dictatorships).
In some cases, such as in the Levant, this has led to the movements of populations fleeing this unprecedented terrorism, and the threatening of the cultures of those being persecuted as well as of the cultures of the countries they are fleeing to for safety. The ethos of this age also includes increasingly militant secularism attacking Christ and His Church.3 Many of these issues have been extensively discussed by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.
All of this being made worse by failure to care for the earth, God's creation, and the ensuing consequences such as global warming, water pollution and poverty etc. (Morelli, 2015).4 Awareness of all of this "foolishness," the underside of the two-edged sword, is made readily available to all by ubiquitous social media devices.
The followers of Christ, who are members of His Body the Church, can, in the spiritual tradition of the Eastern and Western Churches, engage in spiritual combat against the 'darkness' of our age.5 Following this counsel, the ethos of our prayers and life should be confidence in God, humility that He is with us, and the acquisition and cultivation of virtue. In combating the evil one, who is known as the separator and divider, we can ponder the words of Christ to His apostles: "This kind can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting." (Mk 9:28).
The members of the Society of St. John Chrysostom, [and all who pray for unity in Christ] have a unique spirituality and apostolate in a world wherein Christians are under increasing assault. We may be few in number, we may be the poor, the lowly or the meek, the outcasts and, as in the sense of the Hebrew word, anawim. But, in unity with Christ and His Church, we have strength. Let us continue our apostolate of unity and pray and work to overcome all that divides us.
1 This article is based on the Society of St. John Chrysostom-Western Region (SSJC-WR) President's Message in the Light of the East Newsletter 2015-16 Winter. The Society of St. John Chrysostom is an ecumenical group of clergy and lay people which promotes Eastern Christianity and Ecumenical Dialogue between the Eastern and Western Churches toward the healing of the sin of disunity. It has sponsored the Eastern Churches Journal and the annual Orientale Lumen & Light of the East Conferences. It has been in existence since 1997 in the United States and for over 70 years in England. For more information see the SSJC-WR website: www.lightoftheeast.org.
2 Metropolitan Hilarion: "Radical Islamism, known as Wahhabism or Salafism, is a movement within the Islamic world that has as its goal the establishment of a worldwide Caliphate in which there is no place for Christians." [orientalreview.org/2013/11/11/christian-world-is-facing-challenges-of-militant-secularism-and-radical-islamism] For an comprehensive summary of the history of Wahhabism see: www.huffingtonpost.com/alastair-crooke/isis-aim-saudi-arabia_b_5748744.html
3 Metropolitan Hilarion: "Militant secularism in Europe [and elsewhere] has a long history going back to the period of the French revolution. But it is only in the twentieth century in the countries of the so called socialist bloc that godlessness was elevated to the level of state ideology. As regards the so called capitalist countries, they preserved to a significant degree the Christian traditions which shaped their cultural and moral identity. Today these two worlds appear to have changed roles. ... In Western European countries we can observe the steady decline of the numbers of parishioners, a crisis in vocations, and monasteries and churches are being closed. The anti-Christian rhetoric of many politicians and statesmen becomes all the more open as they call for the total expulsion of religion from public life and the rejection of the basic moral norms common to all religioust raditions." [orientalreview.org/2013/11/11/christian-world-is-facing-challenges-of-militant-secularism-and-radical-islamism]
5 [Lorenzo Scupoli & Theophan the Recluse (1997) Unseen Warfare: The Spiritual Combat and Path to Paradise of Lorenzo Scupoli-as edited by Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and Theophan the Recluse, Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press.]
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V. Rev. Fr. George Morelli Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist.
Fr. Morelli is the Coordinator of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministry of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese and Religion Coordinator (and Antiochian Archdiocesan Liaison) of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion.
Fr. Morelli is a Senior Fellow at the Sophia Institute, an independent Orthodox Advanced Research Association and Philanthropic Foundation housed at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary in New York City that serves as a gathering force for contemporary Orthodox scholars, theologians, spiritual teachers, and ethicists.
Fr. Morelli serves on the Executive Board of the San Diego Cognitive Behavior Therapy Consortium (SDCBTC)
Fr. Morelli serves as Assistant Pastor of St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church, San Diego, California.
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