2017 is here at last. In our increasingly media-drenched world, 2016 got a bad rap as the year that “killed” a number of celebrities including Prince, Carrie Fisher, and Leonard Cohen, to name but a few. And every death produced not only a spike in media sales, but an even greater rise in our collective nostalgia for the famous and the infamous. We are fascinated - I think it is fair to say, consumed - with celebrity.
A recent study cited in The Guardian indicates that in the ten years between 1997 and 2007 a major shift occurred in the dominant values featured in the shows watched by children. Community feeling and benevolence, which were at the top in 1997, fell well beneath fame and success and image, which topped the list just ten years later. The same article reports that a recent survey of 16 year-olds in the UK indicates that 54% of them intend to become celebrities. And it’s no surprise. After all, ancient wisdom tells us that we tend to become what we love, and that what has our attention “has” us. And so if our children love the cult of celebrity and fame with its attendant riches and success, it is no surprise that they will want, more than anything else, to become the famous, rich, and successful people they admire.
So, perhaps a good question at the dawn of 2017 is, what do we love? And, what is essentially the same question, what has our attention? If we spend our lives - that is, our time - online, fixed to the latest news about whoever and whatever is churning the media pool right now, then we will inevitably look more and more like that world. But if, in 2017, we would love God and our neighbor, then we must give them our attention and our time. For who knows if 2017 will be the year that “kills” us? And do any of us want to leave this world wishing we had spent more time online, or looking at a screen? We want to die having looked into the face of love, the face of Christ. And we see Christ in His icon, in the Liturgy, in the face of our brothers and sisters, the face of the poor, and in the face of every real human being. May God bless you in the New Year!
With love in Christ,
“Give me a word!”
LET us depart from Bethlehem and its unheard-of wonder; to Jordan let us go with speed, moved by souls full of fervor: there we shall clearly look upon the most awesome mystery. For with divine resplendence is my Christ come forth naked, clothing me with that garment which is the Kingdom of Heaven.
~from the Menaion
Take care to distinguish between your thoughts, as the Fathers teach. Stop and look, decide which ones are good and which ones are bad. Then, disassociate from any that you find to be bad, believe nothing they tell you, do not believe for an instant that they are a part of who you are. This is of the utmost importance, because if we accept bad thoughts, then they will stay with us and make us believe that they are actually a part of us.
~Elder Sergei of Vanves