2 March OS 2018: Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent; S. Theodotus of Cyrenia, Hieromartyr; S. Hesychios, Martyr; S. Euthalia, Virgin and Martyr
The first reading at Vespers today, Genesis 10:32-11:9, recounts the history of the Tower of Babel.
Men, delivered from extinction in the Flood by God’s mercy to Noah, did not learn their lesson, and they determined to play God by building a tower to scale the heavens. One would have thought that the not-distant memory of worldwide catastrophe brought on by human pride and corruption would have daunted them, but they demonstrated the endless capacity of men to delude themselves, and they attempted, once again, to make life into a project to thwart God. The surprise was on them: God cannot be thwarted.
God solved the problem by creating many different languages and nations, scattering man across the face of the earth. He knew, in His infinite wisdom, that people do better in small groups, that small is beautiful. Man is by nature social: without family and community, without love, he withers and dies. And precisely because of this, he needs to be in little groups: families, Church parishes, communities. He needs life on a human scale, life with a human face. Just to be an atom floating in a vast sea of faceless individuals – the plan that the Babel Builders then and now always have in mind for us – has the same effect as having no society at all. It encloses one in his ego, which is hell on earth.
The Church is the ultimate answer to the Tower project. She gathers all the nations under Her care without destroying them. Each nation, and each local community and family, attains its true greatness mothered and instructed by Her. Family life blossoms, and this becomes the basis of that true national greatness which cannot be measured by GDP or number of dollars spent on social programs or military adventures, but by the piety, learning, and virtue of the nation’s people.
Each of us needs to abjure the mass mentality and mass culture, and rekindle the love of one’s own: One’s own family, ancestry, tongue, culture, and place. Let us make our houses into homes, where family life flourishes in piety, learning, and virtuous labor. Let us love the land beneath our feet and the sky over our heads. It will be a great day when we are more concerned about the children’s Latin lesson or the chickens’ getting into our neighbor’s yard than about what some crooks are doing in Washington D.C., New York, the City of London, Brussels, or Davos.
For this to happen, we have to un-do the illusion that things that happen on video screens of various kinds are more real and more important than things that happen in front of us in real life. Here is a short list of exercises that may help with this. :
1. Buy stationery and postage stamps, and write someone you love a real letter once a week.
2. Plant a garden and keep it.
3. Spend at least one evening per week with your family and just talk, or sing, or tell stories, or take a walk. Or simply do nothing – you’ll learn more just looking at each other rather than the Internet.
4. Learn the names of the trees and plants where you live, and be able to identify them.
Pick one and try it. You have nothing to lose!