5 April OS 2016 – Monday of the Sixth Week of Lent; Holy Martyr Claudius, Holy Martyrs Theodoulos and Agathopodes
St. Theophan the Recluse chooses the reading at the Sixth Hour today – Isaiah 48:17-49:4, for comment.
Thus says the Lord: “I am thy God, I have shown thee how thou shouldest find the way wherein thou shouldest walk. And if thou hadst hearkened to my commandments, then would thy peace have been like a river, and thy righteousness as a wave of the sea. Thy seed also would have been as the sand, and the offspring of thy belly as the dust of the ground: neither now shalt thou by any means be utterly destroyed, neither shall thy name perish before Me.” Under what condition should all this come to pass? “Go forth from Babylon (Is. 48:17-30). “
Babylon is an image of all-around sinfulness. Abandon sin and turn to the Lord with all your heart. He will not remember your transgressions, and will consign all of your unrighteousness to oblivion. You will enter again into His mercy – and then you need only to walk the way which He will teach you, and your inner peace will be like a river; the good thoughts of your heart, like the sand; and the fruits of your good works, like the dust of the ground. – Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, pp. 76-77
St. Theophan uses the image of Babylon, then, as an image of the soul in the state of sin, and “leaving Babylon” to mean the act of repentance – the decisive moment of turning from evil to do good. “Babylon” is simply a variant on “Babel,” for the ancient city of Babylon was built in the same place as the ill-fated tower which brought down the wrath of God on the arrogant utopia-builders of that time. “Babel” or “Babylon” means, literally, “confusion,” in memory of the confusion of tongues God cast upon the tower builders, who were rebelling against His sovereignty. The state of sin, both within the soul and without, in society, is characterized precisely by confusion – a babel of demonic voices within and without. The pandemonium (a word for chaos that means, literally, “of all demons”!) we see in the world today is but a projection and a macrocosm of the pandemonium inside every graceless soul. Our baptized souls are not graceless, but we let them suffer the agonies of gracelessness when we admit the pandemonium of Babel into our psychic processes through spiritual inattention.
The builders of the new tower of Babel in our time are not really hiding the purpose of their project any longer. It is mostly out in the open now; for they believe that the critical mass needed to oppose them no longer exists. Like the tower-builders of old, they have forgotten the chief of the dramatis personae in this story: God. Or, rather, they choose to ignore Him. They are in for a rude surprise. Whether in this life or the next, every soul will stand before Him, and no thought, word, or deed will escape His judgment. They have also forgotten the myriads and myriads of His angels, whom He is going to cut loose at some point to deal with them and with their invisible employers, the “aliens” whom they worship and want us to worship. Interesting times lie ahead.
St. Theophan gives us today the first step we must take to play our role in this great drama: turn from evil and do good. Face it: aren’t you tired of the constant coffeehouse chatter of the demons in your head? It is so depressing and so boring – worse even than MSNBC or Fox News, worse even than NPR! Let us replace the psychic garbage of our uncontrolled thoughts with holy reading, holy listening (there are a lot of audio resources out there now!), prayer, reading Church services from the Horologion and all the rest – so much to do, so many resources to do it with, and such a short life to do it in! What are we waiting for? The change from chaos to order, from fear to courage, from anxiety to peace – it happens in one moment, as did the salvation of the Good Thief on the cross.
As they say, “Just do it.”