III Lent Wednesday

The Beginning of Wisdom 

The Lenten Readings from Proverbs 

III Lent Wednesday – Proverbs 9: 12 – 18 

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My son: If thou be wise for thyself, thou shalt also be wise for thy neighbours; and if thou shouldest prove wicked, thou alone wilt bear the evil. He that stays himself upon falsehoods, attempts to rule the winds, and the same will pursue birds in their flight: for he has forsaken the ways of his own vineyard, and he has caused the axles of his own husbandry to go astray; and he goes through a dry desert, and a land appointed to drought, and he gathers barrenness with his hands. 13 A foolish and bold woman, who knows not modesty, comes to want a morsel. 14 She sits at the doors of her house, on a seat openly in the streets, 15 calling to passers by, and to those that are going right on their ways; 16 saying, Whoso is most senseless of you, let him turn aside to me; and I exhort those that want prudence, saying, 17 Take and enjoy secret bread, and the sweet water of theft. 18 But he knows that mighty men die by her, and he falls in with a snare of hell. But hasten away, delay not in the place, neither fix thine eye upon her: for thus shalt thou go through strange water; but do thou abstain from strange water, and drink not of a strange fountain, that thou mayest live long, and years of life may be added to thee. 

This is one of several passages occurring throughout Proverbs in which the sacred author warns his reader against the allurements of the loose woman who would entice him into the illicit pleasures of fornication.   Here she is depicted sitting on the street outside her house, offering the sweet poison of her secret bread and stolen water to those who are senseless enough to partake.  St. Augustine, who, after St. Mary of Egypt, is probably the Church’s best known convert from a life of carnal sin, states that he fell initially because he was outside his own house, the house of the soul:  

I came upon the brazen woman, empty of prudence, who, in Solomon’s obscure parable, sits on a seat at the door outside her house and says, “Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”  This woman seduced me, because she found my soul outside its own door, dwelling externally in the eye of my flesh and ruminating within myself on such food as I had swallowed through my physical senses. – Confessions 3.6.11 

The Christian who would guard himself from sin must dwell within, in the interior life of the soul, through constant prayer and watchfulness.   This has always been the case, of course, but today we have to practice a degree of militant watchfulness surpassing that of our fathers, because the allurements of sin not only confront us in society, where we are surrounded by sinful men and women – although this is certainly still the case – but they also stare us in the face continually through the electronic media that have become the daily mental universe of a critical mass of the world’s population.  

I would like to recommend two books:  one is theoretical, and one is practical.   In The New Media Epidemic, Jean-Claude Larchet examines the problem from an Orthodox patristic perspective, in order to help the reader understand how disastrous the whole thing is in relation to the life of the soul and the struggle for salvation.   In Digital Minimalism, the secular author Cal Newport lays out a practical program for getting one’s media addiction under control.     

We must act, and we must act now.  Today is the day of salvation. Tomorrow may never come. 

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