Yet secular man needs God and the Church infinitely more than he can possibly even comprehend. . .
Questions of His Grace Bishop Irenei, based on the themes of modern times.
Interviewer: "Hello Vladyko¹, thank you so much for taking the time to answer some of our questions about the rebirth of Orthodoxy. It's a very important topic that's going to be interesting for a lot of people, so thank you very much. So, can I just begin with the first question of what can God and the Church offer to a person that's living in a world full of technology and comfort."
Bishop Irenei: "Well, purpose is the first answer that I would give. What people discover more and more often with technology and with all the comforts of the modern world is they bring as it were a kind of adornment to different aspects of our life that make this little bit nicer, that little bit easier, this little bit, perhaps, more fun if you want to think in these terms. But they don't provide meaning to life, they provide means of living, means of living out our life, but not a reason for living, not a substance for life. And God gives us not only means - ultimately even technology is something that we have by God's grace - but God gives a person a reason for living. And that's not just to say a kind of religious reason, that we live because God gives us life and wants us to live, but God gives us a unique existence in this world and the closer that we draw to Him the more we discover about ourselves, about our hearts, about the purpose for which we have been created. And there comes with that the obvious struggle, one has to struggle to find out about oneself and sometimes following that meaning and that purpose is not an easy thing, but it ultimately is what brings joy.
So, that purpose God brings, the joy that comes from God is a very different kind of joy that the world gives. And we live in a world where everything, technology... but everything else in society also is so focused on what it thinks of as joy and happiness, what is going to make me smile for a moment... If you look at adverts on billboards or on television or in newspapers, it's all about, you know, this is the thing that's going to make you happy and that thing might be a new telephone, it might be a new dishwasher, it might be a holiday, it might be a dog, whatever it is, this is what's going to make you happy.
But society has confused this momentary emotion of happiness, which always wears off. Right? No matter what it is, how wonderful it is, it wears off eventually. God brings a different kind of joy into our life, which is a joy that comes from this continual discovery of who we are and who God is. The continual discovery that there's always something more about ourselves to learn, there's more to be found in the midst of an empty room if it's filled with love and peace and that sense of purpose than there is in a room filled with every gadget and toy imaginable, but without some sense of being.
God gives us these things and not as a kind of spiritual bribe, you know, follow me and I'll give you these gifts. God gives them because that's His nature. God is, as we say in the liturgy, 'the giver of every good gift'. We believe in a God Whose nature is to give us more than we deserve and to give us more than we can really comprehend. So the joy that a christian feels is a a joy that is endless, a joy that's much more profound than the world, and a joy that is not dependent on our circumstances. Christians have to go through many sorrows - like everyone else - but sorrows can be turned into joys. There's even some joy that is born specifically by enduring our sorrows, but when we live in a world that says all of this technology all of these toys, these tools, they will lead you to a happiness and you will escape for the sorrows...
It's christians who say God brings the two together. We promise you both sorrow and joy. And ultimately what God is able to do is overcome that division to allow you to experience joy even in your sorrow, and there's no greater gift than that in the world. If you are living a life where even in your most sorrowful moments you experience joy, there's no moment in life that isn't joyful. And that's what God promises to those who would follow Him - It's a truly blessed and joyful life you."
¹ The word for "Master", that is, a Bishop in Slavic traditions.
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