Patience is long forgotten in our time. The era of television, bad public education, sexual deviancy, and quick gratification has been followed by the epoch of pornography, the internet, mental insanity, and instant gratification. In current man’s and woman’s desire to have everything they want and once there is little thought given to those affected by their rushing. The scene of the public highways are a demonstrable illustration of this, where everyone believes they need to get where they are going before everyone else.
Sometimes, I see this spill over into our spiritual life as well. Some chase shallow emotionalism and sensationalism in religion (see the Taize and Charismatic movements or those who chase any “apparition” that pops up), others want distractions like children banned from the church building lest their silent prayer is disturbed (“If only children were not making noise, we could float like Giuseppe of Cupertino or have ecstasies like Teresa of Avila!”), and others like myself are often angry and frustrated whenever we fall into the same sin that haunts us over and over again (“Why am I so sinful?! Why cannot I be like Anthony of the Desert or Theophan the Recluse?!”). Ultimately, all three of these have the same cause: the desire for immediate results. They also have the same painful cure: looking upon and admitting our own failings, realizing that sanctification is a long process, and years of consistent perseverance in fighting our personal sins. Occasionally failing at this, as impossible as it is to ignore, should not be cause for discouragement but should be expected with the understanding that we will be working to reduce the occurrences.
Lent and a taste of monasticism are excellent weapons against this virus of selfish impatience. A peaceful afternoon in a remote location where there is only a monastery, the monks, you, the other guests, and some animals is a welcome break from the noise and superficial fun of a metropolitan area. Closing the hatches and diving for forty days without pleasures we take for granted (meat, alcohol, tobacco, elaborate meals, modern entertainment, etc.) can show us how unhealthily attached we are to these things and how little we really need them.
My own return to mead-making has reminded me of this. It is beautiful to watch the honey, fruit, and other ingredients ferment with the knowledge that they will one day become something delicious, but it is aggravating to know that the process will take many months, several rackings, and several-week infusion of oak spirals before this happens. Tom’s post on the Divine Office is applicable to this and many other things.
In conclusion, let’s all look at how badly we practice patience this Lent and work on doing something about it.
“For looking is the food of the eyes, but if this be such as is unlawful or forbidden, it mars the fast; and upsets the whole safety of the soul; but if it be lawful and safe, it adorns fasting. For it would be among things the most absurd to abstain from lawful food because of the fast, but with the eyes to touch even what is forbidden. Dost thou not eat flesh? Feed not upon lasciviousness by means of the eyes.
Let the ear fast also. The fasting of the ear consists in refusing to receive evil speakings and calumnies. “Thou shalt not receive a false report,” it says.
Let the mouth too fast from disgraceful speeches and railing. For what doth it profit if we abstain from birds and fishes; and yet bite and devour our brethren? The evil speaker eateth the flesh of his brother, and biteth the body of his neighbor.”
-St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the statutes