Last year I was at an international conference on St. Maximus the Confessor in Belgrade, and it was a wonderful program. One of the many highlights was the consecration of a brand new church dedicated to St. Maximus. It was the first ever dedicated to him in Serbia. Met. John Zizioulas was there and ten other hierarchs and twenty or thirty clergy. It was a smallish church and it was packed, and a beautiful day. At one point prior to the start of the Liturgy someone came out of the altar and told me that the metropolitan didn’t have his Archeiraticon, so he ran out in a hurry because they needed the prayers for him to read. After a couple of minutes he came running back in because he had found the prayers on the internet and had them on an iPad. This altar was fairly open, by the way, so you could see into the sanctuary. So he came running back in with the iPad, happy that he had found the prayers, and as one body all of the Serbian hierarchs took a step back and said “No! Do not bring that object into this space.” It was done even without thinking. So he left and they printed out the text in the church office. It was a memorable thing to see that visceral response on the part of the hierarchy.
- Fr. Maximos (Constas)
Distracting us from the Depths
Fr. Maximos (Constas), who I enjoy reading immensely, delivered a talk to the Antiochian Archdiocese last year that was quite compelling. His topic was "Distracting us from the Depths," and in it he said the above. I'm of the same mind with the hieromonk here and don't permit ereaders in the altar and truthfully frown on cellphones unless there is a persuasive reason to have one at hand.
Everyone has experienced the accidental phone left to ring during the homily while some red-faced woman plunges her hand into her purse or heard the video playing to jarring effect when someone checks their messages having forgotten that the last thing they had opened was Youtube or some children's app. Those are intrusions on our prayers that can be managed and forgiven as a lapse in judgement, but can you imagine Katy Perry blaring from the altar or having to stop a service because the iPad fell on the ground and the screen cracked?
I have even heard word that people want to use iPads to display icons without having to buy tons of icons. I shudder at the idea. But, if shuddering isn't at all convincing as a deterrent, here is my mental progression on such thinking: iPads are a step back from printed icons which are a step back from written icons which are a step back from the saints themselves. Do we want to move towards our saints or away from them?
I welcome your thoughts.