In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; One God. Amen +
Billions of avatars, status updates, photos, tweets, articles, and opinions line the back alleys of the internet, each one meaningful in some way to the avatars who post them. Real human beings, cloaked in avatars, expressing real emotions through words and photos. Some confess feeling real connections with others, be it through the exchange of words, ideas, feelings, or even sensuality. Yet, the real people represented by these avatars are never face to face. There is never any physical human touch. It is, as it were, virtual. A simulated or imitation reality. What do the internet, social media, and the devil have in common? They promise connection and deliver, and a connection would be satisfactory if that is what we were created for, but we are created for so much more!
In the first chapter of Genesis God says, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness… So, God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them…”. The Orthodox Church teaches us about the right ordering of creation, especially as it relates to God and mankind. We see the image of God expressed in each human being, no two of whom are alike, all uniquely imaged from the one Image. This image is that of God. How can one see God in a person, that’s silly! Is it? In the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author writes regarding God’s supreme revelation, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”
What is God’s supreme revelation, or I should say, who is God’s supreme revelation? It is Jesus Christ. Christ is the first written icon; written before all of creation and at once written into creation through the Holy Spirit and the obedience of The Most Holy Theotokos whom redeemed all of creation. He is the New Adam and His Mother, the New Eve. Therefore, we, by proxy of our created being bare the icon of Christ in us as a reminder that we are His. Whether we humbly submit to Him or not, the creator left His mark in us. I don’t know about you, but this is comforting to me! Even though I am born into chaos and fallenness and continue to sin, I nevertheless belong to THE Creator of all things. St. John of Kronstadt reminds us, “Never confuse the person formed in the image of God, with the evil that is in him; because evil is but a chance misfortune, an illness, a devilish reverie. But the very essence of the person is the image of God, and this remains in him despite every disfigurement.”
We are created in the image and likeness of God, in divine love formed and called to communion with God and with each other. This divine union is not based on worldly unity, which is riddled with preferential criteria, demands, and limits. This divine union comes only through face to face contact, humility, suffering, and ultimately our death. If the culmination of this communion were to end here, it would be like that old lie offered by the devil; a cheap connection unfulfilling at best. Like the avatar, which may reveal some truths about the person whom it represents, it lacks authenticity and fullness.
I believe this is the first time in all of creation that mankind has encountered such times as these. Many may say there is nothing new under the sun and to a point they are correct. While human behavior may not drastically change, the way in which we reveal behavior certainly does. The tools available through technological advancements make imagination and fantasy more real today than ever before. No longer are man’s imaginings imprisoned inside his mind, on paper, in theater, or film, but they can be manifested in a place where time is calculated by processing cycles and space measured by peta and terabytes. Mankind continues to take something that can be used for good and use it for evil. In these virtual societies where our avatars live, we use them for distraction, deception, and division; all of which mankind is capable of in a face to face society but here, anonymity is celebrated, and these behaviors exhorted.
This is the same old trick the devil started with. Distraction from the Truth, “Has God indeed said, you shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Deception, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”. And divisiveness, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” The devil has sought to destroy the image since his fall. He hates mankind with his entire being and thus, will stop at nothing to destroy all of humanity. His tricks follow the same patterns and hooks; a little truth with a little lie. When Christ our Savior was born, the foul king Herod inspired by devilish deceit and pride sought to kill the Christ child, asking the wise men to “go and search carefully for the young child and bring back word to me that I may worship Him also.” When King Herod realized he had been deceived by the wise men, he slaughtered all male children two years old and younger. The devil has worked through the pride of mankind convincing humanity that it is perfectly acceptable to murder a child in the womb for any reason we deem.
The avatar is the devil’s replacement for the icon to whom we bear witness to; that is Jesus Christ within us. Decades before we dawned masks on our faces in hopes to remain healthy, the devil our adversary, convinced us to “try out” masks in simulated reality so that when the time came, we would accept fully the muzzling of souls. The devil specializes in dishonest realities and fear, but the Lord Jesus Christ offers authenticity. He promises resurrection because He IS love. Death is His slave. He upholds us, His beloved by the certainty of His word and His divine Love for mankind. Only our Lord gives breath and takes breath. Salvation comes from the Lord.
“Let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” We are created to love and to commune; First with God and then with man. Let us, brothers and sisters not be distracted and deceived by fear or the devil’s icons but commit ourselves to Him who is Truth and Love.
To God be all glory, honor, and worship, to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen +