Cameras on our cell phones are placed in two locations – front and back, one facing us and the other facing back – the world and everyone else. The front-facing cameras are very basic, primarily used for selfies and video calls. But the back cameras are a totally different story, far more superior and advanced. In fact, on the back, we often find a whole array of very advanced cameras working together to capture as much of the outer world as possible. They are designed and built this way because we use the back cameras most of the time.
The camera setup of our phones has a lot in common with how we live our lives. We, too, have the ability and the gift of a double vision – a physical sight for observing the external world around us and a spiritual sight directed inwards for examining our inner and spiritual world. And we often use our gift of double vision in the same way we use the cameras of our phones. We prefer to use the back camera – the physical and external sight and often invest so much more energy and effort into capturing, processing and reacting to outer events and circumstances than looking inward, reflecting and examining the depths of our hearts.
For generations, media consumption in our society was centered around television and radio. Both are one-way communication mediums where the information is consumed, but there is no real way to engage and interact with the information itself. Today, things are very different and we heavily rely on social media for news, entertainment and even for social engagement. Social media is all about engagement and self-expression, so these platforms constantly encourage and prompt us to like, share, retweet, comment and express opinions. Often, there is very little concern or consideration on how tapping on these little icons with our fingers affects others or even ourselves. I believe this slowly changes not only the very fabric of our social interactions, how we behave, talk and act and relate to others, but also the very wiring of our brains and even our faith. This tremendous exposure to information overflow and the constant pressure to engage and interact forces us to change our behavior and we increasingly live in the physical world around us with little awareness of our inner world.
Reflection and self-examination are crucial ingredients for spiritual growth. “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?” – exports and encourages us, St. Paul, through today’s scripture reading from his Second letter to Corinthians (2 Corinthians 13:5). Examine yourself, test yourself – two profound reminders and invitations to switch our focus and our attention inwards.
Many other religions, spiritual practices, and even people who do not particularly believe in anything beyond themselves do practice meditation and reflection. But the Christian understanding of reflection and meditation is something very different, far more beautiful, meaningful and also something St. Paul explains in the same passage when he writes, “Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?” (“Քրիստոս Յիսուս ՚ի ձե՛զ է”) – 2 Cor. 13:5. Through reflections Christians do not simply attempt to reconnect with their inner-voice, inner-being or the universe. Christian meditation and self-examination is a spiritual journey to the very center of our souls, where we meet Christ himself and get to spend time with him. Christian reflection is very concrete, personal and relational because it is based on a real person – Christ, rather than an abstract idea or distant concepts.
St. Paul’s words, “Christ is within you,” are an encouraging and heartwarming reminder that if we manage to pause the hectic race of our routines and shut the doors of our souls to all the noise in and around us, descend deep into our hearts through reflection and prayer, we will meet Christ – our Lord, savior and comforter who is within us. And then we too, like the apostles and saints, will be able to walk with him, talk and learn from him, be healed, strengthened and comforted by his precious and holy presence.