NOTE: In the monasteries, pilgrims are generally encouraged not to watch television and secular movies, play video games—or most games in general—not to go to clubs, parties, dances, etc. Many pilgrims have obediences that limit their Internet time to a ½ hour per day. Geronda Ephraim has said in homilies that those who live a spiritual orthodox life—frequent confession, frequent communion if no penance, obedience to a spiritual father, etc.—cannot be affected by the subliminal messages found in television, advertising, etc. It should be noted that there are some secular media that is permitted and blessed by the monasteries, like the movies Ostrov (Island), Mel Gibson’s The Passion. Those movies are even blessed to be on the monastics’ iPods as well as Athonite documentaries. Geronda Ephraim went to see The Passion when it came out in theaters with one of his Gerondissa’s and said afterwards, “Out of all the movies I’ve seen on the Life of Christ, this one is the most realistic and the closest thing to what really happened.” Many monastics watch The Passion especially during Holy Week to help them get more into the mindset of Christ’s suffering. The following article is excerpted from The Rudder:
CANON XXIV (24) OF THE 6TH ECUMENICAL COUNCIL
Let none of those enrolled in the clerical list, nor any Monks attend horse races or become involved in pastimes. But if any Clergyman should he invited at a wedding, whenever fraudulent games are introduced, let him rise up and protest, and thereupon let him depart, since the teaching of our Fathers thus commands. In case anyone is caught and found guilty of this, let him either cease or be deposed. (Apostolic Canons XLII, XLIII; Canons LI, LXII, LXVI of the 6th Ecumenical Synod; Canon XXII of the 7th Ecumenical Synod; Canons III, LIV of Laodicea; Canons XVII, LXX of Carthage.)
No one in Holy Orders, nor any monk, according to the present Canon, is permitted to go to those places where men race horses, or to look at and listen to effeminate games. If, on the other hand, any clergyman be invited to a wedding, he may go, but when it comes to playing such deceptive and Satanic games, he must get up at once and depart, just as the Fathers’ teaching commands, that is to say, Canon LIV of the Synod held in Laodicea (though that Canon adds that those in Holy Orders must not look at other spectacles either that mark weddings and suppers, and that they must depart before the time has even come for the games). As for anyone caught doing this, either he must cease or he must be deposed.31
- ENTERTAINMENT IN GENERAL IS UNCHRISTIAN
Although Balsamon in his interpretation of the present Canon does say that such theatrical shows and such games are prohibited only on Lord’s Days and the great holidays, but not on the other days, inferring this from that which Canon LXX of Carthage says to the effect that these shows must be transferred to other days, we say, principally and primarily, that Canon LI of this Ecumenical Synod prohibits their being held, not on some days and on other days not so, but not at all on any days whatsoever. Consequently, and because the same Synod of Cartilage in its Canon XVII says that it is ever and always preached to all Christians not to go near any place where there are blasphemies and other improprieties that attend or mark such theatrical shows. Moreover, we say what St. Basil the Great says (see in xtensor XX). No blamed thing in itself can ever become good on account of the season in which it is done. “None of the things that have been condemned is suited to us for the time being.” But since these spectacles and theatrical shows have been blamed, they are not to be praised and are not good even when held on non-festival days. For these things are really demonic works.
St. Chrysostom, too, says (Hom. 12 on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, page 318 of Volume II): “And talk not to me of custom. For if a thing is wicked, let it not be done even once; but if it is good, let it be done again and again.” Or, in other words, if the thing is an evil, let it not occur even once; but if it is not, let it occur at all times. The same Chrysostom calls theaters and circuses and horse races pomp of Satan (Discourse 20 on statues, page (610 of Volume VI). And again the: same saint says: “Frequenting theaters has given birth to fornication, licentiousness, and lewdness of every sort. And watching horse races, prize fights, burlesque shows, and boxing, and exhibitions of insolence, and the exchange of insults have engendered constant aversions” (Discourse 15 on statues, page 564 of volume VI). See also the discourse that he prepared specially to show how improper it is for anyone to go near theaters, since these make men perfect adulterers (page 89, of Volume V).
CANON LI OF THE 6TH ECUMENICAL COUNCIL
The holy and ecumenical Synod universally prohibits so-called pantomimes and their theatrical exhibitions; afterwards, in keeping with this, also the spectacles of wild-animal fury and of hunters’ prowess, and the execution of dances on the stage. If anyone flouts the present Canon, and gives himself over to any of the things herein prohibited, in case he is a clergyman, let him be deposed, but if he is a layman, let him be excommunicated. (Canons XXIV, LXII, LXVI of the 6th Ecumenical Synod;
Canons XVII, LXX of Carthage.)
With a vengeance the present Canon prohibits the doings of so-called pantomimes, some of which were Arabs mimicking gestures, while others were Armenians, at other times slaves, sometimes even slapping each other’s face, and moving the speculators to uncontrollable laughter. What is here called “spectacles of wild-animal fury and of hunters’ prowess” as translated into English (though but two words in Greek, meaning, approximately, “hunting scenes”– translated as above so as to bring out the implications more clearly) are the spectacles55 beheld when one sees wild beasts, such as lions or bears, or other savage animals, fighting, either among themselves, or with human beings who have been condemned to death. For it is a piece of great inhumanity and barbarity to look at such bloodshed and laugh at it.
The Canon also forbids, in addition to these spectacles, dances and indecent wriggles performed whether by men or by women on the stage. The stage was a tent within which they used to engage in all kinds of theatrical presentations and pretenses, or where someone would stand up and display examples of skillful acting, according to Title XIII of Photios, Chapter 21, and hence they are called actors who at times pretend that they are masters or lords, and at other times that they are slaves or servants: As for anyone that flouts the present Canon and gives himself to watching such displays, if he be a clergyman, let him be deposed, but if he be a layman, let him be excommunicated. Read also Canon XXIV of the same 6th Ecumenical Synod.
CANON XVII (17) OF CARTHAGE
Care should be taken to see that the children of Priests shall not give any mundane spectacles, nor witness any. This, in fact, has ever been preached to all Christians, to the effect that wherever there are blasphemies they ought not to approach. (Apostolic Canons XLII, XLIII; Canons XXIV, LI, LXII, LXVI of the 6th Ecumenical Synod; Canons XIII, LIV of Laodicea; Canonof Carthage.)
The present Canon commands that children of priests refrain from giving the exhibitions and plays that are staged in theaters and with horse races and bullfights and other contests with wild beasts and animals, when they themselves, that is to say, have control over the horses and other animals; but neither must they stand or sit and look at such spectacles when they are given by other persons.18
Not only children of those in Holy Orders, however, but all Christians in common are and always have been taught not to go near theaters and motion picture shows and the like, where many indecent things occur by means whereof the faith of Christians is blasphemed and insulted by infidels and disbelievers and other impious persons. See also CanonV of the 6th Ecumenical Synod, as well as Apostolic Canon XLII.
- PRIEST’S MUST KEEP CHILDREN DECENT, MODEST – UNLIKE WORLDLY CHILDREN
That is why the Apostle wrote to Timothy (I Timothy 3:4) that priests must keep their children in subjection with all care for decency. And to Titus (Titus 1:6) that they themselves must have children who are faithful and obedient, free from any accusation of licentiousness, dissoluteness, prodigality, and dissipation, and not prone to insubordination. But when children of priests go to theaters and motion picture shows and witness the indecent and disorderly sights to be seen there, it is evident that they are liable to be accused of being licentious and dissolute, prodigal or insubordinate, as well as indecent or immodest, which is a thing forbidden by the divine Apostle. For the children of priests ought to be more deceit and modest than the children of worldly persons. That is why St. Chrysostom (page 50 of Vol. VI) says that if the daughter of a priest sins, she is punished more than other women. “For the daughters of priests, though not subject to any obligation because of being in Holy Orders themselves, yet by reason of their father’s office and dignity, have to suffer a much more bitter punishment,” he says. (Discourse 6 on Holy Orders). God too says: “If the daughter of a man who is a priest profane herself by turning into the ways of fornication so as to become a whore, she herself is profaning the name of her father, and she shall be burned at the stake” (Leviticus 21:9). In the twenty-second chapter of Deuteronomy, verse 21, He commands “the daughter of a layman shall be stoned if she becomes a whore.” But being burned to death is a greater punishment than being stoned to death.
St. John of Kronstadt Disapproved of the Theater
Excerpted from My Life in Christ:
- The theatre lulls the Christian life to sleep, destroys it, communicating to the life of Christians the character of the life of heathens. “They all slumbered and slept”; this disastrous sleep is produced, amongst other things, also by the theatre. And what besides? The sciences, taught in the spirit of heathenism, worldly cares carried to excess, love of gain, ambition and sensuality. The theatre is the school of this world, and of the Prince of this world – that is, the Devil, but sometimes he is transformed into an angel of light in order to more easily tempt people who are not far-seeing, he sometimes introduces an apparently moral play on to the stage, but this is done in order that everybody should proclaim and repeat that the theatre is a most moral institution…
- The theatre likewise extinguishes faith and the Christian life, teaching distraction, cunning (or knowledge of the world), a fondness for laughter and joking; it trains clever children of this world, but not children of light. The theatre is the opponent of the Christian life; it is the offspring of the spirit of this world, and not of the Spirit of God. True children of the Church do not visit it.
- This present life is not a jest nor a plaything, although men have turned it into a jest and a plaything. They heedlessly play with time, given for preparation for eternity; they play with idle words. They assemble at their friends’, sit and talk idly, and then begin to play at something. They go to theatres, and there both the performers and the spectators only amuse themselves.
- What do theatres bring into the hearts of men? The spirit of this world, the spirit of idleness, of idle speaking, of joking, of cunning, and wickedness, of pride, presumption – they do not bring any moral good to anyone. The authors of the pieces and the actors only give people what they have in themselves, their own spirit, neither more nor less.
- No; say what you like, theatres are an ungodly institution. Only penetrate into their spirit and you will agree that they are schools of incredulity, mockery, of the insolent ridicule of everything, and that they are depravity. Woe unto that society in which there are many theatres, and which loves to frequent them! Occasionally, it is true, the theatre is the lesser evil for those who love evil.
- The theatre and the church – are opposite contrasts. The one is the temple of the world, and the other the temple of God; the one is the temple of the Devil, and the other – the temple of the Lord.