In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit amen.
You will always remember when you meet someone who shows in his or her life the demeanor of being in the presence of our Savior. It’s not the outward things that you see but it is the warmth of the very person that you feel. It’s a powerful attraction! Such a person is like a clear window looking right into the heart.
Aside from cradle Orthodox, we came into the Church in many different spiritual conditions. Some with spirits broken and despondent searching for something. Some came in confusion. We all came with different faiths. Some came looking for comfort and kindness, others looking for hospitality, or just a kind word.
Over time, we become careless, lazy, selfish – we abandon our prayers, attendance at church, we become too busy for our spiritual lives. This enters into our hearts, into our homes, and the windows that once let in light are broken up. As a gospel points out today, our Savior tells us to watch, but we don’t watch.
In the novel, The Sun Also Rises, by Hemingway one character asked, “how did we go bankrupt?” the second character responded “slowly, very slowly.”
Some of you may remember, back in the early 1990s the newly elected mayor of New York City set out to prove that the City of New York,which had been thought of as too busy, to unruly and too broke to be manageable, was in fact manageable and that it could be turned around and restored back to health.
He answered this by reading an article called Broken Windows. The Broken Windows theory, as the article explains, is a building with a broken window, <which> signals abandonment, signals a lazy attitude toward the care of the property and therefore an absence of respect for the law.
The broken windows are the first step in the slow decline of a neighborhood and its deterioration over time. Other evidence of decay would then appear: trash, graffiti, broken and burnt cars, <happening over time> that would be hardly noticed, almost imperceptible. Left unrepaired, the broken windows slowly but surely turn into many broken windows and pretty soon the neighborhood begins to attracts litter, panhandling, drug dealers, petty criminals, etc, etc.
People who who live there, become afraid and begin to withdraw. The withdrawal of the people who live in this neighborhood cases the criminals and drug dealers to become bolder and intensify the harassment and vandalism. The cycle was started with 1 broken window but has spiraled out of control resulting in a broken neighborhood.
Now following the theory of broken windows, the chief of police and the mayor aggressively went after the graffiti artists, vandals, for panhandlers, criminals, and after short time two broken windows were identified and repaired. Communities began to prosper once again.
Now you might ask how does the broken window theory apply to us? Most of us are capable of being good Orthodox Christians when pushed and nudged in that direction. And conversely there are some who are capable of being quite bad or cold as ice and uncaring if pushed in that direction. We’re human just like the criminals of New York City. We take our cues from the people around us. If everyone was kind and compassionate, caring and forgiving, and loved their neighbor, then we would have no problem reciprocating that love.
I would like to give you an example: people don’t litter in a museum. Somehow they know this is not acceptable behavior, the cue being that there is no litter on the floor.
Here’s another example: those same people who will not litter in a museum will have no problem littering in a ballpark. The cue being, there is already trash everywhere so what’s another piece of trash? It is the same people though it’s a different choice.
But those very same people, whose souls become cold and hard hearted will gossip and slander and ignore the people in their neighborhood – even in their parish, without a second thought.
In many cases these aren’t unconscious decisions but in all cases we are reacting to the condition of her own soul and not thinking or caring of our neighbor. The broken window syndrome or theory happens in homes, in parishes, in a diocese, and monasteries, and even in the workplace. This behaviour usually begins with minor infractions- coming to church late, dressing sloppily, immodestly, or inappropriately, talking in church, walking around during the sermon, sitting when we should be standing, and leaving before the Thanksgiving prayers have finished. The list goes on and on.
In our homes we can see the same thing – a broken window begins when we forget the great commandment of love, or when we don’t attend to our own weaknesses. Another example is when we see children disrespecting parents/ disobedient children. I think you get my point!
The Broken Windows theory is a good reminder for all of us – young and old, to instruct us to not leave our own simple passions and faults neglected and unrepaired, because they lead to a broken home and even worse a broken parish.
The church has a set of rules, commandments, given as guidelines to us and we have been provided examples in the lives of the saints, in the writings of the holy fathers and mothers, like those we celebrate today. You remember we celebrate on this day the fathers of the Holy Seven Ecumenical Councils and they instruct us and encourage us to repair our cold and selfish attitudes; to prevent our souls from becoming a broken neighborhood, which is for us, is separation from God.
Many people today find these rules to be arbitrary and even painful, while others who try to adhere to them are those who St Paul refers to when he said: “at one time you were in darkness – now, however, you are the light in the world.”
So then disregarding little things, disregarding the broken windows of our souls, with no consequence, discourages us from believing, that is, to say our prayers, to keep the fasts, to love God and each other. When we disregard the broken windows and don’t care about them, this encourages us into falsely believing that the small habit is no big deal. How often do we hear from adolescents, what’s the big deal? Our Savior warns us today about this, “to watch and pray and to walk while you still have the light lest darkness come upon you.” Watch He says today, “for you know not the hour your Lord will come.”
So then repair your broken windows as soon as they need repairing, for the thief is watching to vandalize our souls, to stir us against God and each other. If we allow him to succeed because of our neglect, the neighborhood, home, or even parish cannot be saved. Remember well the words of our Savior, “so let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father Who is in the heavens.”
To him is due all glory, honor, and praise to the Father and the Holy Spirit now and ever not to the ages of ages amen..
Broken Windows Theory
The term “Broken Windows” comes from the metaphor used to describe this concept: “If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge.” This theory says that the little things matter.
Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani adopted the Broken Windows Theory and implemented a community-policing strategy focused on order maintenance.Graffiti was washed nightly from subway cars, subway turnstile jumpers arrested, and trash picked up among other things.Minor, seemingly insignificant, quality-of-life crimes were found to be the tipping point for violent crime.When New York “windows” were repaired, crime dropped.