Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS AND IS AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ. ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE LORD'S PRAYER
Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One.
+For Thine is the Kingdom and the power, and the glory: of the Father, and the of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and forever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
On July 24th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics and Teachers of Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Christina the Great Martyr; Saints Boris and Gleb of Russia; Saint Pachomius, Abbot (1479); Saint Ilarion of Tvali; Saint Bernulphus, bishop of Utrecht; Holy Neomartyr Theophilos of Zakynthos; New holy Martyr Athanasius of Kios; Saint Alexander of Bolshaya Rechka; Saint Polycarp of the Kiev Caves.
THE HOLY GREAT MARTYR CHRISTINA. Born in the city of Tyre, she was the daughter of the imperial governor, Urban, an idolater. It is not known why her parents gave her the name Christina, but it carried within itself the mystery of her future following of Christ. She knew nothing of Him until the age of eleven, but, when she reached that age, her father (wanting, because of her beauty, to hide her from the world until she was full grown) made her live on the top floor of a high tower. He gave her every comfort--slaves and gold and silver idols to which to offer daily sacrifice. But the soul of the young Christina was weighed down and suffocated in this idolatrous atmosphere. Looking out of the window by day at the sun, and by night at the wonderful constellations of shining stars, she came, through her natural understanding, to a firm belief in the One, Living God. God, in His great mercy, seeing her yearning for the truth, sent His Angel to her, who signed her with the sign of the Cross, named her the bride of Christ and instructed her fully in the things of God. Then Christina smashed all the idols in her rooms, incurring her father's terrible wrath. He brought her to trial and had her tortured and thrown into prison, intending that she be beheaded on the following day. But that night, Urban, in full health, gave up the ghost and went to the grave before his daughter. After that, two of the governors, Dion and Julian, continued the interrogation of this holy maiden. Saint Christina's courage in suffering and the marvels which were performed by the power of God brought many of the pagans inhabitants of Tyre to Christianity. During Christina's torture, Dion suddenly fell dead among the people. His successor, Julian, cut off Saint Christina's breasts and cut out her tongue. The holy Martyr took her tongue in her hand and threw it into Julian's face, and he was instantly blinded. Finally, her sufferings for Christ were ended under a sharp sword, but her life went on in the immortal Kingdom of the Angels. Saint Christina suffered with honor in the 3rd century A.D.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: 1 Corinthians 10:5-12
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 16:1-6
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Spiritual life is very simple and easy; we make it difficult by not struggling properly. With a little effort, a great deal of humility, and trust in God, one can achieve great progress in the spiritual life. For the devil cannot find a foothold where there is humility; and where there is no devil, it follows that there will be no temptations". [Geronda Paisios of Mt. Athos]
THE EVIL ONE AND EVIL ACCORDING TO THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
"...and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one."[Lord's Prayer]
When our Savior taught us how to pray, He did not say to ask for deliverance from evil, but specifically, "deliver us from the evil one." For, in this life we are often subjected to evil, and those who actually struggle to follow Christ and His Holy Orthodox Faith must often endure it.
In his explanation of the Lord's Prayer, Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite writes: "Our Lord directs us to ask our God the Father not to lead us into temptation. The Prophet Isaiah, as representing God, says, I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil (Is. 45:7). And the Prophet Amos says similarly, "Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?" (Amos 3:6).
Based on these words, many unlearned and insecure people fall into various thoughts concerning God: that God supposedly throws us into temptations. For this reason, the holy Apostle James solved the problem for us, saying: "Let no man say when he is tempted I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed" (St. James 1:13-14). Therefore, each person, from his own will is tempted.
Temptations come to man in two kinds. One is the pleasurable kind and therefore occurs with both our own will and the collaboration of the demons. The other is the sorrowful and painful kind, which appears bitter to us, for it occurs without our will. The devil works on his own to bring about his kind.
Both of these kinds of temptations came upon the Hebrews. For because they willfully chose pleasurable temptation, using wealth, glory, and freedom for evil, they fell into idolatry. For this reason God allowed the complete opposite to come upon them, namely, poverty, dishonor, exile, and the rest. With these evils He frightened them, in order that they might turn and repent.
Our Lord, joining the first kind of temptation (that is, the pleasurable kind) with the second kind (that is, the bitter and oppressive kind) calls both of them by one name, temptation, because the free will of man is tempted and tested by them. However, in order for us to better understand this, we must know that things are divided into three categories: good, evil and relative. The good are restraint, almsgiving, righteousness, and as many other things, which can never be evil. The evil are sexual immorality, inhumanity, injustice, and as many other like things, which can never be good. The relative are wealth and poverty, health and sickness, life and death, glory and ignobility, pleasure and pain, freedom and slavery, and other like things, which at times are good and at times are bad, depending upon how they are used by the free will of man. Men divide the relative into two. Some they call good, because they desire them (for example, wealth, glory, pleasure, and so on). Others they call evil, because they do not desire them (for example, poverty, pain, dishonor, and the rest). Therefore, if we do not wish for the supposedly evil things to come upon us, let us not do the things that are truly evil, as the Prophet counsels us: Give not thy foot unto moving, and may he not slumber that guardeth thee" (Psalm 120:3). That is to say, O man, do not walk in the ways of evil and sin, and the Angel that guards you will certainly not let you suffer any evil.
The devil first attacks us with pleasurable temptation, for he knows that we fall into it easily. And if he finds our will obedient to his, he draws us away from God which protects us. On account of his great hatred for us, he then requests permission from God to bring upon us bitter temptation, that is, sorrows, and hardships, in order to destroy us completely and cause us to fall into despair on account of our many sufferings. If he does not find our will compliant, that is, if we do not fall to the pleasurable temptation, he still brings the second kind of temptation, hoping that through many sorrows he will be able to force us to carry out his evil intent. For this reason, the holy Apostle Peter directs us: "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8). God sometimes permits him to do this in order to test His servants, as in the case of Job and the other Saints, in accordance with the Lord's word to His disciples: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat" (St. Luke 22:31). That is, Satan asked permission to sift all of you, to shake you up with temptations as wheat is shaken up. Or God allows temptations by means of His withdrawing, as happened to David because of the sin he committed and to the holy Apostle Peter because of his arrogance. Other times temptations come on account of Gods abandonment, as it happened to Judas and the Jews.
The temptations the Saints experienced by the permission of God come from the envy of the devil, and are permitted in order that they may manifest saintly righteousness and perfection, and thus shine all the more brightly on account of their victory over their opponent. The temptations which happen by God's withdrawal occur in order to obstruct and cut off past, present, or future sins. The temptations which happen by God's abandonment are caused by the sinful life of man and his evil will, and lead one to complete perdition.
Therefore, not only must we flee, as from the venom of the evil serpent, the pleasurable and sinful kind of temptation, but, also, we must not by any means accept temptations and trials, let us not conduct ourselves haphazardly, with pride and audacity. But let us ask God that they might not come to us, if that is His will, and that we may be pleasing to Him without undergoing these trials. And if they do come, we should accept them with complete thanksgiving and joy, as great blessings. This only should we ask: that He might give us the strength to conquer the tempter until the very end. For this is what "lead us not into temptation" means, that God might not let us fall defeated into the throat of the noetic dragon. In the same way, in another place the Lord tells us: "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation," namely, be alert and constantly praying, so as not to fall into temptation; that is, so as not to be conquered by temptation, "for the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (St. Matthew 26:41).
Let no one, however, upon hearing that he must flee temptation, make excuses in sins (Psalm 140:4), and claim that he is too weak and other like things when temptations come. For if, during a critical time, he is scared of trial and temptations and does not resist it, he will deny the truth. For example: If the time comes when someone is being tortured for the faith or in order that he might deny the truth or forsake righteousness, compassion, or some other commandment of Christ; if, I say, he surrender on account of fear of bodily trial, and does not bravely resist, let such a person know that he has no part in Christ, and in vain is he called a Christian, if he does not repent with bitter tears. For he did not imitate the true Christians, the martyrs, who suffered for the faith, such as the divine Chrysostom, who suffered because of his righteousness; the righteous Zotikos, who underwent hardships on account of his compassion; and so many others, which time does not permit us to enumerate, who endured many and great sufferings and temptations for the Law and for the commandments of Christ. These commandments of Christ we also must keep, for they liberate us, not only from temptations and sins, but also from the evil one, according to the petition...
Please note: I will continue with Orthodox Christian articles on evil and the evil one for a number of days in order that you understand clearly what we are up against and to bring to your attention the danger that we all face. There are those who deny the existence of evil and Satan and dismiss it as myth. However when we look at the world and society that we are part of, we constantly witness events that reaffirm Satan's existence and the seeking of our destruction and the destruction of the wonderful world that God our Creator has given humanity to enjoy and glorify His Holy Name.
What happened to the people at Aurora, Colorado recently has happened many times before and tragically it will happen again. Evil takes different forms i.e., wars, exploitation of people, abortion, slavery, injustice, human trafficking, sexually abusing and assaulting children (as in the case in Penn State University and the Roman catholic clergy), ignoring the plight of human beings who are dying from starvation, racism, bigotry, destruction of the innocence of the children, etc. etc., but it always seeks out and uses those who refuse to believe in God and His unconditional love for mankind.
The Evil One is real and hates everything and everyone who belongs and believes in God.
Is possession possible? Concerning the habitation of evil spirits in men, we know from the numerous healings by the Savior of the demon-possessed. Evil spirits spy, as it were, on the carelessness of man so as to attract him to evil i.e., the young man in Aurora, Colorado and the other one in Northern Europe who killed over 70 people:"When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first" (St. Matthew 12:43-45).
Remember the Divine words of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (St. Luke 16:13).
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God