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 ENEMY IS CUNNING, BUT WE ARE CARELESS LET US BE ATTENTIVE SO AS NOT TO LOSE THE KINGDOM
Come let us make an effort; come let us fall down before God, let us steadfastly lament and shed tears before Him, that He might grant us spiritual enlightenment.
Discern the wiles of the our enemy, the adversary who hates good, who places in our path pitfalls and seductions, ruinous acquisitiveness, commendation of this age, carnal pleasure, as well as the expectation that this life will last for long, fear of ascetic struggles, a slothful attitude toward prayer, drowsiness when psalms are sung, and bodily rest.
We are as apathetic and careless as he is assiduous. We are as inattentive as he is crafty, even though we know that our days have been shortened, that the time has come and the Lord of Glory will come in the Majesty of His beauty with the terrible powers of His Kingdom to reward everyone according to his deeds.
I fear that the Lord's promise might be fulfilled with respect to us: that many shall come from the east and the west, from the north and from the sea, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of heaven; but we shall be driven out.
I beseech Thee, O Christ, light of truth, born of the blessed Father, being His image and the radiance of His hypostasis, Who sittest at the right hand of His Majesty, Who art my life and the praise and joy of those who love Thee: save me, a sinner, in Thy Kingdom and reward me not according to my deeds, but save me according to Thy grace and have compassion on me according to Thy kindness, for Thou art Blessed and Glorified unto ages. Amen.
On July 25th 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: The Holy Dormition of Saint Anna, mother of the Theotokos; Holy Fathers of the Fifth Ecumenical Council; Saint Olympias the deaconess of Constantinople; Saint Efpraxia of Constantinople; Saint Christopher, Abbot of Solvychegdsk; Saint Macarius, Abbot [Egoumenos) of Zheltovod and Unzha.
SAINT ANNA, THE MOTHER OF THE MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD. Today is the commemoration of her falling asleep; her main feast is on September 9th where her life is written. Saint Anna was of the tribe of Levi, and was the daughter of Matthan the priest. After a long life pleasing to God, she entered into rest at a great age.
COMMEMORATION OF THE FIFTH ECUMENICAL COUNCIL. This Council was held in Constantinople in the time of the Emperor Justinian the Great, in 553 AD. All the Monophysite heresies were condemned at this Council, and also the heretical writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus and Origen (his writings against the resurrection of the dead).
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Galatians 4:22-27
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 8:16-21
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"If you wish to draw the Lord to you, approach Him as disciples to a Master, in all simplicity, openly, honestly, without duplicity, without idle curiosity. He is simple and uncompounded. And He wants the souls that come to Him to be simple and pure. Indeed you will never see simplicity separated from humility". [Saint John Climacus]
THE ADVERSARY OF CHRIST ACCORDING TO ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY
Holy Scripture calls evil spirits "unclean spirits," "spirits of evil," "devils," "demons", "angels of the devil," "angel of Satan,". Their chief, the devil, is also called the "tempter," "Satan," "Beelzebub," "Belial," the "prince of devils," and other names like "Lucifer" (the morning star).
Taking the form of a serpent, the devil was the tempter and the cause of the fall into sin of the first people, as is related in the third chapter of the books of Genesis. In the Apocalypse he is called "the great dragon, that old serpent" (Apoc. 12:9).
The devil and his angels are deprived of remaining in the heavenly dwellings of light. "I beheld Satan as lightning fall down from heaven", said the Lord to His disciples (St. Luke 10:18). Being cast down from the world above, the devil and his servants act in the world under the heaven, among men on earth, and they have taken into their possession, as it were, hell and the underworld. The holy Apostle calls them "principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world" (Ephesians 6:12). The devil is "the prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2), and his servants, the fallen "angels, are the spirits of the wickedness under the heaven" (Eph. 6:12).
Man's Fall into Sin
Why was man's fall into sin possible? The Creator imparted to man three great gifts at this creation: freedom, reason and love. These gifts are indispensable for the spiritual growth and blessedness of man. But where there is freedom there is the possibility of wavering in one's choice; thus, temptation is possible. The temptation for reason: is to grow proud in mind; instead of acknowledging the wisdom and goodness of God, to seek the knowledge of good and evil outside of God, to desire oneself to be a "god." The temptation for the feeling of live is: in place of love for God and one's neighbor, to love oneself and everything that satisfies the lower desires and gives temporary enjoyment. This possibility of temptation and fall stood before mankind and the first man did not stand firm against it.
Let us make note here of Saint John of Kronstadt's reflection on this subject. He writes: "Why did God allow the fall of man, His beloved creation and the crown of all the earthly creatures? To this question one must reply thus: If man is not to be allowed to fall, then he cannot be created in the image and likeness of God, he cannot be granted free will, which is an inseparable feature of the image of God; but he would have to be subject to the law of necessity, like the soulless creation--the sky, the sun, stars, the circle of the earth and all the elements--or like the irrational animals. But then there would not have been a king over the creatures of the earth, no rational hymn singer of God's goodness, wisdom, creative almightiness, and providence. Then man would have had no way to show his faithfulness and devotion to the Creator, his self-sacrificing love. Then there would have been no exploits in battle, no merits and no incorruptible crown for victory; there would have been no eternal blessedness, which is the reward for faithfulness and devotion to God, and no eternal repose after the labors and struggles of our earthly pilgrimage. "
The Christian Church has always understood the serpent, the tempter, to be the devil, who took the form of a serpent as corresponding best to his sneaky, cunning, and poisonous character. The clear words of our Lord Himself about the devil confirm this interpretation: "He was a murderer from the beginning" (St. John 8:44). In the Apocalypse of Saint John the Theologian he is called "the great dragon, that old serpent" (Apoc. 12:9). In the book of the Wisdom of Solomon it says: "through the devil's envy death entered the world" (Wis. 2:24).
According to the testimony of the word of God, the origin of sin comes from the devil: "He that committeth sin is of the deavil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning" (I John 3:8). The word "devil" means "slanderer". Bringing together the evidence of Sacred Scripture, we see that the devil is one of the rational spirits or angels who deviated into the path of evil. Possessing, like all rational creatures, the freedom which was given him for becoming perfect in the good, he "abode not in the truth" and fell away from God. The Savior said of him: "...When he speaketh a life, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar and the father of it" (St. John 8:44). He drew other angels after himself into the Fall. In the Epistle of the holy Apostle Jude and the holy Apostle Peter, we read of the angels "which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation" (St. Jude v. 6; II Peter 2:4).
What was the cause of the fall in the angelic world? From this same Divine Revelation we can conclude that the reason was pride: the beginning of sin is pride, says the son of Sirach (Sir. 10:13). The holy Apostle Paul, warning the Apostle Timothy against making bishops of those who are newly converted, adds: "lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil" (I Timothy 3:6).
The evil spirits are mentioned in only a few passages in the Old Testament Revelation. These places are the following: We read of the "serpent," the tempter of the first people, in the third chapter of the books of Genesis. "Temptation is the law of sin, something unknown to creation initially. The Devil, through whom temptation came to human nature, was not evil. Temptation is understood as the voluntary predilection of the soul towards the passions, while evil is the implementation in practice of the impassioned predilection. Forgiving the sin of other men and the setting aside of every dislike and hatred is of great importance so that God might immediately hear our prayer and send a double grace and reward. The forgiveness of sins is not only protection and deliverance from sin, but also from the future attacks of the devil. The past and the future are both dependent on present absolution.
Saint Maximos the Confessor writes that, in order to be free from the Devil and to flee temptation, we must forgive the sins of others. In this struggle to expel the passions we have Christ as our ally, Who with love unites and restores nature and moves us to love the bread of life. "In living according to the divine will we are made like unto the angels, and then with the participation by the grace of the Holy Spirit He makes us 'commune with the divine nature', He makes us children of God who are clothed by the worker of grace, Christ. 'From Him, through Him and in Him we have and always will have our being, our movement, and our life.' The mystery of theosis (deification) 'is the aim of the Lord's Prayer, which presents to use, from the lowest semblance of faith in the Incarnate Lord, the path to the grace of adoption. We ought to show by our works that prayer is realized in us, not to preach that God is 'Father' and yet allow it to appear by our passions and vices that the father of our life is the devil. God, on the one hand, is the giver of life, while the devil, on the other, is the purveyor of death through the various temptations that he prompts."
In Satan there is no truth whatsoever; he is absolute falsehood and deception. Satan is not just a negation or deprivation of good, but a positive force with free will that always chooses evil. The devil has the ability to recognize divine power, as in the incident of recognizing Christ as the Son of God (St. Matthew 4:1-11; St. Luke 4:1-3). Satan has under his leadership legions and invisible powers, with their own "satanic teachings." The devil and evil spirits know that God exists and recognize true and devoted Christians, but pious Christians discern the plan of the devil. The devil, however, constantly employs every method of deception to enslave man to satanic forces and causes rebellion against God. He is the cause of corruption and disorder, a parasitic power in the world that will ultimately be destroyed by the power of God in the "last days." Because there is no compromise between God and the devil, the struggle will continue until the end.
The Orthodox doctrine of God is that He is eternal, uncreated and incorporeal. All other creatures, both visible and invisible, were created by God as free. The power of the devil will ultimately be destroyed by the resurrection of the dead and the renewal of creation. Salvation from all evil will be attained by obedience to God and His plan. This world is a battleground between the acceptance of good and evil. It must be pointed out that the world as the creation of God is not evil. What is evil is the satanic power, destroyed by the power of the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ.
Please note: Having free will man has the awesome responsibility of choosing between God and the devil and between good and evil. We as human beings are free to either be instruments of God or evil instruments of the devil. In my priestly diakonia I have experienced in the communities that I have served over the years, people making the choice and the outcome of their decision. I have seen average parishioners making the choice of being an instrument of good as well as evil. How the ones choosing Christ and godliness support the unity, the harmony, the love and friendship, spirituality, prayer, worship, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, forgiveness, respect and love of their priest and the general positive impact that has in the parish. And the others that have chosen to serve evil and are divisive, slanderous, hateful, mean-spirited, hateful, gossip, vicious to their fellow parishioners, to intimidate parishioners in order to do their will, to spread falsehood and lies, to create confusion and fear, create turmoil and unrest, judgmental, disrespect not just their own priest but all clergy i.e., the Metropolitans, the Bishops and Archbishops of the Church, attempt to undermine everything which is good within the church, they are not prayerful, their attendance to church is not for worshiping God and receiving the Sacraments, they become adversarial on anything which is godly to use deception to convince the people that they represent the truth and not their spiritual father, their priest. The Almighty God Who sees all is also the Ultimate Judge and He will determine where we will spend eternity according to our thoughts, feelings and actions. So, my dear friends and fellow Christians, evil is real and we are all engaged in the Spiritual Warfare in our Christian communities and many are not aware of it or are in denial.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God