Beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
Blessed is the man, who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scoffers.
Rather, his delight is in the Law of the Lord, and on his Law he mediates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Virtue should be practiced constantly and with all diligence:
"You must know that progress on the path of spiritual life differs greatly from an ordinary journey on earth. If a traveler stops on his ordinary journey, he loses nothing of the way already covered; but if a traveler on the path of virtue stops in his spiritual progress, he loses much of the virtues previously acquired, as I have already said. In an ordinary journey, the further the traveler proceeds, the more tired he becomes; but on the way of spiritual life the longer a man travels, 'reaching forth unto those things which are before, the greater the strength and power he acquires for his further progress." (Source: Unseen Warfare)
TEMPTATIONS USED BY DEMONS AGAINST MAN
(Source: Concerning Evil Spirits and "Internal Demons" by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo)
If you wish to be in a position to deflect the snares of the devil, you must know what sort of temptations there are.
Satan always deceives man with pride. No matter what temptations the evil one uses, the root of all them is pride. Dreams and visions are the most successful means of prideful delusion. Satan tempts people either by inspiring dreams and visions or by influencing people to believe coincidental dreams. The devil may lead a parish priest or abbot into delusion and the deluded clergyman will do the work of Satan by encouraging people to believe in or take seriously their dreams or supposed visions. The greatness of this pride and delusion is shown by the fact that people will often try to justify their own trust in their dreams or dream visions by relating themselves to the holy prophets of the Old Testament, to Apostle Peter, etc., all of whom received revelations from God, according to their calling. It is obviously prideful delusion to suggest that since Holy Prophet David or some one of the great Saints received a vision from God, we poor sinners can take our dreams seriously. The holy and God-bearing Fathers of the church warned us repeatedly. Saint John of the Ladder (Climacus), for example, echoes the rest of the Holy Fathers when he says:
"The demons of vainglory prophesy in dreams. Being unscrupulous, they surmise the future and foretell it to us. When these visions come true, we are amazed; and we are elated with the thought that we are already near to the gift of foreknowledge. A demon is often a prophet to those who believe in him...Being a spirit, he sees what is happening near the earth, and seeing that someone is dying, he foretells it through dreams to the light minded...Demons often transform themselves into angels of light and take on the form of martyrs, and make it appear to us during sleep that we communicate with them..." But, "he who believes in dreams is completely inexperienced. But he who distrusts all dreams is a wise person" (3;28-29).
"Do not be astonished if the demons often suggest to us good thoughts, and intellectual arguments against themselves. The aim of the enemy (Satan) in this case is to make us believe that they also know the thoughts of our hearts" (26:1-54). And he concludes: "He who believes in dreams is like a person running after his own shadow and trying to catch it" (3: 27).
Dreams and visions are not always deceits of Satan. When a person regularly sees "visions," hears "voices," sees demons and Angels or has dramatic dreams which seem to influence his life, the person may very well be seriously mentally ill, and may need medical help. A person who regularly tells of his dreams and visions is either in spiritual delusion or (more likely) suffering a mental illness.
Satan can lead a person into such delusion that the person actually becomes mentally ill from it.
We read in The Paradise of the Fathers of the ascetic Valentios. He lived in the wilderness as a great struggler. Nevertheless, Valentios fell into pride and self esteem and began to take dreams seriously. He opened himself to spiritual delusion and "visions." The demons, seeing this, began appearing to Valentio's mind as Angels of God and conversing with him. Soon, his state of prideful delusions became deeper. Then, Satan appeared to the mind of the monk in the form of Christ, surrounded by holy Angels. A fiery circle appeared in the midst of the vision like a circle of Cherubim. One of the Angels came over to the deluded monk and said, "You have pleased Christ with your struggles, and he has come to visit you. You have attained contemplation of Him, and henceforth need to do nothing else but this. Stand and contemplate Him. Bow to Him now, and go to your cell." Valentios fell on his face, worshipping the false Christ. Ensnared, he carried the delusion so far that he ceased receiving daily Holy Communion, and even announced to the brethren that he had no more need of Holy Communion, since he had "seen Christ." The brethren realized that Valentios had gone from delusion to insanity, and for a whole year, they strove with prayers and fasting to deliver him. At long last, their co-suffering love, prayers and fasting succeeded in delivering their brother from his delusion. (Ch. 2 of, Paradise of the Fathers).
A demon also appeared in the form of Christ to Saint Pachomius the Great, and said: "Rejoice, elder, you have pleased me so much that I have come to you as to a friend." The Saint was astonished, but in his wisdom and humility he reasoned, "Why would the Savior appear to a poor sinner such as I. No, this is not Christ." Then, signing himself with the Cross, he boldly said "Depart from me, spirit of evil. May the wickedness of all your works be accursed." Such things happen often in the lives, not only of ascetics, but often, in the lives of ordinary people who allow themselves to become inclined to believing dreams and visions, as if they were equal to the prophets and Holy Apostles of the Holy Bible, greater than the Saints, who rejected all dreams and visions of this fort, or as great as those elders (Gerondes) and New Testament Prophets who did receive revelations.
According to the experience of the Holy Fathers, the variety of means which the evil spirits use to influence people depends on the variety of the demons themselves. Saint John Cassian expressed this, saying: "We must know that not all demons arouse all passions in people, but certain spirits incite each vice, that is, some arouse impure carnal desires, others dispose one towards blasphemy, some arouse anger and violence, others instill grief and despair, yet others inspire pride and vainglory; and every one of them into the human heart that passion with which the person is most ill. They do not inspire their vices all together, but by turns, depending upon how favorable are the time and place and the person's receptiveness...Each spirit necessarily makes a separate attack upon the soul, so that when a defeated one steps aside, his place is taken by another spirit stronger than himself. If this stronger spirit is successful, then he invites another to seduce the person with yet another vice" (Philokalia, Vol. p. 58).
Can Satan take possession of our souls against our will? Saint Cyril of Jerusalem answers this question: "The soul is free, and although the devil can instigate something, he does not have the power to compel one of do anything against one's will" (Philokalia, 82). "Unclean spirits", says Saint John Cassian, "penetrate into the body...in no other way than having first gained control of the mind and thoughts. Stripping away the mind's protective attire of the fear and memory of God, evil spirits attack them, as they are unarmed and deprived of God's help, and thus easily defeated. Finally, they take up dwelling in them [the persons] as if in a domain prepared for them." (Philokalia, V.2, p. 3). From these words, it is evident that, in order to gain possession of our souls, the devil must first gain control of our minds. Saint Neil of Sora gives an example of how this occurs: "The thought of vainglory is most complicated of all; it encompasses almost the whole universe and, like a crafty traitor betraying a beautiful city, it opens the gates of the soul to all the demons. And truly, just look with enjoyment upon your own virtues as if they were the fruits of your own toils and powers, and you will indeed see with what speed evil will rush into your soul. Self-satisfaction gives birth to condemnation of neighbors, and from that point it is not difficult to become a child of the devil, whose entire activity is directed toward the ruin of mankind.
The entry of the evil spirit into man occurs by degrees. In the case of Judas, Satan penetrated his soul by means of the passion for money (St. John 12:6), then more fully took possession of his heart (St. John 13:2), and then decisively took possession of him (St. John 13:27).
The main distinguishing feature of diabolical warfare is adaptation. The devil sets out with amazing cunningness to encounter our desires and ambitions, even those which are evidently good and innocent, in order to turn them against us. Saint Gregory the Theologian warns, "the devil attacks from every direction, looking to see where to overturn, where to open a wound and to find what is undefended, and then to strike a blow. The more he sees of purity, the more he strives to defile...The evil one takes a double image upon himself, casting out one or another net: he appears either at his darkest (obviously evil) or as a bright angel (disguising himself with an appearance of good, and seducing the mind with a meek smile). This is why it is necessary to be especially careful so that we do not think to receive light, but meet with death instead. Even bad people can avoid a depraved life, because an open vice is hateful to everyone..." (Philokalia, pp. 258-320)...The evil one cannot, however, possess us wholly by his methods, without the cooperation of the one being possessed, who does not oppose him (St. James 4:7). Only he who does not oppose the influence of the spirits of evil falls under the power of the evil one. In such a case, we ourselves are at fault since we, of our own freewill, gave ourselves up to temptations and sin. "By whom a man is overcome, he is made his slave" (1 Peter 2:19).
(To be continued)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God