My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only Lord 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.
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 of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and forever and from all ages to all ages. Amen.
"Now the serpent was more cunning than all the wild animals the Lord God made on the earth." (Genesis 3:1)
[The "serpent" is the devil (2 Cor. 11:3; Rev. 12:9), and he tempted Eve. He contradicted God's Commandment (2:16, 17) by denying death and decay in the grave as the penalty for disobedience ("you shall not die by death). He also tempted Eve with the promise of deification or theosis ("you will be like gods, knowing good and evil"). But deification or theosis comes through obedience to God, not through disobedience.
"Thus the Lord God said to the serpent, 'Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than all the wild animals of the earth. On your breast and belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the seed. He shall bruise your head, and you shall be on guard for His heel." (Genesis 3:14-15)
[The woman's "seed" is first Christ, and second His Church (Gal. 3:16, 26). The serpent's seed are all those who reject Christ and follow the devil (1 John 3:8-10). Christ destroyed the devil through the Cross ("bruise your head").
"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now the tempter (the devil) came to Him, he said, 'If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.' But He answered and said, 'It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.' Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, 'If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: 'He shall give His Angels charge over you,' and 'In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.' Jesus said to him, 'It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.' Again, the devil took Him up on an exceeding high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdom of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, 'All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.' Then Jesus said to him, 'Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.' Then the devil left Him, and behold, Angels came and ministered to Him." (St. Matt. 4:1-11)
[The devil challenges Christ's relationship to the Father. "If You are the Son of God" calls into question the Father's declaration at Christ's Baptism (3:17). The devil wants Jesus to act independently and to detach Himself from the will of the Father. In His Divine nature, Christ shares one will with the Father and the Holy Spirit; He can do nothing of Himself (St. John 5:30), apart from the Father.]
"When He had come to the other side, to the country of the Gergesens, their met Him two demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way. And suddenly they cried out, saying, 'What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time.' Now a good way off from them there was a herd of many swine feeding. So the demons begged Him, saying, 'If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine. And He said to them, 'Go.' (St. Matthew 8:28-32)
[The demons, recognizing Jesus as the "Son of God," are surprised that their power is being terminated "before the time" of the Last Judgment. Though the malice of the demons is great, they can do nothing against the will of God, and thus can only enter the "swine" at Christ's command.]
"And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast down out with him." (Revelation 12:7-9)
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On June 26th 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, Teachers of every righteous soul perfected in the Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint David of Thessaloniki; Saint John, Bishop of the Goths; Saint Dionysius, Archbishop of Suzdal; New Holy Martyr David of St. Anne's Skete; Saint Anthion, monk; "Tikhvin" holy Icon of the Theotokos.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Fathers, Holy Bishops, Holy Archbishops, Holy Ascetics, Holy Mothers, Holy Confessors, Holy Prophets, Holy Patriarchs, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
OUR HOLY FATHER DAVID OF THESSALONIKI. Born in the city of Thessaloniki, Greece, where he at first lived the ascetic life in a shelter he had built in an almond tree, he later continued his asceticism in Thessaly. He purified himself so greatly by fasting, prayer and vigils that he was made worthy to receive great grace from God. Once he took a live coal in his hand, placed incense on it and censed the Emperor with no sort of protection for his hand. The Emperor, when he saw this, bowed down to the ground before David, who amazed the people by his countless miracles. He entered peacefully into rest in the blessedness of eternity in 540 A.D.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Romans 8:22-27
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 1):23-31
INSPIRING SAYINGS FROM THE WORKS OF THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"A mere glance at holy books arouses one towards the pious life." (Saint Epiphanius of Cyprus)
ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY ON DEMONOLOGY
By Saint John of Damascus (Source: Mystagogy: Weblog Of John Sanidopoulos)
He who from among the Angelic powers was set over the earthly realm, and into whose hands God committed the guardianship of the earth, was not made wicked in nature but was good, and made for good ends, and received from his Creator no trace whatever of evil in himself. But he did not sustain the brightness and the honor which the Creator had bestowed on him, and of his free choice was changed from what was in harmony to what was at variance with his nature, and became roused against God Who created him, and determined to rise in rebellion against Him; and he was the first to depart from good and become evil. For evil is nothing else than absence of goodness, just as darkness also is absence of light. For goodness is the light of the mind, and, similarly, evil is the darkness of the mind. Light, therefore, being at work of the Creator and being made good ("For God saw all that He made, and behold they were exceeding good."--Genesis 1:31) produced darkness at his free-will. But along with him an innumerable host of angels subject to him were torn away and followed him and shred in his fall. Wherefore, being of the same nature as the angels, they became wicked, turning away at their own free choice from good to evil.
Hence they have no power or strength against anyone except what God in His dispensation has conceded to them, as for instance, against Job (Job 1:12) and those swine that are mentioned in the Gospels (St. Mark 5:13). But when God has made the concession they do prevail, and are changed and transformed into any form whatever in which they wish to appear. "And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Of the future both the Angels of God and the demons are alike ignorant: yet they make predictions. God reveals the future to the Angels and commands them to prophesy, and so what they say comes to pass. But the demons also make predictions, sometimes because they see what is happening at a distance, and sometimes merely making guesses: hence much that they say is false and they should not be believed, even although they do often, in the way we have said,, tells what is true. Besides they know the Scripture (see St. John 5:30).
All wickedness, then, and all impure passions are the work of their mind. But while the liberty to attack man has been granted to them, they have not the strength (power) to over-master any one: for we have it in our power to receive or not to receive the attack. Wherefore there has been prepared for the devil and his demons, and those who follow him, fire unquenchable and everlasting punishment, "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (St. Matthew 25:41).\
Note, further, that what in the case of man is death in a fall in the case of angels. For after the fall there is no possibility of repentance for them, just as after death there is for men no repentance.
From An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Bk. 2, Ch. 4.
QUOTATIONS FROM THE HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH
Saint Mark the Ascetic writes: "The devil makes small sins seem smaller in our eyes, for otherwise he can't lead us to greater evil."
Saint Thalassios the Libyan writes: "Whether we think, speak of act in a good or an evil manner depends upon whether we cleave inwardly to virtue or to vice."
Also, "He who fears God will pay careful attention to his soul and will free himself from communion with evil."
Elder Cleopas says, "Do not do anything without signing yourself with the sign of the Cross! When you depart on a journey, when you begin your work, when you go to study, when you are alone, and when you are with other people, seal yourself with the Holy Cross on your forehead, your body, your chest, your heart, your lips, your eyes, your ears. All of you should be sealed with the sign of Christ's victory over hell. Then you will no longer be afraid of charms, evil spirits, or sorcery, because these are dissolved by the power of God like wax before fire and like dust before the wind."
Saint Nikolai Velimirovich wrote: "God and the devil are found at opposite poles. No one can turn his face to God who has not first turned his back on sin. When a man turns his face to God, all of his paths lead to God. When a man turns his face away from God, all of his paths lead to perdition. When a man finally rejects God by word and in his heart, he is no longer fit to do anything that does not serve for his complete destruction, both of his soul and of his body."
According to our Holy Orthodox Christian faith the Angels were created either before the creation of the material world, when the sense, of time is incomprehensible to man, or, it is thought by some holy Fathers at the very beginning of creation, when light was created on the First Day.
The nature of Angels is bodiless, spiritual. They have no flesh and bones (cf. St. Luke 24:39). But the spiritual of Angels is not the same as God. They have an ethereal (very thin) body, thus they cannot be everywhere at the same time. Angels often take on the forms of men or youth; they speak in human voices; they eat and appear clothed, and many times wear wings. As spiritual beings the Angels have no sex, therefore do not multiply. The host of Angels, though, is innumerable. Although they cannot be in many places at the same time, they move from place to place. The Holy Bible says the place of Angels is in the heavens, meaning throughout the universe. The Angels have great power and strength. "The Angel rolled back the stone (in front of the tomb) and sat upon it," (St. Matthew 28:2); "when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty Angels is flaming fire" 2 Thessalonians 1:7. Physically, mentally and spiritually they are superior to man, and their will has been inclined toward good.
Angels can no longer be tempted, nor can they sin. They are self-protected ever since their test and fall at the time of temptation. Through the Grace of God, they are no longer in danger of falling. The main role of Angels is to praise and glorify God and communicate and execute His Will and commandments. Their special task is to minister to the redemption of man.
Demons oppose the redemptive work of Christ for the salvation of man. They attempt to lead the faithful ones away from God by placing obstacles in their path and exploiting difficult events, such as illness, loss of job, poverty, prison, etc. Nevertheless:
"Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life," (Rev. 2:10).
The work of demons among ungodly people is easier because they are willing prey for the work of evil, being arrogant and indifferent. The demons meddle in the thoughts, and activities of the faithful as much as God permits. God permits it to the point where the faithful one is able to exert his free will with the help of the Grace of God. Demons cannot affect the free will of man, but only tempt him.
The Grace of God protects man. He must, however, invoke God's help, following the two great Commandments of God (love of God and love of neighbor) are the weapons of the Christian against temptation from demons. The inclination of the individual toward sinful desires, the so called consupisentia, is not sin in itself, it is the weakness which needs protection, it is weakness which evil spirits try to exploit...The Christian should be alert, day and night, to ward off the evil temptation that surround him...The Christian must not blame others or God when yielding to temptation: "Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted by God, for God cannot be tempted with evil and He Himself tempts no one" (see St. James 1:12). The Christian should blame himself when he yields. "Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires", and becomes the prey of self-deceitfulness, because his "desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is full grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren", (St. James 1:12-16). (Source: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese: Rev. George Mastrantonis on Exorcism).
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God