My 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.
THE DEVIL AND MAGIC
by Hieromonk Benedict of Holy Mount Athos, Greece
One can recognize a demon by the amount of noise he makes, inducing insanity and craze and great darkness in the person. However, a person who has God inside him is a person who enlightens and teaches with wisdom, that which is commanded by God. (1 Corinthians 28)
Reason For His Existence
This is why God has allowed for him to exist. It is in order to make you stronger and to present you as a shining athlete of spiritual warfare, so that your feasts will have a greater value. So then, when someone asks you why God allowed for the devil to exist, this is what you should answer him. God did not only allow for the sober and attentive persons not to be hurt, but He made it beneficial for them. Not with demon's desire (which is evil and deceptive) but with the courage of those who use his wickedness. The devil even crushed Job, not in order to make Job appear more glorious, but in order to be victorious over him. That is why he is a deceiver, because his desires and his intentions are deceitful. Even so, he has not harmed the righteous man at all, but on the contrary, that man has benefited from the battle, as we have previously shown. Thus, the devil showed his usurpation and the virtuous over many. Of course he is victorious. But this is due to that person's weaknesses, and not because of the evil one's strength.
The Benevolence of His Existence
People say, if he did not exist then the very bad things would not happen. But then even Hell would be unforgivable. However, in this way, beloved friend, Hell's punishment is lighter. If however, we did evil on our own, then the punishment would be unbearable. So now, tell me. If all the sins that Adam committed were committed without advise from the devil, then who would have saved him from dangers? But then one could claim that Adam would not have sinned. Where can one deduce this from? For, he who was so languid and indifferent, and so ready for foolishness so as to accept such an advice, would at a much greater extent have done what Adam did, without this advisor's help. What devil lead Joseph's brothers to murder?
If We Are Careful, He Becomes Cause For Spiritual Progress
So then, beloved friends, if we are careful and attentive, the devil becomes cause for our spiritual progress. What harm did the devil's underhanded trickery cause Job? It is the spiritually weak that are harmed. But the spiritually weak are harmed even if the devil doesn't exist. But, this type of person is damaged more by the actions of the deceiver. However, he is punished less for having sinned through being tempted by him, because not all punishments are the same for all transgressions.
Let's not fool ourselves. It's not the devil who is the cause of our injuries, if we are attentive. He wakes us up even more and it is he stimulates us. If there did not exist any beasts, nor disturbances of the winds, nor illness, nor sadness, nor grief, nor anything similar to these things, what would become of man? I believe that he would be more of a swine than a man, eating and becoming intoxicated and not being bothered by any of these. But, the way things are now, the care and concern given to these problems are exercises and education of piety and devotion to God, and also a necessary education of becoming perfect.
Our Reward From Our Battles Against Him
Let's take the example of a spear. When it strikes a shield, if the shield is weak it will be pierced. But, if it is strong and sound, then the spear is not able to cause it any damage. On the contrary though, the spear falls down after having become bent at this point of impact. The same thing happens to a soul. That is, if the arrows which the devil throws find the soul weak and languid, they will penetrate to the soul's core. If, however, they find the soul strong and hard, the devil himself will depart inactive, knowing that he did not cause any harm to this soul. Thus, two benefits result, or rather three, since the soul remained unharmed, but was made stronger and the devil himself became weaker from his endeavor. (Psalm 8).
He Doesn't Know If He Will Win
"In case he who tempts comes to tempt you" (1 Timothy 3:5). He tempts without knowing if he will suppress and knock down. Also, he attacks even when he doesn't know for certain if he will be victorious. As for us, on the other hand, we should be alert to rebuke his attacks.
The fact that he attacks without knowing if he will subdue his victim, is apparent in Job's case. The sly serpent said to God: "Does Job worship the Lord for no reason? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands and his cattle have increased in the land. But stretch out Your hand and touch all he has, and see if he will bless You to Your face" (Job 1:9-11). The devil tempts. If he sees something sickly and weak he attempts. If he sees something strong, he withdraws. (1 Thessalonians speech 4)
He Always Rejoices At Man's Downfall
For what reason did the demons throw the swine over the cliff? It is because they always have great eagerness to make people lack spiritual courage and they continuously take delight in men's destruction. This is certainly what the devil did in Job's case, even if he was allowed by God to do so. But, even in that case, God did not act as the devil requested of Him. It was because God wished to glorify this servant, Job, to a larger extent. At the same time God would remove from the demon every excuse for his imprudence and to throw back at him all that happened in Job's instance.
Now, even in the case with the herd of swine, they did exactly the opposite of what the former wanted to do. The strength of Christ was becoming very apparent everywhere whereas the slyness of the demons, from which Christ had delivered those who were found bound by their wiles, was clearly proven. It is obvious that they are unable even to touch swine, if such action is not previously approved by God, the One Who has authority over all things. (St. Matthew 28).
The Evil One is hungry for malice toward mankind and is never able to satisfy himself by calamities which he brings to us.
When He Is Most Ferocious
The devil becomes most furious and beastlike when he sees us taking great care of ourselves. When he observes that our acts of virtue are many and great, that is when he tends to make our shipwreck most horrifying.
He who is humble and stands by the wayside will not cause great harm to society, if he is humbled down by the devil. However, he who is at the peak of virtue and is well-known, and whose acts are marveled by all, and then falls because of the devil's influence, his downfall and the destruction caused to his community is bound to be great. This is not only due to the fact that he falls from such height, but also because he caused many of those who admire him to fall into a state of indifference,
If the enemies are many, this is also a sign of progress of the gospel. For the devil never gets angrier than when he sees those who were once his instruments, being grabbed from him and converted! (1 Corinthians, 43)
When He Rejoices And When He Is Humbled
When we become enraged, we then come to arms and battle with each other. That is when he is happy and feels delighted. In the same way, when we are peaceful and live in harmony and control our anger, he again withdraws himself and is humbled. This is because he is the enemy of peace, battles harmony, and is the father of hatred.
Please note: Orthodox Christians must always be alert and vigilant for the enemy (devil) never sleeps. Those people who invite him (devil) into their lives become his evil instruments of destruction and malice. They, too, fight peace, harmony and unity. They, too, desire the destruction of their fellow Christians, the parish, and make their Parish Priest their target. Also, they attempt to obstruct his holy and God-given mission in the local parish. I have seen firsthand how vicious they can be. They do not represent Christ but the Evil One. Christ is the Prince of Peace, of Love, of Unity, of Harmony, of kindness, of compassion, of forgiveness. Just like the devil slanders God, so does the evil person, slanders and seeks the destruction of their priest.
(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.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God