Who is the Devil? (Part IV)

St. Phanourius

St. Phanourius

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

He Cuts Our Hopes of God

The devil makes us feel desperate. It is to cut our hopes to God...the secure anchor, the foundation of our life, the guide to the path which leads to heaven, the salvation for our souls. "For we were saved in this hope" (Romans 8:24).

So then, this hope, which like a strong rope has been hung from heaven. It holds our souls, slowly drawing up to its heights those who hold on to it tightly. Thus, it rises them above the waves of life's hardships.

If, however, someone becomes languid and lets go of this holy anchor, then he will immediately fall and will drown in the abyss of evil. The devil well knows this. When he senses that we have something weighing on our conscience because of our bad actions, he comes to add on to us the thoughts of desperation, which are even heavier than lead. If we then accept this and are dragged downwards because of its heaviness, then we will be compelled to be cut from the rope and will find ourselves in the depths of evils.

He Gives Daring To Sinning

Notice what the devil has done to you. There are two things: sin and repentance. Sin is the wound and repentance the medicine. Just as there are wounds and medicines for the body, there are sins and repentance for the soul. Sin has the shame, whereas repentance has the outspokenness and daring.

Please, concentrate all your attention to what we say here, so that confusion does not take place in the order in which they should be, lest you lose their benefit. There exists a trauma (wound) and its remedy (medicine), sin and repentance. The trauma (Gk. τραύμα) is the sin, the remedy is repentance. The trauma causes decay, the remedy cleanses the decay. Sin causes the decay, sin causes shame, sin the ridicule. Whereas, the repentance grants frankness and daring, repentance grants freedom, repentance cleanses and purifies the sin.

Notice carefully. Sin is followed by shame, whereas repentance is followed by daring and frankness. Did you notice what I said? The order has been reversed by Satan and he gave daring to sinning and shame to repentance...

Someone commits an act of sin and is not ashamed and bashful to say it. This is the devil's crime. When someone commits a sin, the devil does not allow him to feel shame, but he is made to show the sin overtly. As for the repentance, the sinner is made to feel ashamed, because he knows that he doesn't repent because of shame.

The devil does two evil things here. He drags a person into sin and then he removes him from repentance. Why are you ashamed now? When you committed adultery you weren't ashamed. Why, then are you ashamed when it is time to take the remedy? When you liberate yourself from sin, do you feel ashamed? You should have felt ashamed at the time when you were sinning. When you were becoming a sinner, you were not ashamed. Why then, do you feel ashamed when you become righteous?

He Doesn't Present Sins Clearly

"Put on the whole of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6: 11-12). Saint Paul did not say "the battle" nor "the wars", but "the wiles". This is because the enemy (devil) does not combat us with arms, nor overtly, but with his trickery.

What is meant by "trickery", that is wiles? It means one uses tricks in order to mislead and seduce, and by use of ingenious devices knock someone down. This is what happens in the cases where wiles are used together with the words, actions, and wrestling trickery, by those who want to seduce us. I'll explain what I mean. He never clearly presents our sins. He doesn't call idolatry idolatry, but he presents it differently by the use of wiles. That is, he makes the reason believable and makes use of wrappings to cover the truth of what he offers us. (Ephesians 22).

He Fears Prayer

One would not be very wrong in saying that prayer is the beginning of every virtue and righteousness. Nothing of those which contribute to piety and godliness can enter the soul which is devoid of prayer and intercessions. If a city is unfortified, it will easily be conquered by its enemies because of lack of obstacles. It is the same, then, with a soul which is not fortified with prayer. The devil subdues it with great ease and he fills it with every sin.

In the beginning, of course, when he sees the soul armed with prayers, he wouldn't dare approach it because he is afraid of the power and strength which the prayers contain…the prayers which feed the soul more than food can maintain the body! Furthermore, those who pray with devotion, cannot tolerate to endure anything unworthy as compared to prayer. After these persons have prayed to God, with Whom they just finished communicating, they then became ashamed of doing ungodly things. Thus, they immediately repel every bait which the deceiver gives them. This is so because they hate thought of how bad it is for someone who just a short time ago spoke to God to request of Him alertness, sobriety, and holiness. It is not possible to later turn to the devil. This downfall would allow the soul to accept the demon's shameful hedonisms. He would not allow the temptation to enter his mind, which was a short while ago visited by God. The person who has just finished prayer does not wish to allow the demons to enter his soul for which the grace of the Holy Spirit showed such a magnitude of Providence and love for mankind.

His Underhandedness At Time Of Prayer

So then, since there is a great benefit and a great ease to those who approach God, let us not disregard prayer. This is how you will then befriend God and converse better with Him. That is when He more easily gives you that which you ask: when you, yourself, request of Him. When your heart is pure, when your thoughts are accompanied by sobriety, when you call on Him not with indifference…something which is done by many. Their tongues, of course, say the words of the prayer but the prayer wanders to various places of the house and family, the stores, the streets…(in thoughts, that is).

This is the underhandedness which the devil contrapted. Since he knows that at the time of prayer we are able to succeed in obtaining the forgiveness for the sins we committed, he wishes to block the port of entry of our prayers! He rises up exactly at that time and he removes our thoughts from the wording of the prayer so that we leave from the prayer harmed instead of benefited!

Christ's Commandments And Those Of The Devil

Let us insist on lifting Christ's yoke. It is light and very easy to carry! What is more, nothing is imposed on us. On the other hand, Mammon (the devil) gives us impositions and orders us to be enemies with all. It is the opposite with Christ, Who asks us to love and to be friends with all!

The demon, after adhering to clay and bricks (for such are gold and riches), doesn't allow us to breath freely even at night time. As for Christ, however, He delivers us from this unnecessary and foolish concern by ordering us to concentrate on our Heavenly treasures. Not actions which arise from injustice which we have done to others, but from our own righteousness.

As for the devil, after we have rendered to him our toil and sweat, not only will he not be able to assist us when we will be condemned to Hell and suffer because of his laws, but he will increase the flames that burn us. As for Christ, however, even when He would have us give someone a refreshing glass of cold water, He would not have us forfeit our reward and wage which He grants us. Instead, He reciprocates with a magnitude of superabundance.

How then, is it possible? Is it not very foolish to disregard Christ and His condescending dominion which is full of such pure rewards, in order to become slaves to an ungrateful tyrant, who neither here nor there is able to benefit those who tend to him? This is not the only terrible thing, nor the only harm done; that is, that he does not support us when we are condemned. You see, he also brings with him, innumerable evils to those who obey him, as I stated previously. Most of these people who will be condemned to Hell are condemned because of this important reason: they became slaves of money and loved gold and riches, instead of helping those who needed their help! (Re John 7.)

If The Lord Were Not With Us...

So, we should now say this: "If it had not been the Lord Who was on our side, then they would have swallowed us alive" (Psalm 124:1-3). Can you imagine what our enemy the devil would have done to us, if Our Lord was not with us? Listen to what Christ said to Simon Peter: "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail..." (St. Luke 22:31). He is an evil and hungry beast and if he was not continually being restrained, then he could have overturned everything upside down. In Job's case, he was allowed some permission. So, he destroyed his home, filled his body with sores, caused him great tragedy, destroyed his fortune, led his children to the grave, filled his body with worms, he wife to confront him, and caused his friends, enemies and servants to say harmful words. If the devil were not restrained by God with innumerable bridles, could he not then have destroyed countless souls? (In Psalm 121)

Never Fear

So, then, never fear the devil, even if he is bodiless, because he continuously encounters difficulties. And, there is nothing more weak than him who is found to be under constraints, even if he does not have material substance! On the other hand, there is nothing stronger than him who has bold frankness, even though he has a mortal body. I have said all this now, not to dismiss the devil of the charges against him, but in order to free you from indolence. He would have it that we would blame him for all of our sins, so that, through this false hope of ours and while continuing our evil actions, we would have our punishment increased. You see, we will not be forgiven by placing our responsibilities on him, concerning our sins, just as Eve was not forgiven for her sin. ("The woman said, 'So the Lord God said to the woman, 'What is this you have done?' The woman said, 'The serpent deceived me, and I ate...' Genesis 3:13).

"Adam and Eve now had a fallen will and tried to hide from God. Fallen man now has a fallen will, thus he has a tendency to run away from God. But the grace of Christ heals the will of those who return to Him through repentance, so they might freely pursue God and do his will." (The Orthodox Study Bible, p. 8).

As for us, however, let us not do this. Let us know ourselves well. Let us come to know our wounds because in this way we will be able to properly apply the medicines needed for the therapy He who disregards his sickness will never come to look after it in order to cure it.

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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.

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George