The Ladder: The Basic Book of Perfection – Father Theologos2 April 2022
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Many consider the devil to be just an abstract embodiment of evil or, best case scenario, as someone that exists but doesn’t influence them daily.
Reality, however, is different.
Watch a video in which we briefly present evidence in this regard, starting with a famous case: Saint Mary of Egypt. General methods of combating demonic attacks are also presented, on a case by case basis.
Saint Dionisie of Colciu would actually see the devil censing in the church. He had a vision. An Athonite Cell Joys from the Holy Mountain Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen. Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us. Amen. Today we will speak a little bit about proofs of the existence of the devil, because it is a subject that unfortunately, or fortunately, has to be clarified, and especially because we are approaching the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt, which we celebrated on her feast day a week ago.
St. Mary of Egypt was like no one else, or like very few of the saints who were so deceived by the devil and then repented so much in order to be able to come out of this deception. I don’t know if you know, in short, the life of St. Mary of Egypt; She was a very pure young girl who at the age of 12 went to Alexandria and there she fell into the sin of fornication to a very great extent. After that she went to Jerusalem. There is a whole story of how she got there – also through sin. At Jerusalem she wanted to venerate the Holy Cross. And the Cross, through the grace of God, prevented the future St. Mary of Egypt, prevented Mary from getting close to the Precious and Life-Giving Cross. Because the Holy Cross, due to the fact that the Giver of Life was crucified on it is alive and has this great gift of working miracles, not through itself, because it is wood, but through the charisma, the gift of He who was crucified on it, our Lord Jesus Christ. After Mary realized that she could not enter the church where the Holy Cross was, the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem, in that moment she turned to the Mother of God. She asked the Mother of God to allow her to enter because she would repent. The Mother of God interceded for her, she entered, venerated the Holy Cross, after which she turned to faith with her whole being and she undertook a phenomenal ascesis in the desert, and she became the great saint that we know today.
But I will not go into the details of her life too much, because we should be careful, we cannot have St. Mary of Egypt as an example, before or after her conversion. That is because her life is very extraordinary, and due to this, we can take, and it is good for us to take, at most, the example of her spirit. Meaning her total dedication to God, her forsaking everything of the world, and especially, the relentless struggle against the evil that lurked inside her, against the devil. Because, you should know brethren, that the devil is not an abstract imagination of evil, meaning a story or something like that, rather it is someone very concrete. So what helps us much more in the case of St. Mary of Egypt, is to see how St. Mary of Egypt got to this state, and how she defeated the devil. First of all we should know that the main reason St. Mary of Egypt fell into sin so much, so deeply, was because she believed her thought. The devil fights through thought. The devil fights through suggestion. Because the devil, you should know, is a type of mind.
All angels – including good angels and bad angels – are types of minds. When we say – 9 angelic orders – we are actually saying 9 types of minds, these angelic orders can be good, that is, benevolent or malevolent, evil. Besides believing her thoughts, St. Mary of Egypt was defeated by the devil because she was alone, she isolated herself, she left home, she had a great lack of experience, she didn’t know. What could she know at the age of 12 years old? Because of this she was attracted to the pleasures of this world and from then on she became one of the greatest harlots in Alexandria. As you can see, the devil always tries to isolate a person so that they do not ask, so that they do not find out, so that they do not confess, and thus the devil tries to hit them mercilessly based on the person’s acute inexperience. Because of this brethren, let us be very, very careful because all wars are based on deception! All wars are based on deception. So because of this, we should always, always, always, pay close attention to our thoughts and never believe our thoughts. Never believe the thought.
Because of this, if there are many of us, and we ask and we confess, we manage to get out of demonic influences. That is why the devil hates confession enormously, he hates questions enormously, and of course he hates having his schemes brought to light. The Holy Fathers speak of the devil as a snake who, when brought to light, runs. We see this as well in the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament, where indeed the devil is likened to a snake, where it says that the serpent came to Eve, and told her about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As can be seen, because we said before that the devil attacks through thoughts, you should know what the greatest secret of the devil is. The greatest secret of the devil is that the devil cannot do anything. Remember this: The devil cannot do anything. He can only lure, he can only tempt, he can only say: come on, let’s do it, do it, go there, do the other thing! Because of this, the devil always has to give a rational reason, a justification, he always intertwines with a justification, he always twists in order to convince a person to do something.
Because the devil can never force a person. The person is always free! So because of this do not shudder the moment thoughts come to you. Never agree with thoughts because apparently ‘they are forcing you’. Do not pay attention to thoughts. Do not speak with the thoughts. I have said this many times, if you do not want something to happen, it will not happen practically, no matter how much the devil attacks with thoughts. If we have a prolonged struggle it does not mean that we should do that. If we have a pressure of thoughts, a commercial of the devil, constantly repeated, it does not mean that it is also true, even though some say ‘repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.’ That is not true in the spiritual life and it is not true in real life! We should be very careful to be strong, to not commit a sin in deed.
When we do commit a sin in deed, and in thought, but mainly in deed, the devil always strikes in courage. He always strikes in courage. He is like an assassin who fires two shots: one to hurt us through sin, and the other to strike us in courage. Why? Because the moment a person sins, he loses a battle. The moment a person loses their courage, they have lost the war. And because of that, as I said, the devil strikes in courage because courage is the driving force that pushes a person forward. Be very careful: there is no blessing for losing your courage, there is no reason to lose your courage. St. John Climacus says that just as there is no reason for a man who has a fever to commit suicide, likewise there is no reason for a man who sins to lose his courage. We must be careful! Now. Who is the devil? I said that the devil is a type of malevolent mind, a very evil and very experienced intelligence. Very experienced. The world “devil” does not represent a species, rather it represents a behavioral trait. “Diavalo” in Greek means “to instigate,” “to dig”, “to twist”, “to slander.” Iago from Shakespeare’s “Othello,” if you have read “Othello”, this character is a very good representation, from a human perspective of course, of the devil. Remember – Iago. On the other hand, “satanas”, “satan” is a word of Hebrew origin which means “the adversary,” “the one who is against,” “the one who opposes.” So devil and satan are descriptions of behavior. Now, as I was saying, let’s not say that the devil is the embodiment of evil, that he is a story and so on.
Once again folks, he is a type of mind, someone who is alive, very intelligent, very evil, and once again, someone with a great deal of experience. I remember when some students came to Saint Ephraim of Katounakia, especially because they were Theology students, and they said to the saint, “Father Ephraim, we do not believe that there is a devil, it is just a story!” And we were expecting St. Ephraim to say things from the Holy Fathers, from theology and so on. And he said a very simple thing: You do not think that there is a devil? Alright. Come to the wilderness for 3 months, be under obedience, and we will discuss afterwards. [“Stay 3 months in the wilderness and you will see the activity of the devil.”] Understand?
In the moment that a person is removed from the slime of everyday life, and tries to lead a spiritual life, tries to get close to God, and his mind is cleansed, then you will see how abstract the devil is! He is not abstract at all! But as I said, do not be afraid of him because he can’t do anything! He needs the consent of the person to be able to fight, he needs the consent of the mind and because of that the devil always seeks the consent of the mind. The Holy Fathers say that the devil is like a dog tied up by the Resurrection of Christ. Well, if we sin, if we go within his reach, then he will bite of course. We must always get out of his range through confession, through repentance.
Now, some evidence of the existence of the devil. I remember father Constantin Galeriu, a man with a very spiritual life, who would do all types of conferences. He would speak about the love of Christ, about loving one’s neighbor, about prayer and so on. Well…there would hardly be anyone there. And father Constantin was saddened by this, he became stubborn, and at one point he put up a poster which said: “On Sunday at 5 o’clock the devil will be in the church.” Brethren, the church was full. The whole church filled up like a tram. There were people even at the windows! Trying to see the devil. And then, father Constantin said with great pathos, “Well, for Christ you didn’t come, yet you all come now for the devil?” Understand? Who created this distorted behavior, this absurd behavior because everyone, or all faithful, came to church even though they knew that Christ is the Savior, that Christ is God Almighty and not the devil. What it means is that there was a mind that instilled the thought in everyone, a mind that is malevolent, a mind that loves the devil more than Christ. It is the devil himself, one of them.
Another proof of the existence of the devil is the tendency for someone to hide, to “not tell the abbot, not tell the spiritual father, not confess.” Alright. But what will the abbot do to you? What will the spiritual father do to you? Are they going to kill you? What are they going to do? “…No because I cannot right now…” and so on. You can. You can! Believe me, you can. It is only that you do not want to. You think that the spiritual father will see you in one way or another, that you will embarrass yourself in front of the spiritual father. Brethren, believe me who after so many years know confession. Brethren, they are all the same. They are the same sins. You will not inform anyone at confession. At confession especially, the person appears greater, very spiritual, very grand. The person who confesses is a phenomenal person, a noble person. But as I was saying, this evil mind comes and puts all kinds of deceptions in our heads: “How will they see me?” and so on so that the person does not receive advice. In order to not receive advise. Try to go to the spiritual father and see the war of thoughts you will have, like, “not right now, some other time… you don’t feel like it,” and all these things. Understand? When you tell a monk who is not doing well, or to a nun who has problems, “Go and tell this very simple thing to the abbess or to the abbot,” they will give you 512 excuses, 1024 of excuses about why they are not telling now, and so on.
And you see that it is about a minor thing, actually minor, and after you get white hairs trying to convince them to go and say it, afterwards they realize that it was nothing, there was no problem, and the abbot or abbess will smile. Afterwards you see that it was really again this evil mind, foreign to us, a malicious mind that always tries to isolate people especially from the institution of grace, from the source of grace, which is the spiritual father, or in the case of monastics, the abbot or the abbess or a spiritual person, an elder. Yes, and the Lord knew this very well, because the Lord said; This is the judgement, that men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. They were evil. Understand? So when under a demonic influence, we always try to hide. And if you see that there is a deed that you do not want to say, that you wish to hide from God, from the spiritual father, that is very evil!
That needs to be said. It is exactly that deed that needs to be said. Another proof of the existence of the devil, besides hiding and besides the things I said above, is the fact that we always prioritize, we always put business, shopping, the worldly, material life first. Somebody can watch TV for hours or go on the internet for hours, and we can continually scroll, as I said before, and we can’t pray for 5 -10 minutes because we don’t have time, because we are tired, and so on… And at work. At work brethren, say a prayer for 5 minutes, I insist once again, do not say “I do not have time because I have to run…” How many hours of work do you have everyday? 8 hours? 10 hours? Maybe some even have more, may the Lord help them. Within these 8 hours, work for 8 hours minus 10 minutes. You really do not have time for that? No. You will see that there is this pressure to not occupy yourselves with prayer. To not pray for 5 minutes.
The pressure to not go to church is another pressure in which the devil can be seen; this mind that constantly fights the person, tirelessly and with a pitchfork – that is why the devil is portrayed with a pitchfork in icons. The devil does not have a pitchfork, because as I was saying it is bodiless, it is a type of mind. I am repeating this so that we get it firmly in our heads, but there is a pitchfork in the sense that it forces us to not have time, to not go to church. So Saturday we have the day off, and Sunday we prefer to sleep. After a day off, instead of going to church… Where is this from? Is this not from a foreign force, a foreign mind which is exacerbating my laziness, exacerbating self-pleasure, exacerbating my lassitude. “Best I stay home…I’ll see what I’ll do.” And there is nothing else you have to do other than go to church, and if you go to church then every 5 minutes you think, “How much time is left? How much longer are they going for? What is happening?” And so on. Understand?
This you will see again related to the church and related to the prayer program at home. You will see that in the moment you pray, and I think those of you who pray know, that the mind roams more, it is tossed around a lot more than when we do not pray. [The war of the mind is much stronger when we pray.] When we do not pray we are calm, we are very well. As soon as we start praying at church or at home, immediately the problems arise. The machine gun starts Bam bam bam… artillery fire of thoughts. This means that there is an evil influence, meaning a malevolent intelligence which resembles our mind, which does not like prayer. Well, that is the devil. Because then we start thinking about everything, we have solutions for all our problems and so on. Understand?
Another proof of the existence of this evil intelligence, is if you are at church at the service, especially if it is a little earlier in the morning or a little later in the evening. You will see that you will get hit by a phenomenal sleep, continually thinking, “How much longer?!” We look left and right, and so on. But once the service is over, we are very much awake. Very fresh. In the church we are very sleepy, our eyes are closing by themselves, while as soon as we go out we are fresh. Saint Dionisie of Colciu would actually see the devil censing in the church. He had a vision. He had a spiritual vision of the devil censing the fathers in the church, and the fathers would all fall asleep. The hand censer looks like a small drinking glass which is moved to cense the fathers. So the devil was using a hand censer and it would drown the fathers with suffocating smoke, and they would all sleep. I know that at least some of you have experienced this unnatural sleep of demonic origin that happens at the services and especially at the Gospel or when something important is being read. But you should know that if we force ourselves, and pray in the church, that is, we say: “Lord, I have come for You, Christ! I have come for the Almighty Savior!” and are interested in what is being read, having zeal, then you will see that sleep will go away and demonic energy will go away. We have to also cross ourselves. An when we cross ourselves you will see that all this demonic energy leaves.
To wrap up this subject on sleep, how we sit in the pews is very important. We have to be careful that our head is vertical, not falling down like this, because if our head falls, then you will see that it is one of the easiest ways to fall asleep. Because when our head is horizontal, there is a psychological impulse, a psychological signal that we need to rest. So because of this if possible stand, but if we sit, it is best to sit on the upper part of the pew. The pew folds up. I will probably add a little recording to show you. The pew folds up and we sit on the upper part of the pew if we cannot actually stand. When it is placed down, it is very restful and young people especially, fall asleep immediately, of course with the help of the devil who presses on those buttons.
Again, another point where you will see the devil fighting us is when we read spiritual books. Try to read! You will have thoughts like, “I don’t feel like it, not now, I don’t understand anything, I wonder what is written here?” How can you not understand? Are you not human? You do understand. It’s written in Romanian, or whatever the mother tongue of each is. Eh, but the devil fights very, very strongly there. We can watch movies for however long, but a spiritual book, especially the Holy Scripture, we will not be able to pick up because we do not have time. Try and you will see! And you will also see at church. You will see, try and see.
Go to church Sundays to Liturgy, where the Holy Scripture is read, the New Testament. When you leave you will forget everything. Actually, you will forget everything I am telling you, in 20 minutes, 15 minutes. You will forget everything. Yes brethren, Holy Scripture is the holy book. It is a book that is almost 2000 years old. It is the most printed, the most famous book from all antiquity and from all Christianity, it is the most influential book in human history. Understand? Don’t we care what this book has to say though? The Word of God. No… When we leave after the service, we remember absolutely nothing. Ask your children, your parents, your friends: “What was read from the Gospel at the Liturgy today?” And you will see that nobody knows.
But the news, the problems from work, scandals and all these things – we remember with all clarity. Even though the news, problems and so on are something ephemeral and do not bring anything new if we think about them again. Understand? Anyway we cannot solve these problems during the service or immediately after church. Well how does Holy Scripture disappear from our minds? Is it not because there is an influence which is absurd, intelligent and which does not like Holy Scripture? We are speaking about, as I’ve said, someone intelligent and alive. Yes, that’s what it is. And you should know that the devil fights a lot on the subject of knowledge. Besides Holy Scripture there is the subject of confession. If you tell the person to go confess… they say, “No because I cannot now” and so on. Understand? The person knows that it is good to confess but doesn’t want to. Or they confess very rarely. Normally a person should confess every week.
Of course some consider this extremely often, but let’s say once every two weeks then. As a last resort, once a month. As a very, very last resort. Brethren, let us not confess once a month or once every 4 months or 4 times a year. No way! Now, why did I speak about the devil? Because you should know that now during Great Lent, especially in the second half, the temptations will be much greater especially close to Pascha. Because Pascha is a very great feast day and you will see how the devil tries to make us live Pascha with saddness. That is why be careful around Pascha as there will be arguments, misunderstandings, and all types of things like that so that we may not celebrate Pascha. So because of this be very careful, let’s pray, let’s not sin! If we sin, we confess and we do not confess in the last moment. Let’s confess in advance so that we may Commune.
Let’s not escalate conflicts. Let’s take care to not open our mouths when we are angry! This is very important: if we are angry we should keep our mouths closed. The Holy Fathers say that the first victory against anger is for it to stop in the throat. Yes? If we cannot abstain, we leave and say, “My dear, forgive me for being troubled now, let’s leave it for another time.” Let’s be careful close to Pascha to not have a lot of preparations to do, to do things ahead of time, to not leave our chores to the last minute. Understand?
And always think that the others are trying to do good, but they do not know, they cannot, it does not turn out for them. They are fought by the devil too. That is why let’s love everyone, let’s forgive everyone so that we may be at peace and have a joyful Pascha. Let us live the Risen Christ! Happy Pascha to everyone! May the Lord help us. And let’s not occupy ourselves so much with the devil because it cannot do anything to us if it does not have our consent, and if we have confessed. May the Lord help us in this. Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us. Amen.
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