Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Demonology of St. John of the Ladder (6 of 6) - Positive View of Demons

...continued from part five.

6. Positive View of Demons

Without temptation the monk could never reach perfection, and so he should thank the Lord for the trials he undergoes.93 Abba Anthony said, "Whoever has not experienced temptation cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven;" and even stronger: "Without temptations no one can be saved."94 The temptations thereby acquire a eucharistic quality, that is to say, they are an occasion for thanksgiving. Origen already stated: "Let us give thanks for the goods revealed to us through temptations."95 And, much later, Symeon the New Theologian wrote: "Learn to love temptations as if they are to be the cause of all good for you."96 The demons have no power by themselves; they do what they do because God allows them to do it. In this sense,97 they are to be seen as instruments used by God for man's salvation. Ultimately, they are a cause of our crowns, and the more there are of them, the more abundant are the crowns.98 Without sorrow, there can be no salvation. Thus the monks in the Prison, in mood of well-nigh self-torture, even pray for temptations and affliction: "And some prayed to become possessed by devils; others begged the Lord that they might fall into epilepsy; some wished to lose their eyes and present a pitiful spectacle; other, to become paralyzed."99 Everything, to the most cruel snare of the devil, transforms into a part of God's design: "Wonderful sight - a demon curing a demon. But perhaps this the work not of demons but of divine providence."100


93. Ladder 4.25.

94. Apophth. Anthony 5.

95. De. or. 29, 17.

96. Cat. 2.

97. Ladder 26.2, 24.

98. Ibid.

99. Ibid. 5.5.

100. Ibid. 9.6.

From Ascent to Heaven: The Theology of the Human Person According to Saint John of the Ladder, Holy Cross Orthodox Press, Brookline, MA, 1989.