Friday, June 29, 2018

Simon Magus and the Apostle Peter

At the outbreak of the persecution (c. 37 A.D.) of the early Christian community at Jerusalem that began with the martyrdom of St. Stephen, when Philip the Deacon went from Jerusalem to Samaria, Simon lived in the latter city. By his magic arts, because of which he was called "Magus", and by his teachings in which he announced himself as the "great power of God", he had made a name for himself and had won adherents. He listened to Philip's sermons, was impressed by them, and like many of his countrymen was baptized and united with the community of believers in Christ. But, as was evident later, his conversion was not the result of the inner conviction of faith in Christ as the Redeemer, but rather from selfish motives, for he hoped to gain greater magical power and thus to increase his influence. For when the Apostles Peter and John came to Samaria to bestow on the believers baptized by Philip the outpouring of the Spirit which was accompanied by miraculous manifestations, Simon offered them money, desiring them to grant him what he regarded as magical power, so that he also by the laying on of hands could bestow the Holy Spirit, and thereby produce such miraculous results. Full of indignation at such an offer Peter rebuked him sharply, exhorted him to penance and conversion and warned him of the wickedness of his conduct. Under the influence of Peter's rebuke Simon begged the Apostles to pray for him (Acts 8:9-29). However, according to the unanimous report of the authorities of the second century, he persisted in his false views. The ecclesiastical writers of the early Church universally represent him as the first heretic, the "Father of Heresies".

Simon Magus, after passing through diverse provinces, came to Rome, and there gained a high reputation. St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus, Tertullian, Eusebius, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, and Theodoret, assure us, that divine honors were paid him there, and that a statue was erected to him in the isle of Tiber, by the emperor Claudius and the senate, with this inscription: “Simoni Deo Sancto” (Simon the Holy God).

(Left) Paul, Peter, Simon Magus, Nero;
(Right) Peter and Paul causing the fall of Simon Magus through prayer

When Nero came to the throne, the greatest monster of cruelty and vice that perhaps ever disgraced the human species, Simon Magus found a means to ingratiate himself with this tyrant; for Nero was above all mortals infatuated with the superstitions of the black arts to the last degree of folly and extravagance. To excel in this was one of his greatest passions; and for this purpose he spared no expense, and stuck at no crimes. But all his endeavors were fruitless. When Tiridates, a Parthian prince, who was a magician, came to Rome, and was crowned by Nero king of Armenia, in the forum, the tyrant hoped to learn of him some important secrets of that detestable superstition. The most skillful of the Parthian magicians exhausted all their science to satisfy him; but only gave the world a new proof of the emptiness of that art. Pliny concludes from this want of success in Nero, and Tillemont repeats the same of Julian the Apostate, that seeing the utmost skill of those who have most addicted themselves to this deceitful art, joined with the greatest power and impiety, was never able to effect anything by it, every one must rest convinced, that magic is no less vain and idle, than it is impious and execrable.

Simon Magus, by his vain boastings, and illusions, could not fail to please this tyrant. The fathers assure us that this famous magician had promised the emperor and people to fly in the air, carried by his angels, thus pretending to imitate the ascension of Christ. Accordingly he raised himself in the air by his magical power, in the presence of the emperor. Sts. Peter and Paul, seeing the delusion, betook themselves to their prayers; upon which the impostor fell to the ground, was bruised, broke a leg, and died a few days after in rage and confusion. This wonderful event is related by St. Justin, St. Ambrose, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Austin, St. Philastrius, St. Isidore of Pelusium, Theodoret, and others. Dion Chrysostomus, a heathen, writes that Nero kept a long time in his court a certain magician, who promised to fly. And Suetonius says, that at the public games a man undertook to fly in the presence of Nero, but fell in his first attempt, and his blood even stained the balcony in which the emperor stood. This historians have understood to be Simon Magus.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Devil and His Wiles (2 of 6)

...continued from part one.

2. Types of Demons

There are many demons, as the whole biblical and patristic tradition teaches. It is evident both in Holy Scripture and the works of the holy Fathers that Satan is not alone: there are many demons. There are many like him. Also, some demons are more evil than others, and every demon has his own teaching, as well as his own way of acting and working. We shall look at this interesting topic.

Many passages of Holy Scripture demonstrate that there are a large number of evil spirits in existence. The most well known are as follows. The possessed men in the country of the Gerges-enes had many demons. For that reason they spoke in the plural: “And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God? Art Thou come hither to torment us before the time?” (Matt. 8:29). When St Mark the Evangelist describes the healing of the demoniac in the country of the Ga-darenes, he records Christ’s conversation with the demons inside the man. When Christ asked, “What is thy name?”, they replied “My name is Legion: for we are many.” The account continues, “All the devils besought Him, saying, Send us into the swine.” As soon as Christ granted this wish, “The unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine” (Mark 5:9-13). The Apostle Paul knows that there is not one single “ruler of this world” or one single evil spirit, but many rulers and many evil spirits, so he writes, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12). Explaining what Christ achieved on the Cross, the same Apostle says, “Having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Col. 2:15). All these demons teach different things. Each demon has his own way of thinking and acting, but the aim of all is to separate man from God and bring about his eternal death. St Paul knows that many will depart from the faith in the last times, “giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Tim. 4:1).

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Devil and His Wiles (1 of 6)

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

(From the book The Science of Spiritual Medicine)

Describing the wiles and the activities of the devil is not easy. The difficulty is that only those who have managed to escape from his influence are able clearly to discern how he works. By studying the teachings of the saints, however, we too can recognise the devil’s personality and the method that he uses to capture people and keep them under his control. We rely mainly on the teaching of the saints, who were victorious over the devil in the power of Christ. Thus we too can repeat the Apostle Paul’s words: “For we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Cor. 2:11). The experience of the Church has exposed all the schemes of the devil and his mentality.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

How a Horror Movie Inspired Me to Begin Studying the Bible

By John Sanidopoulos

It was 1988. I was twelve years old. My aunt was babysitting my older two sisters and I and she decided to take us to the movies. There were no good PG rated movies my aunt wanted to see, but then she saw a movie starring Demi Moore that she did really want to see, however it was rated R. My aunt asked me if I wanted to see it, but I was nervous to see a rated R horror movie, as I was easily frightened by horror films as a child, and this would also be the very first rated R movie I would ever see in a theater. I gave in, half excited and half nervous. The movie we were going to watch was called The Seventh Seal.