Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Escaping the "Bags of Tricks" of Evil Powers

By Fr. Theodore Pantels

With the death and Resurrection of Christ, we are reborn with the grace of the Holy Spirit to be co-workers with our Lord. No longer are we destined to be apart from God; we now have the opportunity to always be with God starting from today and going into eternity. We are now armed with the power of the Cross of our Lord, which is at the same time the power over evil and the power of life itself, since, through the Cross, Christ conquered sin and death.

In the book entitled, How Satan Deceives People by Elder Cleopa, we learn of the power of the Cross in giving wisdom to know the tricks of the devil and the need that we have to avoid his tricks. Accordingly, the following true story is shared, which is edited and paraphrased in the interests of space:

A certain Orthodox Christian monk prayed constantly for God to reveal to him the tricks of the devil so that he could be aware of these tricks and avoid falling prey to evil and destruction. After some years passed, an angel of the Lord visited this dedicated monk. The angel asked the monk to make the Sign of the Cross, which, as already noted, overcomes evil. By this he knew that he was being visited by an angel of God and not by a demon; for, a demon will not ask for the Sign of the Cross, which, as noted already, overcomes evil, but will flee far from It. After making the Sign of the Cross, the angel led him to a vision of demons in order to show him how demons think and to beware of their tricks. In this vision, the chief demon --Satan -- was holding a counsel in order to hear from his demons how they trick people into destruction.

At first Satan was hearing a little demon explain that he would trick people into destruction by telling them that they are “good enough.” Accordingly, they can go to church, fast and pray -- but not too much. After all, they are only human and they are not expected to “overdo” the practice of their religion. This would lead to practicing prayer and worship only “on occasion,” allowing them to have other matters of everyday life take on a greater priority. They eventually fell away and became consumed with such matters, distracted from prayer, and open to more and more temptations. Falling to temptations, while still assuming to be “good enough,” causes destruction to relationships and lives, since “good enough” is never really good enough.

Another demon suggested that his method of destroying people was by convincing them that God and the devil do not even exist. As such, “good” and “evil” are only relative matters that need no forgiveness. One simply reaps what one sows in this life -“good deeds” are rewarded and “bad deeds” are punished. Period. “Good deeds,” then, lead to pride and “bad deeds” lead to despair. Pride contributes to committing sin and destruction. Despair contributes to giving up on God, allowing demons to claim their souls. Pride and despair are the two best weapons to be used, especially when there is no hope in God.

Finally, another demon shared his method of destruction, which is more cunning and even worse than the previous methods. He allows people to believe in God. He even reminds them that God loves them no matter what. He even concedes that God will hold them accountable for the evil that they do if they do not repent. But, here’s the twist: he keeps on telling them that they can repent tomorrow, not today. So they are duped into not repenting until the next day and the day after until, after many years, the evil that they have been committing without correcting themselves has become a part of them. Now, the demon owns them, because they are addicted to evil and their evil has become their habit. This, he reported, has been the best way to destroy people’s lives.

The monk learned how important it is to avoid evil by always thanking Christ God for the Light of His Resurrection; the forgiveness of sins through Baptism and Confession -- and the opportunity to embrace the Holy Spirit through the Sign of the Cross. This thanksgiving to God in our daily lives is the life of the Divine Liturgy.