Monday, 18 March 2013

Elder Ephraim of Arizona-On Warfare with the Demons.

My child, always be careful, both when you are happy and when you are sad. When you are happy you should not lose control through vivacity and laughter, nor when you are sad should you be so gloomy that it shows. The reason why is that Satan shoots thoughts at us like arrows, but he cannot tell if our heart is receptive to them. But since he is an expert, once he shoots an arrow—that is, once he assaults us with an evil thought—he observes our face and all the movements of our body, and based on them, he gauges how well the arrow struck our heart. If he sees that the soul is hit, then he shoots more arrows there to kill it. But if he deduces from the exterior signs that the soul is not wounded, he changes his attack, and so on. Therefore, when you are happy, you should conceal it within yourself, so that he does not discover it through your carelessness and rob you of it with some temptation. Likewise, when you are sad, do not let it show lest he augments your grief after discerning the reason for your sadness. If you maintain a balanced state when you are happy and when you are sad, the devil does not know exactly what is happening inside you, and thus does not know how to fight you.

2. We are passing through the midst of many traps, so it is not permissible to proceed neglectfully if we want to avoid the snares. Let us keep our eyes wide open, imitating the many-eyed Cherubim, so that we may deride the clumsy tricks of Satan and ascend with the wings of divine thoughts through the spiritual ether. Thus we may offer the health of our souls as a fragrant incense to God, Who dwells in the heavens. Just as the health of children brings joy to their parents, likewise our good Father—God—rejoices to see our souls healthy.

3. I am always praying to the Lord that He will give you sound judgment. Think before you speak. You are still inexperienced in the wiles of the devil, whose goal is never to let you have peace. Sometimes from the right and sometimes from the left; sometimes with your own affairs and sometimes with other people’s he keeps you busy so that your soul is never calm and you are unable to see its depths, where there is still much rubbish. Do not occupy yourselves with anything other than yourselves. Become stupid to become smart; become ignorant for the Lord to reveal His wisdom to you.

4. Do not think that it escapes the devil’s notice or that he doesn’t care that you have formed a synodia, in other words, a bastion to fight him from. No; he has observed it carefully and has cunningly prepared himself with the guile of a fox and the power of a wolf, as much as he could. He has entered your sheepfold and is ravaging your souls. Do not leave him inside any longer; arise and be united with love which paralyzes his strength. Reflect that you have left everything for Christ; you have sacrificed your youth; you have despised all worldly joys to obtain Christ. Pity your souls. Reflect that the devil is vigilantly seeking to devour someone. The abysmal dragon cannot stand to see you trampling upon him and not obeying him! He is jealous, and so as a cunning fox he causes discord and arguments so that he may succeed in destroying the brotherhood, and then hurl you into various pits of sin.

5. Without the Lord’s assistance, we are unable to do anything good. Therefore, we need much humility to find repose for our souls. The evil one will never cease shooting at us with his flaming arrows and trying to overcome and dominate us. But we also have many deadly weapons. In particular, the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” literally burns him. This is why he tries to fight us in an indirect manner. But our Christ enlightens us with His holy commandments to fight him. The devil is using that person to fight you and make you transgress God’s holy commandments, and in this way to harm not only you, but primarily to grieve and fight God through your transgressions. Whereas, on the contrary, if we struggle to keep the word of God persistently, we not only save our souls, but also we become the means by which God is glorified. “Those who glorify me shall I glorify” (1 Kings 2:30 ). Therefore, my child, struggle with love, patience, and humility to disable the traps of the devil with God’s help. Perhaps through you, He will enlighten this person to repent. “Overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21 ).

6. Do not think that it was you who thought such things about your Elder. No, my child, it was from the devil. Your soul is pure. The devil is dirty and he brings them to your mind. He tries to convince us that we thought them on our own in order to grieve us. The proof that this grief is diabolical is the ensuing negligence we have for our spiritual duties. For if it were from God, we would be eager in everything. You have not grieved your Elder, as you imagine, for he knows from experience that it is from the demons and not from you. It seemed to you like that so that you would grieve and not have the courage to reveal to him your thoughts. No; no matter how many times such thoughts come, go and freely tell them to him. For the tempter brings such thoughts to make us feel ashamed and not reveal and confess them so that he may devour us whole. Be careful not to conceal your thoughts, or you will fall into a trap.

7. We must pass our days with great caution. The devil is very crafty and is always on the lookout to ensnare us at a time of spiritual drowsiness and render us accountable to God and our conscience. May God abolish him so that he cannot harm us! But since He is just, He does not remove the free will of man. And this is why we—and first of all, I—voluntarily follow the suggestions of the devil, and we sin.

8. Even in the eleventh hour, our all-good God accepts us as long as we realize He awaits our return. But the sly enemy of our soul does not remain inactive; nothing escapes his notice. For this scoundrel knows the inestimable value of time and endeavors through vain cares and allurements and comforts of the world to establish steadfast ignorance and forgetfulness, so as to bring complete despair at a man’s last hour, and win the immortal souls for which Christ died on the Cross!

9. Do not grieve because of your warfare. Do not fear, but take courage. The demons do not have the authority to harm you. It is from the hand of God; through it the eyes of your soul will be opened, and it will set you on the right path. It takes extremely bitter medicines to heal difficult passions. Entreat God: “Lead us not into temptation” (Mt. 6:13 ). This warfare, as St. Isaac the Syrian says, is due to pride, conceit, and hardness of heart. The remedy is humility, the recognition of one’s incorrect judgment, and obedience and trust in one’s spiritual father. Humble yourself, my child; only this medicine will save you. God has sent these temptations to you out of love to frighten you, so that you pull yourself together, come to your senses, humble yourself, and ask for forgiveness. The demons get angry when you pray, because these evil ones see that you are beginning to break their nets, and they are afraid that you might escape from them. They want to make you despair or lose heart. Therefore, arm yourself with trust and hope in God and with the conviction that they are not allowed to do anything without the higher command of God. Know that if you are patient in this warfare and humble yourself before God and your brethren, God will give you much grace and enlightenment; the eyes of your soul will be opened, and you will see in what great darkness you were. The courage you have is due to the grace of God which helps you in these temptations. For without courage and hope and faith, there is grave danger in such temptations. Do not be afraid of anything; have all your hope in God. Cry out the prayer without stopping and you will see how much help you will receive. Fear God—not the demons. Fear God and His judgments, for when He decides to punish us with some kind of penance for our pride, who is able to stop Him? Therefore, when the evil is still small, let us take care to remedy it. For once it has grown worse, you will not be able to be delivered even if others help you. So love God more, since He has sent you the medicine for your illness—that is, patience, humility, and courage—and see to it that you take it.

10. Do not be afraid of invisible enemies since you have put on Christ. But you should tremble when you do not see grace protecting you because of your sins. Even then, “every evil has a tinge of good”. See to it that you serve God with fear and trembling, for the crafty devil, who trips up those who struggle, waits for a period of negligence, and then he furiously leaps out—may God abolish him—and tries, if possible, to drag us down into hell alive.

11. The devil is the source of every lie and deception and cunning and evil. This is why all thoughts aimed against Christians are in essence a lie and deception. He promises to the young every kind of prosperity through fanciful thoughts and beguiles them through illusory dreams with riches, pleasure, delights, eternal life, etc. (for this is the devil’s plan: to keep man from remembering death, since this ruins his plans ), until he trusts him as his best and most intimate friend. Then, once he entwines him in his webs as a spider its prey, with great ease he sucks up all his spiritual substance and renders him dead in relation to God.

12. Unbelief and blasphemy proceed from the envy of the devil. There is only one remedy: to disregard such thoughts as if they were only the barking of a dog. One is not held accountable for them. Other people who did not know this fasted and kept vigil and wept to be delivered. But blasphemous thoughts leave a person only if he disregards them. Abba Agathon was also fought by blasphemous thoughts. He entreated God to deliver him and heard a voice telling him: “Agathon, Agathon! Take care of your sins, and let the devil bark as much as he wants. You are not accountable for those thoughts”. If you do not disregard them, you will never be delivered.

Taken from the book "Counsels from the Holy Mountain" By Elder Ephraim of Arizona+Philotheou(Mt.Athos) 

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