HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF HOLY ARCHANGEL MICHAEL AND THE HEAVENLY HOST
According to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, before creating the visible world the Lord God created the invisible world, i.e. the angels. Among these superior beings there occurred a battle which led to the division of all the angels into good and evil spirits. At the head of the first stood the Archangel Michael, whose feast we are now commemorating, while the second were led by one of the supreme angels who had wrongly understood his perfection. Enticing others to go along with him, he arrogantly rebelled against God. From that time on these tainted forces, having been thrown down from heaven, relentlessly do evil to people, pushing them into the abyss of sin and eternal torture in which they themselves sojourn. They are combated by the good angels, who, on the contrary, restrain man from all bad things and direct him towards salvation in the Heavenly Kingdom. As a loyal host, some of them surround the throne of God, singing continuously: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth, heaven and earth are full of Thy glory, while others announce God’s will to people, which is indicated by the very word “angel,” which means messenger. And, finally, there are still others who are appointed by the Lord to oversee both entire peoples and cities, as well as individuals, and they are therefore called guardian angels. Thus, one of the supreme angels was sent to Joshua in the Old Testament. Angels were sent many times to aid the Israeli judge Gideon, the prophet Elias, the prophet Daniel, and many others. In the New Testament the Archangel Gabriel brought to the Virgin Mary glad tidings of the beginning of salvation, angels announced the nativity of Christ to the shepherds, an angel warned of Herod’s evil intentions, and an angel appeared to the magi, restraining them from going back to Herod. An angel comforted the Saviour before His sufferings, and angels brought glad tidings of Christ’s resurrection to the myrrh-bearing women. Angels appeared to the apostles in prison, to Apostle Philip, to Cornelius the centurion, to Apostle Peter, and to many others. And finally, when the Son of man returns to earth in glory, He will be accompanied by all the holy angels.
Each person receives at baptism a special guardian angel. Like a loyal guard, and without pressuring our will, this invisible and indefatigable protector of ours delivers us from all evil, misfortune, and sorrow, and serves as our guide on the path towards the safe haven of Christ’s kingdom. Even the psalm writer King David pointed out this mission of the angels: “For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways; they shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:11-12). And the Lord also said: “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones, for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father Which is in heaven” (Matt. 18:10). With these words Christ warns us to treat children with all due attention, for they have angels, their guardians, who are always ready to petition God against those who dare humiliate the children they protect.
And, finally, in that terrible hour when the trembling soul, after being parted from its body, comes to stand before God’s judgment, when neither friends, nor benefactors, nor even the closest relatives are able to help us any longer, then only our guardian angel will be our protector from the evil tormentors – the demons.
However, we must bear in mind that such aid on the part of the guardian angels, which cannot be replaced by anyone or anything, occurs only while we, even though we be sinners, try to fulfill the will of God. “Just as bees are repelled by smoke and doves by stench, – says St. Basil the Great, – so the guardian of our life – the angel – is repelled by malodorous sin.”
The life of St. Niphontus, Bishop of Cyprus, contains an account of how the saint once saw an angel in the guise of a youth, sitting at the gates of a house of ill repute and bitterly crying. He asked about the cause of the tears, and the angel replied: “I have been assigned by God to guard a certain man who is now staying in this house and is thus severely offending me; I am unable to watch his iniquities, and how should I not cry, when I look at the dark abyss into which an image of God has fallen?” The blessed Niphontus then said: “Why do you not punish him, so he would give over sinning?” – “I do not have any chance of approaching him, – replied the angel, – since from the time he began sinning, he has become the slave of demons, and I have no power over him; for God created man with free will and showed him both the narrow path and the wide one, in order for man to follow whichever he will.”
Thus, O Christian, cherish your invisible guide, the fellow traveler of your entire life – your guardian angel, – and you will do well. Know that if you do not hurry to repent, your iniquities will distance you from him, and then inevitable perdition shall threaten you. Always pray thus: O Angel of God, my holy guardian, given to me by God from heaven for my protection, I earnestly beseech thee: enlighten me thou this day and preserve me from all evil, instruct me in doing good and guide me towards the path of salvation (Prayer to the guardian angel). Amen.
MOTHER OF THE UNFATHOMABLE LIGHT
Homily for the Entry of the Holy Theotokos into the Temple
There are many priceless pearls to be found in the spiritual treasury of the Church. They bring joy and light to the one who approaches them with love and faith. But the most precious of them all is the Most-holy and Most-blessed Mother of the Unfathomable Light, the “warm protectress of the cold world,” the Theotokos Virgin Mary.
It is hard to comprehend the Church’s veneration of the Mother of God for someone who is far away from the Church, who belongs to the sheep “not of this fold.” Only within the Church may one see the brilliance of Her Most-pure Visage. Only in the living church Tradition does Her glittering image live and will live forever… And the present feast of the Entry of the Most-Holy Theotokos into the temple is truly a feast of the church Tradition.
A mystery of faith takes place… As a 3-year-old maiden the Virgin Mary is brought by Her pious parents into the holy bounds of the temple of Jerusalem. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the high priest leads Her into the holy of holies, presaging with this entrance the forthcoming incarnation. “The most pure temple of the Saviour, the most precious bridal-chamber and Virgin, the sacred treasury of the glory of God, is on this day brought into the house of the Lord, bringing with Her the grace that is in the Divine Spirit” – joyously sings the holy Church on this day.
And on this same day, for the first time in the cycle of yearly services, it sings the majestic hymn to the coming Christ: “Christ is born – glorify Him! Christ cometh from heaven – meet ye Him! Christ is on earth, be ye exalted!”… Christ and the Theotokos… How inseparably are the Son of Man and the Mother of God joined together in the mind and heart of the church world! He is coming into the world to save the sinners… She is the best and the holiest that the earth could present to its Redeemer. And not only there, in the high blue dome and beyond the bounds of countless worlds, but here, too, in the sorrowful vale of tears, the Blessed One continues to stand at the Cross on Golgotha.
Centuries pass… Empires fall and thrones are destroyed, but She still stands and intercedes for those who come to Her with faith and love. The Theotokos eternally lives in the Church, eternally spreads Her omophorion over the sorrowful and embittered world… Being humble Herself, She seeks true worshippers among the humble, who venerate Her in the Spirit and the truth.
Saint blessed fool-for-Christ Andrew was shown a vision of the luminous paradisiacal dwellings. He was also shown the indescribable glory of the triumphant host of Saints. He saw there the prophets, the apostles, the venerable ones, and the entire multitudinous host of God’s saints. Only the Mother of God he could not find in this shining world… “Where is the Most-pure?” – he asked in bewilderment… “She is there, on earth, among the sorrowing and the suffering,” – replied the heavenly denizen…
Truly, brethren, the Mother of God is not far from us all… She is next to us, right here in the boiling cauldron of earthly worries. We must only distance ourselves from our usual half-belief, we must seek communion with that indescribable world where pure hearts gaze with pure eyes upon the Face of God…
Among our daily busyness and constant earthly vanity, may this present feast, dedicated to the Entrance of the Holy Mother of God into the temple, serve as a joyous and uplifting reminder of the perfect joy of the future life.
In our sorrows, illnesses, and frequent embitterment, may we always keep before our eyes the image of the One Whose heart “was pierced by a sword.”
And may the constant and heartfelt prayer of each one of us be: “Do not spurn me from Thine Visage, O Mother of the Unfathomable Light.” Amen.
(Hieromonk Methody, “Before the eyes of God’s truth”)
(Reprinted from “Orthodox Russia, No. 13, 2007)
THE HOLY THEOTOKOS ENTERS INTO THE TEMPLE… AND WHAT ABOUT US?
In the beginning of the Nativity fast, dear brethren, we celebrate the glorious entry of the three-year-old child Mary, blessed daughter of the righteous Joachim and Anna, into the temple of Jerusalem, in order to be brought up to serve the Lord. Since the Holy Virgin was brought specifically to the temple, which became Her abode and where She was prepared for Her great destiny to become the Mother of God, let us talk about the benefit and the need for us, too, to come to church, which is an abode of God and the place where we are prepared for the heavenly homeland.
We are called Christians, and all of us have been summoned by the Lord Jesus Christ to enter the heavenly homeland. But in order to enter it, we must be found worthy. Only in church can we attain the requisite knowledge of how to become worthy and how to enter the heavenly homeland, the Heavenly Kingdom. In church we partake of the Holy Mysteries, without which we cannot cleanse our souls. In church we hear the word of God in the reading of the Holy Gospel and other scriptures during the services.
In order to reach the kingdom of God we must acquire a righteous, meek, and humble spirit. Who will show us what constitutes our Christian name and responsibilities, and how we should conduct ourselves in the different circumstances of life? All of this is taught to us by the Church, which is filled with a heavenly, unearthly spirit. Here is the school of the Lord Jesus Christ, in which future citizens of the heavenly realm are educated.
The benefit and the need for a Christian to come to church is revealed even more clearly when we compare the church with the vain world in which we prefer to spend more time than in church. What do we find in the world and what do we find in church?
In the world at every step we find vanity, deceit, vice; in church we find only truth, sanctity, and virtue. In the world we see destruction, sin, death; in church we witness the incorruptibility of saints and eternal life. Beyond the walls of the church we come upon objects of vanity, carnal temptations, the rudeness of people, physical and spiritual filth. Within the confines of the church we find physical and spiritual cleanliness; there is no pornography here, but there are icons that show us the purity and the beauty of the spiritual world. Within the church we are not exposed to any earthly temptations which destroy our soul; instead, we are summoned to attain perfection.
In church we find rest for our hearts, which are battered by the terrible bustle of the world and by the constant fruitless rushing around. In church we find healing for our souls, which are wounded by sins and passions and depressed by the surrounding world. The modern world, in its current state, stands on the brink of ruin and destruction. In our Orthodox Church we touch upon constancy and eternity. Where we will find ourselves in this eternity will largely depend on how we come to church and how we take part in the services.
Even before She was born, the Holy Virgin was destined to become the Mother of God. Her pious parents could have brought Her up in their home or in any other place. But they brought Her to the temple, and this indicates to us the importance and the need to come to church in order to attain spiritual perfection.
Let us follow the uplifting example of the Mother of God, and let us come to church as often as possible, in order to partake of the Holy Mysteries that are so essential to the salvation of our souls. Amen.
(From the spiritual diary of St. John of Kronstadt, “My Life in Christ”)
The angels’ mission in people’s lives
In the matter of God’s providence towards mankind, there must be intermediaries between people and God from the spiritual world, (since mankind occupies a middle ground between the spiritual and the physical worlds), who would guide us towards the higher realm, to wit: the angels. All of the Lord’s affairs exhibit amazing sequence and order; in all things He has lower ranks being guided by higher ones; from this stems the need for Christians who have been redeemed by the Lord’s blood to have guardian angels. Moreover, the angels themselves are filled with love for us and rejoice at the conversion of even a single sinner; and since love is an active force, the Lord gave full rein to this noble and useful endeavor of theirs. Guardian angels are also necessary to humans because of the evil spirits’ malicious action towards people: people themselves do not see them. Humans are very frail in spiritual life. Besides the grace of God there is still need of an entity filled with this grace, wise and strong in nature, and such are the angels. Moreover, after departure from this life, there must be witnesses to human actions on earth in order to counter the demons.
On venerating the angels and the saints
In venerating the angels we become filled with the life-giving conviction that there is another world of sentient beings who are absolutely pure, simple, and bodiless, and that consequently the existence of our soul after death is not only possible, but factual. And in venerating the saints we become accustomed to the same idea that there is life for us after death; that virtue and holiness are rewarded after death, and this means that if we live virtuously, we will be likewise rewarded; that evil is punished, as it is presented in the Gospel parable of the rich man and Lazarus, and this means that we, too, will be punished for the evil that we do here. In general, the veneration of angels and saints leads to significant spiritual benefit.
The Holy Spirit and the evil spirits
The Holy Spirit is called Comforter by His nature, which is peace, joy, and eternal rapture, and by His impact upon the souls of believers, whom He comforts as a mother in their virtues, their sufferings, sorrows, and illnesses, and their spiritual endeavors on behalf of faith. He is called Comforter in contrast to the spirit of dejection which often attaches itself to us. Each manifestation has a cause. Thus, having done a good deed, you rejoice and find comfort in your soul. Why? Because within you is the Spirit-Comforter, Who is everywhere present and fills all things, Who is the Treasury of good things, Who comforts us. Conversely, having done something bad, or not even having done anything, you sometimes feel terrible dejection in your soul. Why? Because you have allowed the evil spirit of dejection to overwhelm you. For example, you stand in prayer and you are overcome by dejection, whereas before prayer there was none; or you try to read a spiritual book, the Holy Scriptures for example, and again you are overcome by dejection, laziness, doubt, little belief, or lack of faith. Why? Because you are being tempted, you are being attacked by the evil spirits of dejection, doubt, and disbelief. You are standing in church at a divine service, and you become bored, depressed, lazy – this means you have been attacked by dejection. Why again? Because you are being overwhelmed by these same evil spirits. Or you take up some spiritual activity – and there is darkness and coldness in your heart and mind, and a weakening of your entire body. Why? Because the invisible enemy is attacking you. It is easy to prove: only cease doing all this, and everything will become so easy and pleasant, and there will be such openness in the soul and heart – you wonder from where it came. For this reason the Holy Spirit is so absolutely essential to all of us in our good deeds: He is our strength, power, light, peace, comfort.
The demons’ battle with the Holy Spirit
Since the Holy Spirit is a mighty power and the fear and torment of the demons, they use all their hellish wiles to oppose the Holy Spirit and to blaspheme Him. Since the Holy Spirit is a spirit of salvation, a spirit of unity, love, and peace, the demons comprehensively oppose unity, love, and the salvation of people. They were the cause of the division of churches into Eastern and Western – note that the division occurred precisely over the dogma of the Holy Spirit; they were the cause of further splintering of the Roman West into Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Anglicanism; they were the cause of the schism in our Orthodox Church. The demons also try their utmost – and have largely succeeded – to uproot faith in the Gospel and the Church of Christ from the hearts of Christians, which is also blasphemy against the Holy Spirit; they try their utmost to submerge Christians in deeds of the flesh and its iniquities, so that the Spirit of God would not dwell among men, as happened to antediluvian mankind; and do we not see how people have given themselves over to avarice, gluttony, drunkenness, and debauchery to such a great extent? What kind of corruption are we living in?! O, woe unto us, and very soon it will be even worse… The evil spirits also attack the Holy Spirit in the thoughts and hearts of individuals by shaking their belief in Him. Woe unto us! Let us not blaspheme God’s life-giving Holy Spirit, the Spirit of ineffable love, Who intercedes for us with unutterable sighs (Rom. 8:26); let us spend our entire life worshipping Him and glorifying Him, just as we worship and glorify the Father and the Son – with indivisible and equal honor. Let us honor the universal creed – this salvific guide to faith for believers of all times and all places. Let us not insult with a single thought of doubt the Holy Spirit living within us and reviving us, Who loves us immeasurably, as do the Father and the Son.
Prayer to the Lord (by St. John of Kronstadt)
Benevolent Lover of mankind! Thou Who hast made all creation with a single word and hast fashioned man out of it, do visit Thy loving kindness upon Thy fallen servant, lest the creation of Thy hands be utterly destroyed.
O Lord, Thy name is love – do not reject me, an errant man.
Thy name is strength – fortify me, for I am exhausted and failing.
Thy name is light – enlighten my soul that is obscured by earthly passions.
Thy name is peace – calm my troubled soul.
Thy name is mercy – do not cease to show mercy upon me.
MIRACLES OF THE GREAT RUSSIAN PRIEST
These days she is a small hunched old woman in a black velvet head covering and a long monastic robe. She is 84 years old, but she still moves around energetically, leaning on a cane, and does not miss a single church service. Her name is Mother Ludmila.
Many years ago she was a tall and slender novice, but all those around her regarded her with pity: her lungs were covered with caverns (cavities appearing in an organ in place of degenerating tissue), and she was living out her last days – so said the famous Tallinn physician to whom the Mother Superior had taken her for a visit.
Patiently the young novice awaited her death.
One bright spring day Father John of Kronstadt arrived at the convent. All the sisters were filled with joy. Finding a convenient moment, the abbess brought the sick novice to him.
– Bless our sick one, dear batyushka – she requested.
Father John looked at the young girl attentively and mournfully shook his head:
– Oh, how sick, how sick!
And without taking his intent gaze away from the sick girl, he touched her chest and made a gesture as though gathering together some unraveled material. He gathered it together, clamped it with his fingers, and even twisted them to the side, to make sure everything held tightly. Then he touched another place on the chest, and shaking his head, repeated the same gesture, then moved his hand further on, and in this manner, mournfully sighing and praying, he pulled together some kind of wounds that were invisible to those around him. Then he blessed the sick girl and said very simply:
– Well, thanks be to God! You will live, and you will live a long time; you will be sick, but that is nothing.
No one paid much attention to the strange actions of the great priest, but everyone noticed that after his departure the sick novice began to get well.
A year after this incident, the Mother Superior went to Tallinn and took along with her the recuperating novice, in order to have her checked out by the doctor who had prophesied her imminent death.
The elderly physician was greatly surprised to see his patient on the mend. After a thorough examination, he asked permission to X-ray the lungs, and looking at the X-ray, he shook his head:
– I don’t understand anything at all! Your lungs were riddled with holes, but some mighty hand has repaired them, drawing the lethal caverns together and covering them over with scars. You should have died a long time ago, but are alive and will continue to live. My dear child, you have been the recipient of a great miracle!
Conversion of an unbeliever
My father looked upon Father John of Kronstadt with great prejudice. He attributed the priest’s miracles and extraordinary popularity to hypnosis, hysteria, ignorance of those around him, etc.
We lived in Moscow, and father was a lawyer. I was four years old at that time, an only son, and named Sergey in honor of my father. My parents loved me passionately.
Father often went to St. Petersburg to take care of his clients’ affairs. This time, too, he went there for two days and stayed with his brother Konstantin as usual. He found his brother and sister-in-law in great agitation over the illness of their daughter Elena. She was extremely sick, and although she was getting better, they had invited Father John to serve a moleben, hourly expecting his arrival.
Father laughed at them and drove away to court, where his client’s case was being heard. Returning at 4 P.M., he saw a sleigh with a pair of horses in front of his brother’s house and a huge crowd of people. Realizing that Father John had arrived, with great difficulty he pushed his way through to the front door, and upon entering the house, he went through to the room where batyushka was already serving the moleben. Father stood aside and began to watch the famous priest with curiosity. He was greatly surprised when Father John, having briefly read the commemoration list placed in front of him with the name of the ailing Elena, stood on his knees and with great fervor began to pray for some unknown but terribly ill infant Sergey. He prayed for him for a long time, then blessed everyone and left.
– He’s simply crazy, – my father said with indignation after batyushka’s departure. – He was invited to pray for Elena, but he spent the entire moleben praying for some unknown Sergey.
– But Lenochka is almost well, – timidly rejoined his sister-in-law, wishing to defend the priest whom the whole family esteemed.
During the night father departed for Moscow. Entering his apartment on the next day, he was amazed at the upheaval reigning within, and upon seeing my mother’s drawn face, he became alarmed:
– What happened here?
– My dear, no sooner had your train departed for Moscow than our Serezha fell ill. He had fever, convulsions, vomiting. I invited doctor Peter Petrovich, but he couldn’t understand what was happening with Serezha and asked that a concilium be called. I wanted to telegraph you right away, but couldn’t find Kostya’s address. The three doctors did not leave Serezha the entire night and finally admitted that his situation was hopeless. You can imagine what I went through! No one slept, because he was continually worsening; I was in total shock.
And then suddenly, after 4:00 in the afternoon, he began to breathe evenly, his fever went down, and he fell asleep. Then he became even better. The doctors can’t understand anything and neither can I. Now Serezha is only weak, but he’s already eating, and he’s in bed at the moment, playing with his teddy bear.
As he listened to mother’s story, father dropped his head lower and lower: so this was the terribly ill infant Sergey for whom Father John of Kronstadt had prayed so fervently the day before.
Healing of a tumor
Father and mother had two of us: my sister Nastenka and myself. My sister and I were great friends, but our natures were totally different: she was drawn to boyfriends and married early, while I dreamed of a convent. I especially wanted to enter the Ioannov convent, which was under the patronage of Father John of Kronstadt. Batyushka himself often visited there, and I loved batyushka and had venerated him from childhood. He used to come to our house, too, even though we were quite humble folk: my father worked as a bank courier.
And so my dream came true: I was accepted into the Ioannov convent. And soon afterwards the following happened to me: a tumor appeared on my neck, small at first, then growing to the point where it became hard to lower my head, and I began to feel unwell. I showed the tumor to Mother Superior, she became concerned and said that she would take me to the doctor.
Two days later, however, Father John arrived at the convent in the evening. We welcomed him warmly and straightaway went to church to sing a moleben; such was the custom that upon batyushka’s arrival, he served a moleben before anything else. As I was going in with the choir singers, the abbess stopped me, led me over to Father John, and said:
– Dear batyushka, please pray for Varvara, she has become sick, – and with these words she raised my head covering and showed him the tumor.
Batyushka looked at it attentively, then passed his hand over it and said:
– That’s all right, God willing it will go away. Go in, Varyusha, and sing!
We sang the moleben, then batyushka talked with us for a long time, then I was called to help in the refractory, and I returned to my room much later than usual. I started undressing, took off my head covering, and tried to smooth out my tumor as I was wont to do; I pressed my hand, but there was nothing there! I ran to the mirror and saw that my neck was completely smooth. I couldn’t believe my eyes, since the tumor was the size of a fist! I could barely wait until the morning and hurried over to the abbess. She looked at my neck, made the sign of the cross, and only said:
– Thank our dear batyushka.
(Reprinted from the booklet “Orthodox miracles in the 20th century”)
LIFE AFTER DEATH
Summary of the Orthodox teaching on the fate of the soul after death
The state of souls until the Last Judgment
Some souls find themselves (after the forty days) in a condition of foretasting eternal joy and blessedness, and others in fear of the eternal tortures which will come in full after the Last Judgment. Until then changes are still possible in the condition of the souls, especially through offering for them the Bloodless Sacrifice (commemoration at the Liturgy), and likewise by other prayers.
The benefits of prayer, both public and private, for the souls in hell have been described in many Lives of Saints and ascetics and in Patristic writings. In the Life of the third-century Martyr Perpetua, for example, the fate of her brother Dimocrates was revealed to her in the image of a cistern filled with water which was too high for him to reach in the filthy, intensely hot place where he was confined. Through her intense prayer for a whole day and night the cistern became accessible to him, and she saw him in a bright place. By this she understood that he had been released from punishment.
In the Life of an ascetic who died in our own 20th century there is a similar account. The Life of the Nun Athanasia (Anastasia Logacheva), a spiritual daughter of St. Seraphim of Sarov, relates:
“Now she undertook a labor of prayer for her own brother by blood, Paul, who had hanged himself while drunk. She went at first to Pelagia Ivanovna, the blessed one who lived in the Diveevo Convent, to take counsel from her as to what she could do to make easier the lot beyond the grave of her brother, who had unfortunately and dishonorably ended his earthly life. After counsel, the following was decided: Anastasia would lock herself up in her cell to fast and pray for him, every day reading 150 times the prayer, ‘Virgin Mother of God, rejoice…’ At the end of forty days she saw a great abyss; at the bottom of it was a bloody stone, and upon it there lay two men with iron chains on their necks; one of them was her brother. When she informed the blessed Pelagia about this vision, the latter advised her to repeat this labor. At the end of the second forty days she saw the same abyss, the same stone on which were the same two people with chains around their necks, but her brother was now standing and was going around the stone, but then fell again on the stone; the chain was still around his neck. After she informed Pelagia Ivanovna about this dream, the latter advised her to perform the same labor for a third time. After forty more days Anastasia saw the same abyss and the same stone, but now there was only one man, unknown to her, and her brother had gone away from the stone and was hidden from sight. The one who remained on the rock said, ‘It is good for you; you have powerful intercessors on the earth.’ After this, blessed Pelagia said, ‘Your brother has been delivered from tortures, but he has not received blessedness’.”
There are many similar incidents in the Lives of Orthodox Saints and ascetics. If anyone is inclined to be too literal-minded about such visions, it should perhaps be said that of course the forms which such visions take (usually in dreams) are not necessarily “photographic” views of the way the soul appears in the other world, but rather are images which convey the spiritual truth of the soul’s betterment in the other world through the prayers of those who remain on earth.
How important is commemoration at the Liturgy may be seen in the following occurrence: Before the uncovering of the relics of St. Theodosius of Chernigov (1896), the priest-monk who was conducting the re-vesting of the relics, becoming weary while sitting by the relics, dozed off and saw before him the Saint, who told him: “I thank you for laboring for me. I beg you also, when you will serve the Liturgy, to commemorate my parents Priest Nikita and Maria.” These names had been unknown before this vision. Several years after the canonization, St. Theodosius’ own book of commemoration was found in the monastery, which confirmed these names and corroborated the vision. “How can you, O Saint, ask for my prayers, when you yourself stand at the heavenly Throne and grant to people God’s mercy?” – the priest-monk asked. “Yes, that is true,” replied St. Theodosius, “but the offering at the Liturgy is more powerful than my prayer.”
Therefore, panikhidas and prayer at home for the dead are beneficial for them, as are good deeds done in their memory, such as alms or contributions to the church. But especially beneficial for them is commemoration at the Divine Liturgy. There have been many appearances of the dead and other occurrences which confirm how beneficial is the commemoration of the dead. Many who died in repentance, but who were unable to manifest this while they were alive, have been freed from tortures and have obtained repose. In the Church prayers are ever offered for the repose of the dead, and on the day of the Descent of the Holy Spirit, in the kneeling prayers at vespers, there is even a special petition “for those in hell.”
St. Gregory the Great, in answering in his Dialogues the question, “Is there anything at all that can possibly benefit souls after death?” teaches: “The Holy Sacrifice of Christ, our saving Sacrifice, brings great benefits to souls even after death, provided their sins are such as can be pardoned in the life to come. For this reason the souls of the dead sometimes beg to have Liturgies offered for them… The safe course, naturally, is to do for ourselves during life what we hope others will do for us after death. It is better to make one’s exit a free man than to seek liberty after one is in chains. We should, therefore, despise this world with all our hearts as though its glory were already spent, and offer our sacrifice of tears to God each day as we immolate His sacred Flesh and Blood. This Sacrifice alone has the power of saving the soul from eternal death, for it presents to us mystically the death of the Only-begotten Son.”
St. Gregory gives several examples of the dead appearing to the living and asking for or thanking them for the celebration of the Liturgy for their repose; once, also, a captive whom his wife believed dead and for whom she had the Liturgy celebrated on certain days, returned from captivity and told her how he had been released from his chains on some days – the very days when the Liturgy had been offered for him.
Protestants generally find the Church’s prayer for the dead to be somehow incompatible with the necessity of finding salvation first of all in this life: “If you can be saved by the Church after death, then why bother to struggle or find faith in this Life? Let us eat, drink, and be merry…” Of course, no one holding such a philosophy has ever attained salvation by the Church’s prayer, and it is evident that such an argument is quite artificial and even hypocritical. The Church’s prayer cannot save anyone who does not wish salvation, or who never offered any struggle for it himself during his lifetime. In a sense, one might say that the prayer of the Church or of individual Christians for a dead person is but another result of that person’s life: he would not be prayed for unless he had done something during his lifetime to inspire such prayer after his death.
St. Mark of Ephesus also discusses this question of the Church’s prayer for the dead and the improvement it brings in their state, citing the example of the prayer of St. Gregory the Dialogist for the Roman Emperor Trajan – a prayer inspired by a good deed of this pagan Emperor.
What we can do for the dead
Every one of us who desires to manifest his love for the dead and give them real help, can do this best of all through prayer for them, and in particular by commemorating them at the Liturgy, when the particles which are cut out for the living and the dead are let fall into the Blood of the Lord with the words: “Wash away, O Lord, the sins of those here commemorated by Thy Precious Blood, by the prayers of Thy saints.” We can do nothing better or greater for the dead than to pray for them, offering commemoration for them at the Liturgy. Of this they are always in need, and especially during those forty days when the soul of the deceased is proceeding on its path to the eternal habitations. The body feels nothing then: it does not see its close ones who have assembled, does not smell the fragrance of the flowers, does not hear the funeral orations. But the soul senses the prayers offered for it and is grateful to those who make them and is spiritually close to them.
O relatives and close ones of the dead! Do for those what is needful for them and what is within your power. Use your money not for outward adornment of the coffin and grave, but in order to help those in need, in memory of your close ones who had died, for churches, where prayers for them are offered. Show mercy to the dead, take care of their souls. Before us all stands that same path, and how we shall then wish that we would be remembered in prayer. Let us therefore be ourselves merciful to the dead.
As soon as someone has reposed, immediately call to inform a priest, so he can read the “Prayers on the Departure of the Soul,” which are appointed to be read over all Orthodox Christians after death. Try, if it be possible, to have the funeral in church and to have the Psalter read over the deceased until the funeral. The funeral need not be performed elaborately, but most definitely it should be complete, without abbreviations; think at this time not of yourself and your convenience, but of the deceased, with whom you are parting forever. If there are several deceased in church at the same time, do not refuse if it be proposed to serve the funeral for all together. It is better for a funeral to be served for two or more of the deceased at the same time, when the prayer of the close ones who have gathered will be all the more fervent, than for several funerals to be served in succession and the services, owing to lack of time and energy, abbreviated; because each word of prayer for the reposed is like a drop of water to a thirsty man. Most definitely arrange at once for the serving of the forty-day memorial, i.e. daily commemoration at the Liturgy for the course of forty days. Usually, in churches where there are daily services, the deceased whose funerals have been served there are commemorated for forty days and longer. But if the funeral is in a church where there are no daily services, the relatives themselves should take care to order the forty-day memorial wherever there are daily services. It is likewise good to send contributions for commemoration to monasteries, as well as to Jerusalem, where there is constant prayer at the holy places. But the forty-day memorial must be begun immediately after death, when the soul is especially in need of help in prayer, and therefore one should begin commemoration in the nearest place where there are daily services.
Let us take care of those who have departed into the other world before us, in order to do for them all that we can, remembering that “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
The resurrection of the body
One day this whole corruptible world will come to an end, and the everlasting Kingdom of Heaven will dawn, where the souls of the redeemed, joined to their resurrected bodies, will dwell forever with Christ, immortal and incorruptible. Then the partial joy and glory which souls know even now in heaven will be replaced by the fullness of joy of the new creation for which man was made; but those who did not accept the salvation which Christ came to earth to offer mankind will be tormented forever – together with their resurrected bodies – in hell. St. John Damascene, in the final chapter of his Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, well describes this final state of the soul after death:
“We also believe in the resurrection of the dead, for there really will be one, there will be a resurrection of the dead. Now, when we say resurrection, we mean a resurrection of bodies. For resurrection is a raising up again of one who has fallen. But, since souls are immortal, how shall they rise again? Well, if death is defined as a separation of soul from body, the resurrection the perfect rejoining of soul and body, and the raising up again of the dissolved and fallen living being. Therefore, the very body which is corrupted and dissolved will itself rise up incorruptible. For He Who formed it in the beginning from the dust of the earth is not incapable of raising it up again after it had again been dissolved and returned to the earth whence it was taken by the decision of its Creator…
“Now, if the soul had engaged alone in the contest for virtue, then it would also be crowned alone; and if it alone had indulged in pleasures, then it alone could be justly punished. However, since the soul followed neither virtue nor vice without the body, it will be just for them to receive their recompense together…
“And so, with our souls again united to our bodies, which will have become incorrupt and put off corruption, we shall rise again and stand before the terrible judgment seat of Christ. And the devil and his demons, and his man, which is to say, the Antichrist, and the impious and sinners will be given over to everlasting fire, which will not be a material fire such as we are accustomed to, but a fire such as God might know. And those who have done good will shine like the sun together with the angels unto eternal life with our Lord Jesus Christ, ever seeing Him and being seen, enjoying the unending bliss which is from Him, and praising Him together with the Father and the Holy Spirit unto the endless ages of ages. Amen.”
LIVES OF THE SAINTS
On December 13th (November 30th by the old calendar) the Church commemorates Saint Apostle Andrew the First-called.
The holy Apostle Andrew, who was the first among Christ’s twelve closest disciples to be called by Him, came from the town of Bethsaida and was the younger brother of Simon (the future Apostle Peter). Disdaining worldly vanity, Saint Andrew decided to forego marriage; instead, hearing that the holy Forerunner John was preaching repentance at the Jordan River, Andrew went to him and became his disciple. When the holy Forerunner, pointing to Jesus Christ Who was passing by, said: “Behold the Lamb of God,” Andrew, together with another of the Baptist’s disciples, the future Evangelist John the Theologian, left the Forerunner and followed Christ. Later he found his brother Simon (Peter) and said to him: “We have found the Messiah, Who is called Christ,” and brought Peter over to Christ. Afterwards, when Andrew and Peter were fishing on the shores of the sea of Galilee, and Jesus called to them, saying: “Follow Me and I will make you catchers of men,” – Andrew, heeding the Lord’s call, immediately left his fishing nets and followed Christ, together with his brother Peter.
After the Lord’s crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, Saint Andrew, together with the other apostles, received the Holy Spirit, Who descended upon him in a tongue of flame. Later, when the apostles divided among themselves the various countries of the world to which they would spread the Holy Gospel, to Andrew’s lot fell all the countries from Byzantium to the Black Sea and the Danube, and also all the Slavic lands. Passing along the shores of the Black Sea, Saint Andrew preached the Christian faith in all the cities and lands, for which much grief and suffering befell him. Most of all he suffered in the city of Sinope (on the south shore of the Black Sea), where he was dragged along the ground, clobbered with logs, beat with rocks, had his fingers and teeth pulled out; but by the grace of God he became completely well again. Later in Byzantium he ordained Stachius, one of Christ’s 70 disciples, as bishop.
Saint Andrew is particularly close to the Russian heart as the apostle of the Russian land. His apostolic endeavors brought him to the boundaries of the Russian homeland, where he sowed the seeds of faith and piety that produced such an abundant harvest in the future. Passing through Scythia and the Crimean peninsula, by the will of God Saint Andrew reached the Dniepr River and stopped to spend the night in the Kievan mountains. The following morning he said to his disciples:
“Believe me, the grace of God will shine forth in these mountains; a great city will stand here, many churches will arise here, and the Lord will enlighten the entire Russian land with holy baptism.”
Going up into the mountains, the apostle blessed them and erected a cross there, as though foretelling the future conversion of the inhabitants of that land to the faith of Christ. Afterwards, Apostle Andrew passed through various other Russian cities, traveling as far north as the city of Great Novgorod. Saint Andrew reached the end of his apostolic journey in the city of Patras, in Achaia (Greece), where the pagans crucified him on a special cross in the form of an “X,” which subsequently became known as St. Andrew’s cross.
A EULOGY TO THE HOLY APOSTLE ANDREW THE FIRST-CALLED
BY SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOME
Wondrous is the memory of Andrew, dear brethren, and wondrous is the remembrance of the apostolic net which he used to catch and attract various peoples to the Christian faith. Although the fisherman himself has gone away from us, the fishing implements which he had used will never become antiquated, and the net which he had spread over the world will never be torn by oblivion. He did not use a fishing rod which wears away with time, nor did he lower into the water a fishing line which becomes frayed with age. He did not use a hook which becomes corroded by rust, nor did he use food for bait. He did not sit on a stone, nor did he sit in a boat buffeted by waves, and it was not the mute fish that he caught.
No, dear brethren, for just as his manner of fishing was highly artful, so his implements were new and unusual. For instead of a fishing rod he used preaching; instead of the fishing line he labored earnestly; instead of a hook he used the power of grace; instead of bait – there were miracles; instead of a stepping-stone – there were the heavens from which he produced such an extraordinary catch; instead of a boat he had the altar; instead of fish he caught even kings; instead of a fishing net he spread the Holy Gospel; instead of being master of the sea he ruled men’s lives; instead of nets he used the cross.
And has anyone ever seen a simple fisherman catch people like fish? O, how great is the power of the crucified Christ! O, how great is the beauty of the Divinity! There is nothing in the world as supreme as apostolic grace. Human life has seen much that is truly extraordinary and surpasses understanding. It saw Noah’s ark remain afloat during the deluge and the destruction of mankind. It saw Moses commanding the elements. It saw waters made hard as rock and the bottom of the sea opening up. It saw manna being sent from heaven in place of bread. It saw the movement of the sun being stopped by human prayer, and the day made longer by the prayers of Joshua. It saw a chariot fleeting through the air, and the prophet Elias carried away in it.
Human life has seen many such great and amazing events. But there has never been anything like the apostles. They, being the servants of the Word, communed with the One Who, being God, cannot be depicted. They followed in the footsteps of the One Who is everywhere. They sat together with the One Who cannot be contained anywhere. They heard the voice of the One Who created everything with His Word. They traveled all over the world. They destroyed idols like savage beasts and chased away demons like wolves. They united the Church into a flock, and they gathered the faithful like wheat. They weeded out heresies like chaff and sowed the word of God like the good seed. And finally, all their deeds shone like the stars. For this reason the Lord said to them clearly: “You are the light of the world.” So it is that Andrew, when he found the Lord like some wondrous treasure of light, exclaimed to his brother Peter:
“We have found the Messiah!”
O, what supreme brotherly love! O, what a reversal of natural order!
Andrew came into the world after Peter, and yet he was first to reveal the Gospel to Peter; and see how he attracted him: “We have found,” – he said, – “the Messiah.” This was said with great joy; this was joy united with glad tidings of the treasure which had been discovered. “We have found,” – he said – “this treasure. Abandon, Peter, the poverty of Jewish law, free yourself of its tatters. Leave Bethsaida, for it is an ignoble town; fishing – for it is a trade dependent on the turbulence of waves; the fish – for they are victuals used for gluttony; the Jewish people – for they are a corrupt assembly.”
“We have found the Messiah Who had been foretold by the prophets. We have found the Messiah Who is the treasure of the law. We have found the Messiah Who had been foreshadowed in images: Whom Micah saw on a throne of glory, Whom Isaiah saw resting upon the seraphim, Whom Ezekiel saw resting upon the cherubim, Whom Daniel saw among the clouds, Whom Abraham welcomed in his tent. It is Him Whom we have found, Who was born pre-eternally and has now appeared in our times. We have found the Messiah, which means: Christ the Saviour.”
O, the great glory of Andrew! O, the depth of apostolic wisdom! O, the fullness of his love!
Let us glorify, dear brethren, this wondrous apostle, and let us love the One Whom he had found – Christ the Messiah, for His is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
“WAR OF THE WORLDS”
In our times it is absolutely necessary for Orthodox Christians to acquaint themselves with various contemporary manifestations, in order to clearly determine their hostile nature and to protect themselves. Many science fiction books and films have appeared nowadays, which entice people with stories about the “war of the worlds” – about earth being invaded by aliens, who are usually depicted as being more intelligent and powerful than humans, who are hostile towards mankind, and are attempting to assimilate it. But… truth is stranger than fiction. Such a war of the worlds has existed for a very long time on a most realistic level, while the aliens – who appear not from other planets but from another world – are not Martians or travelers from other galaxies, but travelers from the closest unseen world that surrounds us, and they are called… demons. As portrayed in science fiction, these demons are truly of superior intelligence and powers in comparison to humans; they are hostile towards mankind and are attempting to conquer it.
These days we hear a lot about how man has polluted the environment with his technology, how mercilessly he is destroying the beauty and the harmony of the earth which God had created. Behind man stand the forces of evil, which passionately hate all of God’s creation and do their utmost to destroy it. But if the forces of evil show such great endeavor in destroying the physical world, one can imagine how much greater is their effort to spiritually destroy the crown of God’s creation – man himself!
All around us we see this terrible war of the worlds. In our times, together with the physical pollution of the environment, there has occurred an identical pollution of our spiritual environment. Modern music, art, fashion, mores – all are openly demonic. As the Holy Fathers had predicted – the demons are now openly living among people. To the same degree that the world has become infected with all sorts of viruses and microbes, which cause many illnesses and suffering among people, so people now suffer and perish from all sorts of spiritual viruses and microbes – the microbes of apostasy, neo-paganism, virulent anti-Christianity, and perversion far worse than in Sodom and Gomorrah.
But let us not despair, because all of this has been predicted 2,000 years ago in the Apocalypse; instead, let us try to uncover the enemy’s machinations in accordance with the saying: “Forewarned is forearmed.” Below we present excerpts from an article entitled “Reasons for young people’s interest in Satanism,” published in the “Orthodox newspaper for common people,” No. 2, 1999.
The philosophy of the “New Age,” whose symbol will be the Antichrist, – the philosophy of liberating one’s conscience for the purpose of sinning – is forcibly being imposed upon the mind of modern man. There is constant talk about a “new consciousness,” about “outdated moral values”; children in school are being continuously brainwashed into believing that their parents, as carriers of the old Christian morality, hinder them in promoting their own identity and “freedom of self-expression.” The massive campaign for “family planning” has been caused not by concern for the health of mankind, but to lure young people into the sin of sexual promiscuity as the most powerful means of demonizing individuals. And it is precisely such a “new person” – free from the pangs of conscience and totally subservient to the demons – who will be needed in the era of the Antichrist. The true agents of Satan are those who, in one way or another, promote the corruption of children – be it through sex education programs or by means of the newly fashionable occultism, which teaches children direct communion with the fallen spirits. It is for this reason that occult programs are now often populated by “bioenergetics specialists” (or sorcerers, to put it more simply and honestly). Demons, bold demons are roaming all over Russia, looking to see whom they can devour. (Note: The same can equally be said about America and other “enlightened” countries of the world.)
Utter corruption of morals has always been the result of falling away from God and becoming immersed in paganism (devil-worship), which was not only a refusal to obey the higher spiritual power and authority of the Creator (as was the case with Cain, for example), but also meant a complete liberation from all moral laws. However, in refusing to accept the moral norms that had been established by God and thus, to a certain degree, freeing itself from His guardianship, mankind invariably fell into bondage to other, completely opposing and antagonistic powers. These powers, as explained in the Holy Scriptures, are intelligent, but hostile to man, creatures from a parallel spiritual world – known as demons, who push men to commit the most heinous crimes.
The devil permitted everything, gave freedom to the basest passions; moreover, he passed himself off as the Architect of the universe, allowed all kinds of abominations, but for this he demanded to be honored and worshipped. And how could one not worship this great fighter for “human rights” to commit all manner of vile things, this liberator of the conscience from all the restraints that had been instilled into it by God? This philosophy of the liberation of the conscience for sinning, this philosophy of living only for the satisfaction of the flesh, was inculcated by the demons into social consciousness via two methods: first, by directly influencing every individual through the creation of a specific environment conducive to spiritual infection; and second, through their agents (mediums, healers, clairvoyants, and other sorcerers), i.e. people who are most open to demonic influence and who throughout the ages have performed the role of high priests in various demonic cults.
In our apocalyptic times, as in former times, interest on the part of today’s youth in occultism and Satanism is growing as a result of increasing alienation from God. The great majority of young people today, almost completely lacking in grace and infected by the spiritually poisonous environment, have become the demons’ victims. By exerting influence through social pressure and the video-screen, and with the help of various legal and secret organizations which finance the propaganda of godlessness, sex, violence, drugs, and rock music, the demons are attempting to destroy the final vestiges of moral barriers in the young generation. Lucifer and his cohorts know well that only by immersing young people in the abyss of sin can they take control over their minds and bodies. In this kind of situation, parents must engage in an exceptional spiritual labor of praying for their children.
Methods of the demonization (or zombification) of the individual
In modern society our children are targeted by an entire armada of satanic forces whose primary goal is to achieve total control over the consciousness and the body of the child, by depriving the child of spiritual grace and instilling in him a demonic influence. Let us attempt to indicate at least the major contemporary methods of the demonization, i.e. the zombification, of children.
(1) A widely used method of the inculcation of demonic influence is the so-called “healing” by a clairvoyant or healer, because the latter do all their manipulations exclusively with the power of the demons. Even those healers who operate under the guise of Orthodox symbolism and prayers are, nevertheless, conscious or unconscious sorcerers. When appealing to a healer for help, the grace of God leaves the one who has turned for healing to an enemy of God, while demons enter the patient through the “healer’s” efforts. Unfortunately many parents, failing to acquaint themselves with the position of the Church on this matter, make a fatal mistake by subjecting their child to the influence of a “popular healer,” sorcerer, or clairvoyant.
(2) Another method of zombification is the so-called “technetronic magic,” which makes use of computer and video games and television programs. The results of its effects on children can be seen quite readily, and much is currently being said and written about it by doctors and psychiatrists. Children become psychologically and spiritually ill as a result of extreme exposure to computer and video games, or movies containing violence and horror, and sometimes even after watching animated films. A foremost example of this is the sudden illness of over one thousand Japanese children as a result of watching the newest animated film “Pokemon” in 1998. The epileptic fits to which such a great number of children succumbed on the same day all over the land after watching the ill-starred movie clearly indicate the power of exerting influence by this method. Almost all of the children were later hospitalized in psychiatric clinics.
(3) The most powerful method of demonizing youth is so-called “sex education,” i.e. the spurring on of children to commit the mortal sins of fornication from a tender age. The governments of “enlightened” nations earmark huge sums of money for this purpose. The forces of evil that are trying to destroy Christian nations, and primarily Slavic nations as the carriers of Orthodoxy, know well that the sin of fornication deprives the individual of the grace of God and leads to some form of demonic possession. It is for this reason that the sins of fornication were always known as mortal sins. Children are corrupted by means of the best instrument of brainwashing – television, which shows erotic films that are geared to intensify sexual arousal and to spur people towards fornication. For this reason sexual contact between teenagers and subsequent abortions have today become the norm. The entire mass media is used today to persistently instill into social consciousness the idea that all sexual contacts (including sodomy) at any age and with any partner (including incest, pedophilia, and bestiality) are absolutely natural and normal. The only thing to be feared, – the corrupters assure us, – is AIDS, and in order for young people not to be afraid of AIDS and to engage freely in sin – various means of contraception are taught and made readily available. Moreover, there is a constant psychological brainwashing of young people in terms of trying to destroy their conscience and the natural feeling of modesty which God has given to every person as an aid in the difficult struggle against sin. It is with this goal in mind that schools are including “sex education” as part of their curriculum.
(4) A very successful method used in demonizing young people is contemporary (occult) music. It is well-known that all shamans – whether they live in Africa, Asia, or Siberia, – who establish contact with the fallen angels, and also all the Satanists who live in “civilized” countries, make use of special dances during the rites of sacrifice or in summoning the evil spirits. The music, the rhythms, and the vibrations of these magical dances provide the demons with easier access into a person, “hook up” the person to satanic energy, so-to-speak. The behavior of young people during rock concerts and, most importantly, after the concerts shows quite clearly the important role played by rock music in the demonization of the individual. Many researchers note that all the types of rock music which our young people are so crazy about are based on the rhythms of African shamans – Satanists.
(5) Another useful method in providing access for the demons is the active narcotization of young people, which is condoned by the power structures of our and the Western governments. It has been established that sorcerers all over the world go into a trance with the aid of narcotics, which facilitate considerably their contact with the world of the fallen angels.
(6) Yet another method of zombification of the youth, which has been well-tested in America and in the West, is the use of occult Eastern doctrines and practices based upon the Vedanta and the Cabbala. Into this category also fall the methods of American Indian devil-worshippers, which have become known in Russia through the translation of the works of the notorious Satanist Carlos Castaneda. These methods are successfully used to catch the souls of intellectuals who are intuitively searching for the meaning of existence. However, instead of discovering divinely-revealed Truth, they are being entrapped with occult knowledge, which lures them with the promise of attaining paranormal abilities and becoming, if not completely god-like, then at least superhuman. This method, tested on our forebears by the tempter Satan, continues to work successfully throughout the millennia.
The source of the ancient occult knowledge contained in the mystical works of Vedanta and Cabbala are the demons, who in all the ages have found within the human environment appropriate mediums for transmitting pseudo-spiritual knowledge to mankind. That same foul source (the demons) also fed the esoteric books of the American Indians and of all the teachers of Hindu mysticism and occultism. With the aid of occult initiations and various meditative practices and yoga exercises (for example: pranayama, mantra-yoga, and others), the demons implant themselves into a person and take control over him, and then use him to ensnare other people.
(7) For those who seek God, the demons have come up with a successful trap in the form of various charismatic sects. “Do you wish to be a true Christian?” they ask. “Do you wish to be filled with the Holy Spirit like the apostles? Then welcome to our charismatic ‘church’! No sooner will we place our hands on your head and read appropriate prayers, than the Holy Spirit will descend upon you, and you will begin speaking in an unknown tongue, or you will weep, falling down on the floor, or perhaps, on the contrary, you will burst into uncontrollable laughter, or you will roll on the floor in convulsions. All of these are visible signs of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon you,” – thus teach the charismatics. Unfortunately, all of the aforementioned manifestations clearly indicate the moment when one or several demons enter into a person. A person who becomes possessed will never again, for the most part, be able to accept true Christian teaching, since his powers of reasoning will be securely blocked by the demons.
Such are the major dangers which befall our children and from which it is advisable for parents to make all possible efforts to safeguard them. It is very difficult, of course, to detach the child from the negative influence of his surrounding environment. It would be well to help children establish contact with their Orthodox contemporaries and thus isolate them as much as possible from the deadly pressure of the surrounding world, where the majority of people have long been possessed by demons in one way or another.
A PRAYER TO THE THEOTOKOS
To Thee, O our Most-holy Mother,
I dare to offer up my prayer,
My visage covered with streaming tears:
Do heed me in this sorrowful hour.
Accept my fervent supplication,
Deliver my soul from evil and woe,
Shed tenderness into my heart,
Instruct me on salvation’s path.
Let me be alien to my own will
And ready to bear all for God,
Be Thou my shield in bitter fate,
Prevent my unlamented death,
Thou art a haven for the poor,
And intercessor for us all;
O do protect us when we hear
God’s voice on fearful Judgment Day,
When time forevermore will end,
The risen dead will hear the trumpet,
And the book of conscience will reveal
The onus of my dreadful sins.
For all the faithful Thou art a shield;
I pray to Thee with all my heart:
O save me, my delight and joy,
Have mercy on Thy supplicant.
– N. V. Gogol
– Translated by Natalia Sheniloff