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On Christian Hope

The Gospel narrative about the Saviours expulsion of a legion of demons from the possessed Gadarene (Luke (8:27) reminds us with renewed force of the reality of the other world and of the influence that the evil members of that world have on mens lives.

Just as the citizen of any nation needs to possess elementary knowledge of neighboring peoples, of their mores and customs, so does a Christian need to know the mores and customs of the denizens of the other world. Christian teaching contains all the necessary information for us about the world of the fallen angels the demons, and about their struggle against mankind.

This struggle has an ancient history. The demons, led by Satan, cannot forgive people for having been created by God in the place of the angels who had fallen away. For this reason, at the very beginning of human history, we meet Satan in the Garden of Eden, tempting Adam and Eve and succeeding. Satan prepared the way for the first people to betray God.

The demons hate for people increased a hundredfold after God Himself became incarnate and suffered for the fallen Adam, for the entire fallen mankind, granting to each person the possibility of salvation. The demons hate people to such a degree that were it not for the restraining force of God, they would have immediately poisoned all of mankind with their lethal presence. For mans sake the Lord does not allow demons to have direct contact with men, except in cases where man himself consciously or unconsciously seeks such contact. What, then, opens the gates of hell, what opens up for us the possibility of being in contact with the demons? It is all forms of the occult, particularly sorcery, astrology, spiritism, extrasensorics, and various New Age practices, not to mention overt Satanism. Moreover, drugs and alcohol also lead to direct contact with the demons and dependency on them: being in the state of a narcotic trance or alcohol-induced delirium, a person enters the other world through the back door so-to-speak, and naturally ends up in the domain of the fallen spirits.

In our age of high computer technology, which imbues man with a false sense of his own might, many people have no idea that in reality they are already in the clutches of the demons. Demonic possession does not necessarily have to appear in the form of open madness, with screams and attacks. On the contrary, the possession is frequently veiled under the guise of harmless amusements and habits, and its horrible satanic essence is revealed only at the moment of a persons perdition.

How other than possession can we explain, for example, the recent death of a Japanese youth, who died in the very midst of a computer game from which he was literally unable to tear himself away for weeks on end?

Moreover, if we genuinely analyze our conscience, each one of us will find traces or vestiges of one or another form of demonic possession. Unable to be in contact with people directly, the demons influence us by means of our passions, pulling the strings of our passionate desires like puppet masters. And if the Gadarene was possessed by a legion of demons, we are combated on a daily basis by a legion of desires.

The Lord Jesus Christ cured the possessed Gadarene, and He has the power to cure each one of us. No matter what demonic traps we may find ourselves in, no matter how low we may fall, we should never lose hope in Gods help. Hope in God is that straw of salvation at which the drowning man clutches and, contrary to all physical laws, swims out of the turbulent ocean of passions to safety. Grant, O Lord, that we retain this bright hope to the end, to the very last moment of our earthly life.

Monk Vsevolod Filipyev.
Reprinted from the Orthodox Russia, No. 7, 2006.
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On Christian Hope

Christian hope is our hope in Christ and the eternal bliss promised to us by Christ. He is the pinnacle of our desires: He shall save His people from their sins. I would love to go to paradise, but my sins are keeping me back, say many Christians who have no understanding of Christian hope, as though sins are some kind of indestructible barrier. No, I tell you, it is precisely the barrier which Jesus Christ, our Saviour, destroyed by His death on the cross, and opened the gates of paradise to repenting sinners. Let us believe in that, in order to learn how to have hope in Christ, because not all hope is Christian, genuine, leading to salvation. We will show you the qualities of Christian hope: its soundness, steadfastedness, fullness, and the signs by which we can determine whether we are full of Christian hope or not; we will show you that Christian hope breathes in prayer like air, and is supported and strengthened by the life-giving Mysteries, the reading and hearing of the word of God and the writings of the Holy Fathers, and by the good deeds of each individual. We will reveal to you that since a Christian is a free and rational being, made in the image and likeness of God, but fallen by his own will or alienated from God due to iniquity, he must of his own accord, through faith, hope and charity, approach his Creator. We will advise every Christian to carefully examine that part of him which constitutes a God-like and immortal being; we will ask him to pay attention to his heart and to its demands, which often reveal themselves to mans consciousness, and to fulfill these demands without delay. Our heart demands faith in God and union with the One in Whom it finds peace and contentment, but the heart is also seduced, through the actions of the evil spirit and its own innate corruption, by worldly material goods that do not constitute its peace, life and contentment, but only bring sorrow and misfortune. To unite this heart with Christ by means of faith and hope such is our final desire when talking to you about hope; to wean you away from the hope you place in worldly attributes in people, rewards, wealth, sensual pleasures such is our sole desire. We drown in our sins, and we often despair and perish from such a multitude of them; so let us turn our gaze towards our Hope Christ the Saviour in all our sins, all our sorrows, all lifes trials, in fortune and misfortune, to show that He is the God of penitents and the Saviour of sinners such is our desire. To show that only in Christ lies our life, our bliss, our light, our wealth, food, drink, everything in life, to teach everyone to aspire towards Him as the pinnacle of all our desires such is our greatest wish. Jesus Christ is the source of eternal life. I would like to lead you to the point where each one of you, from the bottom of your hearts, would call Jesus Christ your own Jesus, your own Saviour.

(From the spiritual diary of St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ.)

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