I must also tell you about the heavy sin of avarice or love of money, one of the most prominent and vile forms of idolatry. Love of money even turned an apostle into a betrayer of Christ and has destroyed countless others. Such people place their hopes not in God but in wealth, gold, silver, savings accounts. They become so attached to one or another way of amassing money that sometimes they even go hungry and worship their amassed wealth like an idol, not wishing to spend any money either on themselves or on others. Beware of cupidity! There are so many people who put their money into savings accounts and just watch them grow, becoming terribly attached to the little book with pretty numbers, and never give anything from there to anybody, even to their family members, though the latter may be destitute. Come to your senses before it is too late. Whether you have amassed a treasure chest or a savings account, it is all the same - cupidity is idolatry and the work of Judas, which destroys the lover of money forever.
Usury also represents idolatry, and all kinds of vile profit: bribery, extortionism, etc. Whoever is guilty of it, repent and reform, flee from love of money as from a destructive fire.
There are many forms of subtle idolatry. One person sinks all his hopes, all his passion, all his means into the acquisition of ultra-modern home furnishings, another spends it all on clothes, a third on an expensive automobile, others become addicted to unrestrained pleasures, still others to games of chance. Forgive us, o Lord! Let us try, no matter how hard it may be, to tear ourselves away from our foul idol and to serve Thee, our One true God.
Those who believe in superstitions also sin against God. How can an Orthodox Christian fear a cat running across the road, or accept as presagers of misfortune - a bird crying strangely before a change in the weather, or even the new moon, if he happens to see it on the left side! Thus people of other faiths, looking at us, may think that our entire faith is like that - empty and pitiful. Monday is considered to be an unlucky day, while it is dedicated to the angelic hosts! This day of the angels is an unlucky day for the devil, and also for those who consciously or unconsciously serve the devil. It is impossible to list all the superstitions which illiterate old women and foolish people pile up in their lives. Do not believe in any of them. And should you have done so, repent and promise never again to have faith in superstitious beliefs.
Also repent any of you who have participated in sorcery and witch- craft. This is a horrible province of the devil! Satan, who is being expelled by the grace of the Holy Spirit from all over the Church of Christ, is none other than the ancient murderer of mankind. He is full of great wrath against man and wishes to destroy him. He finds cunning loopholes, even the tiniest and apparently innocent, through which to attack the faithful and destroy them. The Church very strictly condemns all kinds of fortune-telling and strongly punishes them. Let me give you the example of an old church rule: whoever calls upon the gypsies - is barred from communion for eight years! A similar punishment is placed upon those who melt wax, tin, etc. Why does the Church warn us so severely? It is because to these seemingly innocent activities the evil spirits easily attach themselves, and communion with the evil spirits is an offense before God, alienating the fortune-teller from God’s grace, depriving him of God’s help and making him vulnerable to the enemy’s arrows.
Some of you visit “elders.” There used to be the elders of Optina and the Glinsk Hermitage, and our elder of Sarov, the venerable Saint Seraphim. Perhaps a small number of such elders is still in existence somewhere by the grace of God. But self-appointed “elders” are like false prophets, who will perhaps appear before you in sheep’s clothing, but who are actually vicious wolves. These self-styled elders do not allow you to go to priests, while except for priests we have no one to go to. The Church cannot exist without the priesthood, and without the Church there is no salvation.
Some of you have gone to see old wives, who say that they supposedly use holy objects or venerated icons to provide help. Be very wary of them. A monastic priest of high spiritual life once said to me: “It is better for people to hang on to lawfully ordinated “batyushki” (priests) than to “matushki” (old wives)! They are led into delusion by these old women reading prayers. But they only use these prayers to calm their visitors, while under their breath they mutter demonic incantations. Thus, they say: three is not three, seven is not seven, negating the Holy Trinity, and the seven sacraments, and the nine ranks of angels, and all that is holy and saving. The demon demands it of them, otherwise he cannot help them. And whoever of you gets help through these old women, will certainly not be glad of it. Demonic captivity is horrible. Let them run from these old wives as from fire.” Also refrain from worshipping unknown graves or springs of water about which nothing is known, whether there were any holy objects near them or not. The demons like people to worship unknown objects, because they have better access to such individuals.
Protopriest Anatoly Pravdolyubov.