DESERT FATHERS: Evagrius Debates Three Demons

Evagrius Debates Three Demons

From The Life of the Holy Evagrius, Written by Palladius

Three demons in the form of clergy met him during the middle of the day.

Their idea (to disguise themselves) was so good that he had no idea they were demons.  Indeed, his door to the courtyard was always kept barred; when he found it shut, he knew immediately that his visitors were demons.

Each, therefore, asked him his own question, and they said to him, “Since we have heard that you speak articulately concerning the faith, we have come so you might persuade us.”

He said to them, “Say what you wish.”

The first said, “I am a Eunomian; I came in order for you to tell me: Is the Father unbegotten or begotten?”  He said to him, “I will not answer you, for you have not asked a good question.  With regard to the begetting of the Unbegotten, no one can use the term ‘begotten’ or ‘unbegotten.'”

Thus left at a loss, he brought forward the other one.  When he came, he brushed aside the one who went before him because he had asked a bad question.

So, Abba Evagrius asked him, “Who are you?”
“I,” he said, “am an Arian.”
“And what do you want?”

“With regard to the Holy Spirit,” he said, “and with regard to the body of Christ, I want to know if Mary truly bore it.”

Abba Evagrius answered, “The Holy Spirit is neither something begotten nor a creature, for every creature is circumscribed by place and is subject to change and is sanctified by participation in the divine.

But the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and fills all things – I mean things in Heaven and things on Earth.  It is sanctified by no one.  Therefore, what is uncircumscribed and immutable and holy by essence can neither be a creature nor be called one.  With regard to the body, the question is one asked by Manichees and Valentinians and Marcionites.  Do the Arians also ask it?”

The demon replied, “Yes, we have our doubts, but we do not dare express them publicly on account of the rabble.”

Abba Evagrius responded, “Numerous events and statements demonstrate that his body was from Mary: growth and circumcision, and nine months gestation in the womb, and breastfeeding, and eating and drinking, and suffering, and sleep belong to the corruptible body; even more striking was when he was on the cross and was stabbed by the lance and poured forth blood and water.”

Thus when the second was also left at a loss, the third came forward with great boldness, pushing aside the other two because they had gained no advantage over Abba Evagrius and said to him, “I grant that you have prevailed over these two; to be sure, the truth was on your side.  What do you have to say to me?”  Evagrius said to him, “What do you doubt?”

He responded, “I don’t have any doubts; I am certain that Christ did not have a human mind but instead of a mind had God himself: a human mind cannot defeat the Prince of Demons.”

He said to him, “If he did not have human intelligence, he did not have a human body either, and one could say that he was not called Christ.

“Paul, when he sums up the faith in unity, teaches the fact of immutability and about both the human soul and the body: ‘For there is one God and one mediator between God and humankind: Christ Jesus, human.’

“As I see it, the three of you are in complete agreement in denying the mystery of the Holy Trinity.  Since one of you says that the Word is a creature, while another rejects the Holy Spirit and the body of Christ, and another the soul, it is clear that you find yourselves in agreement with the Jews who crucified Christ.  They, perhaps, may be pardoned, having killed according to the flesh, but you, through your impiety, have killed him just as thoroughly according to the spirit.”

Very upset, they threatened to make a public example of him, and then they disappeared.  But he, as though waking from some soft of sleep, became very fearful.  Therefore he sent a message to Albinus, his neighbor, who was very gentle, with whom he was very close, and informed him of the incident.  Albinus advised him not to remain alone, because his spirit was overly alert and because he was weighed down by solitude.

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