From Eternal Mysteries Beyond the Grave
The evil spirits are fallen angels. God created them along with the other angels, and at first they all were pure, good, and holy, and generously endowed with many gifts, both natural and given by the grace of God. But some of the angelic spirits became darkened by pride and began to attribute their profusion of various gifts, their excellent qualities, and even the gifts of grace to themselves. They no longer considered themselves created beings. Instead, they began to think of themselves as self-sufficient, and forgot that they had been made by God. Such was the disastrous cause of their disregard of their sacred obligations to God their Creator. Among the most eminent angels, there was one whom the holy Prophet Ezekiel calls the “anointed cherub,” and whom all the other sacred authors number among the highest of the angels. He drew his companions toward arrogance and self-deception. He himself also sank so deeply into pride that he thought himself to be God’s equal and openly revolted against God. He became God’s adversary and his desperate enemy. He and the other spirits who rejected obedience to God were cast down from Heaven. They drag out their existence on Earth, fill the space between Heaven and Earth (and are therefore called the spirits of the air, or the spirits dwelling in the air), and have also descended into hell, down into the Earth. All this is attested to by Holy Scripture. The apostle calls the highest spirits who fell, principalities and powers. The fallen cherub is the chief and the prince of the kingdom of darkness consisting of fallen angels. He is the beginning, the source, and the fullness of evil. He is the superior to all the other fallen angels in his abilities, and superior to them all in evil. It is natural that the spirits that were urged on by him, and of their own accord subjected their wills to him, must still borrow evil from him, and hence be subservient to him. But while God left it to the volition of the fallen angels to persist in the evil that is beloved by them, he, through his absolute might and wisdom, infinitely superior to the intelligence of the most intelligent creatures, still remains the highest and most powerful Lord of them all. They continue to exist within the confines of God’s will. They are held in these confines as in chains and can do only that which God lets them.
Instead of the fallen angels, God created new intelligent creatures – men. He put them in Paradise, which was placed in the lowest Heaven that was governed previously by the fallen cherub. Paradise was now under the dominion of the new creature, man. It is quite understandable that the new creature thereupon became the object of envy and hatred on the part of the fallen angel and his fallen companions. Led by their leader, the rejected spirits made the attempt to subvert the newly created human creatures and to make them their partners in the fall. The fallen angels sought to make humans share their fallen attitude toward God, and to taint them with the poison of their own enmity toward God. They succeeded in their purpose. Although man sinned because he was beguiled and deceived, he still of his own volition rejected obedience to God. Of his own volition, he consented to the demons’ protests against God; of his own volition he entered into communication with the fallen spirits and began to obey them. He fell away from God and from the throng of the holy spirits, to whom he belonged by the nature not only of his soul but also of his spiritual body. After the fall his soul became like that of an unreasoning animal. The crime committed by the fallen angels toward men ultimately decided the fate of the fallen angels. God’s grace completely left them, and they became confirmed in their fall. They, being spirits, were not destined to persist in thoughts and feelings exclusively bodily and material! Being spirits, they were unable to rise from the Earth! Being spirits, they were unable to rise to anything spiritual! Thus the fathers of the church explain the verdict uttered by God over the fallen angel after this angel had brought eternal death upon the newly created man. “On your belly you shall go. And you shall eat dust all the days of your life,” said God to the devil. Although man had now joined the number of fallen angels, his fall was of a totally different character and happened quite differently from the fall of the angels. The angels fell in full realization of what they were doing. They brought about evil within themselves. After they had committed one crime, they obstinately and desperately rushed toward another. Therefore, they completely lost share in the good, they were quite filled with evil, and evil is now their own quality. Man, on the contrary, fell unconsciously, without premeditation, beguiled, and deceived. Thus his natural good was not destroyed but became mixed with the evil of the fallen angels. But this natural goodness, since it was mixed with evil and poisoned by evil, became useless, insufficient, and unworthy of God, who is the entire and the purest Good. Man is most prone to doing evil while he thinks that he is doing good, for he does not see evil when it is covered by the mask of good. Man’s reason and his conscience are darkened. The fallen spirits, however, do evil for evil’s sake, and find a delight and a glory in doing evil.
Through his unspeakable goodness, God gave to the fallen man a Redeemer and redemption. But the redeemed man is still free: free either to make use of the redemption given him and to return to Paradise, or to reject redemption and remain numbered among the fallen angels. His entire life on Earth is the time given to man to express his will. Redemption gives man his communion with God, but since man can freely express his will, he is granted the possibility of remaining in this communion or breaking it. Besides, he is not deprived of the possibility of communing with the fallen spirits – a communion into which he entered of his own volition. Thus man’s condition is undecided during his entire life on Earth, and all during it God’s grace does not cease to assist him until the very minute when man goes over into eternity, but God’s grace helps him only if he desires it. The fallen angels also do not cease to use all efforts on their part in order to keep man in communion with themselves – to keep him a captive to sin and to themselves, to eternal death and perdition. The rejected spirit has frequently assailed the holy martyrs and the blessed fathers, even while they were engaged in the greatest works of penance and performing the greatest miracles, and even before their very demise, in the very sight of the Heavenly crowns that were to be theirs. The holy church teaches us that every Christian receives from God at his baptism a holy guardian angel, who, invisibly guarding the Christian, inspires him with every kind of good deed during his life, and reminds him of God’s commandments. The prince of darkness, who desires to draw the entire human race into destruction allotted to himself, also appoints one of the wicked spirits to attend man, and this spirit follows his man everywhere and tries to draw him into every kind of sin.
Since the fallen angel is destined to existence on Earth, he uses all his efforts to make man also confine himself to Earth. Man feels that he is eternal, but since this feeling is corrupted by his deceptive reason and by his corrupted and false conscience, he tends to think of his life on Earth as something that will go on forever. On the basis of his beguiling, false, and destructive feelings, man devotes himself exclusively to cares and labors devoted to establishing himself on Earth. He forgets that he is but a passing pilgrim here, and that his enduring above will be either Heaven or hell. If he misuses for temporal gains the time given to him for repentance and for gaining a blessed eternity, he will be unable to get another span of time for a second chance. His loss will be irretrievable, and he will weep for it eternally and fruitlessly in hell. If during his Earthly pilgrimage man will not dissociate himself from evil spirits, he will continue in his association with them after death and will continue belonging to them in greater or lesser degree, depending on his closeness to them during his life. Failure to dissociate oneself from the fallen spirits subjects man to eternal perdition. If he dissociates himself from them incompletely, he subjects himself to hard trials on his way to Heaven.
Look, my brethren, look what the devil has accomplished, accomplishes now, and will yet accomplish while he brings man’s mind down from the spiritual Heaven to the material Earth and chains man’s heart to Earthly occupations and to the Earth itself. Look, and grow afraid with a healthy fear. Look, and beware; cultivate a necessary and soul-saving care! The fallen spirit has captivated some men by the acquisition of various expensive and rare things, and has attached their thoughts to this pursuit and alienated them from God. Others he has occupied with the study of various sciences and arts, all of them fit for Earth only. Having attached all their attention to passing knowledge, the devil deprived them of the vitally necessary knowledge of God. Still others he has busied with the acquisition of wealth, lands, and houses; the cultivation of gardens, fields, and meadows; the keeping of cattle; and among these occupations they, too, forget God. Some others he has persuaded to attach an exaggerated importance to the material aspect of church ritual, while the spiritual importance of such ritual becomes obscured. Having thus taken away from these unfortunates the very essence of Christianity, he has left to them only its distorted material envelope. He has drawn them away from the church into a false and most foolish error, schism.
The fallen spirit finds this kind of warfare so convenient that he uses it everywhere. This kind of warfare is so convenient for the devil’s purposes and for man’s destruction that in the last days of the world the devil will use it in order to draw the entire world completely away from God. Indeed, the devil will use this kind of warfare with astonishing success. In the last days of the world, men, through the influence of the prince of this world, will be overpowered by their attachment to the Earth and to all things material and bodily. They will give themselves to cares of this Earth and to material progress. They will busy themselves with improving and taking care of this Earth as if it were to be their eternal abode. Having become materialistic and thoughtful of their flesh only, they will forget eternity, as if it did not exist. They will forget God and abandon him. The Lord has foretold these days: “And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also the days of the Son of Man. They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from Heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.”
He who has a vivid faith in God and gives himself to God while he rejects his own self – such a man endures undisturbed in the midst of all the temptations raised against him by the spirits of evil. He sees in these spirits only the blind instruments of God’s providence. He gives them no attention and hands himself over to God when he is assailed by temptations that issue from the evil spirits. Devotion to God’s will is the peaceful and restful haven in all temptations and sorrows, while reliance on one’s own powers is destructive.
Even the most experienced monk who has spent a hundred years exercising all the virtues of a monk is not sufficiently experienced compared to a fallen angel, whose experience in his struggle against the servants of God has been perfected over thousands of years. How, then, can an inexperienced beginner succeed in his struggle against such an angel? A beginner does not even have knowledge based on experience about the existence of the fallen angels. A struggle against the devil in which one counts on one’s own resources will inevitably lead to defeat. Our ancestor, Eve, although she was pure and holy, was affected by the serpent’s evil and cunning. Immediately after she entered into conversation with him she transgressed God’s commandment and fell. All the fathers of the church agree that a novice must reject all thought of sin and every kind of daydreaming at the very beginning and must neither enter into debate against sinful thoughts nor entertain them for any other reason, however good the reason may seem. All sinful thoughts are to be rejected immediately as they occur. The ancient monks regarded it absolutely necessary to confess all their thoughts to their spiritual father and to abide by his advice. In no other way, they said, is it possible to be saved, for the instructions of his spiritual father constantly lead the novice along the way of the commandments contained in the Gospel, while nothing separates him better from sin and the devil, the originator of sins at their very beginning. Those monks who for some reason had no spiritual father, and were unable to counteract sin by a constant and frequent recourse to confession of their sinful thoughts, still counteracted the devil by constant and intense prayer. Such was Saint Mary of Egypt, who dwelt alone in the desert.
If you take recourse to prayer, then you must do this decisively, without waiting to entertain a sinful thought for even the shortest while for any reason whatsoever. Much less are you to seek delight in such thoughts. As soon as you feel the approach of your enemy, begin your prayers, kneel, raise your arms to Heaven, or else prostrate on the ground. Attack your enemy by casting a lightning bolt in his face, and he will be unable to resist you and will become accustomed to immediate fight as soon as you face him.
True Christianity is martyrdom. A Christian’s life is a chain of struggles and sufferings that constantly follow one another. The victor is given life eternal and is wedded to the Holy Spirit. He whom God desires to enrich with spiritual intelligence and with gifts of the Spirit is granted great struggles. Scripture says, “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” Thus let us not be disheartened.