My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
Christ is in our midst! He was, is, and ever shall be.
"…AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION…" (Matthew 6:13)
Saint Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians writes, "No temptation has overtaken you
except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be
tempted beyond what you able, but with the temptation will also make the way of
escape, that you be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).
According to Orthodox Christianity, "The Creator imparted to man three great gifts at his creation, FREEDOM, REASON, AND LOVE. These gifts are indispensable for the spiritual growth and blessedness of man. But where there is FREEDOM there is the possibility of wavering in one’s choice; thus, TEMPTATION IS POSSIBLE. The temptation for REASON is to grow proud in mind; instead of acknowledging the wisdom and goodness of God, to seek the knowledge of good and evil outside of God, to desire oneself to be a "god." The temptation for the feeling of LOVE is: in place of love for God and one’s neighbor, to love oneself and everything that satisfies the lower desires and given temporary enjoyment. This possibility of temptation and fall stood before mankind, and the first man did not stand firm against it.
Let us make note here of Saint John of Kronstadt’s reflection on this subject. He writes: "Why did God allow the fall of man, his beloved creation and the crown of all the earthly creatures? To this question one must reply thus: If a man is not to be allowed to fall, then he cannot be created in the image and likeness of God, he cannot be granted free will, which is an inseparable feature of the image of God; but he would have to be subject to the law of necessity, like the soulless creation–the sky, the sun, stars, the circle of the earth, and all the elements–or like the irrational animals. But then there would have been no king over the creatures of the earth, no rational hymn-singer of God’s goodness, wisdom, creative almightiness, and Providence. Then man would have had no way to show his faithfulness and devotion to the Creator, his self-sacrificing love. Then there would have been no exploits in battle, no merits, and no incorruptible crowns for victory; there would have been no eternal blessedness, which is the reward for faithfulness and devotion to God, and no eternal repose after the labors and struggles of our earthly pilgrimage." (Orthodox Dogmatic Theology p.155-156)
In the book of Unseen Warfare as edited by Saint Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and revised by Saint Theophan the Recluse we read the following: "Thus, if all temptations are given us to teach us humility, it follows that every servant of God who tastes these bitter states of the heart–dryness, lack of spiritual savor, and the dearth of spiritual comforts." For whether a temptation comes from the devil, from other men or is caused by sin, it still depends on God and is sent by Him for our good and to turn some other great temptation away from us."
Saint Paul says: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but spiritual principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12). At holy Baptism the believer vowes to renounce Satan and all his works, and all his anges, and all adoration of him and all his pride, that is, love of lust, love of glory, love of money and other passions. So, Saint Nicodemos says, "strive with all your might to turn him back, to put him to shame adn to overcome him with every perfection."
As Saint Theophylact says, "We human are weak and therefore we should not throw ourselves into temptations. But when we have fallen into temptation, we should pray that we are not swallowed up by it. For he who has been led into the very depth of temptation is the one who has been swalled up and defeated by temptation. But it is different for him who merely fell into temptation, and then conquered it. "But deliver us FROM THE EVIL ONE." He did not say, from evil men, for it is not they who do us harm, BUT THE DEVIL."
Saint John Chrysostom wrote: "And He here calls the devil "the wicked one," commanding us to WAGE WAR AGAINST HIM that knows no truce, and implying that he is not such by nature. For wickedness is not of those things that are from nature, but of them that are added by our own choice…where neither said He, "DELIVER US FROM THE WICKED ONES," BUT, "FROM THE WICKED ONE," "
And what are the rewards whcih await you in this victory? They are many and great. This is what our Lord Himself: "To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of Life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God" (Rev. 2:7). "He that overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death" (Rev. 2:11). And he that overcomes, and keeps my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations… and I will give him the morning star" (Rev. 2:26, 28). See, what gifts! See, what rewards!
Temptations are but a tool of the evil one to ensnare or capture a soul. He is cunning, and will pursue us, as a hunter pursues a wild animal, without ever tiring or giving up. He cannot on his own accord compel anyone, however, he can use manipulation, deception, "defective reasoning and confusion of thought," thoughts (logismous), our own weaknesses, i.e., greed, gluttony, avarice, imagination, power, lust, vanity, jealousy, hatred, anger, pride, ego, arrogance, and many other human passions to hurt us, and to obstruct, corrupt, and making it most challenging for souls to acquire salvation. He has no power over us and he cannot prevent us from entering the Kingdom of God. We have been given free will by our Loving God to make that choice ourselves.
Satan is not bashful at all, and we see this when he dared to tempt our Lord Jesus Christ in the wilderness: "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be TEMTED BY THE DEVIL. And when He had FASTED FORTY DAYS AND FORTY NIGHTS, afterward He was hungry. Now when THE TEMPTER came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." But He answered , and said, "It is written, Man shall not live by breat alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Then the devil took Him up into the hly city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written, ‘He shall give His Angels charge over You.’ and, ‘In thier hands they shall bear You up. Let you dash your foot against a stone.’ Jesus said to him, "It is written again, You shall NOT TEMPT THE LORD YOUR GOD.’ Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him ALL THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD AND THERI GLORY. And again said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND HIM ONLY YOU SHALL SERVE.’ Then THE DEVIL LEFT Him, and behold, Angels came and ministered to Him" (Matthew 4:1-10).
We, of course, are to learn how to deal with the devil from Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. The devil can attempt to trap us or even to frighten us and he has no power to injure us or to force to do something evil. He attemted to tempt Christ our Savior but could not. When it comes to the devil we simply follow Jesus’ example and always make the sign of the Cross. To be tempted IS TO HAVE OUR FAITH AND LOYALTY OR COMMITMENT TO CHRIST TESTED. "You CANNOT serve two masters." We are to understand, as Orthodox Christians, that we who are baptized into Christ need not be defeated when evil temptations come along because, like Christ, we are protected by the Holy Spirit. If you were to recall the Mustery of Holy Baptism in our Orthodox Church as the priest chants while processing around the baptismal font, "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, HAVE PUT ON CHRIST, ALLELUIA (GLORY TO THEE O GOD). Also, at the Mystery of Holy Chrismation when the priest anoints the child or person following the baptism he says: "THE SEAL OF THE Gift of the Holy Spirit." Not only has the baptized person "PUT ON CHRIST" but also has received "THE SEAL OF THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT". Therefore, there should be absolutely NO doubt that the newly baptized is PROTECTED BY THE ALMGITHY GOD FOR LIFE.
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostom
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George