My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
FALSE EXPERIENCES OF THE
GRACE OF GOD.
People have false experiences of God when they believe they can receive the Grace of the Holy Spirit on their own and with their own powers either in heresies, in groups or in religious gatherings outside the Church. They gather together, some new ‘prophet’ becomes their leader and these people think they have received the visitation and the Grace of God.
The experiences in heretical congregations are not only psychological but, at other times, demonic as well. The devil takes advantage of the search by some people for such experiences and he presents to them various signs, which are not of God, but his own, diabolic. These people can not understand that they are the devil’s victims. They take these signs to be heavenly and of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the devil gives them some prophetic capability, as he gives to the demonic ‘mediums.’
The Lord,, however, had warned us, "For there shall arise false christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders" (Matthew 24:24). Not only will they perform miracles, but great and prodigious miracles, fearful signs. Likewise, when the Antichrist comes he will not do evil deeds. He will do benevolent deeds, healings of sick people, app and other marvelous things in order to deceive people. If possible, to deceive those chosen by God too, so that they believe him to be their savior and follow him.
For this reason, we need to be cautious. The working of miracles and prophecy ARE NOT ALWAYS OF GOD. As the Lord says, "Many will say to me on that day: ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, ‘I NEVER KNEW YOU! DEPART FROM ME, YE THAT WORK INIQUITY" (Matthew 7:22-23).
As the devil can transform himself into an angel of light, we must be cautious about experiences. The Apostle John advises, "Beloved, believe NOT every spirit" (John 4:1). NOT ALL SPIRITS ARE OF GOD. According to Apostle Paul, only those who have the gift to discern between the spirit can discern if the spirits are of God or are the devil’s (1 Corinthians 12:10).
The Holy Fathers of our Church are endowed with this GIFT OF DISCERNMENT. For this reason, when faced with such a problem, we must turn to our Holy Fathers who will discern the origin of every experience.
It is possible for even monks to be deceived. We have cases on Mount Athos where monks were led astray by such experiences. For example, the devil disguised himself as an angel. appeared to a monk and told him, "Come up to the peak of Mt. Athos and I will show you great miracles". He led the monk there and would have nearly thrown him down the cliffs had the monk not appealed for Divine help. The monk made the mistake of believing that the vision was from God. He should not have believed so because monks know that when they see a vision they must disclose it to their Elder (Gernda), who will tell them if it is from God or from the demons. Therefore, wherever PRIDE exists, DELUSION IS VERY PROBABLE…
"…Our Orthodox Church is the Church of Pentecost and why is She so? Because She is the Church of the Incarnation of Christ, of His death on the Cross, of His Resurrection, and of Pentecost. When, from Christ’s work, we isolate one part only, overemphasize it and interpret it falsely, this is one-sidedness and heresy. Only the Orthodox Church, which accepts and lives in accordance with all of Christ’s work including Pentecost, is the True and Authentic Church of the Pentecost. Can there be a Resurrection without the Cross? Can man see God without crucifying himself through FASTING, PRAYER, REPENTANCE, HUMILITY, AND PRACTICE OF GOD’S COMMANDMENTS? The Cross in the life of Christ and in the Christian’s life comes first. Resurrection and Pentecost follow. On the contrary, those outside the Orthodox Church want the Resurrection and spiritual gifts, WITHOUT CRYCIFYING THEMSELVES THROUGH REPENTANCE, SPIRITUAL STRUGGLE, AND OBEDIENCE TO THE HOLY CHURCH. For this reason, it is NOT they who constitute the Church of Pentecost.
We celebrate Pentecost in every Divine Liturgy in our Holy Church. How is it that the bread and the wine become the Body and Blood of Christ? Does not this happen WITH THE DESCENT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT? Behold Pentecost! Every Holy Altar of the Orthodox Church is also an Upper-Room of Pentecost. We have the Pentecost in every Baptism. With the Grace of the Holy Spirit, man becomes a Christian and is embodied in the Body of Christ. Every ordination of a Deacon or Priest and especially of a bishop is a new Pentecost. The Holy Spirit descends and makes man God’s minister (diakonos).
Every Christian’s confession is also a Pentecost. When the Christian kneels in front of his/her confessor with humility and confesses his/her sins with REPENTANCE and the confessor reads to him/her the absolution prayer, the penitent is forgiven through the Grace of the Holy Spirit.
Every congregation and every Mysterion (Sacrament) of the Church IS A CONTINUATION OF PENTECOST because they are performed within the presence of the Holy Spirit. That is why almost all the acts, prayers, and Mysteries of the Church begin with the prayer, "O Heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of Truth… come and abide in us…" We ask for the Paracletos, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit to come and He comes. The Holy Spirit DESCENDS THERE, WHERE THE Orthodox Church, the True Church of Christ is gathered.
Every Saint of our Church is a Spirit-bearing man, woman, or child, full of the Holy Spirit’s gifts, a person of Pentecost.
The request of the Lord’s Prayer, "Thy Kingdom come" also means: "Come, the Grace of Thy Holy Spirit." The Kingdom of God is the Grace of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, with the Lord’s Prayer we ask for the Holy Spirit.
The prayer, "LORD JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD, HAVE MERCY ON ME THE SINNER", is also practiced with the Grace of the Holy Spirit because as Apostle Paul says, "…and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but in the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:3). No one can call Jesus, Lord, EXCEPT WITH THE GRACE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Here then is proof that Our Church lives Pentecost continuously.
We have, my brethren, the blessing of having the Grace of God abide in our Holy Orthodox Church. We have the possibility to become familiar with God and to receive the experience of the Grace of God, TO UNITE WITH Him. Our Holy Orthodox Church is a tested AND SAFE PATH TO SALVATION. It is the Holy Church of the Prophets, the Apostles, the Fathers, the Martyrs, the Saints, even the Church of the more recent Saints, such as the holy and wonderworking Saint Nektarios. It is the Church that HAS KEPT THE PREACHING OF THE HOLY GOSPEL UNADULTERATED FOR ABOUT TWO THOUSAND YEARS, ALTHOUGH IT WAS PERSECUTED BY FORMIDABLE HERETICS.
Keep in mind how many heretics have persecuted our Holy Church throughout the centuries. Not just enemies like the Pentecostals, but emperors with armies and worldly powers. Nevertheless, they were not able to overthrow the Church. Not even the iconoclast controversy, which lasted one hundred and fifty years, was able to overthrow Orthodoxy. Thousands are the Martyrs of the Church and nevertheless, the Church IS NEVER DEFEATED, ALTHOUGH SHE APPEARS TO BE WEAKENED, THE MORE SHE IS STRENGTHENED AND RENDERED ILLUSTRIOUS.
Therefore, the Grace of the Holy Spirit DWELLS IN OUR HOLY CHURCH. There are Saints in Our Church up to this day. The bodies of many Saints are preserved intact (incorrupt), give forth myrrh, give fragrance, and perform miracles. Where else does this happen? In which heresy and in which ‘church’ are men unburied and their bodies are fragrant? You might have heard that the reliquaries on Mount Athos are fragrant. That is because among the bones (holy relics) of the fathers, are the bones of holy monks. These things occur because the Holy Spirit is present.
Furthermore, only the Orthodox Holy Water is PRESERVED INTACT. Those of you who have Holy Water at home, know that it never spoils as time passes. (Source: Experiences of the Grace of God by Archimandrite Geroge of the Holy Monastery of Saint Gregorios on Mt. Athos)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George