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;
but deliver us from the evil one."
Man is tempted by the evil one unceasingly, day and night. To be "tempted" is to be tested in fundamental areas of faith. Even our Lord Jesus Christ was tempted soon after "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." (Matthew 4:2-3).
Needless to say, we live under that threat daily and, therefore, we must remain vigilant and prayerful. The struggle against the devil is constant and we must always be prepared spiritually through prayer and fasting. The world which we dwell in is a spiritual wilderness filled with demonic temptations and challenges. We need not be defeated when temptations come but possess the spiritual weapons to combat them. Jesus was tested with hunger but did not sin. "But He answered and said, ‘It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’" (Matthew 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3). Our true food is to live by that which God commands us. This way we too will triumph over temptations as did our Savior Christ. When we pray to our God we request and supplicate Him to "forgive us… as we are to forgive others. Furthermore, we pray not only that our sins be forgiven (v. 12), but that we not surrender to temptation. We believe that God tempts no one (James 1:13); temptations are from the evil one, the devil. They are aimed at our soul’s willful yielding to the sinful passions of the flesh (Romans 7:5). No one can live without at some time encountering temptation. To surrender to temptation and commit sin is blameworthy. Therefore, we pay that great temptations, tests beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13), should not come our way.
Saint Maximos the Confessor, from his Commentary on the Our Father writes: "The evil one mischievously uses types of temptations, voluntary and involuntary, the first by sowing and greatly provoking the soul with bodily pleasures and scheming first to take away the desire of Divine agape. Then he cunningly works on the other type, hoping to corrupt our nature by pain so as to constrain the soul, struck down by the weakness of sufferings, to set in motion the attitudes of hatred of the Creator. We pray to avoid voluntary temptation so that we will not turn aside our desire from Divine agape. As far as involuntary temptation is concerned, let us endure it nobly as coming with God’s consent, SO THAT WE MAY SHOW THAT WE PREFER THE CREATOR OF NATURE TO NATURE ITSELF." [Saint Maximos, Selected Writings: Our Father)
Saint Maximos said, "The Saints are tried so that their secret virtues may be made manifest to all. Job in the Old Testament was tempted to reveal his perseverance and patience, while Joseph was put to the test that his chastity and temperance might shine forth. If God permits the Saints to suffer in this life, it is because He would have us vanquish the devil, the ancient serpent. The patience of the Saints was a consequence of their trials. We were given by our Creator FREE WILL and, therefore, we can be tempted by the evil one but he cannot impose his will upon anyone of us. The choice of whether to sin or not to sin is left up to our choice and decision.
The Creator imparted to man THREE GREAT GIFTS at his creation: FREEDOM, REASON, AND AGAPE (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 AGAPE is in place of love for God and one’s neighbor, to love oneself and everything that satisfies the lower desires and gives temporary enjoyment. The possibility of temptation and fall stood before mankind, and the first man did not stand firm against it.
Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church has always understood the serpent, THE TEMPTER, to be THE DEVIL, who took the form of a serpent as corresponding best in his sneaky, cunning, and poisonous character. The clear words of our Lord Himself about the devil confirm this interpretation: "He was a murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44). In the Apocalypse (Revelation) of Saint John the Theologian is called "the great dragon, that old serpent (Revelation 12:9). In the book of the Wisdom of Solomon it says: "Through the devil’s envy death entered the world" (Wisdom of Solomon 2:24).
"What was the sin in the eating of the fruit? The transgression of our first ancestors was this: Having been TEMPTED by the serpent, they violated the direct Commandment of God not to eat of the forbidden tree. The fulfillment of this Commandment would have shown OBEDIENCE TO GOD AND TRUST in His words, as well as HUMILITY and CONTINENCE."
According to Saint Maximos the Confessor "We are not empowered to be in health or sickness, we do contribute to those conditions which are likely to lead to one of the other state. In like manner, we cannot determine whether we shall attain the Kingdom of the Heavens or be cast into the Gehenna of the fire, though keeping God’s Commandments is cause for our attaining the Kingdom, and not observing them is cause for our being cast into the Gehenna of the fire."
The holy Apostle James writes: "Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:12). We are to rejoice even in temptations. Our attitude toward them reveals whether or not we are prepared for heaven. Saint Paul reminds us when he writes, "And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but, we for an imperishable crown" (1 Corinthians 9:25). As training prepares an athlete, so spiritual DISCIPLINE prepares a Christian to exercise faith and enter the Kingdom of God. All people share a common human nature, but Christians have two fathers: first Adam, who became the father of mortality and earthly life, and now Christ, the Father of IMMORTALITY and SPIRITUAL LIFE.
Remember that the devil and his angels explore us individually, looking for our weaknesses. The enemy offers appealing visions to our eyes, music to our ears, to each of our senses setting forth whatever might tempt them. Thus, we must always be alert for the many-faceted attacks , ready to resist him at every turn. The holy Apostle exhorts us, "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
"Glory Be To GOD