On Christian hope
The Gospel narrative about the Saviour’s expulsion of a legion of demons
from the possessed Gadarene (Luke (8:27) reminds us with renewed force of
the reality of the other world and of the influence that the evil members
of that world have on men’s lives.
Just as the citizen of any nation needs to possess elementary knowledge of
neighboring peoples, of their mores and customs, so does a Christian need
to know the mores and customs of the denizens of the other world. Christian
teaching contains all the necessary information for us about the world of
the fallen angels – the demons, and about their struggle against mankind.
This struggle has an ancient history. The demons, led by Satan, cannot
forgive people for having been created by God in the place of the angels
who had fallen away. For this reason, at the very beginning of human
history, we meet Satan in the Garden of Eden, tempting Adam and Eve and
succeeding. Satan prepared the way for the first people to betray God.
The demons’ hate for people increased a hundredfold after God Himself
became incarnate and suffered for the fallen Adam, for the entire fallen
mankind, granting to each person the possibility of salvation. The demons
hate people to such a degree that were it not for the restraining force of
God, they would have immediately poisoned all of mankind with their lethal
presence. For man’s sake the Lord does not allow demons to have direct
contact with men, except in cases where man himself consciously or
unconsciously seeks such contact. What, then, opens the gates of hell, what
opens up for us the possibility of being in contact with the demons? It is
all forms of the occult, particularly sorcery, astrology, spiritism,
extrasensorics, and various New Age practices, not to mention overt
Satanism. Moreover, drugs and alcohol also lead to direct contact with the
demons and dependency on them: being in the state of a narcotic trance or
alcohol-induced delirium, a person enters the other world through the back
door so-to-speak, and naturally ends up in the domain of the fallen
In our age of high computer technology, which imbues man with a false sense
of his own might, many people have no idea that in reality they are already
in the clutches of the demons. Demonic possession does not necessarily have
to appear in the form of open madness, with screams and attacks. On the
contrary, the possession is frequently veiled under the guise of harmless
amusements and habits, and its horrible satanic essence is revealed only at
the moment of a person’s perdition.
How other than possession can we explain, for example, the recent death of
a Japanese youth, who died in the very midst of a computer game from which
he was literally unable to tear himself away for weeks on end?
Moreover, if we genuinely analyze our conscience, each one of us will find
traces or vestiges of one or another form of demonic possession. Unable to
be in contact with people directly, the demons influence us by means of our
passions, pulling the strings of our passionate desires like puppet
masters. And if the Gadarene was possessed by a legion of demons, we are
combated on a daily basis by a legion of desires.
The Lord Jesus Christ cured the possessed Gadarene, and He has the power to
cure each one of us. No matter what demonic traps we may find ourselves in,
no matter how low we may fall, we should never lose hope in God’s help.
Hope in God is that straw of salvation at which the drowning man clutches
and, contrary to all physical laws, swims out of the turbulent ocean of
passions to safety. Grant, O Lord, that we retain this bright hope to the
end, to the very last moment of our earthly life.
Monk Vsevolod Filipyev.
Reprinted from the “Orthodox Russia,” No. 7, 2006.
At the hour of midnight, near a stream,
Lift thine eyes and watch the starry sky:
Myriads of miracles take place
In that vastly distant world on high.
The eternal candles of the night
Are unseen amid the glare of day,
Giant pillars of unquenched fire
Move so stately and so far away.
In the quiet hour of midnight calm,
Chasing the deceit of sleep away,
Let thy soul gaze deeply at the words
Of the fishermen from Galilee,
And within the confines of this book
The eternal shall unfold before thee,
The celestial firmament of heaven
In its boundlessness and radiant beauty.
- A. S. Khomyakov (1804-1860)
Translated by Natalia Sheniloff