主日經文 馬可福音 Mark 9:17-31

眾人中間有一個人回答說:夫子,我帶了我的兒子到你這裡來,他被啞巴鬼附著。無論在哪裡,鬼捉弄他,把他摔倒,他就口中流沫,咬牙切齒,身體枯乾。我請過你的門徒把鬼趕出去,他們卻是不能。

耶穌說:噯!不信的世代啊,我在你們這裡要到幾時呢?我忍耐你們要到幾時呢?把他帶到我這裡來吧。他們就帶了他來。他一見耶穌,鬼便叫他重重地抽瘋,倒在地上,翻來覆去,口中流沫。耶穌問他父親說:他得這病有多少日子呢?回答說:從小的時候。

鬼屢次把他扔在火裡、水裡,要滅他。你若能做什麼,求你憐憫我們,幫助我們。耶穌對他說:你若能信,在信的人,凡事都能。孩子的父親立時喊著說(有古卷:立時流淚地喊著說):我信!但我信不足,求主幫助。

耶穌看見眾人都跑上來,就斥責那污鬼說:你這聾啞的鬼,我吩咐你從他裡頭出來,再不要進去!那鬼喊叫,使孩子大大的抽了一陣瘋,就出來了。孩子好像死了一般。以致眾人多半說:他是死了。但耶穌拉著他的手,扶他起來,他就站起來了。

耶穌進了屋子,門徒就暗暗的問他說:我們為什麼不能趕出他去呢?耶穌說:非用禱告(有古卷在此有:禁食二字),這一類的鬼總不能出來(或作:不能趕他出來)。

他們離開那地方,經過加利利;耶穌不願意人知道。於是教訓門徒,說:人子將要被交在人手裡,他們要殺害他;被殺以後,過三天他要復活。

 

李亮神父 講道  Sermon by Father Jonah

今天是大齋期的第四個星期日。在每一個大齋期的星期日,教會都給予我們不同的教導,帶領我們在復活節來臨之前做好靈性上的準備。這幾個星期日,我們針對教會偉大的神學和信仰內涵做了重點回顧。今天,教會要教導我們一些更實用的事物,它可以在日常生活中實踐。

我要和各位談一談偉大的靈修領導者、聖徒John of Climacus。我們也稱他作John of the Ladder,因為他是《The Ladder》一書的作者。學習神學,瞭解正信的信仰很重要,然而,知行合一更重要。魔鬼對於神學也有很多的瞭解,然而,他從來不實踐。John of Climacus創造了教會的靈修。幾乎每個人都知道,應該要遵行教會的靈修,卻沒有人能夠從起點直接跳到終點,達到圓滿的愛的境界。沒有人可以在初進教會的懵懂階段,就突然得到上帝的恩典,獲得預先知曉或施行奇蹟的能力。

圓滿的愛的境界是上帝最高的恩賜。我們必須循序漸進才能達成這個境界。John of Climacus在著作中提到,如果我們無法控制我們的食慾,我們要如何掌控我們的思維?可見真正的自律,要從小地方做起。(儘管這本書是為了僧侶而寫的,但是,除了某些特別的章節,例如:「如何成為僧侶」和「修道院的生活」等章節之外,一般的教友也適用。)在人類身上,傲慢無所不在。這就是為什麼他談論「如何謙卑」和「人生有限,我們終會死亡,應將死亡放在心中」,他教導我們放下對於錢和其他身外之物的執著。跟隨John of Climacus的教導,一步步向前邁進,我們就能成為屬靈的人。每個人的心中都有許多好的種子,每個人的身上都充滿了善。重要的不只是行善,還要去惡。我們身上的壞習慣和壞習氣起因不同,它們可能來自於社會環境、自己的遭遇和回憶、教育背景…等。我們無法改變過去的生命,卻能改變自己,讓自己越來越好。除了行善之外,我們應該跟隨教會的教導,透過屬靈的方式去除障礙,不斷提昇自己。屬靈父親的角色對我們非常重要,除了告解之外,我們還需要從他那裡獲得教導。他給予我們的,不是他自己的想法,而是來自教會的想法。正教會的屬靈父親並不會對你說:「恩,我想你應該……」他和醫生不同。醫生研讀醫學,利用醫學的知識做出主觀判斷。當然,屬靈父親擁有自己獨特的個性,然而,他通常會告訴你正教會的想法,而不是他自己主觀的想法。

今天的福音提醒我們一件重要的事情,就是魔鬼的存在,有可能成為我們的阻礙。我不太喜歡談論魔鬼,然而,既然福音談論了魔鬼,我就會每年利用一、兩次的機會談論一下這個主題。首先,我想要告訴各位,惡魔並非沒有位格,惡魔並非絕對的惡,惡魔是誰呢?上帝並沒有創造惡,基督徒並不害怕惡魔。我們認識惡魔,也應該瞭解惡魔。在主禱文中,我們祈求上帝「免我們的債,如同我們免了人的債。不叫我們遇見試探,救我們脫離凶惡。」什麼是凶惡?在希臘文中,教父們將「凶惡」解釋為「惡的那一個」,它並不是絕對的惡。我們幾乎每天都會祈求「救我們脫離凶惡」。

誰是魔鬼?上帝並沒有創造魔鬼,上帝依照自己的形象,創造了充滿光榮的天使並給予天使自由意志。有一些天使和他們的領導者開始不愛上帝,想要破壞團體的和諧。他們想要與上帝分離,自己過生活。他們離開上帝之後,處處與上帝作對,破壞一切善,攻擊上帝所愛的一切和仿效上帝而創造的一切。魔鬼尤其痛恨人類,因為人類是上帝的最愛,因此,惡魔常常侵擾人類。在今天的福音中提到,惡魔附身在一位孩童身上。首先,那孩子患了嚴重的癲癇症,然而,他的父親說,他還會自己投身於水中和火中,這樣的狀況並不正常。這就是為什麼耶穌基督要為他驅魔。耶穌曾經治癒失明或癱瘓的人,但是,卻沒有為他驅魔。可見,有些疾病背後還藏著惡魔的影響力。聖經並沒有告訴我們,為什麼這個孩子會被魔鬼附身。不過,好好保護孩子是非常重要的。這就是為什麼,從最開始,基督徒就會為剛出生的嬰孩受洗。當代環境的影響下,許多孩子沈迷於電動玩具或電腦遊戲。在這些電玩中,我們可以窺見惡魔的身影。孩子的腦中接受了電腦遊戲的暗示,這麼年輕就學會在虛擬環境中殺人,他們誤以為殺人就像是按下按鈕一樣簡單。這樣的教育和環境創造的後果不堪設想。

第一、惡魔有時候會直接影響人類,有時候會藉由附身的方式,被附身的人會有奇怪的行為表現。有一些心理學家說,他們的行為表現很像是圖雷特氏症(行為失調、言語障礙及抽搐的一種神經病)的病人。然而,我們應該特別留意,並非所有表現異常的人都是被惡魔附身。有些屬靈父親會用一些特別的方式來試驗。

第二、我們會發現,被惡魔附身的人擁有奇怪的能力。例如:他們可以說出你過去曾經發生的事情,卻無法預測你未來的事情。一位單純的病人並不會說出你過去發生過的事情,魔鬼才會知道這些事情,當然,並不是所有的事情,我們告解的內容他們沒有能力聽見。

我們應該要瞭解,魔鬼確實存在,他就在我們身邊,影響著人們,它們需要教會的祈禱。這就是為什麼教會有特別的祈禱和「驅魔儀式」,這是一種以耶穌之名、藉由耶穌基督的力量,將惡魔趕出教會的儀式。以上所說的,是惡魔的第一種影響力。

惡魔的第二種影響力,是秘密的、隱藏的、危險的。這就是為什麼,就算一個人看起來沒有被惡魔附身,在教會受洗之前,還是會為他念誦驅魔的祈禱文,因為,惡魔有可能秘密地影響著人們。我們應該更謹慎。今天的福音後面一點的內容告訴我們,耶穌可能會受難。彼得把耶穌帶到旁邊,私下對他說:「不,我的主,這種事絕對不會發生在你身上!」耶穌嚴厲地回答彼得:「不要在我面前,撒旦。你所說的話不是來自上帝。」他稱彼得為撒旦。我們可以想像,在這之前不久,聖經才提到,耶穌稱彼得為「上帝的兒子」。耶穌用那麼嚴厲和強烈的字眼對彼得說話,難道彼得是撒旦嗎?許多研究聖經的學者和神學家認為,撒旦用彼得的嘴向耶穌說:「還是不要受難而犧牲吧!」因為,為了人類而犧牲是耶穌的願望,而撒旦卻害怕此事成真,也怕他的力量會因此消失。

我們不該簡單說一句「在世界上有魔鬼」就置之不理。在約翰福音中只有提到,耶穌基督來到世上阻止撒旦的工作。在彼得的書信中提到了,惡魔就像是攻擊我們的獅子一樣。耶穌來到世間阻止撒旦的惡行,奪去撒旦的權力,這件事對我們而言極為重要。我們要對抗的,不是一個抽象的事物,而是具有位格的敵人,他們對我們非常瞭解,因為,他們比我們更早來到世上。當然,有許多優秀的心理學家,他們很清楚如何運用我們的回應(來治療我們)。

彼得因為耶穌的話感到非常震驚,耶穌從來沒有用這麼嚴厲的口氣跟他說話。彼得沒有繼續叫耶穌「不要受難而犧牲」。他是一位熱血青年,個性尚未穩定。他變得非常驕傲,甚至拒絕了耶穌基督,之後,他又為自己的行為而懺悔。然而,讓我們看看猶大。在最後的晚餐時,耶穌一直試圖要告訴猶大:「不要這樣做,不要背叛我。」此時猶大已經收賄,決定要背叛耶穌。約翰福音提到,當耶穌離開房間時,惡魔進入了猶大的心中。讓我們想一想,此時的猶大有開始大叫,並且摔倒在地上,像是被惡魔附身的人那樣嗎?完全沒有,猶大非常冷靜而沉著地去見猶太人,他又帶領士兵犯下最大的罪。這是另一種形式的魔鬼附身,也是最殘忍的形式。因為沒有任何徵兆,只有冷靜地背叛了耶穌基督。

猶大跟隨在耶穌基督身邊的門徒,但是,他向魔鬼打開他的心,所以魔鬼進入他的心中。魔鬼沒有進入其他人的心中,只進入猶大的心中,因為猶大總是有許多藉口。惡魔偷偷佔據了猶大的心,這是非常糟糕的事情,這樣的事情也有可能發生在我們身上,尤其是在神父身上,它可以成為非常大的罪:製造異端、分裂教會…等。這就是惡魔。

我們知道,即使是逮捕耶穌基督的Caiaphas也說:「有一個人必須為了眾人而死。」約翰福音說,是聖靈透過Caiaphas說出了這句話,因為在當時,Caiaphas是最高的祭司。聖靈的恩典起了奇妙的作用。Caiaphas以最高祭司的身份說出了這樣的預言。從另一個角度來看,我們可以說是他將耶穌基督送上十字架。

我們與上帝之間的關係,是多麼重要又多麼戲劇化。它並不是社會的人際關係,有時可以只是點頭致意,說聲你好。它暗藏著許多危機,因為它和生與死息息相關。當然,我不會說我們每個人都被魔鬼附身,但是,我們或多或少都受到魔鬼的影響。這就是為什麼,在驅魔的祈禱文當中提到,惡魔藏在我們心中,在我們的神經系統或其他地方偽裝它自己。舉例來說:當一個人感覺沮喪的時候,或許會有一個聲音會在他耳邊響起:「自殺吧!」魔鬼就像一個交響樂團。我們心中總是充斥著千百萬種思緒,如果我們聽從魔鬼的話,魔鬼就完成了他的任務,並且非常得意。

或許你會問:「我如何知道自己的思緒?」在說明這個問題之前,我想要告訴你一個例子,那是我的屬靈父親告訴我的,他真正擁有驅魔的能力。他告訴我,有一次,有一群人帶了一位十七歲的少女來見他,她有一點癲癇症的症狀,她會咬自己的嘴唇,又跌在地上。她看了許多醫生也有服藥,但是都沒有任何效果。我的屬靈父親告訴她:「妳知道自己在做什麼,對嗎?」她說:「不,我不知道。」他完全瞭解她,她並沒有癲癇,只有一些神經反應,她並沒有被魔鬼附身。所以他對她說:「請告訴我,是妳自己故意這樣做的,對嗎?」她說:「我並沒有。我也不想要這樣。」他說:「別人沒有把注意力放在妳身上的時候,妳就會咬自己的嘴唇,對嗎?」她說:「…是的。」他問:「除此之外,妳還會怎麼做?」這女孩一五一十的告訴他。她內心的憤怒,讓她升起報復的念頭,讓她的心智暫時失去作用,這就像是心理學上所說的「情緒勒索」。在她失控的那一刻,惡魔就會進入她的神經系統,她才會呈現一種類似癲癇的症狀。此時此刻,這女孩才意識到,原來是自己讓這一切發生。

因此,我們必須謹慎看待這些事情,因為魔鬼是一個非常出色又經驗豐富的心理學家,他們總是能找出我們的弱點。Parthenius of Lampsecus是一位非常偉大的神父和主教,他擁有驅魔的能力。有一次他經過市區,有一位富人迎面走來,對他說:「你好,神父,請為我祝福。」Parthenius神父卻轉頭不理。有一位隨行的執事看到了就問他:「為什麼你要這樣做?這樣很不禮貌。」那位富人又說:「請為我祝福。」神父還是轉頭不理,並且對執事說:「這位先生已經被魔鬼附身了。」這位執事說:「要不要為這位先生做點什麼?」Parthenius用手指著那位先生,說:「以耶穌基督之名,請你從這個人身上離開。」然後,這位先生倒在地上滾來滾去,之後又爬起來。他問大家:「究竟發生了什麼事情?」他看起來很平靜,此時Parthenius才對他說:「上帝祝福你。路上小心。」

我們身邊充滿了許多屬靈的事物,有時候我們並未發覺。事實上,中國傳統中充滿了鬼、神,大家對於這些事物的體會應該比西方人更深。我們不應該這樣想:我這麼好,魔鬼一定不會試探我。事實上,魔鬼試探了耶穌基督,他也有可能試探我們每個人,因此,我們應該更謹慎。

魔鬼痛恨的不只是上帝,還痛恨教會。如果他有能力拿炸彈摧毀教會和我們每個人,我想他一定會去實行。儘管,我們應該謹慎的防範魔鬼,但是,我們不用害怕魔鬼,也不用把心力集中在他身上。我們應該怎麼做呢?第一、我們應該把焦點放在耶穌基督身上。我們應該領聖餐,這樣魔鬼就會懼怕我們。參與聖禮儀和領聖餐對我們是很好的保護,因為,魔鬼看見上帝在我們體內,就沒有辦法傷害我們。我們應該對耶穌基督懷著渴望的心情,熱切渴望他的愛。魔鬼害怕神聖的事物,他會遠離這些事物。

第二、魔鬼總是試圖分裂我們,尤其,他會想盡辦法阻止我們參加聖禮儀或領聖餐。我們可以自己在家或是去到深山裡祈禱、守齋(魔鬼可以不吃不喝,他喜歡我們這樣做,最好不要接近教會)。我們應該要小心,不要陷入虛偽的靈修之中,因為,這樣的靈修是屬於魔鬼的靈修。

第三、我們不該和魔鬼說話。只有耶穌基督可以與他說話,我們不該與他說話,甚至只是說:「魔鬼,快走吧!」都不要,我們應該遠離魔鬼就好。這就是為什麼,教會不會公開地舉行驅魔的儀式。魔鬼總是透過各種方式吸引人們的注意。我在網路上看到有些病人自己下載驅魔的訊息或關於魔鬼的影片,這些都是不好的。我們應該要把注意力放在耶穌基督、福音和祈禱上面。我們要謹記,在聖禮儀中,在耶穌基督的聖體中,魔鬼完全不存在。我們應該研讀神學,而不是撒旦學。

正如我之前所說的,我們應該安排固定的時間來祈禱。魔鬼總是想趁虛而入。有一位屬靈父親曾說:「上帝向我們要一枚小硬幣,就是只要一枚小硬幣。」他並不想要我們給他一大筆錢。為什麼?我們不該捐錢之後,又說:「我除了捐了一枚小硬幣,我還捐了更多。」舉例來說:我們不該想著,雖然自己犯了通姦罪,但是,只要多捐一點錢給教會,就能平衡掉這個惡。或者說,我只要一直守齋,這一切就沒關係。這些對我們都是無益的,上帝並不會跟我們討價還價,上帝希望我們的言行都是正直的。我們應該把注意力放在耶穌基督身上,對教會的教導有更深的瞭解。

記憶中,在精神病院裡,我見過一位非常神聖的護士(現在她應該還在世上)。她就像是生活在俗世的偉大隱修士,她嚴格地守齋。在雅典或是其他大都市裡,住著很多這樣的隱修士。真正的聖徒總是隱藏在我們看不見的地方。有一次,她告訴我,她總是用真心接觸給一個人。她誦持「心禱」,並且用這樣的精神來與人接觸。在她眼中,這些精神病患就像是福音中的痲瘋病人,她不會把他們當成危險份子。當她年紀漸長、退休之後,她隱居在森林裡,她居住的地方離我的屬靈父親的住處很近。醫院的人利用一群狗找到了這位護士,他們拜託她再回去工作,因為她退休了之後,再也沒有任何人可以好好的控管這些精神病患。所以,她答應每週回醫院兩次,讓這些病患安心。她的心中持誦著心禱,她成就了如此神聖的愛。

我想要在這裡告一段落。最後,我要提醒大家,讓我們以謹慎的心來面對這些事情。正如福音告訴我們的,惡魔確實存在,如果我們沒有一心一意與耶穌基督合一,他們會用各種方法攻擊我們。感謝各位。願聖三守護我們所有人。

Mark 9:17-31  17 Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. 18 And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.”  19 He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” 20 Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.  21 So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”  And he said, “From childhood. 22 And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”  23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”  24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”  25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” 26 Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.  28 And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”  29 So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”  30 Then they departed from there and passed through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know it.

 

This Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent, as we see in every Sunday of the Great Lent, the Church puts in front of us some teaching to tell us how to be spiritually prepared for Easter. On the other Sundays we saw the importance of the great theology, the faith. But today the Church puts before us something more practical, which is in our everyday life.

Today we will talk about the great spiritual leader, Saint John of Climacus, named after the famous book that he wrote. It is OK to know theology and to be in the correct faith, but if we don’t apply this practically, what is the point? We may become theologians like the Devil, who knows theology but he doesn’t apply any. So the Church puts forth John Climacus here because he makes the spirituality of the Church is very important. Everybody knows that they should follow the spirituality of the Church, but nobody can jump from the very beginning to the perfect love. Nobody can become, from his very beginning of entering the Church, where he does not know even the faith, and then suddenly have the Grace of God and the gift of prophecy, or to do miracles or things like that.

This is why I say that many times people say to me, “Father, I have thoughts,” or “I don’t have the perfect love.” And I say to them, “Who do you think you are? The perfect love and these things are the ultimate gifts of God.” But it’s not so easy to develop this, and there are levels. For example, from the first level that John of Climacus writes, and of course his books are about monks. But it’s not only for the monks, except for some chapters where he speaks about the monastic life and how to become a monk. But generally, much of what he writes is for all of us. So, for example he has no disciplines, not even small disciplines like fasting, how can he have bigger disciplines, like controlling one’s thoughts. He said, “If you cannot control your stomach, how can you control your thoughts?” So if you think you want to have the perfect attitude, but you cannot even control small attitudes [pointing to his stomach] you should understand that what you want to do is impossible. And he sees in human beings the pride that is hiding everywhere, which is why he speaks about how to feel humble, to keep the thought of death in our minds, to remember that we are human beings and that we are going to die. So it is useless to have so much money, and not only money, he says to have a great idea about ourselves because we are already in the graves. And all these things he teaches us, if we follow these steps, they can make us into real spiritual people. Because everybody has good seeds in his heart, everybody has good attitudes. The important thing is not only the good attitudes, but in parallel, what is going on and what is growing out, because in parallel with the good attitudes there is growing other bad behaviors and bad habits. These habits come from different sources, for different reasons: from society, from our own memories, from our education, from different things that happen in our lives. We cannot change our past life, but we can change ourselves and we can improve ourselves. So it is not for somebody to say, “I have good attitudes.” Yes, everybody has good attitudes, but in parallel we have so many obstacles. And we must relate to these obstacles through the spiritual way and through the guidance of the Church. Here the role of the spiritual father is very important, who is not for Confession, that is something different, but to give guidance: not his own ideas, but the ideas of the Church. An Orthodox spiritual father does not say to you, “Hmm, I think this…” Like a doctor, who studies, will say to you according to the medicine. Of course a spiritual father has his own personality, but generally he will say to you what the Orthodox Church says, and not what he says.

And I say about the obstacles that they grow in parallel, and we forget about them. The Gospel for today reminds us about one very big obstacle, which is not a thing, it is the Devil, and this is very important for many of us. I don’t like to speak about the Devil, but the Gospel says, and so I have to say this and so I speak about it one or two times a year, because the Gospel says it. And it is very important that today we do not forget that evil is not impersonal. It is not an abstract evil in the world; what is this? God did not create evil. And don’t think that what we are saying is just to threaten you. Christians are not afraid of the Devil; we know him and we must know him. But in the Lord’s Prayer where we say, “Forgive us our transgressions as we forgive others, and deliver us from evil.” What evil? If you see in the Greek language, for most of the Fathers of the Church it is “the Evil One;” it is not an abstract evil. So we mention the Devil when we say the Lord’s Prayer, and from this point of view, every day we say, “Deliver us from the Devil.”

Now to say a few things about who is the Devil. God did not create devils; God created angels with all of his glory, images of him, big mirrors of him. But he gave them also freedom; and then some of the angels, and their leader, hated God and they wanted to break this communion, to live by themselves, to be individuals and to be separated from God. And so separated they became against everything good, against God, and against every other thing that God loves, and every other thing that has the image of God, and all the things that have the stamp of God, that are mirrors of the love of God. And this is true especially in the case of human beings, because God loves us so much, and He knew that He loves us so much that He became human. So the devil influences human beings, and today in the Gospel we see that the devil entered a child.

I want to say a few things. First, from a medical point of view, and we have doctors here, the kid seems to have seizures, seems to have epilepsy, and as the Gospel describes, grand mal. But it is not only epilepsy because his father says that the child throws himself into the water and into the fire, which is not common because this thing can happen everywhere, even now it could happen to me also. So there is a difference between epilepsy and epilepsy with a murdering attitude. For example, if the child throws himself into the water or into the fire, maybe where there is cooking, this is very strange. And this is why Jesus Christ here casts out the demon. For example, when he cured the blind person he did not cast out any demon. When he cured lameness or other diseases, he did not do this. So we see that the influence of the devil is behind some diseases.

The Bible does not say why this happened to this kid, as it does not say to us many other things. But it is important to understand and to protect our children. This is why we baptize the children very young, and this is why the first Christians did so for protection. We give them protection since they have Jesus Christ inside themselves. And also we see in outside influences how many demonic figures there are in electronic games. They become implied in the memories of the kids. They learn so young to have so many murders [moving hands as playing a computer game] by electronic games, right? It’s not that I don’t like electronic games; you know I am full of electronics. But the memories and the education and what is created in this generation, which is not like us [pointing to himself], but which is growing up with this new food in their minds. And it will create the devil with probably bad results.

So we can distinguish the direct influence of the Devil, and as we can see in the Bible there are also other demon-possessed people, we see that the shout, they have very strange behavior. Some psychologists say it is like a Tourette syndrome or some other things. But this can be; it’s not every person who behaves irregularly or in a crazy way is demon-possessed. We have many spiritual fathers who see, and they have a test. For example, somebody can have epilepsy or other syndromes; but why does the Liturgy mention this. Or others may have some holy relic in their hands and they don’t say anything, they just say hello. Then he who is demon-possessed, if I have here [showing his closed hand] some cross or some holy relic, even though he does not know what I have, he will have a crisis, which shows it is not a medical situation, where he could take medicine to control it and maybe become well.

And second, we can see that many demon-possessed people have very strange abilities. For example, they can say what happened in your past life, not your future. I experienced this many, many years ago when we prayed to some demon-possessed woman. And this is very important because a normal person who is sick will not say truths about your past, because the Devil knows my past – not all, what I have confessed, he has no power to tell. I experienced this, really, I confessed together with some friends when I was in the university and we took a demon-possessed woman to the church and she started shouting, but she could not say to us anything. She said something only about one other friend, but she did not say to me or the others. Yes, I know my past, and she was very angry.

So, what I say is to understand that there is the Devil, who is influencing people around us and they need the prayers of the Church. This is why the Church has special prayers, exorcisms, which in the name of Jesus Christ, and by the power of Jesus Christ, the Church can cast out a demon. So, this is the first part of the influence of the Devil.

But there is another instance of the Devil, which is very covert, which is very secret, and this is very dangerous. And this is why even for somebody who is not obviously possessed by a demon, before Baptism the Church always reads the exorcisms, because there can be a secret influence of a demon. And for this we must be very careful. See for example, when Jesus Christ said, a little bit after today’s Gospel, that he would be crucified; then Peter took him aside and privately said, “No, no Lord, this can never happen to you!” And Jesus said very harshly to him, “Get behind me, Satan. Because what you say is not from God.” He called Peter Satan; imagine a very harsh and strong word to whom? To Peter, to whom he had said a little bit before, “You are the Son of God.” And this is very important: was Peter Satan? The Bible says that Jesus called him Satan. Many interpreters and generally theologians of the Bible say that it was Satan who used the mouth of Peter to say to Him, “Don’t be crucified.” Because Jesus wanted so much to suffer for us, and for Satan this was the only thing that he did not want, because this thing could stop his power.

We must not over-simplify things and just say, “It’s the evil in the world.” In the Gospel of John it says that Jesus Christ came to stop the works of Satan – finished. And in Peter’s letters what do we see? “The devil is like a lion against us.” So that Jesus came to stop his works and his power is a very important thing, and we must not forget that we do not fight against abstract things, but against personal enemies who know us, because they have been here for so many years before us. Of course they are good psychologists and they know how to use your reactions.

It is very important to see something even worse than this, because Peter, you know Christ never called him again. Peter obviously was shocked and he did not continue to say this. Peter was a very hot-blooded person, not stable, later he was proud, later he denied Jesus Christ, and then he repented. But see about Judas – and this is very important because recently we experience here the work of Judas. But at the Last Supper, Jesus tried so many times to say to him, “Don’t do this,” don’t betray him, because Judas has already decided to betray Christ and he had taken the money. But even at the Last Supper Judas was sitting next to Jesus, who said so many times, “Don’t do it.” But when He left the room, the Gospel of John says that Satan entered into the heart of Judah. Did Judas start shouting and falling down like one demon-possessed? Not at all. Very cool and concentrated, he went to the Jews, he took the soldiers, and he committed the biggest sin, very coolly. So it is the other kind of demon-possession, a very cruel kind of possession where nobody shouts, because it is better to shout, to fall down and to do all these things that the devil-possessed people do. That would be better because they would see. But very coolly, he went to betray Jesus Christ.

And this we must consider very well. It is not me, alone who says this; it is the Gospel. And Judas was an apostle, he was with Jesus Christ, and yet the Devil entered into his heart because he opened his heart. The Devil did not enter into the others, he entered into Judas because he started to you know [makes back-and-forth gesture] make excuses, and he said, “I am not responsible, I must obey the high priest,” all these…we can always find excuses. So this secret demon possession is the most terrible thing that can happen to us, and actually happened, has happened as you can see, to priests, who can commit especially very big sins: heresy, splitting the Church and many other things. This is the Devil.

And we see, even Caiaphas, who arrested Jesus Christ, said, “One person must die for the people.” And the Gospel of John says, Caiaphas did not say this by himself, but by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit spoke through Caiaphas because he was the High Priest at this time. So from one point of view, the grace of the Holy Spirit works. And as the high priest, he prophesied as the high priest should do. And from the other point of view, he crucifies Jesus Christ.

See how dramatic and how important is our relationship with God. It’s not a social relationship: “Hello.” “Hello.” It is a very dangerous, I say dangerous, relationship for life and death. And you may say, “How about us?” I did not say we are demon-possessed, no. But the demon influences us. This is why you see the prayers of the Church for exorcism say about the demon who hides in the heart and imitates in the nervous system or something. For example if I feel very bad, like I feel very desperate. Maybe one thought will come, like a whisper, “Commit suicide.” The demon is like an orchestra: we have so many thoughts; one more instrument enters, and this instrument says, for example, “Commit suicide.” And if I am so down that I say, “OK, I will commit suicide,” and I jump from the balcony, then the demon did his job, and he is very happy.

And you will say, “How do I know about my thoughts?” But before I explain this, I will bring up another example from my spiritual father, who really had power over demons and he knew. One girl, she was about seventeen, they brought to him. She had something like epilepsy and was biting her lip and falling down. She had been to many doctors, who had given her medicine, but it did not work. He talked to her and he said, “You know, right? You do this.” She said, “No.” He said, “Talk to me,” because he knew who she was. The girl did not have epilepsy; she had a kind of nervous situation, but she was not demon-possessed. He told her, “You cause this, right?” She said, “No I don’t cause this, and I don’t want this.” He said, “You do this when the others don’t pay attention to you,” because she wanted to be beautiful and a little bit of low self-esteem. So she wanted to attract the attention of the others. He said, “When the others don’t give you the attention you need, you bite your lips like that, right?” And she said, “Yes.” He said, “And then what?” She said, “I do this [scrunching his face up] and I do this.” And then she would be lost because by this time her mental power is stopped because of this anger to take revenge on the others. It’s a kind of psychological blackmail. The she would lose control and the demon enters or the nervous system goes down, and she makes a fake epileptic seizure, which is not exactly like the real one. At this time it was a unique revelation to the girl, that she was causing to herself these things.

So we must once more say that we must be very careful in what we do, because always the Devil is a good psychologist – with more understanding than the normal psychologists, because he has experience – and he wants to cut us where he can and where he finds our weak points. You can see the life of Parthenius of Lampsecus, who was a very great Father and Bishop, who had authority over the devils. One day, he was passing through town and a very rich man coming the other way said to him, “Hello, Father, bless me.” But Partenius turned his face away. One deacon who was with him said, “Why do you do this? It’s not polite.” The rich man again asked, “Bless me.” But Parthenius again turned his face away and told the deacon, “He has a demon inside him.” The man was demon-possessed and even he did not know it because the demon had never created any big, obvious problem for him. And the saint did not want to talk with the Devil. So finally, the deacon said, “But do something.” So Parthenius pointed at the man and said, “In the name of Jesus Christ, go out of this person.” The person fell down, rolled around and then got up and said, “What happened to me?” He was very peaceful, and the saint said, “God bless you and go on your way.”

So we see, there are a lot of things around us, spiritual things that we don’t know. Actually, Chinese traditions are full of spirits, demons, all these things; and they believe in these things more, I think, than Western people. They are not crazy, these things are happening. And don’t think, I’m so good that the demon will not tempt me. The Devil tempted who? Jesus Christ. If the Devil tempted Jesus Christ, do you think he will not tempt me, or he will not tempt you? So we must be very careful about these things. And actually, what the Devil does not want, is for us to know these things, and to be aware of these things, that behind people or behind methods there may be the Devil.

And the Devil hates not only God, of course he hates the Church. If it were possible to take a bomb and destroy the Church and all of us, he would do it. So this is one thing, and the other thing is that, from one point of view, although we should be aware of the Devil, we should not be afraid of him and we should not concentrate on him. So somebody could ask, “So what should we do.” First of all, as I say, we should focus on Jesus Christ. When we take the body of Jesus Christ inside us, then the Devil is so afraid of us, because he sees God inside ourselves. The Holy Communion is not like a candy, where if you do the church the honor of visiting the church and taking part in this, you must be aware – by I don’t know what prize – that we should be hungry for Jesus Christ. He is hungry for us because of His love, but we don’t do the honor to him of responding to his love. We think that “I’m a good person; I did not harm any person and I did not kill anybody. So what? Do we deserve a big reward if we did not kill anyone. But it is not like this. We take the Holy Communion – also – as the biggest protection against the devil. And this is why when we participate in the sacraments of the Church the devil has no authority over us. Indeed , he is very afraid very scared, and he goes away. This is one thing.

And he tries by other means to separate us, especially from the Liturgy and from the Holy Communion. The only thing that he does not want is for us to receive the Holy Communion. You can do whatever you what: prayers, be on your own, go to a mountain to pray for all the world; don’t eat (because does not eat anything, because he does not eat, he is the best ascetic). These things are what he wants. So we must not make a fake spirituality, because this spirituality is the spirituality of the Devil.

Now, the other thing is that we should not talk to the Devil; only Jesus Christ talked to him, we cannot have a dialogue with the Devil and say, “Devil, go away,” and blah, blah, blah, all these things: this is stupid. We should just ignore him. This is why the Church does not allow having exorcisms in public. I see on the internet that some sick people download exorcisms or these films that make the Devil. The Devil wants to attract attention from the people. So if we see all these things. “Oh” [making an expression of fixation] he is happy because he has power. So we don’t watch these things; we concentrate on Jesus Christ, we concentrate on the Gospel, we concentrate on our prayers. We behave like the Devil does not exist, even though we know that he exists. So we don’t study things that the Devil may have done. There are some sick spiritual books that tell about what the Devil did and what he said. We don’t care; the Devil does not exist inside the liturgy and inside the liturgical body of Jesus Christ. We study theology; we don’t study demonology.

And, as I say, we must confess regularly, because if the Devil sees something that we have, he will enter. For example, one spiritual Father says, “God asks from us a small coin for a small coin.” He does not ask for a lot of money; why? I cannot say, “I do this, but I do something else for the Church.” For example, I commit adultery but I donate things to the Church, so one balances the other; or I am fasting. This is useless; God does not do negotiations. He wants this [your actions] to be correct, and then the others. So to have a better understanding, we must – again – focus on Jesus Christ. And we should not forget this.

I remember, and it is very strange, one woman, I think she is still alive, she was a really holy person and a nurse in a hospital for crazy people. She was such a great ascetic in the middle of the world, living for one week on only the Holy Communion and water, but no other food. You can find these people, even in a big city like Athens or other places in the world, though you do not see these people often since the real saints are hiding. She told me once that she was approaching everyone with a real connection [pauses due to emotion]. She had the Prayer of the Heart, approaching everyone very strongly with the Prayer of the Heart. In front of her, all these sick, very crazy people were like lambs, so peaceful, everybody loved her; in front of her there were no crises. Later she retired because she was old and she went to a forest near my spiritual father to live there. Do you know what happened? They found her using dogs, and they said, “Please come back!” She said, “But I am retired now.” They said, “Come back because we have a big problem; nobody can control them.” So she was coming back two times a week just to visit the patients and to calm them down – because of the Prayer of the Heart that she had, and the holy love.

So I will stop here once more, and remind all of us of these things, and to be careful. As the Gospel says, there are demons and that they can seize us by many ways if we don’t focus on the Holy Communion and on Jesus Christ. Thank you. May the Holy Trinity protect all of us.