The path to Christ

One day I saw something and I want to relate it to you because I think it is illustrative enough. I saw the following thing: As a mother keeps her newborn baby in her arms and has him wrapped in swaddles, I saw a baby myself wrapped in swaddles and I was holding him with my right hand tightly. I felt a deep love for that baby and I was very attached of him. I saw the baby either as a little girl or as a bird. This was the feeling I had. I aimed to walk on a difficult path, with ups and down, with difficulties, but I had to walk holding this baby and trying to reach my destination.

While walking on this way I met robbers and evildoers. All these people looked with evil eyes at what I was holding in my arms. They were thinking about how to steal the baby from me, to kill him or poison him. Seeing they had so much malice, I was trying hard to hold her tight, not to let them take her away from me and kill her.

Continuing my way I felt in my back a protection in the form of a semicircle. I was feeling that some armed men were protecting me. So the robbers despite their bad intention and attempts were not able to come closer to me to steal the baby from my arms. At a certain moment I saw a dragon like that one which is painted on the icon of saint Georgios, with wings, with a head of a crocodile and all the rest. He was ready to swoop down on me and take away what I had.

In that moment I saw on my right a hand with a big sword perforating the belly of the beast. Then the beast started to spit poison like a flowing spring. Immediately afterwards that hand took out the sword from the body of the beast and that one made a few steps and fell dead. I saw that I continued to advance holding tightly what was when a little girl, when a small bird wrapped in swaddles. After I passed over all the difficulties I felt a certain relief that from that moment on, all the dangers and the obstacles were gone. Then I looked again at the baby to make sure I was still holding her in my arms. I touched her small legs and I saw that I saved her. When I came to my senses I realized that the small baby was my soul or the soul of any spiritual son of mine for whom I had assumed my responsibility.

And someone has to walk indeed on the difficult path in this life to reach Christ, his utmost destination. The invisible robbers are lurking on all the paths and they set traps and scheme so many other wicked things to catch any passerby, any Christian and take him out of the way leading to Christ. In the same way every soul will pass through the customs of the skies, down here we have to pass too through these customs which are the temptations from the demons until we reach Christ. And if the man does not allow himself be possessed by any irrational passion and he does not fall into sins and does not give in to the temptation burdening his soul heavily, he can hope he will pass through the other customs.

The traps are different. We meet for instance the demon of debauchery. This demon receives from our nature a special concurrence because lust is engrained in our own flesh naturally. This demon when the man meets him holds in one hand images and faces and in the other one he holds a burning torch. When he approaches the soul he presents him the sinful and deluding images and faces trying to confuse the soul to look in that direction and to make lust show up. With the other hand he excites the natural appetite, he kindles the flame and tries to put the temple of God on fire. The Christian who is baptized in the Name of the Holy Trinity and destined to inherit the Kingdom of God is the temple of God. When the soul surrenders to this temptation then he becomes guilty and afterwards the passion takes control of him, behaving like a tyrant with him, he is enslaved by it and follows submissively this tyrant.

Abba Moses the Ethiopian when he was in his period of struggle had an attack of a strong physical temptation and he did not go to commune since he felt he was dirty because of this struggle. One day abba Isidor, the priest of the skete said:

`Abba Moses, come and take the Holy Eucharist!`

`I can`t if the pollutions I have while sleeping don`t cease.`

That`s nothing, leave them and come to commune!`

`I am not coming.`

`Come to me.`

He took him to the roof of the cell and told him:

`Watch on your left!`

Then the spiritual eyes of abba Moses opened and he saw the whole world full of demons who were running angrily to push the men into sins. He got frightened seeing those demons.

`Now watch on your right!` he told him again.

Then he turned to his right and saw how countless castes of archangels and angels were descending and seeing them he got courage.`

What powers are stronger and greater? Ours or those of the demons?`

`Ours, of the angels.`

`Then, come and be daring, said abba Isidor. And know that it does not depend on you to be freed of passion and struggle this is only the victory and the work of the grace of God. But I tell you that from this moment on the struggle is going to cease.

And he immediately felt comforted and humbled himself because he had not succeeded to get any good from his own ascesis and only with a word from abba Isidor he was freed and could go to take the Holy Eucharist.

You see, sons, when the man struggles and opposes resistance to the attack of the devil, God intervenes and sends His angels to help him!

Going further the soul meets other demons, other traps, for example the demon of condemning others and this one is very frightening and approaches the man easily. He is found in our daily affairs, in any conversation, in any encounter we have, he has the first word.

Because we are all passionate and sinful we have plenty of materials for condemning others and this demon makes us deviate and we begin to condemn each other. We forget that there is a verbal interdiction from  Christ: `Do not judge or you too will be judged.[1]. And saint Paul, the Apostle tells us not to judge before the Lord comes because He knows the hidden deeds of the people we do not know.

In our times this demon has the prevailing place. No matter if we are sinful or not, we judge very easily. When this demon becomes powerful and takes hold of the man in the form of an irrational passion, the demon will become an obstacle when the soul ascends to heaven and will undoubtedly impede him. There this will take the place of the Judge. The publican demon will tell him that as long as he had judged all his life, he neglected the command of the Lord and he is not allowed to go further to the heavenly ones.

Going further in this life we meet another demon, that of anger. He incites us to get angry, to revolt, to curse, to slander. All these are sins belonging to angriness. Anger exists naturally in us but it was given to us to use it against sin, our enemy. Unfortunately, the devil, being so crafty turns this anger we have against our neighbor, against our brother. And thus anger takes hold on us and we become like some wild beasts. And when the monk sits in his cell, the demon brings him the faces of those who had saddened him and impeded him to do something and stir his anger and inflames it. Thus the soul is subdued by passion and the demon conquers land. And in this way every demon when he catches the man guilty, will impede his ascent to encounter God.

For this reason we must beware down here on this path of life, where with the Grace of God we have the power to defeat the demons. While in the time of his ascent, the soul, if guilty, has no power to escape. Now even if we surrender to a passion, we can still struggle and with the grace of God we can cut it, we can draw it away and get rid of it.

 [1] Matthew 7, 1.

Excerpt from the book The Art of Salvation published by Evanghelismos.

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