We must not blame the devils but ourselves for all our wrongs. Because the devils cannot ever harm those who have vigilance. And the wars are allowed in accordance with the power of men.

  1. From Patericon

Abba Anthony said: `God doesn’t allow wars against this generation as those against the old ones. He knows they are weak and they cannot fight them.

Abraham, the disciple of abba Agaton, asked abba Pimen: `What can I do because the devils war me?` The elder said: `The devils war you? They don’t war us as long as we make our wills. Because our wills became devils and they oppress us to fulfill them. Do you want to know who the devils warred? Moses and those like him.

A brother asked abba Pamvo: `Why the devils prevent me do good to my neighbor?` The elder answered: `Don’t speak like that cause you make God a liar. You should rather say: `I never want to have mercy.` Because God said: I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.(Luke 10,19) A brother asked abba Sisoe: `What to do with the passion and the devils?` The elder said: Everyone of us is tempted by his own desire. (Jacob 1,14)

Saint Singlitichia said : `The more the fighters advance the stronger are the enemies they are confronted with`

Once abba Moses was fought powerfully by lust. He couldn’t stand to sit in his cell anymore so he went and confessed to abba Isidor. The elder asked him to return to his cell but he didn’t accept saying: `I cannot do that anymore, abba.` The taking him out they went on the house and he said: `Look to the West`. He looked and he saw lots of devils making a lot of uproar preparing for war. The abba Isidor told him: `Look to the East`He looked and he saw lots of angels full of glory. And the elder said: `These are sent by God to help the saints and those from the West war them. We have more on our side so dare and do not fear a thing!` Thus abba Moses thanked God and got courage so he went back to his cell.

An elder said: `At the beginning of the monk’s seclusion from the world, the devils are not allowed to fight him fiercely so that he can’t be stunned and frightened by this and go back into the world. But when he advances in his strife are allowed to come against him the wars of pleasures and desires. And being saddened he needs to humble himself and cry in his heart blaming himself for everything he sinned and sins. Hardened in this way through temptations he gains patience, experience and a righteous judgment. And afterwards he seeks escape in God with tears. And God unfold all the plots of the enemy leading slowly the monk to peace. But some who lost their courage lost their life by their own hand or returned in the world overwhelmed by sadness.

  1. Of abba Casian

Abba Serin said that not all the devils arouse in men all passions but each passion has certain devils who cause it. For instance some devils enjoy the dirtiness of pleasures and stinks, other enjoy blasphemy; some enjoy anger and fury, others  sadness, some enjoy vainglory, others enjoy pride. Every devils enjoys to arouse all the time that certain passion he sees that the soul receives with pleasure.

The devils do not bother nor sow their wickedness in the same way in all men. But by turns as they think it’s appropriate for the circumstances, places and people, sometimes they work together, other times they give their place to another, without keeping an order among themselves. Because the Scripture says: You will seek skill at the evil ones and you won’t find it. And our enemies are mindless (Isaiah 56,11/Dt 32,31) However, sometimes they prove to have a certain agreement in the war they fight against us, changing places as it was said according to circumstances and places. Because it is impossible to see someone being tormented by vainglory and lust in the same time, nor be swelling with pride and be humiliated by gluttony, or burst into laugh and in the same time be fought by anger. Because the evil spirits wait for their turn and they fight the man in this way. And when they are defeated they withdraw and leave place to a more fierce devil.

We should also know that not all devils have the same ferocity or strength, but their power and the kind of pleasure they arouse are as different as their work. Thus the strugglers belonging to Christ who begin walking on the path of virtue and are still weak are fought by weaker demons. But after they are defeated their place is taken by more powerful enemies. If the hardship of the fight hadn’t been in accordance with the power of the man, none of the strugglers could have endured the terrible ferocity of so many enemies. And the man wouldn’t have the strength to stand against their intrigues if in such a confrontation hadn’t stood Christ as a men loving intercessor who ordained and judged the struggle.  He takes care the fights are in accordance with our powers, preventing and turning back the overwhelming assaults of the enemy and not allowing as it is written to be tempted more than we can bear, but bringing together with the temptation the escape from it to be able to endure it (1Co.10,13).

We think that the devils do not make their wars without painstaking and pain, because they have worries and sadness too especially when they fight against strong patient men.

The Apostle testifies about this when he says: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ef.6,12) and again:

 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. (1Co.9,26), and in another place: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2Tim.4,7). And where is a war, a struggle and a fight there each of the opponents experiences worries, pain and trouble. And in the same way we enjoy defeating them and when defeated we are upset, they suffer the same. When they defeat us they are glad and when after painstaking they are defeated, the same of defeat is suffered by them. Thus it happens what it is written: `

The trouble they cause recoils on them (Ps.7,16), and again: let his net that he hath hid catch himself: into that very destruction let him fall. (Ps.34,8).

All these were known by prophet David who seeing with his inner eyes the unseen war and knowing that the enemies enjoy our fall said to God : `Enlighten my eyes so that I won’t die, so that my enemy won’t say: I took control over him.`Those who fight against me will be glad if I waver. And again: `do not let them gloat over me.`  (Ps.34,23-24). And showing the shame they experience when defeated prayed against them to God: `Let those who fight against me be ashamed` (Ps.34,4). And Jeremiah says: Let my persecutors be put to shame, but keep me from shame; let them be terrified, but keep me from terror. Bring on them the day of disaster; destroy them with double destruction. (Jeremiah17,18). And indeed the devils are twice crushed when we defeat them. First because the men gain holiness while those having it had lost it. Then because although they are spirits, they suffer defeat from earthly creatures.

  1. Of saint Maximus

Some say that there wouldn’t be any evil in creatures if there wasn’t another power to draw us to it. And this power is the recklessness in the natural works of the mind. That’s why those who take care f these do only the good and never the bad. If you want that too, cast out recklessness and thus you’ll cast out evil. And the evil is the wrong judgement of the meanings followed by the wrong use of the things.

It is in the nature of the rational part from us to obey the divine reason and control the irrational part from us. If this order is kept in everything there will be no more evil in the creatures nor will be found anything to draw us to it.

  1. From Patericon[ii]
  • They said about abba Isaiah that once he took a basket went to the field and said to the master of that place: `Give me wheat.` And that one said to him: `Did you reap, abba?` The elder answered: `So if someone doesn’t reap he doesn’t receive any reward?“No`, said the nobleman. And the elder left. The monks seeing what happened went to bow before him and asked him to tell them why he had done that. The elder told them: `I have done it to be an example. If someone doesn’t work, he doesn’t receive any reward from God.`
  • An elder was living in the desert at a distance of twelve miles from the water. When he went one day to fill his bucket his spirit weakened and he said:`why do I need this painstaking?“I shall come and live near the water.`
  • While saying that he felt he was followed. He turned around and saw someone behind him who counted his steps. The elder asked him: `Who are you? And that one said: I am the angel of God and I was sent to count your steps to give you reward.` Hearing those words the elder took courage and became more zealous. He added five miles more meaning that he went to live farther in the desert.

They said about abba Herimon from Skete that his cave was at forty miles from the church and twelve miles from the water and meadow (the place from where they took their twigs) And the elder did not get exhausted with his spirit making such efforts to bring water and what was necessary for his work, going to the church as well on every Sunday.

[i] meanings – mental representations lot things. It is expressed here an idea that is often found at the holy fathers abba Marcus and saint Maximus speak about: the sin is born in the mind and the struggler in order not to sin must guard his mind. The things are outside the kind but their meanings are inside.Thus in our minds is found the power to use them well or wrong. (saint Maximus the Confessor, Chapter about love, 11.73, PG 90,1008A). If someone doesn’t sin in his mind, he won’t sin with the things either (Ibidem. 11.78, PG 90,1008A). We should mention that when saint Maximus speaks about mind, he understands in continuity with the whole patristic tradition, the central part of the spiritual hyposthasis of man. In the same way the head has the primacy before all the other limbs of the body, the mind is in the soul image of the head.(saint Maximus the Confessor, Qucestiones, Interrogationes et Responsiones, 67, PG 90,840B).

[ii] in the manuscripts from the family of the following three apophthegms these represent a distinct theme, the 31st, with the title: According to each one’s painstaking, God gives him his mercy. From here till the 36th theme in the two families f manuscripts is a difference of a theme

Excerpt from EVERGHETINOS –  2010  Holy Monastery Vatoped vol. II, Theme 30

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