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Question 28.

Good evening Father,
My name is Elias and I am 27 years old. Because of work, I have been living in Athens for the past five years with my brother. I originally come from a small village in Thebes where we go on most weekends and I have began to chant in our village church. When we were younger, my mother would take us to church and we served as acolytes. When we grew up we slowly stopped going and went only on the Great Feasts and sometimes went to monasteries as visitors and not as pilgrims. Lately we go to church every Sunday. We read certain books by Father Paisius and Father Porphyrius and slowly began to understand much more. Now, glory to God, we are trying to save our souls.
We have a family problem; we have spoken with our Priest and the other day I went to the Monastery of St. Nectarius in Aegina and spoke with a nun who gave me certain advice and also told me to give our names for a 40 Liturgy.
My mother has for many years had psychological problems. About six months ago a friend of a friend came to our house and spoke to us about magic (witchcraft) having been done on certain items and parts of the house. My mother sprinkled Holy water on the items and they turned black. At certain times my mother would find pins with cotton and other such items but we didn’t pay them any attention. The person who told us about the magic told us to take my mother to St. Paraskeva to a certain church so that the Priest could read a prayer over her. This we did. The moment the priest was reading over my mother she began to say; “why most holy Lady and my Christ are they doing this to me, what have I done to them?” and she was crying. After the reading of the prayers, I asked her what happened and she told me that she saw certain of our relatives holding in their hands human effigies and stabbing them with pins, she also saw their faces. After this we realized and understood what had happened. We began to fast, go to confession and commune of the precious Mysteries of our Christ and we attend church every Sunday. Glory to God and to our Most holy Lady, they have helped us and my mother is better.
I would now like to tell you about our relatives. We know who they are and a certain incident took place. We offer incense and sprinkle/drink Holy water everyday at home. One day one of them said that he was going to come with his wife. My mother sprinkled Holy water everywhere and when the lady sat on the chair that had been sprinkled she said, you have put very good pins in the chair and after 5 minutes they left and didn’t stay like other times. My mother realized that in the past when she would meet with them after a little while on the same day she would become terribly sick. We try to avoid them as much as we can without holding ill feelings. There are times though that we cannot avoid them because we are in a small village and you can understand how things must be. I am asking for your advice and your help. There are 4-5 people who are doing these things, when we see them we say the Jesus prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me. There are times when we are forced to meet them. My mother fears for us that maybe they would try to harm us. I ask for your help.
Our names are D..., E..., Elias, and S... We pray everyday and hope and beseech Christ and the Mother of God to help us. We ask for your help and your prayers to the Lord.
We sincerely thank you.
Elias.
 

Answer to Question 28

Dear Elias,
I read your letter very carefully and I’m puzzled by certain points:
1) How did the friend of the friend know about the certain items and places in your home that had been affected by spells of witchcraft?
2) What did the Priest from your village advice you?
3) You sprinkle and drink Holy Water every day, but has the service of the “Sanctification of water” been performed in your home and have the church’s prayers for such occasions been read?
4) From the names that you sent me, D... must be your father. What does he say concerning everything that has been happening?
Without knowing you personally and the difficulties that your family is going through, it is very difficult for me to advice you properly through a letter. Nevertheless, I sense that you are all living in a continuous fear. This is verified by your daily practice of sprinkling and drinking Holy water, your mothers concern that they will try to do you harm and by the fact that you say the Jesus Prayer every time you meet your relatives.
You have returned to the Church, you fast, confess, partake of Holy Communion, but from your letter I sensed that you do these things out of fear and not because you love God and want to be closer to him. We must not use the Sacraments of the Church as magical solutions which will protect us from evil. Of course they do protect us, but our thoughts and our purpose must always be for our return to God and to have communion with him.
You must therefore strengthen your faith. Why do I say this? The works of Satan can influence people only when they are (in ignorance) receptors of evil. A Christian does not fear Satan or his works. When someone believes in Christ, he must believe with his whole heart and soul that Christ’s power is so invincible that no other power can stand before it. He must believe that this power of Christ and his precious Body and Blood protect him from every evil and whatever men do, who use the black arts to do us harm, will not succeed.
But, how can someone obtain such faith?
It needs dedication to the teaching of Christ and when we say we believe in Christ it does not mean that we believe in his existence (for Satan also believes this), but that Christ is God and whatever he tells us through the Gospels is the road which we must follow.
You wrote that you have read books by fathers Paisius and Porphyrius. These are indeed very good books and like these there are many more that will give you spiritual profit. But the first book which you must read everyday is the Holy Bible and especially the Gospels. The Gospels, which are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, have so much power that the fathers of the Church say that when Satan and his demons hear them, they cannot but run far away. Make your reading part of your morning and evening prayers. You do not have to read all of them in one day: a chapter a day is sufficient, but you will find the measure that suits you.
There is something else I would like to draw your attention to. When Satan sees people slipping from his grasp and returning to God, he will try to regain them through various means, but especially through the art of delusion. What I am now going to tell you does not mean that this is what actually happened, but there is room for possibility. What your mother saw when the priest read the prayers could very well have been a delusion from the devil to upset and confuse you and make you turn against your relatives. As a result, you avoid them and when you are forced to meet them, you ore overtaken with fear that they might do you harm and so you say the Jesus Prayer for protection. If the things are as you actually say, then you do well to avoid them, but not out of fear or from bitter feelings. You say that you do not hold them any ill feelings, but seeing that you believe that they are trying to harm you, can you truly say that you do not have any bitter feelings towards them? This is where your true faith will be made manifest. Christ teaches us that we must love all people and even our enemies, He said: “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” (Luke 6: 27-28)
Love is superior to all the other virtues and without love we do not have the right to call ourselves Christians. The Apostle Paul said: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing. Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. Chap. 13)
As you say that “you are trying to save your souls” you must cultivate inside you Christ’s love for all people, even for those that desire to do you harm. But how can someone love his enemy? This is not an easy thing and it requires great effort. Firstly you must understand that all people are God’s children and carry within them the image of God (even if this is distorted). Most people live distant from God and without realizing it, they become slaves to the devil and sin. Others willingly use the works of darkness for their own interests. They have been caught in Satan’s net and need our help to be freed. As Christians and spiritual people who have come to know Christ and the truth, we are obliged to feel pity for them and to show them patience and love. The best way for us to help them is through prayer. When we pray for our enemies, slowly, the bitterness leaves our heart and is replaced with love. At the same time we become more spiritual and overcome our fears. This is how Christ the lover of mankind has taught us – to pray for those that want to do us harm. When you meet with them, don’t be afraid of them and instead of saying the Jesus Prayer, which you say for you help and protection, say a prayer for Christ to enlighten them that they might realize their mistakes and repent. A good prayer is the prayer said by St. Silouan: “I pray thee, O merciful Lord, for all the peoples of the earth, that they may come to know thee by thy Holy Spirit.” Or one can say “I pray thee, O merciful Lord, enlighten those that seek to do us harm that they may come to know thee by thy Holy Spirit.
Be sure that you are in our prayers and your names will be commemorated at the Holy Prothesis. May Christ, the Mother of God and all the saints be your constant help.
With love in Christ
Fr. Christopher.