On 5 September 1925 the late Elder Daniel of Katounakia (1846-1929) sent a letter to S. Bergonin, who had prepared a treatise that dealt with the number 666 and the Antichrist. After nearly 90 years this letter continues to be timely and instructive, as can be read below.
Letter of Elder Daniel of Katounakia (9/5/1925)
With much joy I just received these past days from Father Hilarion, spiritual child of the late Hieromonk Savvas, your letter on May 25th.
I read it with great attention and commend, as it should be, your divine zeal and that as a good Christian you cared to investigate Holy Scripture and to write a study that deals with the number 666, which implies the Antichrist.
Regarding the Chiliasts who complained, you are praiseworthy. The all-good God, who sees your good faith and your good will, will not allow you to fall into delusions, as others have fallen, because they relied on their ego and wanted to interpret the issues of the Apocalypse of John the Theologian.
Proof of the humble ideas you have about yourself is that you feared the right-hand traps of the lurking dragon and did not base things on yourself and your opinions. This is why you did a forty-day Liturgy and other sacred acts and then wrote and sent this study.
In this you are praiseworthy, because you imitated the Apostle Paul, who though he had certainty about what he taught, because he was taught directly by our Savior Jesus, but out of fear lest he was running or ran in vain, every year he would go to Jerusalem to state his thoughts to Peter and James. Led in this way he became an infallible luminary of the universe.
Because you came to trust me in everything, my beloved, and asked with unshakable faith for me to tell you if the opinion you put forward and the conclusions you made about the number 666 have a basis or not, I hasten to say with all honesty what the Holy Fathers of the Church have revealed about this.
Generally they recommend caution to not proceed towards an interpretation of the Apocalypse of Saint John according to our own opinions, because those who attempted to have done so from ancient times became miserably deceived.
Also those who resort to numbers and claim that such and such a number signifies the coming of Antichrist and the time, they do so in vain without the slightest benefit. Anyway, for those dealing with such issues it is impossible for them not to fall into bizarre delusions.
We are assured that the Holy Apostles and all the great Fathers left without explanation the sacred Apocalypse, because it refers to the future in a vague way, which will only be revealed when they come to pass.
In his epistle to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul criticizes those who observe the times and the seasons. He writes to them: "You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain" (Gal. 4:10, 11).
We also see clearly in the sacred Gospel that our Lord Jesus, even though He explained to the disciples all of His supernatural mysteries and the great mystery of the Supra-essential Trinity as well as all that they needed to know for their salvation, He revealed everything. However the time and the season of His Second Coming He hid, saying: "Regarding that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Matt. 24:36).
What therefore? Did our God-man Jesus not know anything about this? For one to contemplate such a thing is blasphemous. As consubstantial and co-equal with the Father He knew very well, but it was not in our interest for that day to be spread, especially by the Apostles, and for all of us to know. He only gave us the signs and circumstances that would usher in the coming of the Antichrist and, as we see today, the time is near. Also in the Acts of the Apostles we see that the Lord prohibits us from this unbeneficial study. Luke writes: "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has set in His own authority" (Acts 1:7).
And because, as you write, you are a sinful man, as I who write to you also am, and was granted mercy by God by confession and are under a canon, since that is the case, why, my beloved, should we abandon humble self-knowledge to occupy ourselves with matters higher than is within our power? Why occupy ourselves with numbers and subjective guesses to find out the times and the seasons?
Instead of dealing with such dangerous research, is it not better to take care how you can be liked by the Lord with virtuous works and to avoid hidden pride?
As much as the All-Good One is pleased with the humble self-knowledge of ourselves and with one tear we shed for our sins, He is not pleased with countless discoveries of the Old and New Testament.
Proof of this is the thief, who, though he was a criminal and sinner, because he humbled himself and asked mercy for his sins, he was raised so much, that he became the first to enter Paradise.
Concerning the coming of Antichrist, we, my beloved, have the Church as an infallible teacher, having the help of the Holy Spirit. This cannot err. See what the Church says: First will come the prophets Enoch and Elijah. The Antichrist will be born of a Hebrew prostitute, etc., and he will do wonders and signs according to the imagination, and in this way the end will come (see the Triodion, Meatfare Sunday).
These are the salvific truths we must believe, and believing we will be ready to receive the Lord, in accordance with: "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man will come" (Matt. 25:13).
Truly, how will it benefit us to explain the name of the Antichrist or to delve into numbers, when before the coming of the Antichrist death will catch up to us?
These things are enough, and I believe that as a wise laborer in the vineyard of Christ you will not over interpret what I say, but be convinced that this is the truth.
Therefore, abandon all of these observations and return to the writings of the Fathers, which will benefit you countless times more. And then pray for me, the least of all, who prays for you in all that pertains to salvation.
Katounakia, Mount Athos
5 September 1925
Daniel Monk Katounakiotis
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.