November 12, 2014

Homilies on the "Lord's Prayer", Also Known as the "Our Father" (8 of 9)

...continued from part seven.

"But Deliver Us From The Evil One"

As we saw in the previous request of the Lord's Prayer, temptations are prompted and caused by the devil, who is characterized here by Christ as evil, and with this request Christ asks us to supplicate God our Father to redeem us from the evil one.

The devil is not an abstract force, he is not a personification of evil, as humanistic philosophers and ethicists teach, but he is a specific person who was once an angel and lost his communion with God, thereby becoming a dark spirit. Christ came into the world in order to loose the works of the devil (1 Jn. 3:8). The devil appeared in the desert to tempt Christ, he creates many obstacles, and he was seen by many saints who confronted him with the power of Christ.

In this request of the Lord's Prayer the devil is characterized as evil (πονηρός or ponērós). This word denotes many meanings. The original meaning of the word πονηρός is one who suffers in their body due to labors, because the adjective derives from the verb πονέω or πονώ (I hurt). Later the word πονηρός described someone who was miserable, wretched, evil, unworthy, dastardly and crafty or cunning. This is the meaning behind the characterization of the devil as πονηρός, particularly with the definition as someone who is cunning and devises everything to make man distance himself from God. Christ also calls the devil πονηρός in the Parable of the Good Sower: "When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one (πονηρός) comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart" (Matt. 13:19). The Apostles also call the devil πονηρός: "I write unto you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one (πονηρός)" (1 Jn. 2:13), and "We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one (πονηρός) cannot harm them" (1 Jn. 5:18).

That the devil is called "evil one" shows that wickedness is not an integral part of our nature, but it is the result of our free will. Man was not fashioned by God to be evil, but evil came as a result of sin, through our disobedience to the good God and our obedience to the evil devil. Wickedness is a characteristic of the devil, because he has much malice and without us wronging him he fights us constantly. Because the devil is evil in his nature this is why he cannot repent and accept the love of God.

Christ, after this, with this characteristic of the devil as evil, teaches us that we should not resent people for what they have caused us, as it is not they who attack us, but the cause of the evil is the devil. It is he who motivates people to hurt us and that is why we should transfer our hatred towards the devil.

The wickedness of the devil is great. He is wily and resourceful to make us sin and distance us from God. Already what we know from the Old Testament is that the first-formed he threw into sin with a good thought, with the prospect of deification. That is, he pretended to be concerned for their deification and showed them another way, different from what was shown to them by God. The devil is a theologian, but he perverts things, so he is a bad theologian. Before getting them to commit the sin he indicates to man that God is a lover of man and will forgive the sin they commit, but after committing the sin he makes them think God is cruel and will not forgive them, and in this way he tries to throw them into hopelessness and despair. Also, he fights man through human passions, through thoughts, fantasies, desires and the events of life together with all the situations that come to man. In each situation he adjusts to the appropriate method to throw man into indifference and despair.

The greatest war of the devil against man, in which he shows his wickedness, is the war with thoughts. Precisely for this reason man learns through the Church the methods to overcome these thoughts, and this is what asceticism consists of. In the ascetic books of the Church, such as the Philokalia, the Gerontikon and the works of the Holy Fathers man can find the ways to fight against the devil. Of course, at this point a significant role is played by an experienced spiritual father. Generally, thoughts are treated either with contempt, which comes with faith in God, or with pursuit, which comes through prayer, especially the prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God have mercy on me, the sinner", and with the development of good thoughts for each issue and each person.

With this request of the Lord's Prayer Christ teaches us to ask God to redeem us from the evil one. And this is because the devil has great power and much experience, we could say he is a soldier of the ages, while man is weak and powerless. Hence, only God can help us in this war, since Christ conquered the devil and gave man the ability, with the power of Christ, to conquer him. The wickedness of the evil one is confronted with the wisdom of the wise and powerful God.