Ordinary life situations remind us of wonderful things.
The following story recently took place on the Spas TV channel. I was invited to take part in the Zavet (“Precept”) show. They said to me, “We are going to talk about angels. And you once told a miraculous story in which angels were involved. So do come to the show.” I thought we would speak about angelic singing, since an acquaintance of mine had heard angels sing. And it was in the morning, on my way to the TV studio, that I realized that I was supposed to tell them a story from remote past—that of my childhood.
I didn’t feel like talking about my innermost things, but there was nothing I could do since I had already agreed to come. Archpriest Alexander Timofeyev, with whom I had studied at the Moscow Theological Academy, was invited as well. Frankly, I feared criticism, which would have been justified: it is better to ignore a miracle than to accept in your heart a false miracle. Sobriety rules out pursuit of miracles. But that is another matter when, much to our surprise, the Lord intervenes in a miraculous way—this humbles, consoles and strengthens us, for we are not abandoned and the angels of God are always with us.
Two dummies—one of a white angel and the other of a black one—were installed in the studio as illustrative symbols of the division in the world of angels into those faithful and those unfaithful to the Lord. The show began. The guests spoke beside the dummies and recalled the Biblical revelation of God’s angels, and the fall of the evil spirits, who were given the infamous name, “demons”. Both “angels” stood stock-still almost till the end of the show.
Then it was time to share real life stories.
The first speaker was the Orthodox journalist Maxim. He came from Syria (his Syrian name is Mansaf Matni) and has lived in Moscow since childhood. According to him, one day he was driving his family in a car. His wife and child were sleeping, and Maxim was so exhausted that he suddenly dozed off. But even while dozing, he saw himself at the wheel driving the car, though there was no road ahead of him; instead, there was something like haze. In that moment Maxim felt someone’s presence. He asked this presence in his mind, “Who are you?” Somebody’s hand touched his right shoulder, and the celestial guest replied peacefully, “An angel of God!” Instantly the driver awakened and found that his car was tearing along at top speed, ready to collide with the vehicles that had stopped in front of it. He applied brakes on time, and thus the lives of his nearest and dearest were saved.
Then it was my turn to share my story. This episode occurred in my early childhood, many years before I was baptized. I grew up in an ordinary Soviet, non-religious family. No one ever spoke about God or the spiritual realm. So we had nothing to do with religious life. That is why I couldn’t have understood what exactly happened on that day, and I didn’t try to evaluate the nature of the event either.
Actually, there was no large-scale miracle.
There was a writing desk in our two-room apartment in the Khrushchev-era (the late 1950s and early 1960s) five-storied apartment house in the city of Orenburg. It used to stand by the wall close to the window. My parents fixed a tear-off calendar to the wall above the desk. I was a boy of five, and though I couldn’t read yet, I already knew that every day a calendar sheet was torn off and I hurried to do it myself.
In order to get to the calendar a little child needed first to climb on the chair, then on the desk from the chair, then draw himself up to his full height and make a few steps. Next the calendar would appear before my eyes, and I would scrutinize it closely and carry out what I believed to be an important action—tearing off a sheet. But one fine day, having climbed on the desk and made a couple of steps along its edge, I turned to the wall and suddenly decided to look back. I was standing on the edge of the desk, so when I looked back and down, my head began spinning. I was small, while the desk was big. I staggered, twitched and closed my eyes. It was then that an unexplainable thing happened.
In fact there were no images, no visions, no physical sensations. But I felt as if someone folded me in his arms very warmly and with tender care and then seated me on the floor gently. I will repeat that I didn’t feel the touch of someone’s arms or a bodily sensation of any kind. But I began to feel inner peace, calmness and joy; there was no fear at all, as if someone had shown his protection in a kind and loving manner. It was not until many years later, when I was baptized, that my heart was overwhelmed with the same feeling again—now we would call it “experiencing the grace of God”. I remembered that feeling in my heart above else and wished to experience it again so much!
But let us go back to my account in the show. As soon as I got to the point when the angel’s miraculous intervention was shown, the black dummy in the studio suddenly fell flat on its back. To put it mildly, that looked strange. The dummy was picked up and its legs were fixed to the floor with tape. I went on with my story. But when I was about to mention the angel, the black dummy fell for the second time. The staff painstakingly put a heavy load on the model’s legs to stabilize it.
Fr. Alexander Timofeyev began to speak. It turned out that he had a miraculous story which was known to nobody. While he was studying at a university he converted to Christ, was baptized, and his heart overflowed with so much joy that he wanted to share this joy with everyone. So under his influence his friend was baptized too, and Fr. Alexander became his godfather. During the Baptism the future Priest Alexander was standing near his friend at church. When his friend renounced satan, and all his works, and united himself to Christ, Fr. Alexander saw, or felt (an enlightenment, which was hard to describe) that angels drew near his friend, and his heart responded with a marvelous, unearthly feeling.
But the most remarkable thing was that once Fr. Alexander had reached the point when the angels appeared, the black dummy in the studio collapsed again, with a crackling sound, for the third time. Its prop was literally ripped out from under its legs that had been weighed down by the load. It crashed down on its back, unable to bear the words about the angels of God.
Deathlike silence fell in the studio. No one considered the thrice-repeated fall a mere coincidence. The “black angel” was dragged away, while its white counterpart humbly rose above all those present in the studio.
Unfortunately, the fall of the black dummy remained off-camera—the angles were wrong, and the camera operators could have never predicted that it would collapse three times. The program was broadcast under the heading, “A Meeting with an Angel. How It Happened”.
But it is not a matter of dummies. It was a graphic illustration of the truth that the fallen one is doomed to its own downfall. He who is falling into the depths of sin cannot stand firm, let alone rise. This is evident: He who is sliding down contributes to his own downfall. And this means that the devil is weak—it is ultimately inevitable. The evil one only has power over those who have adopted his weakness, who have been tempted by him, voluntarily submitted to him, and are going down to the bottomless abyss together with him.
Actually, satan was overthrown thrice. First Lucifer was banished from the Heavenly world of angels. The second time, he was cast out as the prince of this world. And the third time, he is driven away from the personal lives of people.
How exactly was it accomplished?
Lucifer was hurled down for the first time in the primordial world, when the angels were created—the secondary lights as compared with the first and only Light, the True Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world (Jn. 1:9). And not only humans, but angels too, for the celestial beings are illumined by the light which proceeds from the True Light as well. Lucifer was the foremost among the angels. But what did he, the son of the morning (Is. 14:12), do? In his pride he wanted to elevate his throne above the stars and decided to become greater than God the Almighty, thus becoming the creator of evil. The one who drifted away from light became dark; the one who lost his heat became cold; the one who lost goodness became wicked.
Because thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a God, I sit in the seat of God…, thou set thine heart as the heart of God. …Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering… Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee (Ezek. 28:2, 13-17).
Thus the one who wanted to climb to the highest heavens and exalted himself above God fell like lighting from heaven. The Savior testified to the primordial fall of satan: I beheld satan as lightning fall from heaven (Lk. 10:18). The ancient dragon that drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth (Rev. 12:4) seduced the humans and led them astray. Having taken the royal crown from the crown of creation (that is—mankind), he secured his dominion over earth. That is why he became the prince of this world (Jn. 12:31). So he dared to tempt Christ, offering Him in a haughty and cunning way: All this power will I give Thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If Thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be Thine (Lk. 4:6-7).
But the evil one couldn’t remain even at that level.
The second overthrowing was that of the devil’s empire on earth. This was achieved through the Passion of our Savior. The redemption is a mystery. How did the humility of Christ defeat the devil’s pride? How did the new Adam give back the royal crown to the man and make theosis, which became unattainable for satan, attainable for us? Not long before His Passion Christ said: Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me (Jn. 12:31-32). The Lord’s life on earth was incomparable purity, goodness, and self-sacrificial love. Satan found absolutely no room in Christ—neither in His words, nor in His deeds—for his temptation. Flies cling to filth, and demons cling to sin, but where there is the perfect purity, Beelzebub finds nothing to catch hold of. The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me (Jn. 14:30), Christ said to His disciples before His Golgotha.
Every time the light comes, darkness disappears. When the light of sacrificial love began to shine, the darkness of vain conceit was dispelled. By His Passion on the Cross, this supreme manifestation of sacrificial love, Christ atoned for the sins of humankind, freeing the human race from the power of the rulers of the darkness of this world (Eph. 6:12). That is why the Risen Christ justly said: All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth (Mt. 28:18). The power of Christ and not that of His adversary! So the throne of Beelzebub in this world was overthrown too.
We will repeat: Where there is the power of Christ, there is no power of His enemy. The fallen spirits have no dominating power, but there are trials by Divine providence. If the devil ever tricks anyone with temptation, it only happens with the permission of God. Demons moved into pigs only because the Lord gave them permission (cf. Mk. 5:1-13). And that was fair, for those who behaved like ungrateful animals in the spiritual world were allowed to go into pigs.
And what about us? Are we supposed to keep aloof from these victories? No, we aren’t. The devil is overthrown for the third time in spiritual life, in Christians’ personal podvigs. If we were given free will, then let it reveal itself: whether we want to rejoice with God or to be tormented with the evil spirits.
And the beloved disciple of Christ proclaims with inspiration: …I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one… I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one (1 Jn. 2:13-14). This victory is even achievable for young people! And is achievable for all who were baptized with water and the Holy Spirit, who become free from the darkness of sins at Confession, who unite with the Victor through Communion!
The devil is defeated by the things that are opposed to him. Humility is the opposite of pride; generosity is the opposite of envy; forgiveness is the opposite of resentment; kindness is the opposite of malice; and charity is the opposite of avarice. Thus everybody should consider: whose servants you are; to whom you yield; and who triumphs in your lives.
True, dummies fall easily, while spiritual victory is not easily achieved. But it can still be attained, provided we are with the One Who brings victory. For He is Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war (Rev. 19:11).
So don’t be afraid of the evil one because he is doomed to his own downfall; you had better not think about him at all. Why think about him, if we blow and spit onto the devil (as onto a nonentity) for three times during the sacrament of Baptism? Recall this rite, when the priest tells you, “blow and spite upon him!” So may God reign in your minds and may your hearts be sanctified by the fear of God! Down with all worries regarding demonic delusions and temptations! Whatever happens in our lives is sent to us by the loving Lord as remedies for our passions. Let us turn our eyes upon God Who heals us, Who wins, triumphs and raises the dead!