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Archive for October 2014

The group picked up with Abba Serenus' exposition of the nature and characteristics of demons - the fact that they occupy the airy void between heaven and earth, their hideous appearance, their mutual adversity (which is the result of their having befriended mutually opposed nations on earth), their titles, functions and hierarchy, and their assignment to individual human beings, such that each human being has a personal demon as well as a personal angel.  It is fortunate that human beings cannot ordinarily see them, for otherwise they would either be horrified by their aspect or seek to imitate them in their wickedness.  Finally , as aggressive as demons may be against humans, they may also obey them in one of two instances, either when rendered submissive by human holiness or when soothed by the sacrifices and incantations of the wicked.

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The group took up Cassian’s eighth conference – listening once again to the wise counsel of Abba Serenus.  This conference treats of demons in themselves and their origins.  In particular, the question is raised: “Were they created by God, in all their variety, specifically to wage war against humankind?”

Serenus begins with some lengthy preliminaries about the interpretation of Scripture and about the possibility of understanding it both historically and allegorically.  From there, he proceeds to affirm the goodness of everything that God created and hence those angelic beings that were created before the foundation of the visible world and that eventually fell came to be called demons.  As far as their variety is concerned, the demons either maintained in hell the hierarchy that they originally had in heaven or imitated those ranks after the fall.  Lucifer fell “a first time by pride, for which he deserved to be called a serpent, and a second fall followed as a result of envy.

A rather lengthy discussion ensued about the eternality of God and His foreknowledge of the Fall of angels.

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The group considered the closing sections of Conference Seven with Abba Serenus.  The Divine Physician often will allow demons to afflict souls for the purposes of correction and at times that affliction will be severe; especially among the holy ones whose sin might seem slight in the eyes of the world but yet prevents the spiritual perfection to which God calls them.  Serenus reminds Cassian and Germanus of the importance of praying ceaselessly for those who are afflicted and of encouraging frequent Communion as a means of spiritual healing.

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The elder Serenus clarifies for Cassian and Germanus that the evil spirits, although capable of working in a kind of temporary accord, do not act in harmony with each other.  Rather, a spirit must set out by itself to attack the mind in such a way that if it departs vanquished it gives it over to another spirit to be attacked more vehemently.  Not all evil spirits are as powerful or fight with the same ferocity and with beginners and the weak only the weaker spirits are paired off in battle.  The picture Serenus paints is of constant and intense warfare that only grows in its intensity with growth in virtue and holiness.  The individual must learn to fight relentlessly and seek to completely defeat the enemy; developing a hatred for sin.  If the power of demons seem blunted in our day in comparison to the early days of the anchorites it is most likely due to our negligence having made them milder and made them disdain to fight as they did against the more accomplished soldiers of Christ.  This kind of a battle is used often by God to purify the soul of even the slightest sins; he chastises the ones whom he loves and scourges every son he receives in order to perfect them.

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