Fr. Stephen mentioned in his March 25th blog a phrase from the Great Canon of St. Andrew – a service which is done during the first week Great Lent in the Orthodox Church. The phrase is part of a prayer that asks “that we not be possessed nor become the food of demons.” Before you dismiss this as folly, consider the 1 Peter 5:8 passage where Paul warns us to be on guard, because “your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”.
My former evangelical self wouldn’t allow me to dwell on the possibility of this situation, because there was always the fear of falling into the habit of looking for a demon under every rock. Somehow, by even saying the word “demon” we might give them power over us. Therefore, better to totally strike them from our vocabulary. After all, do I really believe that they have that much power in the world, that they would even bother with me? Hmmm…such a thought of doubt reminds me of a rather fatal conversation in the garden of Eden many millennia ago. But just imagine going through the day conscious of the fact that demons were looking for an opportunity in every moment to trip me, to raise doubts in my mind, to discourage me, to increase my fleshly appetites through all my senses. Granted, there is a delicate balance here between paranoia and being wise and discerning. We don’t like to consider the fact that we are stalked and harassed each and every day of our lives here on earth. We prefer to look for the peaceful, calm and cheerful aspects of our surroundings and hope that this the true reality. But if we open our minds to the possibility that this hostile spiritual environment exists around us at all times, wouldn’t we live our lives a bit differently? Wouldn’t we be more careful about our choices and words? How many times a day do we grasp for those things that give us only temporary satisfaction – the next hour, the rest of the day, the rest of the month? Our shortsightedness is appalling sometimes. We were created for eternity. Why are we making choices based on the belief that our happiness can be found only through the things that we can see, touch, taste, or hear?
In the same blog, Fr. Stephen recalls that when his son was a preschooler, he was given a small statue of the great angel, St. Michael – “his sword drawn and triumphantly holding the adversary beneath his foot.” In his limited knowledge of the spiritual battles going on around him, his son would pray: “Dear St. Michael, guard my room. Don’t let anything eat me or kill me. Kill it with your sword. Kill it with your sword. Amen.”
We would do well to adopt his prayer as our own each and every day.