“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil … He … fasted forty days and forty nights” (Matthew 4:1). That is the story we commemorate in the Coptic Church this Sunday as part of the Great Fast readings—”Temptation Sunday.”
The existence of evil spirits—Satan and his fallen angels—is undoubtedly a basic tenant of Christian belief. We read about it in Scripture, and growing up as Orthodox Christians, we often hear of their interactions with humans in very real ways throughout history and until the present. But in the secular world we live in today, where the study of things you can measure and see prevails over faith and belief in the (usually) unseen, I found it refreshing, albeit a bit scary, to have read an article on CNN about a psychiatrist who is called upon by the Catholic Church to help them determine when a person is simply mentally ill or actually demon possessed: for the former he can offer medical assistance, for the latter only God can treat.
Reading the article further validates and substantiates what Christians have known all along; and it is those same evil spirits who will take us to Hades with them after death if we have not been saved by grace and lived a life of repentance.
A lot of people correlate “Coptic” with marijuana use, with that name being marred by the unfortunate circumstance of it being used by a rogue group COMPLETELY UNRELATED to the ancient patriarchate of Alexandria which promotes marijuana use. That group is called the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, and they have zero affiliation with the church of Alexandria, the Coptic Orthodox Church.
A non-Orthodox frequent visitor of our parish tried his best to convince the priest and myself that smoking marijuana should not be regarded as a sin and he should be able to continue using it after being baptized. With all the hoopla in the media today (and in particular I’m thinking of CNN’s Sanjay Gupta—see here), I thought it appropriate to address this matter as I addressed it with our visitor.
He joined in the chorus of praise for marijuana use, citing the common claim that “it’s not as bad as people used to say it was.” (From what I can deduce from a variety of sources, his statement isn’t all that inaccurate, but it doesn’t mean marijuana causes no harm whatsoever.) But then his argument started to take a very strange direction, as I recall it, whereby he somehow connected marijuana with the “tree of life,” and he insisted that the reason the Coptic Church is the right place to find Christianity is because of its use of Myron oil (used in the administration of its Mysteries/Sacraments), which he believed included a special recipe concoction similar to that used by the Jews of the Old Testament whenever oil was employed, and the key shared ingredient was marijuana.
My priest asked me to get involved, which I did, and provided below is a summarized and edited version of the response I gave to our visitor years ago (and do note that this is an Orthodox Christian viewpoint; I do not claim this stance for every Orthodox Christian Church out there, but would expect most to agree to a large extent):