“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.
Last week I had the blessing of speaking virtually to a wonderful group of Coptic youth in Pittsburgh. The servants there asked that I correlate the Afterlife and Christmas, which may seem like an unusual and difficult correlation to make, but in fact not only is there a direct connection between the two, Christmas is even more relevant now. A link to the video presentation / lecture I prepared is provided below. Continue reading →
As we approach Holy Pascha (Passover) Week, I wanted to share a little-known series of questions posed in the widely popular writing by St. Athanasius, “On the Incarnation” (in parts 4 and 5). It really makes you think, and the answers are quite fulfilling.
[This post is derived from a Sunday School lesson given 12/14/2014. You can download the presentation here] [Also, click on the above image for a full high resolution version that you can download and share as you wish!]
St. Athanasius’s “On the Incarnation” is a must read for every Christian, Orthodox or not. (A free public copy is provided at the end of this post). Don’t take my word for it; C.S. Lewis, famous author and writer of the Chronicles of Narnia series (among many other works), called it “a masterpiece.”
St. Athanasius answers fundamental questions in the work, including:
Why couldn’t Adam and Eve have just repented?
What does it mean that they would “surely die”?
Why was Christ born?
Why couldn’t Christ have just saved us by appearing in spirit, without becoming incarnate?
Here is a summary of what the 20th Archbishop of Alexandria had to say in the first couple of chapters: