A Prayer to the Theotokos
Grant, O Lady, peace and health to thy servants, all Orthodox Christians, and enlighten their minds, and the eyes of their hearts unto salvation. (From the prayer to the THeotokos after the Akathist in the Prayer Book, published by Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, NY)
What concord has Christ with Belial (II Cor. 6:15) or Harry Potter?
This title is, of course, a little play on words. With Great Lent almost upon us I chose this title to make a certain point. For the Orthodox, Great Lent is a time of increased fasting, and also prayer through the many additional Church services. And what is the main concern among the Orthodox at this time? Even more so than the services it seems to me that it is food: About keeping the dietary exclusions, being attentive to being moderate, and maybe even skipping some meals. It seems to me that this is more often than not the prime focus of Orthodox. Although fasting from foods is useful and productive, as is an increase of services yet we need to also consider the following: Outside of the Church services with what do we feed our mind?
That which is in our mind affects our heart. Bishop Basil (Rodzianko) (1) once said: “The thoughts that pass through our mind are not our thoughts, but if we accept them, they enter our heart and become a part of us.” In a similar way the Elder Joseph the Hesychast (2) has written: “The mind is the supplier of food to the heart whatever it receives it sends down there whether good or bad.” So then, with what shall we feed our minds? During Great Lent we should not only fast from foods and attend more services, but we should nourish our mind and heart with the things of God. This is getting back to the norm to which we are called, as Orthodox Christians our whole life should be dedicated to God. The final petition of many of the Litanies in our Church conclude with the words: “Let us commend one another and our whole life unto Christ our God.”
So then, where does the literature of this world come into play in the life of a Christian? (It is especially the entertainment world that I am thinking of.) With what will it fill the mind? What will it send down into the heart? How will the heart be affected? Will the heart be drawn to God, to become more Christ-like or will there be another consequence? Although there is some reading outside the Church which could have a good theme and have some profit, but in such we still find light mixed with darkness, good mixed with evil, discretion mixed with delusion. Such writings come from fallen, passionate humans who sometimes have evil motives. Even authors who seek to share something edifying fall short of the saints who were “moved by the Holy Spirit” (II Pet. 1:21).
So now, I am going back to the title: “What concord has Christ with Belial” (II Cor. 6:15) or Harry Potter? Where do we rate Harry Potter with all that has been said? I have made an example of this character because the series of books concerning him have gained a great popularity. Many Orthodox do read this literature and some clergy consider it to be harmless.
Now I will tell you of my experience with Harry Potter. Both in the past and more recently parents who were concerned about their children have brought Harry Potter to my attention. So I decided to ask other clergy about this literary character. I spoke with a priest and deacon with whom I thought might have something reliable to say about this. Unfortunately neither of them read any novels concerning him but they had received some feedback from others who had. They both came to the same conclusion. These books are dangerous for Christians because they are presenting something evil as though it is good. These books will serve to normalize occult practitioners as good and acceptable. The big problem is that evil is camouflaged and being presented as innocent entertainment that is permissible for Christians. This reminds me of someone I know who practiced so-called “white” magic. The person who initiated him into this convinced him it was acceptable with the argument: “We are using evil to accomplish good.”
However, since neither of the above clergy actually read Harry Potter I went on to talk to two other priests about him. One said to me, “I can only speak from my experience which is limited. I have only read the first volume which appears to be like a harmless fairytale. Some of my parishioners have read this and I do not know of them being harmed.” I decided to call one other priest whom I knew from past experience to have been well informed about Harry Potter. I will quote only one short comment: “The books get more dark with each volume.”
I finally decided to read something of Harry Potter myself. So I did get one of the later volumes from the public library. When I saw how every chapter began with an illustration that had occult significance I was shocked to think that any Orthodox Christian would venture to read such a book. It speaks of magic, warlocks, and witches etc.. But what effect did reading from this book have upon me? It was very attractive and alluring but to the old fallen man—this was easy to discern. As a monk my life is heavily concentrating on the life of the Church—the saints, the services, spiritual writings and a strict prayer rule. Only if one is thus strictly concentrated on the life of the Church can the above be discerned, that is, that this book was very attractive and alluring to the fallen man.
I must continue to say what happened to my mind and heart: It was as though my mind and heart were being twisted. I went to my chapel fell down before the icon of the Mother of God, “Quick to Hear”. After praying for about five minutes I was freed from this effect on my mind and heart. I must warn that if your life in Christ is too external, and you have not entered within, and are not strictly concentrated on the life and good things that the Church offers us, you will not discern this negative effect. So let us conclude by quoting the holy Apostle Paul. Let us turn to the section in the Second Letter to the Corinthians (II Cor. 6:14-18) of which only part of a verse was quoted above:
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what partnership hath righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what portion hath a believer with an unbeliever? Or what agreement hath a temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said: “I will live with them and move among them, I will be their God and they shall be my people. Therefore come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch no unclean thing; and I will receive you,” saith the Lord, “and touch nothing unclean and I will receive you and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
(1) In the book Everyday Saints published by Sretensky Monastery in Moscow, the Chapter “His Eminence the Novice” is dedicated to him.
(2) His life and letters have been published by St. Anthony’s Monastery in Florence, Arizona in the book, Monastic Wisdom.