The Appearance of Elder Ephraim and the Anger of God

The appearance of Elder Ephraim and the Anger of God

Orthodox Ethos has recently posted an account of a woman in northern Greece who had a vision of Elder Ephraim.  This has drawn much attention.  He warns us of evils to come and the need of repentance.  At one point He says, “Christ is very angry”.  How do we understand this?

Among the writings of St. John Cassian his Book VIII within the Institutes of the Cenobia is called “Of the Spirit of Anger”.  The heading in the second chapter reads: “Of those who say that anger is not injurious, if we are angry with those who do wrong, since God Himself is said to be angry”.  So he explains:

We have heard some people trying to excuse this most pernicious disease of the soul, in such a way as to endeavour to extenuate it by a rather shocking way of interpreting Scripture: as they say that it is not injurious if we are angry with the brethren who do wrong, since, say they, God Himself is said to rage and to be angry with those who either will not know Him, or, knowing Him, spurn Him, as here “And the anger of the Lord was kindled against His people;”(Psa. 105:38) or where the prophet prays and says, “O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy displeasure;”(Psa.6:1) not understanding that, while they want to open to men an excuse for a most pestilent sin, they are ascribing to the Divine Infinity and Fountain of all purity a taint of human passion….For if when these things are said of God they are to be understood literally in a material gross signification, then also He sleeps, as it is said, “Arise, wherefore sleepest thou, O Lord?” (Psa. 33.23) though it is elsewhere said of Him: “Behold he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psa. 120:4) And He stands and sits, since He says, “Heaven is my seat, and earth the footstool for my feet” (Isa. 66:1). (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Volumes 11, p.258)

And so as without horrible profanity these things cannot be understood literally of Him who is declared by the authority of Holy Scripture to be invisible, ineffable, incomprehensible, inestimable, simple, and uncompounded, so neither can the passion of anger and wrath be attributed to that unchangeable nature without fearful blasphemy…. when we read of the anger or fury of the Lord, we should take it not anthropopathos; i.e., according to an unworthy meaning of human passion, but in a sense worthy of God, who is free from all passion; so that by this we should understand that He is the judge and avenger of all the unjust things which are done in this world; and by reason of these terms and their meaning we should dread Him as the terrible rewarder of our deeds, and fear to do anything against His will. (ibid. pp. 258-9)

In a concluding remark St. John affirms that such expressions should be seen as metaphors:

It would be tedious and outside the scope of the present work were we to explain all the things which are spoken metaphorically of God in the Holy Scripture, with human figures. (ibid. 259)…to be continued  

A Reflection on the Election

A Reflection on the Election

In the recent past there has been much concern about current events in the world.  Actually more than I can ever remember being in the past.  It is the presidential election that has drawn excessive interest and has disquieted many.   For me, this past presidential election is reminiscent of the Supreme Court’s decision not long ago.  I am speaking of course, of the ruling to legalize gay marriage.  This along with other like things that have become acceptable and normal in our day were unthought-of while I was growing up as a youth.  Why has this change come about?  Is it progress for man or what is it?  I will go on to make a response to these questions.    

So, to continue, I will speak about psychology, however it is not modern psychology I will refer to, but the ancient psychology of the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church.  In their struggle to fight against sin, not only to cease sinning in act but to be purified from the effect of sin upon our common human nature, they came to certain conclusions.  These conclusion were not based on deductive reasoning, on the contrary, they were founded upon their observations of what they experienced within themselves.  They did not make a voluntary decision to make a study of the soul, but through their struggle for purification they not only became proper human beings in the image of God, but, in addition, they acquired the grace of the Holy Spirit and so ascended into the likeness of God.  They were able to look back and see clearly the process of regeneration they went through.   And they were moved to write out of the illumination they received from the grace of the Holy Spirit. 

Our Holy Fathers tell us that there are three powers or aspects of the soul.  They are, the intellectual, the desiring, and the incensive aspects of the soul.  The intellectual is meant to rule over the other two.  This is the natural order as we were created, however, with the Fall of Adam and Eve, this has been turned upside down.  This is the effect of their fall upon their human nature which we all inherit. They have personal responsibility for their sin but, I repeat, their sin had an effect on their human nature.  Their fall caused them to have an inclination to sin.  This means that the desiring and incensive powers of the soul now have the upper hand.  The intellectual power which was meant to rule over the other two now easily becomes enslaved to them.  This is what we have inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve.

Whereas, we are called to return to our natural, noble state where our intellect would rule over the lower aspects of the soul, we have fallen headlong into that inclination to sin.  In our day we see a dynamic increase in evil, which, on the basis of the psychology of the Fathers, we could say comes from our own choice proceeding from a distorted mind.  The powers of evil also have their part in this.  Their warfare against us is increasing for, as St. Joseph the Hesychast has written: “The devil knows his time is short therefore he is angry and fighting harder”.  And as the Romanian Hieromonk Raphael Noika has observed: “The sin of Adam is becoming full”.  This is where the race of man finds itself.  Sin is multiplied to great extents and it is indulgence in sensual pleasures that is perhaps the most flagrant.  Seeking pleasure through food, alcohol, drugs and lust—whether natural or unnatural—is promoted by our society and are the norm in the lives of many.  What is the result?  The reasoning of the mind is influenced; it is darkened and contrary to nature.   The intellectual aspect of the soul is enslaved to the desiring.  We are at the point of which the Scripture speaks, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20)   And as the Psalmist says: “And man, being in honor did not understand; he is compared to mindless cattle and is become like unto them” (Psa. 48.12). [Psalm quotations are from The Psalter According to the Seventy, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston Massachusetts]

With pain of heart for the world I can conclude with one final remark which I believe the readers will understand:

“It is time for the Lord to act; for they have dispersed Thy law” (Psa.118:126).