An Edifying Story from the Writings of St. John Cassian
Father Serapion once said:
“When I was a young man I lived with my spiritual father, and at mealtimes, prompted by the devil, I would steal a rusk of bread as I got up from the table and eat it without my father’s knowledge. Because I persisted in this habit, I was utterly overcome by it and was unable to conquer it. Though I was condemned by my own conscience, I was ashamed to speak of it to my father. But through God’s love it happened that certain brethren came to the old man for advice and asked him about their thoughts. The elder replied that nothing so harms a monk and brings such joy to the demons as the hiding of one’s thoughts from one’s spiritual father. He also spoke to them about self-control. As this was being said I came to myself and, thinking that God had revealed my past mistakes to the elder, I was pricked with compunction and began to cry, throwing from my pocket the rusk which I had stolen as usual. Casting myself to the ground I begged his forgiveness for my past faults and his prayers for my future safety. Then the old man said:
‘My child, your confession has freed you, although I was silent. You have slain the demon that was wounding you because of your silence, by expressing openly what you were keeping to yourself. Until this moment you ensured that he would be your master by not opposing or rebuking him. From now on, however, he will no longer find room in you, since he has been brought out of your heart into the open.’ The old man had not finished speaking when the energy of the demon could be seen coming out of my breast like the flame of a lamp. It filled the room with a nasty smell, so vile those present thought that a lump of sulphur was burning. Then the elder said: ‘Look, through this sign the Lord has borne witness to my words and to your deliverance.’ Thus, as the result of my confession, the passion of gluttony and the demonic energy left me and I never again felt any such desire.”
- A repeated action becomes an unconquerable habit.
- To bury and hide one’s sins brings joy to the demons.
- God provides means for healing through others and through our own conscience.
- Confession and exposing sin slays the demons and puts them to flight.