‘EVIL AND THE EVIL ONE’ ‘BUT DELIVER US FROM THE EVIL ONE’ (LUKE 11:4)

by Metropolitan Timotheos (Trivizas) of Corfu

 

Delivered before the IPCA Europe Conference Driebergen, Holland, 8-14 May 2001

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear participants in this Conference,

 

I should like to thank the Steering Committee of IPCA Europe for this opportunity to be a speaker at our Conference.

I consider it to be an exceptional honour, since my tenure as an elected member of the Steering Committee is drawing to a close, after having been elected for three consecutive times and after having served for three consecutive terms.

It is worthy to note that during my tenure both I and the other members of the Committee made every effort to materialize and to apply as much as possible all decisions taken by the various Committees. In this way, I believe our contribution was both positive and substantial in a long list of actions taken.

From my long ministry in the field of pastoral care for prisoners I have come to the conclusion that if the entire range of our work, the need to insure normal living conditions in prisons and the correct re-integration of prisoners into our society are not dealt with theologically, then there will be no essential help offered to those who are in need.

Prisons must become places of self-awareness and formation and not places of punishment.

The theme that I shall attempt to broach in this brief paper is entitled, "Evil and the Evil One". I shall try to demonstrate that which the renowned thinker and philosopher Bertrand Russel maintained, namely that erroneous views about life and the world lead to erroneous practices and habits in life. My approach, however, will begin with a theological reference to the subject.

Undoubtedly good and evil are realised in our world through various manifestation. Their function could not remain outside the wider theological and pastoral concern of the Christian Church.

All Christians throughout the world pray during their every Eucharistic gathering by continuously calling into remembrance and referring to the Lord's Prayer taught by Jesus, which is for the faithful the perfect model for prayer and spiritual orientation.

The significance and deeper theological meaning of this prayer constitute for the Orthodox Church, and for her theology as well, a summons to spiritual struggle in order to face the problems of every-day life.

Man is not his fellow-men's enemy; the will's inclination towards evil, however, brought about division in humankind, which by nature is united. It is the wish of all of us that evil will disappear, and not the person who commits it. It is the malice of the Evil one and the options of each individual that provide man with the opportunities for sinning. In the Lord's Prayer it is important to note that forgiveness is spoken of. (Forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors) (Lk. 11:4). In this particular sense, man through grace, is placed on an equal level with God. This equalization is so significant that it appears that man is able to do that which belong to the characteristics of God, since the forgiveness of sins belongs exclusively to God. Whoever, then, approaches Man-befriending God, the supreme source of goodness, must himself be forgiving and man befriending, ever doing good.

By the phrase "and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the Evil One" (Lk. 11:4), the Lord gives names to evil in many and various ways, in accordance with prevailing circumstances and its various manifestations. At any rate, the world is the place where evil is committed: "all the world lies in evil"(I Jn. 5:19). The faithful put forth this request chiefly for two reasons: the first is because the Evil One is always the enemy of both God and man; the other is man's awareness of his own weakness and his attempt to overcome it. To what degree, and in what manner can the attacks of the Evil One be repulsed can be seen from the life and acts of our Lord Himself, who overcame temptations.

In the Lord's Prayer every believer prays to the Lord that He not allow him to fall into temptation, but that he be delivered from the Evil One. According to St. Maximus' interpretation, the temptations which man faces and from which he wishes to be delivered fall into two categories: the one category is made up of the temptations of pleasure, which offer some sort of satisfaction, and those that are painful, involuntary and drive away the passions. St. Maximus exhorts us to avoid the first category and to seek after the second. St. John Chrysostom in turn teaches us not to seek temptations and to be aware of our weakness. When, however, temptations do arise without our seeking them, we should face them courageously. St. John Chrysostom mentions further that the Lord does not say, deliver us from evil people, but from the Evil One, i.e. the devil, lest he teach us to be spiteful towards those who cause us sorrow; rather we should turn against the devil who goads them on when their will is weak. The devil is called the Evil One, in order to show that evil is not a natural condition but the result of a bad disposition.

Our world is a battlefield where good and evil contend with one another. Evil is always diametrically opposed to good. Man in each circumstance and in every significant event in his life has the ability to choose his actions and behaviour.

Theology teaches us that Jesus is He who resisted and conquered evil in all its forms and dimensions. His life and work are placed within the framework of the struggle between good and evil, within which the question of man's salvation is also dealt with. Evil and the factors that lead to its being carried out are usually found behind every act that is contrary to the Gospel. With Christ's Resurrection, which we celebrated only recently, the defeat of Evil is established; the struggle, however, to rid ourselves of evil, will not cease, according to St. Paul, until the last act in the drama of humankind's salvation, when during "the Day of the Lord" He will abolish every power and authority.

Every person who at some moment in his life whether directly or indirectly commits an offence comes into conflict with the meaning and content of justice, a concept which collectively or individually regulates human relations in their totality. The concept of justice is related to natural law and by extension to the concept of righteousness. Righteousness does not have only its worldly orientation within the framework of the organized State but also his its reference to a higher, Divine justice which liberates man and as a beneficence offers a starting point for man to obtain divine favour and to approach the mystery of his own personal justification, even though he may have fallen into misdemeanours or made mistakes.

For us Christians it is important to know that we all have the possibility, if we so desire, to experience the inner rebirth with which God justifies us. It is however significant that we realize that this justification is brought about in and by our acts and actions.

Evil always constitutes the greatest challenge for the realization and experiencing of human freedom. Without freedom man can neither live nor create. Freedom is neither a theoretical dimension nor an absolute power. In every form of organized society, the rights of one person stop where those of another begin. It is only natural then that all those who overlook these essential concepts commit offences and submit to that which we call evil.

The responsibility for failing into evil does not belong exclusively to those who, after committing some offence, find themselves in prison. The responsibility burdens all of us. Besides we know very well that man cannot, with his powers alone, face evil. He is in continuous need of our attention and God's assistance, both for us and for our brothers.

I think that at this point it is important, even briefly, to refer to the causes that have led many of those to whom God has entrusted us to minister. to prison, after criminal behaviour, either voluntary or unintentional.

It is almost common knowledge that man's ability to judge has been weakened because of many and varied reasons. Life-long education and the up grading of education have orientated itself toward technocratic prototypes and consequently does not satisfy the deeper searching and unanswered questions of contemporary man. The struggle to harness all types of passions is today almost non-existent.

Today, the responsibility for the commission of a crime, even from a legal point of view, certainly does not rest solely upon him who committed it. By laying the blame on someone for committing a crime, without seeking out those morally responsible, is like committing a crime ourselves.

We are all aware that today employment is undergoing a deep crisis. The only real productive mechanism of our economy and society has been replaced by the rapid transference of monetary-financial entities with the ultimate objective of obtaining profit. This international practice

within the framework of the new economy has resulted in the continuous growth of the number of the unemployed and the poor, and in the increase of the wretchedness of human existence and in the defacement of self- esteem.

Because of this rise in unemployment there is a negative channelling of energy and creativity chiefly among young people. People of a certain age and education are no longer able to meet the basic needs of their families and this creates problems of anti-social conduct. We observe in a most tangible way the lower instincts and all forms of violence dominating.

The present-day manner of life may have made us possessors of ultra-modem technology; however, obscurantism, ignorance and dishonest competition are significant factors of anti-social behaviour.

Uncertainty of the future and the general decline of our civilization define the existence of entire populations and societies.

Also another important factor is the absence of dialogue, both within the family as a factor in communication, as well as in social life, as a factor of individual self-awareness and social integration.

The de-individualization of life, consumerism, every type of social and financial problems and the mass media, contribute to the disorientation of today's young people. They push them towards anti- social behaviour, vanity, narcotics, loneliness and a continuous uncertainty of the future.

Indifference, isolation, eudemonism, racial discrimination, all types of prejudices and intense financial competition are the most characteristic marks of our times. They thus push people to extreme anti- social behaviour, expressed in a most violent manner.

Man lacks, or is deficient in, forces to motivate his actions. People, less and less, set for themselves and attain to positive visible goals in their lives.

The family environment is undergoing a great crisis because of the wider crisis in values and the intense pace of life; because of its being called into question as an institution, and because of the lack of respect and love.

In the places where we minister, -we often see in the personalities of those imprisoned a feeling of misery that seems to overwhelm them. This is a negative and continuous feeling that deprives them of vitality and gives them the impression that everything in life is futile. In this way they continuously withdraw from others and lack spontaneity: their inner world is without serenity.

Within these conditions, all who are engaged in pastoral ministry to those in prisons must out of necessity create those presuppositions that will contribute positively to the prisoners' life and to their smooth reintegration into society.

For a prisoner to reach a point where he seeks and tries to gain God's love and mercy, the necessary conditions and presuppositions have to be created. In this field, the input of the clergy's ministry and that of the laity are of decisive importance. These persons constitute the factors that join together the Parish and society with the prisoner's environment. To help and to stand in solidarity with a transgressor in order for him to rid himself of his former life and those habits that led him to prison, is a continuous and on-going struggle. The prisoner must realize that he himself as a personality is exceptionally important both for society as a whole and for his family as well.

There are however, some more practical problems as well. In these problems a significant role is played by the infrastructure providing a place of residence for prisoners upon release, as well as by access to education or to vocational training provided during the serving of their sentence. Certain programs that would allow a few-day§ leave for prisoners to stay with families or special centres, before their release would contribute substantially in making prisoners aware of the changes that have transpired in society as a whole during their absence. The necessary monetary resources are absolutely essential for the support of the prisoners and for providing them with a new start after their release.

Another significant parameter that should be mentioned is that of human rights. All societies, at least formally, after long and ardent struggles, have secured basic human rights. These rights are fundamental to human existence and freedom. The basic human rights today nearly everywhere throughout the world are being violated by a series of methods, by the use of force, the deprival of freedom, through all types of discrimination and especially through the existence and application of the death penalty in many parts of the world.

It is necessary that essential and practical measures be taken in every instance where human dignity is disdained and human ideals violated. I believe that we must adopt practices that alleviate oppression and human pain. Our efforts and struggle must be in continuous dialogue and collaboration with agencies and organisations that labour on an international level for the protection of human rights.

During the execution of our ministry we should be characterised by our belief that man is the most significant value. Our true interest, our passion for our ministry, for freedom and for truth causes us always to envisage a better world in which men will realize that happiness is not to be found in money, glory, fame or acclamation.

In every effort that we make to free our brothers from evil, it is necessary that we overcome all manner of negative stereotypes, convictions, predisposition and mind-sets. Further, we must always keep in mind that what is significant for the theology of our Church is neither man 5s actions nor his words, but the desires of his heart, to which we are called to minister with responsibility and dedication.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of this Conference,

Completing my approach to the subject of evil and the need to deliver from it all those who are tormented by it and suffer its most negative consequences, I should like to thank you most warmly for your interest and attention.

Also, warmest thanks to all who organised this most successful Conference.

I wholeheartedly wish to the new Steering Committee that will succeed us, all success in realizing all that which we did not have time to accomplish. I wish them a fruitful ministry worthy of today's challenges.

Thank you very much,

 

Timotheos Trivizas, Metropolitan of Corfu

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