Several years ago, I was visiting a friend in the hospital who had been admitted into the emergency room for a stomach ailment and was being held overnight in the ER for observation. When I had asked him how he was, he told me that he was hungry and quite tired. He said that he was kept awake by some of the other patients that were really rather noisy. Were they in that much pain? Were they suffering that much more than the other patients were suffering? My friend didn’t know. He did, however, tell me that he overheard some of the nurses talking about how agitated and unsettled some of the patients were, and then he added that the same nurses also noticed and said — sure enough –that the moon was full.
For centuries, man has been mystified about why some individuals are so negatively affected or troubled during a full moon, an oddity and peculiarity that has occurred for centuries. Ask a veteran police officer or any experienced emergency room nurse or physician and they will most likely confirm that some of the people they deal with seem to be unusually agitated or disturbed during a full moon. Some believe that the moon itself is to blame but they can’t explain why. The Holy Orthodox Church, however, does have an answer to this baffling phenomenon, and has had the answer for as long as man has taken notice of this oddity involving the moon.
The Church Fathers on the Effects of the Moon
Blessed Theophylact, an Archbishop who lived during the 12th century and wrote commentaries on the four Gospels and other books of the New Testament, wrote the following about what is termed “moon madness”: “the devil wanted to instill in men the belief that the heavenly bodies cause evil, and would set upon men [to agitate and disturb them]. The devil does this so that the moon would appear to be the cause of the suffering, and thus God’s creation would be slandered.“1The Explanation of The Gospel According to St. Matthew, Blessed Theophylact, 1992, p. 43
Demons, our adversaries, can only hate. They can never love.
When commenting on chapter 17, verses 14–15 of St. Matthew’s Gospel which describes a father approaching Christ and asking Him to heal his demon-possessed son, Blessed Theophylact again writes: “The moon was not the cause [of the boy’s lunacy], but rather, the demon would take note when the moon was full, and then would set upon his victim, so that men would blaspheme the created works of God as maleficent.“2ibid., p. 149[footnote]
St Nikolai (Velimirovic), a 20th c. bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church and prolific author who also wrote commentaries on the Gospels, had this to say about moon madness:
The boy was ‘lunatic’ or ‘moon mad.’ How can the moon be to blame for a man’s sickness? If it produces madness and dumbness in one man, why does it not in all? The evil is not the moon but in the wicked, cunning spirit that deludes man and conceals itself: it blames the moon, that man should not blame it [the demon]. It seeks in this way to bring man to think that all God’s creation is evil, and that evil comes to man from nature, and not from evil spirits that have fallen away from God. And their victims therefore have seizures at the moon’s changes, that people should think: ‘See, this evil comes from the moon!’ ‑and, because the moon is from God, it follows that this evil is from God. Thus are men deluded by these most cruel and cunning beasts.[footnote]Homilies, Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic, Volume 1, 1996, p. 164
Who are the Demons?
Perhaps some readers will question the very existence of the Devil and demons. Those who do so are surely not at all acquainted or familiar with the Gospels, the Holy Scriptures, the Lives of the Saints, or with what the Holy Orthodox Church has to say and teach about these adversaries and enemies of God and of all mankind. What’s more, without an understanding of demonology, meaning the study and knowledge of demons, it is not possible to understand Christianity.
Demons are fallen angels. They were created by God, and like all men, were given a free will. All of the demons, including their master and leader, called Satan, the Devil, or Lucifer, were created as good beings. But Satan developed a very high opinion of himself, wanting to become equal with and above God, and it was because of his pride and rebellion against God that he was cast out of heaven.3cf. Isaiah 14:12–16 It is believed by some that as many as one third of the angels that God created were in agreement with Satan, and they too were cast out of heaven to the earth and into hell.4cf. Matthew 25 :41
God, our Creator, can only love. He can never hate. Demons, our adversaries, can only hate. They can never love. All of the demons, from the most wicked to the least harmful, have an intense and bitter hatred for all of mankind. They are afraid and deeply concerned that men will inherit the heavens that they have lost, and because of their great jealousy and hatred towards man, it is their chief aim to lead people away from the true God and their faith in Him. This they do by tempting men to sin because they know it is sin, and sin alone, which separates us from God.
The Devil and demons are the inventors and instigators of every sin. These sins include evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness5Mark 7:21–22.
Because of their extremely frightening and crude appearance, God has made them invisible to men. Some of the holy Fathers who were well experienced with demons, have said that if we were able to see the demons in their true and crude form, we would not at all be able to endure the horror of their appearance and would immediately die of fright.
Even at the hour of death, demons can continue their work of deception.
Demons, when they are allowed to do so by God — because they can only do what God allows them to do, and no more — can visibly manifest themselves into any form or object. They can visibly appear as Christ, the Mother of God,6The Orthodox Church regards all apparitions with extreme caution. There are, in fact, many accounts in Orthodox literature where monastics, for example, were deceived by demons posing as Christ, an angel of heaven, or the Mother of God. In just a brief analysis concerning the apparition of the Mother of God to three young Catholic children at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, the children were apparently given “secrets,” which has never occurred during any apparitions of the Mother of God within the long history of the Orthodox Church. The sharing of secrets by the Mother of God, consequently, is something that the Orthodox Church views with extreme suspicion and skepticism. Moreover, when the three young children described the appearance of the Mother of God, they depicted her as a beautiful young woman who was wearing earrings. Again, never in the history of Orthodox iconography has the Mother of God ever been depicted with earrings or jewelry because it would be totally inconsistent with her meekness and humility. In the case of the apparitions of the Mother of God to six Catholic children at Medjugorje in the former Yugoslavia that supposedly began in 1981, one of the child visionaries, Marija, was asked: “Does the Virgin say that the Catholic Church is the true church?” Marija replied: “Our Blessed Mother says that all religions are equally pleasing to God.” Would the Mother of God, with whom the young children were allegedly speaking and interacting, have really given the children such an answer and made a liar out of her Son, Jesus Christ, who clearly stated: I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me? (Jn 14:6) Who would give such an erroneous and misleading answer to a child to share with the whole world but the father of lies himself (cf. John 8:44). the saints, an angel of light (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:14), strange and unfamiliar objects and beings from space, so often referred to as UFOs and aliens, and even the deceased, which they can mimic and imitate to perfection. This, however, is where so many, many individuals who involve themselves in the occult or even have a passing desire or interest in it, are led astray to believe that they can and do contact the dead. They do not at all realize that those that they are actually contacting are demons, masquerading as the dead.[for further reading on this subject, see Fr Seraphim Rose’s seminal work, Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future[/footnote]
Demons can cause and even heal psychic and physical illnesses, all to better deceive and confuse people. They can also work and perform the most extraordinary and remarkable miracles, as they so often do through magicians that literally astound people,7cf. Acts 8:9–11 and through those involved in the occult and witchcraft, for example. Again, they do all of this with the ultimate goal of deceiving people and leading them away from God.
Even at the hour of death, demons can continue their work of deception. Fr Seraphim Rose wrote: It befits us, therefore, to be very suspicious (at the least) of the ‘beings of light’ who seem to appear in the moment of death. They seem very much like demons posing as ‘angels of light’ in order to seduce, not only the dying person himself, but even more those to whom he will later tell his tale8i.e., the story of how wonderfully pleasant death supposedly is with visions of beautiful angelsif he is resuscitated9Fr Seraphim (Rose), The Soul After Death. Fourth Edition, 2009, p. 42.In other words, when a person returns from death and speaks about how marvelous their short experience was, people are led astray to believe that no Christian struggle or repentance is necessary in life, and that we are therefore all free to do and indulge in anything we wish without any fear of judgment or punishment, since even the crudest unbelievers experience the same pleasantness and joy at the time of their death.
The Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church, however, teach that demons can easily provide a deceptive experience of “heaven,” but as Fr Seraphim described it, the experience of heavenly pleasantness and joy has no necessary connection whatever with the eternal fate of the soul, which may well be one of torment.10ibid., p. 117
Even in our own times, demons are known to possess people.
Even in our own times, demons are known to possess people. They take great joy in possessing people because of the great torment and suffering they can cause and inflict, not only on the possessed individual, but also on those close to them and those who may be involved in an exorcism, during which the demon possessing the person will sometimes speak through the one possessed, and even in languages completely unknown to the possessed soul. They can even expose, through the possessed, the most secret and hidden sins of those who are taking part in, helping, or merely watching an exorcism take place.
How extremely blessed and fortunate are those Orthodox Christians who strive not to commit sin and who regularly take full advantage of the Mystery of Confession.11cf. Romans 4:7–8 They know and rightly believe that every sin that is repented of in Confession is immediately forgiven by God, to the great anger and wrath of the demons, who in turn know that they can no longer accuse us to God for those specific and particular sins. But what terrible punishment upon those who intentionally hide their sins and errors from their priest or spiritual father out of shame and embarrassment.12In the Gospel of St Mark we read: He [Christ] went out again beside the sea; and all the crowd gathered about him, and he taught them. And as he passed on, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and he said, ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed him. (2:13–14) According to the commentary by Blessed Theophylact, St Mark was calling St Matthew the Evangelist by his second name, Levi, out of shame because the latter was a tax collector, and tax collectors were very sinful men. But what is so interesting is that in St Matthew’s own Gospel, he refers to himself by his first name, Matthew, teaching us by his own example not to be ashamed or embarrassed to confess our sins to our priest or spiritual father. They do great spiritual harm to themselves and only bring joy to the demons. Some people ask why God allows demons to deceive, confuse, and tempt people so much and to such an extent. St Paul the Apostle gave the answer when he wrote his Second Letter to the Thessalonians: …they [people with no love or fear of God] refuse to love the truth and to be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.132 Thessalonians 2:10–12
It should be understood by now that “moon madness” is not caused by the moon itself but is rather one of countless tactics used by the demons who wish to confuse, tempt, and lead astray the Lord’s rational flock. May we learn before the end to guard ourselves against their deceit and to cleave unto the the Lord through the saving Mysteries of the Church!
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