By Fr. John Burdin
What we are going through today is, in a spiritual sense, much more terrible and dangerous than the situation at the beginning of the 20th century. There was an open persecution of Christ and His Church those days. Everything was clear and the only thing required from a Christian was to stay faithful to Christ and to be prepared to die for Him. It is not easy psychologically but safe in a spiritual sense. Even the renunciation would leave some hope for repentance.
What is happening these days is a most difficult spiritual temptation: spiritual delusion or "prelest" in Russian.
You don't have to renounce Christ or to take off your cross, just agree that evil is good, and good is evil. The basic Christian truth and values are turned upside down. The church ministers preach death and murder as a healing panacea - very much like in the Inquisition era. It is difficult for a person who is not independent (non-autonomous) in his faith to see the difference between truth and falsehood. Especially when the latter is dressed up in Christian clothes and goes under the disguise of quotations from Scripture. So did Satan when he was tempting Christ.
One can't help thinking that the last times are coming on: "And because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold." We see this every day, both around and within ourselves. There is nothing worse than the feeling that evil has become so powerful that you physically feel love flowing away from your heart and you can't stop it. You stop watching the news on any channel, you shut yourself off from someone else's grief, because you are unable to help and you cannot stop evil. But there is no escape from it: evil already lives in people around you, so close that you cannot break up without losing what is left of love for them.
The very attempt to get separated from those under the power of evil plays into the hands of the devil, because he is the father of not only lies, but also any division and discord. It feels like there is no way out. But after all, this is also but a deceit and a delusion. Evil only seems almighty. It has not overwhelmed the whole world. Tens, hundreds of thousands of people are helping the refugees and are sharing their bread and shelter with them. Every day we learn about Christians who take people out of dangerous territories. What is more, I know that some volunteers would even search for the pets abandoned by their owners while running away from the shelling.
Evil always puffs out its cheeks and is full of pride. It always brags and shows off whereas love "does not exalt itself, does not pride itself, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not irritated, does not think evil, does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; it covers everything, believes everything, hopes everything, endures everything. Love never ceases, although prophecy will cease, and tongues will be silent, and knowledge will be abolished." When we are silenced, when words get meaningless and disputes turn into a mere exchange of quotes, our only weapon is love. Only in works of love we lay our hope.
"Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you." This is both a test of our faith and the only weapon that does not inflict wounds but heals hearts. This is the only battlefield where evil is doomed because evil is not capable of love.