Word Magazine August 1958 Page 9


Fr. Michael Buben — Pastor, St. Michael’s Church, Geneva, N.Y.

(This article is based on a story from Holy Tradition. It is a liberal translation from the Russian


The devil once appeared in the form of a man to St. Anthony the Great (for the purpose of tempting him) and began to sob. Seeing him, St. Anthony asked: “Who are you and what happened that causes you to sob so bitterly?”

“Holy father,” answered the devil, “I am not a man, but an evil demon, as I myself acknowledge, because of my abundant sins.”

“What do you want of me?” asked Anthony; thinking that the stranger called himself a demon only because of his humility.

“Nothing more than this,” answered the stranger, “that you ask the Lord God, whether He would admit the devil to repentance? I was never baptized, and because of this consider myself to be a demon.”

To this St. Anthony answered: “Go home now, and come here again tomorrow, and I will give you an an­swer.”

During the evening of this same day, St. Anthony extended his arms and prayed to the Lord saying: “Master, Blessed and Merciful Lord, who wouldest that all men should come to the wisdom of Thy Truth and be saved! Listen to me in this hour and answer Thine unworthy servant:—Would Thou accept a man to repentance who is completely overcome with the sins of demons?”

After these words — a noise, a flash like lightning and an Angel of God appeared and said: “Why did you pray to the Lord in behalf of a demon? He appeared only to tempt you.”

“Why did not the Lord reveal this to me?’’ asked St. Anthony.

“Do not be saddened,” answered the angel, ‘God did this to instruct sinners, that HE would never turn away anyone who with sincerity desired to come closer to HIS Grace, even if it was Satan himself … When the tempter comes to you again, be sure this time to denounce him, but first inform him, that man loving God does NOT turn away anyone wishing to come to Him. Even you (devil) He will accept, if you fulfill this of which I now inform you . . . When he (devil) asks what conditions must be met, answer him; — “I know you, who you are, and where you came from … you are the ancient evil …you are pride never-ending … How is it possible for you to make a worthy repentance? .. . However, in order that you may have no cause for excuse on the day of judgment, listen to how YOU are to begin your repent­ance.”

“The Lord says: stay in one place for three years. Do not leave this place. Turn your face toward the east, and say one hundred times a day: —“Lord have mercy on me, the ancient evil.” . . . Also in a loud voice say: — “Lord have mercy and save me, beclouded temptation.” … Say to him: “When you fulfill this condition with complete sincerity, then you will again be united with the angels of God …” If he agrees — admit him to repent­ance … But know that ancient evil does not become a new-good … Whatever happens afterwards, write it down, so no-one would despair about his own salvation.” Saying that the angel of the Lord — hid.”

The next day, early after dawn, the devil came and from afar appeared in the form of a sobbing man. When St. Anthony informed him of all that the angel of God had revealed to him, the devil laughed and said : — “If I wanted to call myself ancient evil, beclouded temptation, darkness, cursed and damned, I would have considered this in the very beginning and been saved, but not now. NOW I AM COVERED WITH GLORY … All listen to me, are afraid and tremble before me. Now, I should call myself ancient evil, beclouded temptation, damned? . . . NO! IMPOSSIBLE! Would it be possible for me — so lordly over all sinners to become an un­needed servant, a humble penitent? No, No!” Saying this the devil quickly vanished, and St. Anthony said: –

“In truth ancient evil CANNOT become a new-good.”