The devil who turned into an angel

There’s an old Orthodox story told by Elder Ilie Cleopa, a Romanian Orthodox priest whose life you can read more about in this article. I couldn’t find an English version of it on the internet, so I decided to translate it. The English translation below was done by myself, having this text as a source material.

Being humble (lowly of heart) is a good thing that the devil can’t do. We fast, but he never eats; we diligently work, but neither does he sit idle; we read (religious) books, but he is a great theologian, he knows all the Scripture by heart. Whatever we do, he also does. But there’s one thing he can’t do. He can’t humble himself; he can’t say “forgive me!”.

I will tell you a holy short story from the book “Everghetinos”. There was this nun at a nun monastery; she was a sacristan in the monastic life, the poor thing. The sacristan wakes up at 11 p.m at night and wakes up the abbess, as the Matins is celebrated at midnight. We used to do this too. When I was a sacristan, I used to carry a little bell and a hammer. I used to go and knock three times on the door and say: “For the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, Son Of God, have mercy on us!”, and the one inside the house would say: “Amen”.

I used to ring the bell and move on to the next house. That was the way in which things were done at the time and that’s how we used to do them. Just like the nun from this story. What did she do to not fall asleep? She used to read Psalms from sunset until the hours of the Matins, and when it was 11 p.m., she ran to the abbess to receive the blessings required for her to ring the bells and wake up the sisters for prayer.

The devil used to be very displeased with her because her reading of the Psalms would burn him. But she toiled like this for years. So what did the devil think of in order to make the abbess and the other nuns reprimand her? The devil would go at night and ring the bells. But he wouldn’t do it at the right time. As soon as the nuns went to sleep, they would hear the bells going “ding dong ding dong…”. The abbess would call her and say:

“You foolish girl, the sisters have just went to bed, so why did you ring the bells?”

But she used to say:

“I’m sorry, Mother Superior, for I did bad.”

She didn’t know it was the devil. She thought it was another nun, trying to frame her. Another time, the devil rang the bells both in the evening and after midnight, after the sisters were asleep. But he didn’t ring them on time, so that he could trouble the nun who kept reading from the Psalms.

So what did she do? “I’ll climb up to the bell tower!” she said, “Seeing how I’m not asleep anyways!”. So she took the Psalms book, a cross in her hand and some candles — cause light bulbs hadn’t been invented at that time — so she could read in the bell tower, and to see which of the other nuns rang the bells to frame her, as she was given penance by the abbess and the spiritual fathers many a time because the bells were rang earlier than they should have been.

When she went to the bell tower, the devil came. He put one foot on one window case, the other foot on the other window case, and reaches out for the rope to ring the bells. So, as she was standing there with the cross in her hand, she said:

“In the Name of Jesus Christ, stop! May God’s power bind you!”

“Oh no, servant of God, free me and I will never return!”

“No. Wait!”

“Let me go! I swear that I will never come to this monastery again!”

“No. Wait until Mother Superior comes here to see who had been ringing the bells all this time, while she and the council of sisters gave me penance thinking that I was doing it.”

“Release me, servant of God!”

“No. May God’s power and the Holy Cross retain you! Stay like that, with your hand on the rope!”

And the poor nun climbed down from the bell tower and went to see the abbess.

“Mother Superior!”

“What’s wrong?”

“Come see who has been ringing the bells all this time, while you were punishing me for doing it!”

The abbess took a few nuns from the council and went to see who was ringing the bells. She thought it was another nun, who had been doing it just to cause trouble. When she arrived in the bell tower and saw him:

“Woe! Sister, chase him away! Oh, dear me, we’re scared to death! He’s very ugly!”

When they saw that the devil was a bell-ringer, they wanted to run away.

“No! Let him stay like this! He can’t run away, as he is bound.”

But he was constantly shouting:

“Release me, servants of God, and I will never return to this monastery!”

“No! Stay here until I get all the sisters in the convent to come, so you can ask their forgiveness for troubling them by ringing the bells early!”

“That I cannot do!”

Did you see the devil’s evil nature? “That I cannot do”. That’s what they say in hell: “We won’t serve You! We won’t serve You!”. Always going against God, as they have fallen because of pride.

So they rang the bells and the sisters gathered.

“The devil is in the bell tower! That one sister is ordering him to ask for forgiveness.”

When they saw him, (some of them) screamed and scurried away.

“Say forgive me!” the nuns told him.

“I can’t, for if I do I will become an angel.”

“That’s just what we want. To see a devil turning back into an angel, like he used to be (before Lucifer’s rebellion).”

See, since he has fallen due to pride, he cannot say “forgive me”. This applies to us too. If you see someone asking you for forgiveness and you don’t say “May God grant you forgiveness!”, you’re like the devil who can’t say “forgive me”. “I don’t want to say forgive me! But why? He’s the one who’s guilty, not me!”

“I’m not saying forgive me!”

Then the nun said:

“Look, if you won’t say forgive me, then sing us a song, like you used to sing when you used to be an angel.”

“If I sing, you’ll melt like candle wax.”

“We’re not afraid!”

“And what song should I sing?”

“Sing the Trisagion Hymn, The Holy God song.”

When he started singing, every nun who heard him cried. He was singing very beautifully. But do you know how he sang? Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, and then he stopped. That was it. He didn’t want to say, have mercy on us.

“Say have mercy on us!”

“I can’t!”

“May the Power of The Holy Cross burn you!”

“Oh no! Release me, and I will never step foot around here ever again! I will tell the entire hell what happened to me here.”

“No! Say have mercy on us!”

When he saw that the Power of The Holy Cross was burning him, he sang. And when he sang have mercy on us, he shone as brightly as the Sun and he flew up to Heaven. He became an angel. And then the nuns began making prostrations.

“We thank The Lord for we have seen a devil who was reverted into an angel for saying have mercy on us!”

That’s why anyone who has ever wronged someone else should immediately say forgive me, brother, for I was wrong!

Let me know your opinions about the story in the comment section below.

What to do to avoid Purgatory

Purgatory is a Catholic doctrine that the Eastern Orthodox, the Evangelical and the other Christian subgroups reject. According to the Catholic Church, “purgatory” is the name given to the final purification of all who die in God’s grace and friendship without having been perfectly purified.

While it is not uncommon for purgatory to be pictured, in popular imagination, as a place rather than a process of purification, the idea of purgatory being a physical place is not in accordance with the Church’s doctrine. Fire, also present in the description of purgatory in secular works of fiction, is not part of the Catholic Church’s doctrine.

The purgatory of Catholic doctrine

At the Second Council of Lyon in 1274, the Catholic Church defined, for the first time, its teaching on purgatory, in two points:

  1. some souls are purified after death;
  2. such souls benefit from the prayers and pious duties that the living do for them.

The Council declared:

[I]f they die truly repentant in charity before they have made satisfaction by worthy fruits of penance for (sins) committed and omitted, their souls are cleansed after death by purgatorical or purifying punishments, as Brother John has explained to us. And to relieve punishments of this kind, the offerings of the living faithful are of advantage to these, namely, the sacrifices of Masses, prayers, alms, and other duties of piety, which have customarily been performed by the faithful for the other faithful according to the regulations of the Church.

https://www.catholicfidelity.com/apologetics-topics/suorces-of-catholic-dogma/sources-of-catholic-dogma-400-500/

A century and a half later, the Council of Florence rephrased the two points, again rejecting certain elements of the purgatory of popular imagination, in particular fire and place, against which representatives of th Orthodox Church spoke at the council:

[The Council] has likewise defined, that, if those truly penitent have departed in the love of God, before they have made satisfaction by the worthy fruits of penance for sins of commission and omission, the souls of these are cleansed after death by purgatorial punishments; and so that they may be released from punishments of this kind, the suffrages of the living faithful are of advantage to them, namely, the sacrifices of Masses, prayers, and almsgiving, and other works of piety, which are customarily performed by the faithful for other faithful according to the institutions of the Church.

http://www.catholicessentials.net/purgatory.htm

The avoidance of speculations and non-essential questions was highly recommended at the Council of Trent, on the 4th of December 1563, when the same two points were repeated:

Since the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Spirit, in conformity with the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the Fathers in sacred councils, and very recently in this ecumenical Synod, has taught that there is a purgatory, and that the souls detained there are assisted by the suffrages of the faithful, and especially by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar, the holy Synod commands the bishops that they insist that the sound doctrine of purgatory, which has been transmitted by the holy Fathers and holy Councils, be believed by the faithful of Christ, be maintained, taught, and everywhere preached.
Let the more difficult and subtle “questions”, however, and those which do not make for “edification” (cf. 1Tm 1,4), and from which there is very often no increase in piety, be excluded from popular discourses to uneducated people. Likewise, let them not permit uncertain matters, or those that have the appearance of falsehood, to be brought out and discussed publicly. Those matters on the contrary, which tend to a certain curiosity or superstition, or that savor of filthy lucre, let them prohibit as scandals and stumbling blocks to the faithful.

https://www.catholicfidelity.com/apologetics-topics/suorces-of-catholic-dogma/sources-of-catholic-dogma-900-1000/

Mother Angelica’s advice on how to avoid purgatory

In an episode of her famous TV shows on EWTN, aired on the 1st of August 2000, Mother Angelica replied to one of her callers, who asked her if she could provide some advice on how to avoid purgatory.

I have found her answer to be remarkably beautiful and inspiring and I would like to share it with you, and to ask you to watch the video in question (embedded below) and meditate on her words for a bit. Pray to God for discernment and guidance, so that you may always do His Will and, subsequently, follow the narrow path and enter through the narrow gate.

In Mother Angelica’s opinion, skipping purgatory and going straight to Heaven should be easy as long as we do the Will of God in the present moment. The past is dead (it does not exist anymore) and the future – unborn. But we are now, and we should strive to do our duties in this life every single moment according to God’s Will.

How can we know God’s Will? Well, that’s an issue for another article. 🙂 Feel free to share your opinions about the video and about Purgatory in the comments section below or in the comments section of the YouTube video. God bless you!