“The Great Watch”. From the private diary of Hieroschemamonk Jerome.
Father Ephrem in spiritual delusion
Fr. Ephrem, a native of Don, came to our monastery being already a mature man, and since he in the world had his own ship and was familiar with seamanship, the monastery ship was entrusted to him, where he worked hard for several years. He was an attentive monk who had accepted the image of repentance, he prayed diligently to God for the abandonment of his sins in the world. In this mood of spirit, he accepted imperceptibly a temptation from the enemy to find out, whether God had forgiven him for his sins or not. As a result, he became keen to see any sign of his absolution, but did not feel the need to first consult his spiritual father on this important matter. Having received such a proud and presumptuous compulsion from the enemy, he began to pray hard for it, while the enemy prepared him for acceptance of the delusion by tricking him with such manner.
One night, when Father Ephrem in his cell prayed hard with tears about forgiveness of sins, a beam of light from the sky suddenly hit straight in his face, and the thought compelled him: “This is the Holy Spirit, who came to you, bow to him!” Father Ephrem did not humble himself enough, and therefore did not recognize this evil deception. Instead of saying, “I am unworthy of this, I will not accept”, he stood in astonishment, and in the meantime some force bent him down to the ground. At this time, instantly a light beam entered him and began to walk inside him, excited him with his devilish joys and tickles, and he, miserable, was glad to be possessed by the Holy Spirit! But when this spirit descended into the private parts of his body, and revolted there, producing the fornication, then our monk became more and more afraid of this, immediately came to his spiritual father and told him all that had happened.
The confessor was very surprised by such a bad mistake of his, because he knew well this monk, and also knew that he read the books of the Holy Fathers, and therefore, should have known well about the various delusions, especially that the monk should not desire any vision, considering himself unworthy, as St Peter of Damascus writes. The monk only has to wish to see a vision - and he will immediately go into the area of delusion, for, considering himself worthy of seeing a vision, he dares to put himself on a point of pride, and for this God permitted him to be ashamed and sometimes to go through bitter malice.
The same happened to Father Ephrem: although he soon learned that he was in diabolic delusion, renounced it, and became as much as possible opposed to it, but he suffered a great deal after, for the demon, coming inside, did not come out for a long time and the fathers were forced to exorcise him. Although he has now calmed down, fulfills his obedience. It has been more than a decade now; however, he still suffers from the devil’s temptation, especially at the end of the month.
This example is good for those who despise the commandment of the Holy Spirit, who said: ‘Do nothing without advice’ (Sirach 32:21); Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety (Proverbs 11:14). It does not mean to consult with many counselors, as St Dorotheus says, but to consult with one counselor about many things or everything, not that you reveal some things, while concealing others. St Gregory of Sinai also says that it is necessary to reveal all that to the spiritual father without adding or diminishing.