"The [guardian] angel will not retreat from us, unless we drive him away by our evil deeds. As the smoke drives bees away, and stench the doves, even so our stinking sin drives away from us the angel who protects our life."
CherubimSaint Basil the Great
Created Long before Humans
Saint John of Damascus tells us: "God is Himself the Maker and Creator of the angels; for He brought them out of nothing into being and created them after His own image. They are an incorporeal race, a sort of spirit or immaterial fire, even as the divine David says that ' His angels are spirits , and His ministers a flame of fire (Ps 103:6).
Angels were among the first part of God's creation. In the Creed we say, "I believe in one God...Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. Holy Scripture says, "When the stars were made, all My angels praised Me with a loud voice" (Job 38:7, LXX). The Apostle Paul tells us "By Him all things created that are in heaven, and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers" (Col 1:16). Heaven that was created in the very beginning according to Genesis (In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth) is generally understood by the Fathers to be an invisible heaven inhabited with powers on High. They believed that God created the angels long before He created the visible world.
Genuine conversion is all about not being different in externals, not attention seeking, but about converting the inside. Go to any ordinary parish and you will see people dressed anonymously – they could be anyone, but maybe one of them is a saint. Genuine Orthodox Christians do not stand out, except by their example of living a good life.
It is strange that a foreign word, the Slavonic (not Russian) word ‘prelest’, should sometimes be used in English. It is only a translation of the Greek word ‘plani’ and long ago in the fifth century it was translated from Greek ascetic works into Latin by the Gaulish St John Cassian as ‘illusio’. So in English it could be translated simply as (spiritual) illusion, but perhaps the English word ‘self-delusion’ is even more exact. ‘Prelest’ simply means a state of mind in which we imagine that we are something that we are not, in other words, we are deluded. There are two states that greatly contribute to the development of self-delusion.
Residents of large cities are almost never able to see the beauty of a starry sky. The light of the street lamps and the bright advertisements blot out the stars from them, and they appear faint and feeble. And only when one gets out to a field or the mountains, amongst nature’s quiet wind, on a calm night, does the boundless starry night open before his eyes in all of its beauty, and then the words of the Psalmist ring out in his soul: "The heavens declare (in Russian: preach) the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork" (Psalm 18:2).
Something similar often happens with man in his relationship to God’s Church. The quiet wind of heavenly life blows within Christ’s Church. Through her is established a connection to the World on High, and mystical contact with eternity. In her is defeated death, which becomes a rest from labors and a portal to "the best and most useful." Nevertheless, the majority of people, blinded by the sorry trumpery of life, does not notice the mystical spiritual life in the Church and cannot draw from her that water of life, about which the Lord said that those who drink of it shall never thirst; that is, they will receive complete spiritual fulfillment.
Modern apostates from the Church, sectarians, accuse Christ’s Church of supposedly forgetting to preach the Gospel and turning her whole life toward outward ritual. This accusation is based on an inattentive or dishonest attitude toward the Church. The life of the Church is an uninterrupted and never-silenced preaching of the Gospel, which is realized in a strict and elaborate order, inspired from above, and is revealed in every avenue capable of influencing human perception.