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See then that ye walk carefully, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5,15-16

A tidal wave caused by an earthquake has caused great destruction and death in countries bordering the Indian Ocean. The number of victims is far, far greater than the number killed in the Twin Towers terrorist attack of three years ago. How are we to understand this so-called 'natural' disaster? Why does the Ruler of the Universe allow such catastrophes?

Naturally, each one of us has energy. We often say about people that they are energetic, or else, that they lack energy. We can use this natural energy that we are endowed with for good, or for bad. This is because God has given us freedom. Thus, each one of us gives out positive energy and negative energy, sometimes more of one than another, creating a positive or a negative atmosphere. In our Orthodox Christian understanding, those who are repentant and are attempting to live according to the Commandments, give out positive energy, those who refuse to repent and continue in sin and evildoing, give out negative energy.

Since each individual human being gives out either positive or negative energy, the amount of energy given out by billions of human-beings collectively is huge. And when the balance between the total amount of negative and positive energy tilts one way or another, then cataclysmic events occur. For example, when the amount of negative energy outweighs the positive, violent revolutions and bloody wars break out.

Moreover, the amount of negative energy can be so great that violent phenomena also take place in the natural world. Thus alongside wars and revolutions, 'natural' disasters also occur: epidemics kill, volcanoes erupt, storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, monsoons and typhoons wreak destruction, earthquakes make men tremble and tidal waves cause havoc. Nature is dependent on human nature. When man fell, so did the rest of visible creation. Whenever man falls again, so does the rest of visible creation again. And in this sense there is no such thing as 'natural' disasters - such disasters are all manmade, because caused by human nature.

For example, in the last century, the balance of energy tilted dramatically four times, once per generation. It happened after 1914 with a First War, it happened again after 1939 with a Second War, it happened in the 1960s with social revolution, wars and uprisings, it happened again after 1989 with the fall of Communism. And that whole century was also at the same time punctuated by numerous 'natural' catastrophes. It is prophesied that this is what will happen before the end of time, 'at the beginning of sorrows', when: 'For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places' (Matt. 24, 7).

Therefore, this present disaster, a tidal wave following an earthquake, 'natural' only according to the laws of fallen nature, is the result of the collective sins of mankind. It is our freedom to do good or evil that has led us to choose evil, to create negative energy. And it is the negative energy given out by all this evil that leads to disasters in the natural world. As we have said, nature is dependent on human nature. What are we to do?

Firstly, we are to pray for the victims of this and other such disasters and send what help we can. The victims of such disasters are victims of the collective sinfulness of mankind, by no means necessarily victims of their own personal sinfulness. True, there have been many victims of the earthquake-caused tidal wave in Sri Lanka. Why? Because that country has been the victim of decades-long war and hundreds of thousands of deaths, for which there has not been repentance. True, there have been many victims also in Thailand. Why in coastal resorts of Thailand? Because some of them are places of depravity where poor children are abused by rich Westerners. Some of them are places where AIDS is spread through debauchery. Wherever there is sin and depravity, debauchery and blasphemy, revolt and war, there natural disasters occur, according to the measure of freedom of the demons to take captive or make miserable as many souls as possible. And this is so, even though the majority of victims in Sri Lanka and Thailand are innocent of these great sins.

Secondly, we are to pray for ourselves in sobriety. Simply because we have not been struck by this 'natural' disaster, this does not mean that no 'natural' disaster can happen to us. If we do not repent, then the same will happen to us. Have we blasphemed? Have we sinned and not repented? Then we too are open to natural disaster, because we have chased away the protection of God, we no longer have His protection. Without the protection of the grace of God, the demons are always able to imprison our souls in suffering. They are always able to imprison souls in a state of non-repentance and sinfulness, that is, spiritual death and, if possible, physical death, which is a demonic attempt to make spiritual death permanent. This is why it is written: 'The wages of sin is death' (Romans 6, 23). That is how the demons come to possess human souls in this life and in the next. Without prayer and repentance, we have no barriers against the effects of the evil one. Without God, there is godlessness. Without God, there are the acts of the demons. Wherever there is great sin, 'natural', that is, manmade, disasters occur. Every disaster is therefore a call to us to repent, to return to repentance and sobriety.

Such 'natural' disasters include the old Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah and their self-punishment for their lack of righteousness. This is the story of the Black Death in medieval and unrighteous Europe. This is the story of San Francisco nearly a hundred years ago, when an earthquake struck a corrupt city. This is what happened after the unrepentant slaughter of millions of young lives in the First World War, when influenza took 18,000,000 lives. This is what happened in the whirlwind which ripped through the world during and after the Second World War: after the world had first sown the wind, it was rewarded with a Cold War and the threat of nuclear Armageddon. This is what happened three years ago in New York, when parts of that city were not in a state of repentance, and so unprotected from acts of great evil.

As we have said, the victims of such disasters, in fact all manmade disasters, include both the innocent and the guilty. Indeed, as in the present disaster, often it is the innocent who suffer to a far greater extent than the guilty. Victims include women and children, the old and the young. This is according to the mystery of God's Providence, the workings of which we cannot even begin to understand.

In the Gospel of St Luke, we are told of just such a disaster, when a tower fell in Siloam, killing eighteen people. Of this event our Lord said: 'Think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you Nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish'. This is why we never look at victims of disasters with heartless thoughts of condemnation, with cruel thoughts that somehow the victims 'deserved' such a fate, but with thoughts of compassion. Not only with thoughts of compassion, but also with fear and trembling for our own salvation, thoughts of 'the fear of God', which is 'the beginning of wisdom' (Proverbs 1, 7). What is 'the fear of God'?

The fear of God is the fear of losing God's love, that is, His protection and salvation. For if we have lost His fear, then we will not be repentant. And then we too open ourselves to the consequences of this loss, the acts of demons, whose aim is to take our souls captive and make us suffer through disasters. Although few realize it, the devil is the source of all suffering. Despite this disaster, we must recognize that if it were not for the mercy of God, the epicentre of this earthquake would not have been beneath the ocean, but in the centre of one of the teeming cities of Asia. Then we would not be talking of tens of thousands of victims, but of tens of millions of victims.

May God protect us and have mercy on us all, for there but for the grace of God go we.

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