The proliferation of idol worship and all kinds of
superstition near the time of the birth of Christ was a boon to the already
widespread dominance of evil spirits in human society. An outward indication of
this dominance was the presence of a great quantity of the possessed; that is,
people in the hold of evil spirits. Coming into our world with compassion for
humanity, the Lord Jesus Christ began by first freeing people from the
domination of the devil (Matt. 4:24, 8:16, 9:32-34; Mark 1:32-34; Luke 4:41,
8:2, 11:4). Some of the more realistically depicted incidents are the healing
of the possessed youth (Matt. 17:14-21), the daughter of the Canaanite woman
(Mark 7:24-29), and the two possessed Gadarenes (Matt. 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-19).
In the last incident it is worth noting that not one but a whole legion of
demons (i.e., a great number of them) became established in a man.
A thorough reading of the Gospel stories about the
healing of the possessed inclines one toward the belief that what is being
talked about is not epilepsy or another neurological illness but the exorcism
of invisible, though very real,
deliberately evil creatures that get pleasure from torturing others.
In order to expose all the ferocious savagery of
the demons in front of the doubting, the Lord once permitted the demons to
migrate from a man into a herd of swine that was grazing nearby. And there in
front of the eyes of the astonished crowd, this large herd of crazed swine
charged off a cliff, throwing itself into the sea where it drowned (Mark 5:13).
And this fact alone, of the instantaneous transmigration of spirits from one
creature into others, completely excludes any normal psychic illnesses. Reading
the Gospels and other accounts about the exorcism of spirits reveals a whole
series of definite symptoms of possession. First, the possessed show a specific
negative reaction to all that is holy and divine. At the sight of Christ, for
example, the possessed began to writhe with convulsions. There are examples of
demons, having become established in some unfortunate person, recognizing
Christ as the Son of God and with the mouth of the possessed begging Christ to
wait awhile before punishing them, by not sending them straight away into the
abyss (Matt. 8:29, Mark 5:7). Moreover, the voices of the possessed would have
unnatural, inhuman qualities. It was clear to the spectators that it was not
the person there before them speaking, but someone else speaking through him.
Finally, immediately after the departure of the demon, those who had been
possessed became normal people, and all signs of the demonic possession would
disappear without a trace. You can also observe these specific signs of
possession in contemporary victims. If skeptics do not want to believe in
miracles, then let them at least conclude that there really exists a spiritual
world if only from the behavior of the possession. We will return to the theme
of possession later.
Now we will delve into the subject of the expulsion of demons by the Apostles.
In preparing the disciples for the coming mission of preaching throughout the
world, the Lord entrusted them, among other things, with the power and authority
to continue freeing people from the domination of the devil. He began sending
them two by two into the cities and villages, giving them power to drive out
the unclean spirits (Matt. 10:1, Mark 6:7, Luke 9:1). The Apostles did not
expect the unclean spirits to submissively obey their word, and so, having
returned from their first evangelical journey, they told the Savior with joy:
"Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Thy name"
(Luke 10:17). After this, the Lord, in a still more explicit way, confirmed
that He was assigning them to drive away every unclean power belonging to the
other world: "Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and
scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means
hurt you" (Luke 10:19). Before His Ascension into Heaven the Lord
foretold that the breaking of diabolic power would be a distinctive sign of the
Church: "And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my
name shall they cast out devils …" (Mark 16:17).
And in reality, the preaching of the Gospel was
invariably accompanied by the expulsion of unclean spirits. From the book of
Acts of the holy Apostles are several accounts of the healing of the possessed
by the Apostle Peter (Acts 5:16), then by the Apostle Philip when "unclean
spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed with
them" (Acts 8:7), and later by the Apostle Paul, who expelled a spirit of
divination from a young woman (Acts 16:16-18). Moreover, the blessing of God
acted so abundantly in those times that when, for example, personal things that
belong to the Apostle Paul were laid on the possessed, the demons went out of
them (Acts 19:12).
Since Apostolic times, prayers of exorcism of
demons have been an indispensable part of the Mystery (Sacrament) of Baptism.
Nevertheless, although the Lord Jesus Christ defeated the prince of darkness
and took from him every power over people and gave to the Church great power
for the fight against him and his unclean spirits, it is necessary to understand
that right up to the Last Judgment by God, unclean spirits will represent for
each one of us a large and continual danger. For this reason the Lord Jesus
Christ also taught us to continually ask God: "Lead us not into
temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." The Apostle Peter calls
to each Christian: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the
devil walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1
Being cast down from Heaven, the devil and his
demons concentrated their activity in an area close to us — the so-called
"aerial realm." The devil considers people who are opposed to the
Christian faith or live a sinful life to be his subjects, and he uses them for
his fight with the Church. In the words of the Apostle, these people live
"according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now
worketh in the children of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2). Now let us
examine in more detail how the devil acts among people and what methods he
uses. In part, we will speak of possession and about the methods of enslavement
of people through occultism and magic.
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