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Means of guarding against evil spirits

It is difficult for a person to imagine how cruel and crafty the fallen spirits are, how tireless and inventive in their temptation of a man and in the sowing of every evil. But in this they are not able to arbitrarily cause evil to someone to the degree to which he is under the protection of the Almighty. Only when a person distances himself from God by a sinful way of life and plunges into the darkness of disbelief and the passions, does he fall into the sphere of influence of the fallen spirits, which enslave him. The unbelieving and sinners - this is that material, that army, which the devil uses for the spreading of temptations and evil in human society and maintaining his kingdom of darkness. His kingdom, similar to a raging sea, surrounds us on all sides and threatens our salvation.

In opposition to this, the Lord Jesus Christ created His Kingdom of light on earth - the Church, in which a believer finds a quiet island, a reliable refuge and defence from the evil spirits. In reality, one's very entry into the Church at the time of the Mystery of Baptism is already accompanied by special prayers of exorcism read by the priest over the person prepared for baptism: "Thou who in verity existeth, O Lord the Master Do Thou, the same Lord, delivering also this Thy creature from the bondage of the enemy receive him into Thy Heavenly Kingdom Yoke unto his life a radiant Angel, who shall deliver him from every snare of the adversary, from encounter with evil, from the demon of the noonday, and from evil vision. Expel from him every evil and impure spirit which hideth and maketh its lair in his heart - the spirit of error, the spirit of guile, the spirit of idolatry and every concupiscence, the spirit of deceit and of every uncleanness, which operateth through the prompting of the devil. And make Thy servant a reason-endowed sheep of the holy flock of Thy Christ, an honourable member of Thy Church, a consecrated vessel, a child of the light, and an heir of Thy Kingdom "

Then, with immersion three times in water, the newly baptized is cleansed of the dirt of sin that gave the devil access to him and is clothed in the grace of God, like a vestment of light that covers him on all sides (1 Peter 2:9, Col. 1:12-13). From this moment, in a figurative likeness of the Savior, the new member of the Church enters into the enclosure of the flock, which He, the Good Shepherd, vigilantly protects from marauding wolves the devil and other fallen spirits. The Savior said of this: "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand" (John 10:1-16, 28). Therefore, all that is necessary to one who has been baptized is to remain in the protection of the Lord. That is to run from sin and to preserve the received grace of the Holy Spirit.

But the devil, having lost access to the new member of the Church, begins to look around for new means by which to influence him again. He tries to achieve this by his usual weapon - by temptations. Of course a Christian receives from God all the necessary means to repulse temptations, but if he grows weak and begins to live a carnal life, if he sins, then the devil again gains entry to him and begins to enslave him with still greater cruelty. About this, our Lord Jesus Christ said: "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and put in order. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first" (Matt. 12:43-45). Warning about this danger, Holy Scripture calls us to be vigilant: "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12). The Apostle Paul teaches that a Christian should consider himself a soldier of Christ, finding himself in the middle of a battle. "My brothers," he calls, "be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (Eph. 6:10-13).

The Lord Jesus Christ armed us with a number of means by which we attract to us the grace of God and repulse the evil spirits. To these belong, first of all, prayer and calling on the name of Christ. We are taught to ask our Heavenly Father daily: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." Many prayers, as, for example, the morning and evening prayers in our prayerbooks, ask for protection from the snares of the devil. At the end of this chapter, the reader will find a few special prayers against evil spirits. About the strength of His name, the Lord said: "In My Name shall they cast out devils" (Mark 16:17). Holy Scripture and the lives of the saints bring forth countless numbers of examples of the efficacy of the name of Christ in the expulsion of demons.

The experience of the Church over many centuries confirms that the demons are not able to withstand representations of the Cross and the sign of the Cross. These are for them like fire for insects. The Venerable Nikitas Stithatos says, on this theme, that the demons often disturb our spiritual organs of perception and rob us of our sleep, but a courageous soul can destroy their specters and put them to flight by making one life-creating sign of the Cross and appealing to the name of Christ (The Philokalia, vol. IV of the English edition, On the Practice of Virtues, text 97). And in a similar way St. John Chrysostom explains that it is not simply with fingers that one should make the sign of the Cross but with a heartfelt disposition and complete faith and that if one makes the sign of the Cross in that way, not a single unclean spirit can come close, seeing that sword by which he was injured and received a mortal wound. If we with trembling look at their places of punishment, we can imagine how terrified the demons are on seeing that weapon by which Christ destroyed all their power and cut off the head of the serpent. When the Cross is before us, the demons are not terrible and not dangerous (Homilies on the Gospels, part 2). The custom of wearing a cross next to the skin was adopted by Christians in the most ancient times.

Also, it is important to bless one's residence. Sometimes a home into which we have moved might have been defiled by the earlier occupants if they lived sinfully, blasphemed, enjoyed wild music and improper films, or were involved with the occult. Occasionally, evil spirits settle in living quarters in which murder or suicide occurred. In order to purify one's residence, it should be sprinkled with holy water during the reading of the appropriate prayers (see below), or, still better, a priest should be invited to bless it.

In general it is necessary to remember that sin attracts the demons. If, having sinned, we do not repent with all our heart, then this gives the demons entry to us. A sinful condition is like a tunnel through which they penetrate to our subconscious and affect us. Therefore, in order to be delivered from their influence, we must cleanse ourselves with sincere repentance and confession, after which we must with reverence take Holy Communion. Then, coming into us, the Lord, like an all-consuming fire, destroys any filth and cuts off access to us from the side of the spirits of darkness. It's good to train ourselves to commune regularly, at least once a month. Then we will continually carry within ourselves the fire of the grace of God. Christians of the early centuries took Communion every Sunday.

It is necessary to look at all these means that the Lord Jesus Christ gave us for salvation and for the attraction of His grace not as magic formulas but as conductors of God's mercy, given to us for the strengthening of faith and for confirming us in a virtuous life.

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