Friday, May 30, 2014

"I Exorcise You, Spirit Unclean"
"I call upon You, God, Pantokrator, Lord Jesus Christ, Heavenly King:
I call upon You, the maker of heaven and earth.
I exorcise you, spirit unclean, according to the word of God, the maker of heaven and earth.
Be put to flight by the one who wraps himself in light as a cloak:
the one who alone has immortality and light unapprochable:
to Whom be glory and power unto the ages.
--St. Epiphanius of Salamis

What St. Epiphanius' short prayer was written to do is something which the world has needed since the Garden: the exorcism of demons.  While sin is, of course, the choice of man, the demons play their part in trying to bend us toward sin, to constantly bombard us with temptation (think of C.S. Lewis' fictionalized account of this in The Screwtape Letters).  But God does not leave us to their whims: we are not abandoned into the hands of the "worldrulers," as St. Paul calls them.  Indeed, He gives us the power of His Spirit to drive them away from us.

Liturgies around the world abound in exorcisms in order to protect Christians in virtue.  For instance, think of the exorcisms of catechumens performed in preparation for their Baptism, or as the first step in their Baptismal liturgy.  That great psalm verse chanted during Bright Week, "Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered," is a type of exorcism as well, and it is used that way in a common nightly prayer, which continues, "let the demons perish before the presence of those who love God."  The sign of the Cross has exorcising qualities: "Make the sign of the Cross on your forehead.  In this way no man will be able to hurt you, nor will the devil himself be able to do so, when he sees you appear with these weapons to protect you on every side" (St. John Chrysostom).  Listen to what the same saint has to say about the physical Cross itself: "The cross has the strength of a wonderful amulet and a mighty incantation; blessed is the soul which speaks in the name of Jesus Christ crucified.  Call upon that name and every disease will flee, every attack of Satan will yield."  Think of the short prayer made when kissing the Cross: "Guard me, O Lord, by the power of Your holy and life-giving Cross, and keep me from all evil."  As one additional example, the Eucharist, "a food which is more powerful than any armor," drives away demons, as St. John again tells us: "If the devil merely sees you returning from the Master's banquet, he flees faster than any wind, as if he had seen a lion breathing forth flames form his mouth. If you show him a tongue stained with the precious blood, he will not be able to make a stand; if you show him your mouth all crimsoned and ruddy, cowardly beast that he is, he will run away."

We should thus frequently recite prayers so that the Spirit of God may drive off the demons who assault us.  Though priests, by virtue of the Spirit's special graces in them,  have greater power in exorcism, all Christians are given the ability to drive off demons as did St. Antony the Great, who repelled them with a feather duster.  We can use the words of Scripture, our sharp sword, to drive them away: "The devil shoots darts at me, but I have a sword; he is an archer, but I am a heavily-armed soldier" (St. John Chrysostom).  The Jesus Prayer is a help: "The single-phrased Jesus Prayer destroys and consumes the deceits of the demons" (St. Hesychios the Priest).  The Theotokos, the "Trauma Ever-Hurting to the Demons," as the Akathist of St. Romanos calls her, is our helper as well: "That is why the Mother of God is called the 'Scourge of Demons,' for it is not possible for a devil to destroy a man so long as the man himself does not refrain from running to the help of the Mother of God" (St. Seraphim of Sarov).  All of the other saints, too, that great army of Christ, assist us too.

Above all, though, we must remember that it is Christ working in us who causes the demons to flee, for it is not by our own power: as St. John explains, "In the spiritual contests...the Judge of the games of piety becomes our all and helper, and joins forces with the contestants in the fight against the devil."  Let us constantly pray to the Lord, His Mother All-Pure, and all the saints, through all prayers and supplications, that demons may flee from before us, so we may always more easily advance towards the Ascended Lord.

"Be gone from my heart, Deceiver, be gone right now; 
be gone from my limbs, be gone from my life. 
Thief, snake, fire, Baal, evil, wickedness, death, chasm, dragon, beast, 
night, assailant, madness, chaos, deceiver ,murderer, 
who even set ruin upon my forefathers, 
you calamity, when you made them taste evil and death. 
Christ the Lord orders you to flee into the depths of the sea, 
over the cliffs, or to a herd of swine, 
like that detestable Legion long ago.  But submit, 
lest I strike you with the cross, before which everything trembles. 
I carry a cross in my limbs, a cross on my journey, 
 a cross in my heart. The cross is my glory."
--St. Gregory the Theologian

Nota Bene: The prayer of St. Epiphanius is from his Fragmenta precationis et exorcismi, found here in the Greek.  The quote from the nightly prayer, and the prayer said when kissing the Cross, are from the Publican's Prayer Book published by the Melkite Eparchy of Newton (Boston, MA: Sophia Press, 2008), p. 69.  The quotes from St. John Chrysostom are all from his Baptismal Instructions, translated by Paul W. Harkins, volume 31 of the Ancient Christian Writers series (Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1963).  They are in order, from XII.60, XI.25, III.12, III.11, XII.35.  The referenced story of St. Antony is found in his Life written by St. Athanasius.  The quote from St. Hesychios is from his On Watchfulness and Holiness §174, as found in Volume I of The Philokalia compiled by Sts. Nikodemus the Hagiorite and Makarios of Corinth, as translated by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Bishop Kallistos Ware (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1979).  The quote from St. Seraphim is from his On the Acquisition of the Holy Spirit §5, as found the in first volume of the Little Russian Philokalia published by St. Herman Press in Platina, CA (I believe this volume was translated by Fr. Seraphim Rose).  The quote from St. Gregory is from his poem "Repelling the devil, and invocation of Christ," in Poems II.1.55.1-12, as found in Poems on Scripture, translated by Brian Dunkle, S.J., as volume 46 of the Popular Patristics series (Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2012).

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