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On combatting the evil spirits

In the Gospel narrative on the man from the land of the Gadarenes, who was possessed by evil spirits and was healed by the Lord Jesus Christ, we hear of how the demons took possession of the unfortunate man and of how they tormented him. We see the divine power of Jesus Christ over an entire legion of demons, i.e. over many thousands of them. We see the unexpected destruction of a multitude of animals, into which the demons entered with the Lord’s permission. This story from the Gospel confirms beyond doubt that evil spirits do exist, and that they are able to cause great harm and even death to both humans and animals.

 The existence of evil spirits, their burning hatred for people, and their constant struggle with them are described countless times in the Holy Scriptures. From the very beginning of man’s existence, the devil urged Adam and Eve towards disobedience, so that they became transgressors of the Lord’s commandment and were consequently exiled from the bliss of paradise and condemned to misfortune and torment. For that reason the devil is known as the original man-killer.

 The book of Job describes how the devil, with God’s tolerance, took away from Job all his possessions, destroyed his children, and afflicted Job himself with horrible leprosy. Apostle John the Theologian openly teaches us that whoever commits sin comes from the devil, because the devil was the first to sin. It is for this reason that the Son of God appeared, in order to destroy the work of the devil. And Apostle Peter writes: be wary and alert, because your enemy the devil walks as a roaring lion, seeking to devour ye. The devil tried to tempt even the Lord Himself, offering Him power over all the kingdoms of the world.

 The Christian Church teaches us that there is a kingdom of the devil, that there are fallen angels, who are fierce not only in themselves, but are full of burning hatred towards God and men, and who put all their efforts towards harming man’s soul and body, and yet a true Christian can and must oppose them.

 How should we struggle with such a ferocious enemy? The Lord Himself said: “Demons are expelled only by means of prayer and fasting.” The evil spirits themselves confessed to some of the saints that nothing vanquishes them as quickly as humility and that they are unable to look upon the sign of the cross, but flee from it, because it burns them like fire and chases them far away.

 The Church Fathers advised combating the evil spirits with the name of Jesus – there is no stronger shield and no mightier weapon than the Jesus prayer: “O Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner,” since the demons dare not approach anyone who is conversing with God.

 Some saints also advised thinking constantly about something good, so that the devil would always find us engaged and would be unable to approach us by way of our thoughts. The reading of the Holy Scriptures and religious literature is also a great defense against the devil’s attempts to incite us towards sin.

 Dear brethren! Never forget that for us, Orthodox Christians, the evil spirits are the most real and the most malicious enemy in the whole world. The Lord Himself said: “Fear not those who kill the body, but fear those who can destroy both body and soul in fiery hell.” And it is precisely the demons who are trying to destroy our souls, in order to prevent us from enjoying the heavenly rapture of which they themselves have been deprived for eternity.

But let us not despair. If we follow the advice of the Holy Fathers – those experienced soldiers of Christ – then we, too, will come out victorious in the difficult struggle with the enemies of our salvation, and we, too, will be able to unite with our Lord Jesus Christ in eternal bliss. Amen.        

Father Rostislav Sheniloff

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