December 3, 2013
This morning a woman possessed by a devil was in the Church. We’ve discussed some of this stuff before, but the context of this one was different than what I had witnessed previously and it’s worth bringing up. This isn’t a sermon, I just wanted to reflect on some stuff with you guys that impacted me…
1. Lack of Fear
The person who was trying to exorcise her was a priest. Not a monk-priest, a normal, everyday married priest. Abouna didn’t appear to have even the slightest bit of anxiety, fear, or worry. It was clear that he knew that he was not doing anything himself, he was waiting and hoping on God’s work and mercy for the person whose soul was bound.
After spending some time by Anba Bishoy’s body, Abouna brought her to the church that the other fathers and I were praying in together. She was perpetually crying out, yelling, cursing and all sorts of things. What I noticed though, is that the people that were in liturgy all intensified their prayers, like they suddenly realised the Liturgy has power. The priests prayed more from the heart and you could hear it and see it in their voices and facial expressions, the people sang much louder, there was an atmosphere of utmost intensity and concentration on the words of the Liturgy, and suddenly certain prayers seemed more relevant, and the need for God did as well.
I wondered why it took something like that for us to realise that the Liturgy is so sacred, so deep, and that it really brings to us the mercy of God. When I turned to the side in front of His Holy Body to say “Peace be with all” when it is Christ Himself Who blesses – I did’t do anything different – it is Christ Who blessed today and blesses at every liturgy, but today I really felt it was Him. Why do we need some dramatic event to really care about Liturgy? We’re always so late to get there, or we’re mechanical about it, we say the prayers because it’s in the Liturgy, but how often are we really truly praying from the heart, and recognising the power that is coming from the altar?
3. Saints & Intercession
The woman went nuts at St. Pishoy as well as at St. Apa Eschyron (Abaskhyron in normal colloquial), and today was the feast of St. Mercurius. The saint, however, who was apparently in our midst and we couldn’t see, was the Strong Saint Moses the Black. The devil could see him and was going nuts and asking to be left alone by him. During the Commemoration of the Saints, the lady possessed was going even more nuts, probably because the saints being named were themselves present before us.
How often do we have the saints around us but have no idea? How often do we even bother to cultivate strong relationships with them? Do you know why Saint Moses is so famous for exorcisms? I think it’s because of his battle for purity – not just sexual purity but purity from all evil, he really killed himself for righteousness and swung all the way from one extreme to a moderate but holy one! One where he was still funny and social, but remarkably self-controlled. We must learn how to live in communion with the saints, they are essential to our lives and exist in spite of us. Who would have thought Anba Moses would come on St. Philopater’s feast in St. Apa Eschyron’s church for the sake of this woman. In addition to this, Abouna said something about some saint to her (I couldn’t hear what he said from the sanctuary) and she started yelling, “I know him, I know him, you think you’re going to tell me all about him?!” she was petrified about a certain saint coming. or rather, the devil in her was. I later found out that he brought up St. Isidore, St. Moses’ spiritual father.
I don’t know how to describe to you all how one suddenly becomes aware of how undisciplined one is when a situation like this arises. I couldn’t help but think about ‘this kind cannot come out except by fasting and prayer’. It was clear that Abouna had significant self-discipline, even though he knew it was not his own righteousness that would cast out any demon. The fact is that our inability to practice continence is when we allow the passions to enslave us, so that we lose the freedom that we have in Christ. We become bound to sensuality instead of rising above it, we desire things of the earth and come to have contempt for the things that are heavenly. We do it for so long that Church and spirituality becomes first totally misunderstood (we think of them as motions and practices – not real knowledge), then it becomes totally boring. Self-control as an act of love is vital to spiritual maturity and discernment. Imagine if there comes a time where people don’t have any self-control anymore… We are giving the devil free reign over us. We need to learn not to love perpetual comfort. I’m not saying it’s sinful to be comfortable, but it’s one thing to have some of it and another to love it, an even better thing not to care for it. Learn to say no to yourselves for the sake of something higher than yourself – this is an act of love, not slavery. I choose to ache if I go to the gym because I love the idea of being stronger. I choose discomfort here for the sake of eternal comfort with the One I love.
5. Playing around with the unknown; the devil is real
We don’t need to discuss Ouija boards and stuff, but i got the impression from some comments she made about her ‘bread and butter’ being taken away from her, that she’s one of those villagers who would ‘prepare spirits’ and pracice magic and witchcraft for people to get their revenge, to have success etc… It’s not a joke, it’s not a game. By extension – don’t joke about Liturgy or the Name of God. Some things are just evil, some things are totally sacred.
More important than not playing around though, that the devil is real whether you like it or not. We sometimes underplay that and give it lip service. This has serious implications. There is a constant battle against you, and in North America he likes to downplay it and not be so obvious because it’s easier to have you complacent by just overly gratifying yourself all the time. We need to wake up to the reality of his existence and actually do battle: pay attention to our thoughts, our lusts, our desires, our passions, our jealousies….in a nutshell: our lack of love toward both God and our neighbour. Some of the thoughts and temptations that you struggle with and may think are just who you are, really may be warfare that you don’t attribute to him, and allow to totally destroy you, your mood, and your hope. A Christian always has hope and a Christian has authority to trample the serpent under our heels through the Life-Saving power of His Cross.