THE PHENOMENON OF DEMONIC POSSESSION
The phenomenon of demonic possession - Fr. Athanasios Mitilinaios
Sixth Sunday of Luke (Luke 8:26-39), Homily Β346
The demon-possessed man (Luke 8: 5-15)
We are filled with fear, my beloved, every time we hear a gospel passage that refers to demons and the victims of demons, those who are demon-possessed.
The Lord passed by the eastern shore of Lake Gennesaret, precisely to meet this man, described in today’s gospel passage as “demon-possessed”. And He freed him. The evangelist John writes: “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8) The work of the devil is to possess both created things and man, and to prevent God’s intervention. An irrational creation that is demonically possessed always destroys itself. Case in point, the demonic possession of the two thousand pigs that choked to death in the lake.
There are various kinds of demonic possession of a man, such as the possessed man in today’s Gospel passage who lived alone outside in the countryside like an animal, to the demon possessed Gerasenes who did not want the Lord to visit them, to the demon possessed swineherds who practiced a profession not permitted by God.
Anything that takes us away or keeps us away from Christ is demonically possessed. Everything that is not close to Christ. The Lord said: “He who is not with Me is against Me.” (Lk 11:23) There is no third category. Either you are with Christ or you are not. Everything that opposes Christ is also demonically possessed.
Man, beloved, is created in the image of Christ and has no reason to be far from Christ. We assumed His form, based on the form that He would become, embrace and clothe His creation with. He took the form that He had earlier given to us. ... That is, He did not become what Adam was, but Adam became what Christ was, what the Logos of God was when he became human. Therefore, man’s estrangement from Christ is an unnatural condition, it is demonic. Since we have this relation to Christ, but do not approach our relative, our behavior is unnatural.
Once the first-formed man and woman put their faith in the devil, they turned away from God. In other words, they believed the deceptive words of the devil and did not believe what God said: “You are not to eat from this tree. If you eat its fruit, you will surely die” (Gen 2:17). Of course their death was primarily spiritual, and much later, physical. From the time they believed the devil, they became his property. That is why “the whole world”, as the evangelist John tells us, “lies on the ground in wickedness” (1 Jn 5:19). The mentality of the world, its way of life, is in the hands of the devil. Frightful! Now, in order for man to be freed from the devil, he must return and believe in the divine-human person of Christ. This is how it has always happened and how it must always happen.
The purest expression of demonic possession is idolatry, i.e. the worship of creation, in which the devil hides behind. Let us not forget that idolatry is making a comeback. Can you believe it? The Logos of God tells us this will happen in the book of Revelation.
The angel who guides, so they told John the Evangelist in the mysteries of the future and the present, who sees a beast, the dragon, and the angel says to him: “Why do you marvel? ... The beast which you saw, was, and is not, and shall come up out of the bottomless pit and go into destruction.” (Rev 17:7-8). The beast is the idolatry that prevails, it is an expression, as I told you before, of the dominion of Satan.
When Christ came and walked among us, people began to believe in the Christ. Therefore the beast of idolatry was no more. But the beast will return, but he won’t last for long. He will go to perdition, to the abyss, that is, when idolatry returns – did you catch what I said? – idolatry will return, and when it returns, the end of time is not far away. Therefore the return of idolatry is a sign that the end of time is near.
Demonic possession refers to the whole person, but sometimes only in the body, as shown with Job who was wounded physically. They dominated Job’s body. When the devil asked the Lord if he could tempt Job, He said to him: “He is in your hand. Just spare his life” (Job 2:5-6). Sometimes demonic possession is only in the soul, like the Gerasenes who did not accept Christ. “Please, leave!” (Luke 8:37) For he had gone to their city to preach. They were frightened. And the Lord entered the boat and left. Yes, demonic possession exists. Demonic possession in the soul.
Unbelief, or atheism, may not sound like something crazy is being done, but it is the height of demonic possession. It gives birth to the demonic possession of the soul. And these are not small matters, of course. Demonic possession of the soul is demonic rule over the powers of the soul. What are the “powers of the soul?” Mind, feeling, will, and these constitute the personality of man, his self-awareness, what we call “I”. These powers are how I know that I am myself and not someone else, my person, the self, my personal me. Demonic possession goes so far as covering up the human “I”. It is, in other words, a cover-up, so to speak, of the personality. What did the possessed man say when he was asked by the Lord “What is your name?” He did not say, “My name is so-and-so.” But he said, “Legion.” Why? The demons were speaking... My beloved, it is a fearful thing. Let me put it another way: Man “loses” his personality. Why do I put this in quotation marks? Because when the Lord healed the possessed man, the man found himself again, he found his self, he found his personality. So mind, will and feeling are fettered by the devil.
Finally, sometimes demonic possession refers to the body and the soul. That is, the whole person.
But what demonizes a man? Unbelief and all sin. These two things. Idolatry, to be precise, if you were indeed baptized. Please pay attention to the Baptismal service and see how the Church casts out demons. The priest says: “Depart”, with the Catechumen facing west, “and never enter God’s creature again.”
Then there are the so-called “Eastern religions” which are expressions of idolatry. Buddhism, Hinduism, etc… all of them. They use magic. Magic is a central element of paganism, with psychics and mediums.
And there is also demonic music, music that only serves to divert the attention of our young people away from God, for them to be entertained.
Then there is blasphemy. Blasphemy in a broad sense is demonic possession. There is the usual blasphemy of God, that which we hear with our ears in the streets, and there is also heresy, which is also a form of blasphemy, the blaspheming of God by saying that Jesus Christ is not consubstantial with the Father, or that the Holy Spirit is an energy of God and is not a person. When the heretics, chiliasts and other heretics say these things, they blaspheme. The sins of the flesh are also blasphemy, because the human body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. In general, every sin that persists, which is not eradicated with repentance is blasphemy.
Finally, it is blasphemy when one receives Holy Communion having grave sins or when one disbelieves the reality of the Holy Eucharist.
When we go to receive, we renew our confession of faith at the last minute. We say, “I believe that this is truly Your most pure Body and that this is truly Your precious Blood.” Of course, our senses do not tell us this, because it is a mystery. We sense wine and bread. In reality, however, it is the Body and Blood of Christ. This is why the Apostle Paul says, What forgiveness will a man receive, if he receives the Body and Blood of Christ unworthily, when he considers it not to be the Body and Blood of Christ? (1 Cor 11:27) It is with this confession of faith that he receives forgiveness. So there is no forgiveness for the man who does not believe. There are chilling examples of this from the Church Fathers but in modern times as well. Someone will receive Holy Communion, step back two meters, fall to the ground, foam at the mouth, and get beaten up. Why? Because he was possessed, my beloved, because he communed without believing.
And what are the symptoms of demonic possession? Today’s Gospel passage tells us that this demon-possessed man was not wearing any clothes. He had taken them off. In our modern society today, nudism is in fashion, in every season. Don’t they stop to consider that they become a scandal to the children of God, to the people of God? The women just don’t put a brake on this trend. This is demonic possession. The man in the gospel passage, it says, did not dress.
Because God made, it says, leathern tunics and clothed the first-formed man and woman. Why? Because their simplicity [child-like-ness] was destroyed. So there is always a need for clothing. If we wear no clothing, we take off the garment of God gave us, and we scandalize other people.
For example, in His letter to the bishop of Pergamum, the Lord says: “I have something against you, because you hold there the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to cause scandal before the children of Israel and eat idolatrous things and commit fornication.” (Rev 2:12-17) So here we have those who keep the teaching of the Nicolaitans in the same way. (Rev 2:6). Balak was a king of the Moabites. He saw the Jews approaching from the desert, two-million of them. He says, “What am I going to do; They will devour my city. They will lick me like a cow licks grass” (Num 22:4). And the King called for a magician from Persia (the king’s name was Balaam), and he says to him: “I want you to curse them for me!” but he didn’t catch anything; this happened three times), so He said to him: “I will tell you what to do: Make ceremonies (they were the ceremonies of Beelthegor) and invite the Jews to the feasts” (so they would sacrifice to the idols and then, as the pagan festivals usually were, they would indulge in feasts and fornication). “And then God,” he says, “will turn away from them,” and Balak did this, and twenty-three thousand men were slain that day! It is a frightful story. It is in the book “Numbers” in the Old Testament (Num 22).
What did he say? “In order to succeed, for God to punish them.” Here too, he also says, “You have the Nicolaitans, who show their nakedness and their fornications” (Nicolaitanism was eroticism. Eroticism today? Rampant in the streets, rambunctious! You see? Scandal!)
Furthermore, this possessed man did not live in a house. Demonic possession is also, to give an example, when people, even young men and women, leave their houses in the morning to go to Larissa square to watch the pedestrians walk by on a nice day. If it’s not a nice day, they sit inside, along the street, both young men and women, idle, not doing any work.
Hey girl, don’t you have any work at home? So why did you go out this morning? You, my dear, don’t you have anything to do?
And you see them cross-legged, sipping their little coffee, puffing their little cigarette, etc. The pedestrian streets of Larissa are full. What does this show? People don’t stay at home to make a little progress in life, but go out (and I don’t mean on an errand, for something legitimate). This is happening every day.
And what else does it say? That this possessed man lived in the tombs. He did not live at home. At that time the graves were little caves on the hillsides, etc. The youth of today are graves of sin; places of spiritual necrosis. They frequent all the various dens of sin. Cafes, nightclubs, etc. characterized by the Holy Bible, my beloved, as “places of death and treasuries of hell”. This is where they go...
So we have demonic possession in this wider sense, in every age and especially in our age. Beloved, the phenomenon of demonic possession is terrible. Beholding the possessed man in today’s Gospel passage should be enough to convince us. Go and re-read the passage. See what a miserable man he was. Yes, today people exhibit demonic behaviors, especially many of our young people.
We have said that two things demonize a man. Unbelief and sin. Let us be careful. Let us hold the gates of the soul closed to passions and alienation from God. Our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to destroy the works of the devil. It is enough to belong exclusively to our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.