Casting Out the Darkness and Putting on Christ
Fr. Luke A. Veronis
Today we hear about a man terrorized and paralyzed with a legion of demons, and yet Jesus simply casts them aside and offers new life to a pathetic, broken man! We read numerous other passages in Scripture where Jesus encounters demon-possessed people whose lives are turned upside down, yet again and again our Lord brings them healing and new life.
In our modern world, how do we understand such demons? Is the devil real? Does “the devil walk about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour,” as St. Peter says in his first epistle? (1 Peter 5:7)
Remember, Holy Scripture teaches that the devil is the prince of this world, the prince of darkness, the father of lies. To believe this, we just need to look out into our world every day and see all the darkness, evil, violence, and hatred. It’s quite easy to see the devil and his demons at work all around us, actively and aggressively, “walking about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour their prey.”
And yet, as followers of Jesus Christ, should we live in fear of such evil? Will we cower in this dark world, feeling doomed and defeated?
Absolutely not! We know that no matter how dark the world may seem, it can’t change the fact that Jesus Christ is the light of the world, and “whoever believes in him shall not walk in darkness but shall walk in the light of life.”
Jesus reminded his disciples, “in the world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world!”
Yes, the world can be a scary place, but we never need to traverse through this dark life alone! God is with us, and we always want to stay with Him. That is the key! This is why, from the earliest moments in our lives, we are united with Jesus Christ and sealed with the gift of His Holy Spirit!
Do you know what the very first thing is we do in the Orthodox baptismal service? We acknowledge that there is darkness in this world, that there are demons coming after our soul, and therefore, we offer prayers of exorcism casting out any demonic influence on the newly illumined child or catechumen. The church realizes that from the moment of our birth, the devil is attacking us. And therefore, at the beginning of one’s baptism, we make the sign of the cross over the child, and then we read three prayers of exorcism, casting out any demonic influence or attack on the child. In the name of Jesus Christ, and by His power, we cast out all evil and darkness. We know that no matter how scary and powerful the devil may be, Jesus Christ is greater. And in His Name, no evil can remain or prevail!
So, we cast out all darkness and evil in the name of Jesus Christ. And then we immediately make a profession of faith, where we agree to unite with Jesus Christ. We invite Him to quickly enter into our lives and fill our souls with His presence.
This is the beginning of a great mystery, this sacred sacrament of baptism where a person is united to Jesus Christ, filled and sealed with His Holy Spirit, and empowered to live in this dark world with the light of God shining from our lives.
A child may not realize what is happening at his/her baptism, and we adults may not even realize what happened to us when we were baptized, but today is a good day to remember, and to reaffirm our own baptismal vow. “As many as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ.” This beautiful hymn summarizes our own baptism and reminds us that we too have been united to Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, the Savior of the world, the One who Is, who Was, and Who Is to come, the Lord Almighty!
Each and every day let us live our lives with this assurance that God is with us and is in us because of our baptism, and whenever we are confronted or tempted by the darkness and evil of the world, whenever the many demons and passions try to assail our souls and lives and lead us astray, we have a choice to make, because we have the power of God within us. It is up to us to use this power, to allow Christ in us to come forth and to shine His light in our lives.
Yes, the devil and his demons are powerful and real forces that can be very frightening, but the power of God within us is always much greater, and if we allow Him to rule in our lives each and every moment, we will never be overcome by darkness!
“As many as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ.” Never forget that! Let us allow Jesus to shine in us, and through us; may He shine all around us, casting aside the devil and all his demons with all their darkness, and filling us with His loving and protecting presence.