Much has already been said and written about extraordinary cases of speedy divine help to the faithful after invoking the name of God. Just as St. Justina in ancient times was able to vanquish the works of the devil by calling on the name of Jesus Christ, so has a modern believer received quick help by calling on the name of the Lord. But it’s one thing to read the lives of the Saints, and it’s quite another to end up in such a situation yourself.
This happened to me around 2004 or 2005. I had already been living in a monastery for about five years and was wearing a cassock. It was, without exaggeration, a happy time. At that time I had no Internet, no cell phone, no computer. All I had were obediences, favorite hobbies (like woodcarving, for example), and books, naturally, which we read late into the night. There was, of course, my prayer rope, with which every novice is blessed along with the right to wear the cassock.
It was then that the question of my going to the seminary came up. At that time, like today, spiritual education was considered mandatory for monks, so the majority of novices had to study at a seminary. But then it turned out that my documents were missing. All that I had was my passport and various trade certificates (of a carpenter, electrician, grinder, and welder) that I had received some time ago studying. But myhigh school diploma and military registration card weren’t among them. Where they went, I still do not know. As a result, I had to travel back and forth from Obninsk to get my documents, because without them it would have been impossible to enter a theological school. The memory of one such trip will remain with me for the rest of my life.
It was in the summer. Crammed into a “Gazelle” minivan, I was travelling down Kurchatov Street to the new location of my trade school where I had studied before entering the monastery. I was sitting in the middle of the van, where the two rows of passenger seats face each other. With my eyes fixed on the floor, trying not to look at other passengers, I fumbled with my prayer beads in an attempt to get my thoughts back together after a hectic time in the world. But then, at a certain point, I felt something terrible happening to my health. I suddenly felt dizzy and nauseous, my whole body felt hot, and I was sweating profusely. It felt like I was in a crash course to become a cosmonaut and they had put me in a centrifugal simulator. I felt really bad. I was dying to get out of that minivan. I looked up to see how much longer I had before I reached my destination, when I met the gaze of a young woman seated across from me. Wearing a short skirt, sporting a fancy haircut and a bright lipstick, she stood out sharply from the other passengers as if she intentionally sought everyone’s attention. Her heavily painted black eyes were staring at me without blinking. She perked up and gave out a faint smile when she noticed I was watching her. It was then that I clearly realized that the cause of my sudden illness… was sitting in front of me. We stared at each other for a couple of seconds, but she didn’t even think to look away. She stared just as intently at me, straight into my eyes, and smiled defiantly, as if to say, “Yeah, it was me. So what of it?”
Modern-day witches have no need to live in huts on chicken legs. They live in big cities, dress fashionably and take rides in minivan taxis
As I analyzed the situation later, I kept wondering, how apparently modern-day witches don’t need old huts on chicken legs.1 They don’t hide from people deep in the woods or swamps. On the contrary, they live in cities, dress fashionably and even take rides in taxi vans! So even if the physical characteristics of the “Baba-Yagas” of old and modern times have changed for historical reasons, their inner workings have remained just the same. As in ancient times, in order to receive certain “gifts,” people had to give Satan the most precious thing they ever had—their immortal soul. Moreover, they had to reject God, Baptism, and often even disavow their own mother; in a word, they had to give over everything that was considered sacred by man at all times. This is an absolute prerequisite.
For the most part, these people know what they are doing. After all, the voluntary participation factor—or expression of free will, as St. Paisios of the Holy Mountain says, gives the devil his rights over man. This applies both to the sorcerers themselves and to those who come to them for help. This explains both the existence of certain “abilities” of sorcerers and the susceptibility to such abilities on the part of other people who, despite being baptized, have given the devil the rights over themselves by their ill-conceived request.
However, it also happens that ordinary Christians feel a demonic impact on themselves, even if they do not provide any reason for this. This happened, for example, to St. Justina, who, although she felt the influence of the powerful sorcerer Cyprian, through prayer and fasting she overcame all the works of the devil. In such instances, God allows it to happen for His greater glory, and to put the devil to shame.
Yet, at that moment, under the unblinking gaze of a young, decked-out sorceress, I had other things to worry about besides reason for this spiritual confusion. All I could do was instinctively turn to a time-tested remedy I had often read about in spiritual books. Lowering my eyes to my knees, I began to forcefully recite the words of the Jesus Prayer: “Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” And the miracle was in the offing! Merely half a minute later, I felt relief: the dizziness stopped, the fever gradually dropped, and the nausea subsided. Only then I was able to look back at my companion again. Her appearance had changed noticeably.
I looked at my travel companion, and her triumphant smile had disappeared without a trace. She was definitely feeling anxious
Her triumphant smile disappeared without a trace. She definitely felt anxious. Unable to resist the temptation to practice her art a little on the man in a cassock seated in front of her, she found herself in a force majeure situation for which she was obviously unprepared. Her eyes were shifty like those of a thief caught red-handed, and you could tell that a different question bothered her: “What’s going on here?” She fidgeted on the frayed seat of the bus, unable to sit still. It was my turn to stare calmly at her, as I continued my prayer of supplication to the Almighty Helper. My destination wasn’t far away, and a few minutes later I got off at the bus stop, leaving Harry Potter’s friend alone with her questions and confusion.
Incidents like this clearly confirm the words of the Psalmist: The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him: to all that call upon him in truth (Psalm 144:18). I truly hope that, like St. Cyprian, that woman made the right conclusion and recognized the powerlessness of her magic charm. Even a beardless novice armed with the name of God is capable of distracting the enemy’s legions and turn to flight the armies of the aliens (Hebrews 11:34). The devil will fight with God till the end of time, but this battle is doomed to failure. It is up to us to determine whose camp we will choose. As long as passions and fears dwell within us, as long as we are driven by profit and greed, as long as we see in our neighbors the cause of our troubles, we will remain unreliable to the Kingdom of God. But as soon as we humble our minds and declare irreconcilable war against our—not our neighbor’s!—vices, we will immediately find the Almighty Helper Who is able to fight and support us in everything. Because if God be for us, who can be against us? (Rom. 8:31).