The Gadarene Demoniac

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And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs. Lk. 8:27   

Did you hear, brethren, the gospel story read today about a demoniac in the Gadarene country and his healing by Jesus Christ? Did you hear how demons tormented the unfortunate man and how he miserably dragged out his wretched life? Did you see the divine power of Jesus Christ over demons, over a whole legion of them, that is, over several thousand who had taken possession of an unfortunate man? Did you see the destruction of a multitude of animals, so-called unclean animals, into which demons entered by the permission of the Savior (Lk. 8:26–39)? Let us enter carefully into this tale and take a lesson from it. It is told for our edification.

The possessed existed before, and they exist now; only now, in the new grace, the demons act more stealthily and cunningly than in the old time, when their power and authority over people was not yet triumphantly crushed and they had much more scope in the world. Now, however, there are very, very many demonized people. Who among us is not familiar with the current breed of demoniacs or raving drunkards? Don't be surprised that I call drunkards possessed—they really are.

Who has not heard and who does not know how they, if they are married men, torment and torture not only themselves, but their wives, and if they have children, their children as well? So, by the action of demons, they often throw themselves into a noose, or drive their wives and children to death with their beatings and torments. What, O what does a pitiful woman not suffer from a drunken husband, or children from a drunken father! We haven’t the strength to mourn the misfortunes in the house where a drunkard is found. Hell, true hell is made in it, with tears and groans every day. A drunkard gets drunk every day and takes everything out of the house to drink.

Oh, what a terrible passion! Terrible madness! Who's to blame? Of course, the drunkard himself, having reached this demonic state through his greed for wine. Any sick person can be treated, but a drunkard cannot be treated with anything, unless he himself wants to resolutely abandon drunkenness and turn with all his heart to the help of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who alone by His grace can heal this terrible, fatal passion.

I have seen many drunkards. I have seen among them some completely healed by the grace of Christ, to the help of which they themselves diligently resorted. But many I have seen, and you have seen, perish by a terrible death, without repentance, by suicide or by drunkenness.

I say then that I have seen many drunkards completely healed by the grace of Christ, which they sincerely sought and received, and this gives me an occasion to say for the edification of all drunkards: Seek the Savior’s help diligently and He will surely save you, drive out of you the demonic horde that has taken possession of you for your intemperance, for your carelessness about yourself, your laziness and coldness to prayer, lack of faith and unbelief, for departing from God and from the Church. I have also seen real demoniacs, who were possessed by demons through the inscrutable providence of God, and the demons produced mental insanity in them, uttered terrible blasphemies and profanity through them. I saw how horribly they threw one poor fellow from corner to corner or forced him to climb the wall, and so on. These, I think, together with the apostle, God gave to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that the spirit may be saved (1 Cor. 5:5). Such demoniacs were, of course, in a state of insanity. They did not realize what they were doing. Drunkards, however, are charged with their actions, because they are not deprived of their mind and freedom; they will be charged for their drunkenness and for their outrages. Drunkards will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:10).

There is, however, brothers, another kind of raging people. These are angry, irritable, wrathful people. Have you seen angry, irate, spiteful people? How bad they are when they are angry! The Scripture says: A fierce man is unseemly (Prov. 11:25 Church Slavonic text). How ugly their whole face is! What shining eyes, like those of fierce animals, in which malice and rage are visible! All of us are irritable, all prone to anger, and therefore all of us should ask the Lord in repentance for the spirit of meekness, humility and patience. Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, the apostle exhorts, but give place to the wrath of God, for it is written: Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord (Rom. 12:19).

There are several other types of quiet, be it silent or malevolent, demonic possession. Such is the possession of envious people who are tormented by other people’s happiness or prosperity and who either suffer in silence, seeing the happiness of their neighbors, or denounce and slander those whom they envy. There is the possession of the miserly, greedy for money, who, for profit and their increase are ready to commit any unrighteousness, and because of their loss they are ready to commit suicide; whose demons have hardened their hearts to such an extent that they are not moved by any private or public calamity, who, seeing the hungry, naked, sick, crippled, pass by them every day and will not give a penny, while their treasuries are overflowing with the gifts of God. Is this not madness when those who are subject to it calmly walk past unfortunate people every day and do not consider it a sin?

There is a madness of carnal passion. Those possessed by it fall into melancholy and despair if their passions are not satisfied or decide on the most shameful actions for its satisfaction, often even suicide. In order not to be overcome by this or other frenzied passions, it is necessary to curb them at the very beginning. When they intensify, then it is extremely difficult to cope with them, and it is impossible without the assistance of grace.

There is also gambling mania, when people calmly spend evenings and nights at cards, killing precious time, and do not look at the works of God, do not pay attention to their soul, do not pay attention to its salvation, do not care about repentance and virtue in the least.

There is a mania, or passion, for spectacles. There are people who, in reality and in dreams, rave about the theater, applaud theatrical celebrities to the point of fatigue, while they only come to church once or twice a year, and then only in order to yawn.

There is a mania of fear, a vain fear, when a person is afraid of others like himself or fears everything around him, suspects everyone of evil intentions or generally assumes unkind thoughts and intentions in everyone. There is a mania when everyone and everything are considered unclean, and they’ll wash ten or twenty times a thing that an outsider has touched.

There is also a mania, or demonic possession, among people who are afraid of or averse to the Church, divine services, psalmody and reading of the word of God, of holy things in general. You can never convince them to come to church. If you lead them, they will break out and run away or evade under various plausible pretexts—such is their alienation from God and His holy temple! This also includes the demonic possession of nihilism, which rejects all that is holy, all the truths of Revelation, everything that is dear to a rational being, especially for Christians, that comforts, strengthens, adorns, and elevates a person.

There is a demonic profanity that defiles the heart, soul, and mouth of profaners, which can be found mainly among the common people, and especially among the lower military ranks.

That's how many different types of demonic possession, or manias, there are in people! Moreover, not all of them are listed here, because sinful demonic possession has countless types, and the hydra of sin is many-headed.

What is the cure for this moral disease, how can we escape from this many-headed monster, so as not to fall prey to the deceit of wicked, evil, unclean and foul demons? Only by humble faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who overcame the power of the devil; by sincere, deep repentance, prayer and fasting. This kind does not go out, except by prayer and fasting, says the Lord (Matt. 17:21). That, by the way, is why the holy Church has established fasts—so that Christians would have weapons against the devil and his innumerable machinations. The [Nativity] fast, therefore, has been sent to us by the Holy Church to help us. Let us willingly accept this ecclesiastical healing and, according to our strength, we will keep fasts to crucify the flesh with passions and lusts. Amen.

November 7, 1903

St. John of Kronstadt
Translation by Igumen Seraphim (Bell)


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