(The Resurrection, Piero della Francesca, 1460s)
In the light of the Easter resurrection, I am reminded of a previous demonic encounter.* During a solemn exorcism, we were invoking the power of the resurrection of Jesus and out of the demon's mouth comes a jubilant: "We won! We won! He didn't rise." At this, the priests in the room spontaneously broke out in laughter. I added, "This demon needs a history lesson."
I do not know if the demon really believed what he was saying. They are inveterate liars. But as a psychologist, I have long witnessed the denials and darkness that accompany sin. Sin clouds the mind and distorts one's perspective. In the bowels of the dark kingdom, truth is clouded over and distorted. Those inured to evil eventually start to believe their own lies.
And yet, everything that was happening witnessed to the reality of the resurrection. The mere sight of the crucifix was a torment to the demons: Ecce crucem domini, fugite partes adversae (Behold the cross of the Lord. Depart you evil powers). Why would the symbol of the crucifixion be a torment to evil if not followed by the resurrection?
As holy water was sprinkled on the demons, they writhed in pain. Ecce aqua benedicta ("Behold water that has been blessed.") How could the blessing of water in the name of a crucified man be a powerful weapon against evil if he did not rise?
I then proceeded to say the imprecatory prayers of the Rite of Exorcism commanding Satan to leave in the name of Jesus. Adjuro te, Satan, princeps huius mundi: agnosce potentiam et virtutem Jesu Christi, qui te ... spoliavit in cruce et de sepulcro resurgens tua tropaea in regnum transtulit lucis , "I command you, Satan, prince of this world: acknowledge the power and strength of Jesus Christ, who...despoiled you on the Cross, and, rising from the tomb, transferred your spoils into the kingdom of light." I commanded the demons to leave in the name of Jesus who died and rose. And they did leave.
The demons were cast out in the name of Jesus whose death and resurrection is the foundation of every exorcism and is itself the ultimate exorcism of Satan. It is on the cross and in the resurrection that Satan's kingdom was smashed forever.
*See Diary of An American Exorcist, p. 143.