At the beginning of the Rite of Exorcism, a Gospel passage is read. The first choice, most often used by exorcists, is the Prologue of John's Gospel which begins: "In the beginning was the Word." It is easy for an exorcist to move quickly through the opening parts of the Rite, thinking that the real "meat" is the final imperative prayer, commanding the demons to leave. Not so in the recent case of "K".
At the beginning of the exorcism, when the Prologue was read, the demons reacted violently. Clearly, the words of this Gospel were torturing them: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God....and the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." Powerful stuff!
For centuries, this Prologue was thought to have a special sacred character. It was read as a blessing over the sick and over newly baptized infants. It was even worn around the neck as a kind of amulet to protect against illness. Among Scriptural exegetes, the soaring poetry of the Prologue with its deep theological insight is one reason the symbol for John the Evangelist is an eagle.
Given the obvious power the Prologue was having over the demons, we stayed with it during K's session, reading this Gospel over and over and over. And when she came back to consciousness for a moment, we had her read it aloud herself: "He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him, he gave power to become children of God." I looked at the demons and said, "She is a child of God."
Theologians speculate that one of the prime reasons Satan and his minions rejected God was their rejection of the incarnation. They thought, "How could the omnipotent God debase himself and become a lowly human?" Moreover, in doing so, God elevated humanity above the angels. The incarnation of God in Jesus is supremely odious to the denizens of hell.
Today, K is no longer possessed. I was recently sent a nice photo of her in the front pews of the church sitting next to her father and mother. Previously when possessed, she had great difficulty being in a church and would retch receiving communion. Now, she looked happy and at peace. She is truly a child of God.
When you sit down for Christmas dinner, before the usual blessing of the meal, you might want to begin with a reading of the Prologue of John's Gospel. It is a beautiful and powerful way to remember the "reason for the season."
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