One day, a priest came to Elder Porphyrios. He wanted an answer to a question that had been bugging him for a long time. He could not understand if one of his acquaintances was a mentally ill person or if he was a demoniac. The elder, although he was very sick that day, understood what the priest wanted to know and asked him:
“Who are you, Saint Anthony the Great or someone, that you perform exorcisms and cast out demons?”
Indeed, that priest used to read more exorcism prayers than necessary for a sick person.
“No,” he replied.
“If not, why do you first provoke demons with your exorcisms and then leave the victims for them to play with and torture? Look, Father, I have to tell you something,” Father Porphyrios continued. “It is a great sin when some people appoint themselves to be exorcists, which is not uncommon today, and do so in public when there are many curious people gathering to watch it. This is unacceptable! Don’t you know that demons also attack healthy people, who think they are demon-possessed, and come to an exorcism? Moreover, they tempt priests as well, driving them into the moat of arrogance. Recently, I have seen a lot of people who think that they have really become demon-possessed after having been to a public exorcism. Dear brother, you’re still young, and I’ll teach you a little lesson in spiritual math.
When the priest performs an exorcism, he calls out the demons directly and commands them with his spiritual authority to go out. If he does not feel this spiritual power, he is damaged by demons. Rather than command and threaten demons, it is better and more appropriate to pray to God at the Divine Liturgy, when performing other Sacraments and ordinances, that He may send His grace upon the afflicted person. Then God’s grace covers the afflicted person like evening mist, and the priest is not in danger of falling into the moat of temptation, or being caught in the net of praise and deceit.
Note, I did not say that you should not perform an exorcism on people who have come to the point where they can no longer help themselves at all. Instead, you have to do it with reasoning. You shouldn’t recite incantation prayers out loud. You should recite them to yourself.”
Some time later this priest told me, “I have been to the Holy Mount lately. I was amazed when I heard from the famous, God-enlightened and wise Elder, Father Paisius, the same thing that Father Porphyrios had told me. Truly, holy people know much better than we do how demons work.”
“Some priests read the prayers out loud,” Father Porphyrios told me, “as if demons were hard of hearing. At the Proskomedia, my dear brother, remember those who suffer with heartfelt concern, asking God to help them.”
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds