The Devil is Expelled by Fasting, Reading the Gospel and Fighting Evil Thoughts

He is trying by all means to destroy us: and we, for our part, also must use all measures to defeat him. He has declared an unrelenting war on us; and we will also declare war on him. . .

Originally appeared at: The Catalogue of Good Deeds

Speaking about the means serving to disgrace and drive away the devil, we have already mentioned prayer, humility, reading the Psalter, diligence and prayer to St Michael the Archangel. Now let us discuss the benefits of some other means, namely, fasting, studying the Gospel and struggling with evil thoughts.

The Venerable Macarius was sitting on the side of the road one day, when he saw the devil, disguised as a man, heading for a nearby monastery and carrying dozens of vessels of all sorts. Stopping the demon by the power of prayer, the saint asked him where he was going. 

“I am going to visit the brethren,”  the devil answered. “What kind of vessels are these that you have with you?” asked the Venerable Macarius. “These are different treats for the monks.” the demon answered. “Why are there so many of them?”  asked Macarius. “I have plenty for the brethren to choose from in case they do not like one or more of them. This way, if they don’t accept one of my evil suggestions, I can always offer them another, still more bitter, and thus catch someone.” the devil said and continued on his way.

The monk remained to await his return. When the devil came back, he asked him, “Well, how are you?” “Not well,” the demon answered, “almost all the monks rejected me, while only one of them obeys me a little.” “What is his name?” “Theopemptos” answered the devil and disappeared.

Macarius then went to the monastery. Having learned about his visit, the monks came out to meet him. They were carrying palm branches and vied  with one another inviting him each to himself. Having found out which of them was Theopemptos, Macarius went to see him and was received with joy. A conversation began. “How are you?” The reverend asked his host. “I am well. Thank you for your prayers,” Theopemptos answered. “Well, what about evil thoughts? Do they bother you at all?”  continued the elder.

Ashamed to admit these, the monk said that the evil thoughts did not bother him. “What a lucky man!”  exclaimed the venerable, “I have been fasting for so many years, and you can see for yourself how everyone honors me, but bad thoughts still haunt me.”

Then Theopemptos also confessed: “Yes, father, I too am deeply possessed by the fornicatory spirit!” The elder then began to elicit from the monk his other evil thoughts, and Theopemptos confessed to very many. “Until what hour are you fasting?”  Macarius then asked.  “Until the third hour in the afternoon,” answered the monk. The venerable said, “Try to observe the fast until evening time; read and study the gospel and writings of the holy fathers. If an evil thought comes, drive it away with all the might of your soul, and the Lord will help you defeat the enemy. ”

Theopemptos promised to follow the advice of the elder, and Macarius left him. Soon after that, he again met the devil and to his question “Where are you going?” again received the answer “I am going to visit the brethren.” And again, after waiting for the demon’s return, the monk asked him how he was doing. “Things are very bad,” the devil answered, “Now all the monks, without exception, have rejected me, including Theopemptos. I don’t know who it was that corrupted him. For now he treated me the worst of all”. After this, the demon disappeared, and the monk returned to his cell, glorifying God.

Seeing from this how unbearable fasting, the word of God and the struggle with evil thoughts are for the devil, let us also use these means to oppose our common enemy. He is trying by all means to destroy us: and we, for our part, also must use all measures to defeat him. He has declared an unrelenting war on us; and we will also declare war on him. He roars like a lion, looking for someone to devour; and we will go out against him clothed in the whole armour of God. Amen.