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Catholic Dictionary

Find accurate definitions of over 5,000 Catholic terms and phrases (including abbreviations). Based on Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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An adjuration in which the devil is either commanded to depart from a possessed person or forbidden to harm someone. Although commonly referred to as driving the evil spirit from a possessed person, exorcism is essentially the same when used in the case of obsession.

The gospels are filled with descriptive narratives about exorcisms performed by Christ. St. Mark's Gospel is especially detailed in the number of exorcisms performed by the Master, and the effortless ease with which he delivered those who were under the influence of the evil one. In the account of these exorcisms, the contemporary idiom is unreservedly adopted: the evil spirits cry out in words found in contemporary stories where a devil about to be exorcised acknowledges the power of the exorcist: "I know you. You are . . ." Hence it is noteworthy that Jesus uses none of the contemporary exorcists' rituals and spells, but simply expels them by the power of his command. The deeper significance of these narratives is that Jesus inaugurates the final struggle against all evil and, with emphasis, against the evil spirit, and foreshadows the final victory. Significant, too, are the peace (Mark 4:39, 5:156, 6:51) and awareness of the divine presence (Mark 1:27, 2:12, 5:15) which follow Christ's expulsion of demons. (Etym. Latin exorcismus; from Greek exorkizein, to drive away by adjuration.)