Skip to main contentAccessibility feedback


Click to enlarge

Adjuration (Lat. adjurare, to swear; to affirm by oath), an urgent demand made upon another to do something, or to desist from doing something, which demand is rendered more solemn and more irresistible by coupling with it the name of God or of some sacred person or thing. Such, too, was the primitive use of the word. In its theological acceptation, however, adjuration never carries with it the idea of an oath, or the calling upon God to witness to the truth of what is asserted. Adjuration is rather an earnest appeal, or a most stringent command requiring another to act, or not to act, under pain of divine visitation or the rupture of the sacred ties of reverence and love. Thus, when Christ was silent in the house of Caiphas, answering nothing to the things that were witnessed against Him, the High Priest would force Him to speak and so said to Him: “I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us if Thou be the Christ the Son of God.” (Matt., xxvi, 63.) Adjuration may be either deprecatory or imprecatory. The one implies deference, affection, reverence, or prayer; the other, authority, command, or menace. The one may be addressed to any rational creature except the demon; the other can be addressed only to inferiors and to the demon. In Mark (v, 7) the man with the unclean spirit cast himself at the feet of Jesus saying: “What have we to do with Thee Jesus the Son of the Most High God? I adjure Thee that Thou torment me not.” The wretched man recognized that Christ was his superior, and his attitude was that of humility and petition. Caiphas, on the contrary, fancied himself vastly superior to the Prisoner before him. He stood and commanded Christ to declare Himself under pain of incurring the wrath of Heaven. It is hardly necessary to insist that one mode of adjuration is to be employed when addressing the Deity and quite another when dealing with the powers of darkness. Helpless man, calling upon Heaven to assist him, adds weight to his naked words by joining with them the persuasive names of those whose deeds and virtues are written in the Book of Life. No necessity is thereby laid upon the Almighty, and no constraint save that of benevolence and love. But when the spirit of darkness is to be adjured, it is never allowable to address him in the language of peace and friendship. Satan must ever be approached as man’s eternal enemy. He must be spoken to in the language of hostility and command. Nor is there aught of presumption in such treatment of the evil one. It were indeed egregious temerity for man to cope single-handed with the devil and his ministers, but the name of God, reverently invoked, carries with it an efficacy which demons are unable to withstand. Nor should it be supposed that adjuration implies disrespect for the Almighty. If it is allowable to invoke the adorable name of God in order to induce others to build more securely upon our word, it must be equally permissible to make use of the same means in order to impel others to action. Indeed, when used under due conditions, that is “in truth, in justice, and in judgment”, adjuration is a positive act of religion, for it presupposes on the part of the speaker faith in God and His superintending Providence, as well as an acknowledgment that He is to be reckoned with in the manifold affairs of life. What more beautiful form of prayer than that of the litany, wherein we beg immunity from evil through the Advent, the Birth, the Fasting, the Cross, the Death and Burial, the Holy Resurrection, and the wonderful Ascension of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity? Christ Himself recommends this form of invocation: “Whatsoever you shall ask the Father in My name, that will I do: that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John, xiv, 13). Acting upon this promise, the Church ends all her more solemn prayers with the adjuration: Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum (Through Our Lord Jesus Christ). St. Thomas declares that the words of Christ, “in My name they shall cast out devils” (Mark, xvi, 17), give all believing Christians warrant to adjure the spirit of evil. This, however, must not be done out of mere curiosity, for vainglory, or for any other unworthy motive. According to Acts (xix, 12), St. Paul was successful in casting out “wicked spirits,” whereas the Jewish exorcists, using magic arts purporting to come from Solomon, “attempted to invoke over them that had evil spirits, the name of the Lord Jesus, saying: ‘I conjure you by Jesus, whom Paul preaches,'” were leaped upon and overcome by those possessed, in such sort that they found it convenient “to flee out of that house, naked and wounded”. In adjuring the demon one may bid him depart in the name of the Lord, or in such other language as faith and piety may suggest; or he may drive him forth by the formal and fixed prayers of the Church. The first manner, which is free to all Christians, is called private adjuration. The second, which is reserved to the ministers of the Church alone, is called solemn. Solemn adjuration, or adjuration properly so called, corresponds to the Greek eksorismos. It properly means an expelling of the evil one. In the Roman Ritual there are many forms of solemn adjuration. These are to be found, notably, in the ceremony of baptism. One is pronounced over the water, another over the salt, while many are pronounced over the child. Manifold and solemn as are the adjurations pronounced over the catechumen in baptism, those uttered over the possessed are more numerous and, if possible, more solemn. This ceremony, with its rubrics, takes up thirty pages of the Roman Ritual. It is, however, but rarely used, and never without the express permission of the bishop, for there is room for no end of deception and hallucination when it is question of dealing with the unseen powers. (See Baptism; Devil; Exorcism.)


Did you like this content? Please help keep us ad-free
Enjoying this content?  Please support our mission!