Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Devil's Work!


Christian's, or at least Catholics, use words to denote specific things, which tend to get corrupted by the world at large and devoid of much theological truth.

"Hell" for example, means a state that is eternally seperated from God, humanities ultimate loneliness. It tends to get glossed over by images of a medieval torture chamber, which actually for those who love God might be considered light relief compared to the horror of perpetual exile from his presence. Hell is doctrine that is based on our freewill, we can choose to say yes or no to God and his reign.

"Possession" means to be taken over by the rule of the evil one. It does not necessarilly mean spewing green vomit, swivelling heads or walking on the ceiling. We could say that where Christ is not made present then the devil is, or as Pope Francis has said, "If we are not praying to Christ, we are praying to the devil", because he came to usher in the Kingdom Heaven reclaiming it from the Prince of this world. Traditionally Jesuits spirituality stressed very much that if you do not stand under the banner of Christ then you stand under the banner of Satan.

"Exorcism" means literally to "pray out", in the "old rite" before something was sanctified, it first had to be freed from the pollution of the realm of sin, that included everything from water to babies. It was based on the simple assumption that if something didn't belong to Christ specifically, it belonged to Satan. In the " new rite" exorcisms are removed from any Blessing, and are limited only to baptismal preparation (where culturally appropriate). The Sacraments above all are Exorcisms, the actual Rite of Exorcism is only a special Sacramental to prepare for Confession and the worthy reception of Holy Communion, of course a bad Confession is sacrilege and unworthy reception of Holy Communion leads to our "condemnation", and is certainly the work of the devil, and a direct co-operation with him.

Exorcism has been in the Catholic news lately; various diocese appointing numbers of Exorcists, the Rome Exorcist calling for every priest being free to exorcise who he will, and the big one, did the Pope exorcise the man in the wheel chair? To this, well yes and no. At one level making the sign of the Cross over something is an exorcism, as is mentioning the name of Jesus or saying the Lord's Prayer, the very presence of a holy object or substance, a medal or Holy Water or blessed salt or the light of a blessed candle could be considered an exorcism, Rogation processions were essentially exorcisms.

In Brighton today as people stop believing in God the vacuum tends to be filled with the "spiritual", there are all those shops selling "spiritual" things, from rather camp images of the Sacred Heart through to everything necessary to celebrate a Black Mass or to invoke Satan in a woodland clearing, and everything in between. Even mainstream bookshops are full of rather dubious books. It is terribly dangerous.

"If we are not praying to Christ, we are praying to the devil". Our societies obsession with self, with power and money, with sex and sexual exploitation, with pornography, with unreality of the drug culture, with betrayal in marriage and public life, with the break down of relationships and above all the destruction of the family and our new untested experiments in human ecology and our obsession with atheism are all areas where we are "praying to devil". Direct co-operation with evil is diabolic, it separates us from Christ. We can argue that these things do not possess us but the certainly do both obsess and oppress us, they are the evils that we pray the Father to deliver us from - sed libera nos a malo. There is a fine line between obsession and oppression and actual possession.

The Church has done much in the last 50 years to play down the battle between good and evil, the words of the Pope on so many occassions should cause us to ask if we have been somewhat premature.

"If we are not praying to Christ, we are praying to the devil" and if we do not belong to Christ, who do we belong to?

4 comments:

GOR said...

Many years ago I spent hours arguing with a liberal American priest – Dick, now deceased, RIP - about good and evil. We were at dinner in a well-known Dublin hotel with two other priests. I was ‘fresh out of the seminary’ and very conservative - having spent four years in Rome where the ‘spirit of Vat II’ had not yet colored the teaching of the professors at the Gregorian.

It was only afterwards I realized that the other two priests had just sat back and let us have at it. Maybe they couldn’t get a word in edgewise! Dick became rather exasperated with me and his parting shot was: “Everything is not black and white!”

After a couple of hours of this (dinners back then were leisurely affairs), the waiter came over and said that a couple at another table asked to buy us a round of drinks. We accepted of course and, as is usual in these situations, invited the couple to join us. Unsurprisingly, they were Americans.

They had obviously overheard our discussion, but what hit me was the man’s pronouncement that he “had assumed Dick was a Protestant Minister and I was a Catholic priest” and hence our different views!

We have come a long way since then, but Pope Francis’ emphasis on good, evil and the Devil certainly points out that some things definitely are ‘black or white’.

Deacon Augustine said...

These words of the Pope remind me of some lyrics by Bob Dylan:

"You gotta serve somebody, you gotta serve somebody. It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody!"

Not that I have ever been a fan of Dylan, but it did strike me when I heard them that he certainly had got one thing right.

GOR, thank you for mentioning the "black and white" thing. I am of the firm opinion that if anybody ever tries to fob me off with that phrase, then whatever precedes it or follows it is a pile of stinking, liberal manure. It is one of my pet hates which ranks alongside the modernist verb "to be Church".

Patrick Gray said...

"Hell" for example, means a state that is eternally seperated from God, humanities ultimate loneliness. It tends to get glossed over by images of a medieval torture chamber, which actually for those who love God might be considered light relief compared to the horror of perpetual exile from his presence. Hell is doctrine that is based on our freewill, we can choose to say yes or no to God and his reign.

Is that not essentially the Greek, heretical view of Hell? According to Fr. Ripley's 'Hell', hell is the 'place and state where the demons along with those who die in the emnity of God suffer torment forever'. Pope Innocent III said that the 'punishment for original sin is the loss of the vision of God' (which seems to be what you are describing, Father)but the punishment for actual sin is Hell.

The pain of Hell is both the pain of loss and the pain of sense - there is 'real, created, physical fire' in Hell which burns and torments the souls of the damned without ever being snuffed out and after the last judgement the bodies of the damned also.

Forgive me if this is impertinent, Father, to upbraid a priest on a matter of doctrine, but could you explain?

[of course, I am thoroughly traditional and Catholic now - I was abominably Modernist and sympathetic to the evil Liturgical Movement when last I posted - God have mercy on my soul!]

F Marsden said...

Just a clarification on the meaning of "exorcise / exorcise"

Exorcise is from Greek ex + orkizo. Orkizo is "I adjure" or "I swear an oath," "ex/ek" is out.

So it's a bit stronger than just "I pray out", it's "I adjure out". Exorcism has a commanding or adjuring element which intercessory prayer doesn't have. That correlates with it needing apostolic / episcopal authority.