Thursday, February 20, 2014

“the very smoke of Satan” within the Temple of God....

Recently Professor Martin of Franciscan University wrote:

....when preparing their homilies, priests and pastors mustn’t forget the long shadow cast by sin.  Nor, while they’re at it, the devil himself, who was the first to live in love’s shadow, and has been wandering about the world ever since trying mightily to put out the lights.  I mean, who else besides all those fallen and corrupt angels deserve the first word in a sermon on sin?   ....

Ah, but Satan, we are told, achieved his master-stroke sometime in the nineteenth  century when he managed to persuade huge numbers of people to stop believing in him.  Once that ruse got around—and, as always, educated opinion was sinfully eager to help it along—the devil was at liberty to do his worst.  What then becomes of sin in a world more and more divested of belief in an Evil Intelligence bent on bedeviling us with its false attractions?  It doesn’t just go poof, does it? Leaving us with the same intolerable burden of guilt and sorrow as before only now without anyone to blame.  Rather an entire moral edifice commences to collapse once the scaffolding of sin (hence virtue) is removed.  And certainly the Old Guy has returned the favor vouchsafed him by so many devil deniers of yore.  Because the past one hundred years bear unmistakably the imprint of iniquities not of this world.  Without doubt the bloodiest on record, we simply cannot attribute all the horrors and futilities of modernity to mere human agency.   As Monsignor Ronald Knox once wryly put it:  “It is so stupid of modern civilization to have given up believing in the devil when he is the only explanation of it.”
Any recovery of a sane and healthy sense of sin, therefore, crucially depends on getting people to believe once again in the devil.  If the world and the flesh fell on his, and Adam’s, account, why ever not?  “The devil is the number one enemy,” declared Pope Paul VI, “the source of all temptation … the sophistical perverter of man’s moral equipoise, the malicious seducer who knows how to penetrate us (through the senses, the imagination, desire, utopian logic or disordered social contacts) in order to spread error….”
And if papal testimony were not telling enough, particularly from the tragedy of one who felt in his final days “the very smoke of Satan” within the Temple of God, Holy Scripture emphasizes that “the whole world is under the power of the evil one,” who is not called “the prince of this world” for nothing.  Think only of Our Lord’s ordeal in the desert:  If the devil offered Christ all the kingdoms of earth in exchange for his submission, then surely it was because he was in a position to dispose of them.
Professor Martin's piece might interest one in a book I spent ten summers writing, discussing how disbelief in Satan is part and parcel of the crisis facing the Catholic Church and the world these days....