Satan

Life in a Time of Tares

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Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:

But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.

But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.

So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?

He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?

But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

Matthew 13: 24-30

 

 

In any farming community, farmers being human, feuds will sometimes grow up between farmers and their families.  The Romans understood this, and so they had a law forbidding anyone from sowing tares, darnel, in a wheat field.  A ryegrass, darnel is indistinguishable from wheat in the early stages of development and only when they are both mature can wheat be readily distinguishable from tares.  It takes little imagination to see Jesus as a boy, working in the carpenter shop of Saint Joseph, and hearing one of the farming clients of Joseph ranting about how an unknown enemy of his had ruined his wheat field by planting darnel in it.

Christ has shaped out of this unpleasant example of rural life, a parable which says much about the human condition.  It would save time if we all wore signs saying “good”, “evil”, “both”, “making up my mind”, but we do not.  Until revealed by deeds, the side chosen by each of us each day remains a deep secret, often to the person making the daily choice, sense the capacity of man to deceive himself is bottomless.  But God knows, and ultimately we each reap the harvest of our deeds.  So with us individually, so our societies, our political institutions, our churches and all the other manifold ways in which we humans gather together.  Enough wrong choices and the tares are in charge, lording it over the wheat.  Saint Augustine noted this long ago: Continue reading

Saint Thomas Aquinas on the Devil, Temptation and Sin

 

 

I answer that, The temptation which comes from the enemy takes the form of a suggestion, as Gregory says (Hom. xvi in Evang.). Now a suggestion cannot be made to everybody in the same way; it must arise from those things towards which each one has an inclination. Consequently the devil does not straight away tempt the spiritual man to grave sins, but he begins with lighter sins, so as gradually to lead him to those of greater magnitude. Wherefore Gregory (Moral. xxxi), expounding Job 39:25, “He smelleth the battle afar off, the encouraging of the captains and the shouting of the army,” says: “The captains are fittingly described as encouraging, and the army as shouting. Because vices begin by insinuating themselves into the mind under some specious pretext: then they come on the mind in such numbers as to drag it into all sorts of folly, deafening it with their bestial clamor.”

Thus, too, did the devil set about the temptation of the first man. For at first he enticed his mind to consent to the eating of the forbidden fruit, saying (Genesis 3:1): “Why hath God commanded you that you should not eat of every tree of paradise?” Secondly [he tempted him] to vainglory by saying: “Your eyes shall be opened.” Thirdly, he led the temptation to the extreme height of pride, saying: “You shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” This same order did he observe in tempting Christ. For at first he tempted Him to that which men desire, however spiritual they may be–namely, the support of the corporeal nature by food. Secondly, he advanced to that matter in which spiritual men are sometimes found wanting, inasmuch as they do certain things for show, which pertains to vainglory. Thirdly, he led the temptation on to that in which no spiritual men, but only carnal men, have a part–namely, to desire worldly riches and fame, to the extent of holding God in contempt. And so in the first two temptations he said: “If Thou be the Son of God”; but not in the third, which is inapplicable to spiritual men, who are sons of God by adoption, whereas it does apply to the two preceding temptations.

And Christ resisted these temptations by quoting the authority of the Law, not by enforcing His power, “so as to give more honor to His human nature and a greater punishment to His adversary, since the foe of the human race was vanquished, not as by God, but as by man”; as Pope Leo says (Serm. 1, De Quadrag. 3).

The Temptations of Christ-Conclusion

 

1] Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. [2] And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry. [3] And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. [4] Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. [5] Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple,

[6] And said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone. [7] Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. [8] Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, [9] And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me. [10] Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.

Matthew 4: 1-10

Go here to read part one of our Lenten examination of the temptation of Christ by Satan, here to read part two, here to read part three and here to read part four.  Satan had now issued his final temptation to Christ, all Earthly, power and waited for a reply.

As Mohammed demonstrated five centuries later, a religion that establishes secular rule over a kingdom at the inception of the religion can spread very fast and very far.  Reestablish the Davidic kingdom under Christ and Christianity might have spread just as rapidly, especially if Christ called upon the ten legions of angels he referred to at the beginning of His Passion.  Instead of just teaching, the Way taught by Christ would become the laws of the Earthly kingdom He would establish.  His mercy and justice would become statutes, and not just teachings passed slowly by word of mouth and in writings.  His mission could be accomplished without the pain and ignominy of the death on the Cross, a death Jesus would pray that he might not experience.  A throne or the Cross, in terms of His human nature this may have been the most compelling temptation.  Christ would be depicted throughout Christian history as Christ the King.  Why not be a King while He lived? What good He could accomplish here on Earth, ushering mankind into a utopia under His all wise rule.

It is instructive to recall that throughout his forthcoming three year ministry, everyone except Christ expected him to do this.  Certainly the Apostles did, constantly asking Him when the Kingdom would begin and arguing among themselves for positions of power in this new polity.  The Sadducees did, viewing His entrance into Palm Sunday as setting the stage for His revolt, and their fears that His attempt, or the attempt of His followers, to crown him as King, would lead to war with Rome.  As for the Romans, Christ died on a Roman Cross under a sign accusing him of being, or pretending to be, the King of the Jews.  Everyone seemed to expect that Christ would attempt to be a King here on Earth.  Why not fulfill these expectations? Continue reading

The Temptations of Christ: Part Two

 

[1] Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. [2] And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry. [3] And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. [4] Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. [5] Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple,

[6] And said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone. [7] Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. [8] Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, [9] And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me. [10] Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.

Matthew 4: 1-10

Go here to read part one of our Lenten examination of the temptation of Christ by Satan.

The first temptation of Christ by Satan was devilish, of course, clever.  Pretending not to be sure that Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity, Satan challenges Christ to turn stones into bread.

On the surface this challenge is simple enough:  Christ hungers and Satan asks for a simple miracle so that he may be sure that Christ is God, and by this easy feat of divine power Christ can appease his human hunger.  However, as Satan knew, the temptation went far deeper than a mere appeal to human hunger.

How to tempt God?  The very concept is blasphemous, of course, but Satan is blasphemy incarnate.  I suspect that Satan’s answer to this puzzle was by appealing to God’s love.  As Christ would note, God marks the sparrow’s fall.  He loves each man, as if there were no other.  How He must pity us in our travails here below, our struggles against poverty and all the other ills that our fallen state and our fallen world present to us.  How many an atheist, bringing up one of these ills, has thrown back in the face of believers the taunt, “How could a just God allow this!”

Thus the Father of Lies appealed to Christ to use his divine power, not just to appease His hunger, but as a sign of how He could use His power to end hunger and all the other ills that Man is heir to.  Satan tempted God by appealing to His mercy, to place sinful Man back in the Garden and satisfy all Man’s material wants, ending human physical suffering with the slightest exertion of the divine will.  Temptations to evil are the most difficult to resist when the sin proposed is being utilized for a good end.  Satan, no doubt, who fell from pride, felt a surge of it when he suggested the clever bread temptation to Christ. Continue reading

Pope Paul VI and the Smoke of Satan

 

(The day of the beatification of Pope Paul VI seems like a good day to repost this post.)

I have long heard about Pope Paul VI having referred to the “smoke of Satan” having entered the Church.  Usually most references to it do not mention when it was said and in what context.  The quote apparently was said on June 29, 1972 by Pope Paul VI on the ninth anniversary of his coronation during a homily given at a mass for the solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.  The Italian text is here.  As far as I know there is no official translation.  On November 13, 2006 Jimmy Atkin posted at his blog  a translation done of the homily by Father Stephanos Pedrano.  Please note that the text that is translated is a summary of what the Pope said and not a word for word transcript of what the Pope said.  Father Pedrano’s translation is as follows (I have placed in red the portion of the text that refers to Satan): Continue reading

PopeWatch: Satan

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

“We are all tempted because the law of our spiritual life, our Christian life  is a struggle: a struggle.  That’s because the Prince of this world, Satan, doesn’t want our holiness, he doesn’t want us to follow Christ.   Maybe some of you might say:  ‘But Father, how old fashioned you are to speak about the devil in the 21st century!’ But look out because the devil is present!   The devil is here… even in the 21st century!   And we mustn’t be naïve, right?   We must learn from the Gospel how to fight against Satan.”

Pope Francis, homily, April 11, 2014

 

 

Some of the liberal fans of Pope Francis are beginning to note that he talks about Satan a lot:

 

‘But Father, how old-fashioned you are to speak about the Devil in the 21st century,’ ” Francis, quoting those who have noted his frequent mentions of the Devil, said last month while presiding over Mass at the Vatican’s chapel in St. Martha’s House. He warned those gathered on that chilly morning to be vigilant and not be fooled by the hidden face of Satan in the modern world. “Look out because the Devil is present,” he said.

Since its foundation, the church has taught the existence of the Devil. But in recent decades, progressive priests and bishops, particularly in the United States and Western Europe, have tended to couch Satan in more allegorical terms. Evil became less the wicked plan of the master of hell than the nasty byproduct of humanity’s free will. Even Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, a lofty German theologian, often painted evil with a broad brush.

Enter the plain-talking first pope from Latin America, where mystical views of Satan still hold sway in broad areas of the region. During his time as cardinal of Buenos Aires before rising to the papacy, Francis was known for stark warnings against “the tempter” and “the father of lies.” Now, his focus on the Devil is raising eyebrows even within the normally unquestioning walls of Vatican City. Continue reading

Top Ten Reasons Why Obama is Not Satan

Satan Obama

 

The Internet is abuzz with the fact that Satan on the History Channel’s The Bible miniseries, which has gotten great ratings, looks a tad like Obama if Michele gets him to go on a veggies only diet.  I really don’t see much resemblance but it does give us a good excuse to look at the top ten reasons why Obama is not Satan:

1.  Hell has never run a deficit.

2.  Satan, whatever his other manifest evils, has never voted present.

3.  Satan resides in Hell and Obama resides in Chicago.  (A small difference I concede.).

4.  Satan is the prince of liars, while Obama is at most an archduke of liars.

5.  Satan to my knowledge has never eaten dog. Continue reading

The Devil You Say?

Considering all the extravagant evil in the world, I have always found it remarkable that so many people do not believe in the existence of Satan and his fallen angels.  Pope Leo XIII I believe foresaw this, which is why he gave us the prayer to Saint Michael.  In 1942 CS Lewis in The Screwtape Letters wrote what may be an epitaph for the age in which we live:

When humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and  skepics. At least, not yet. I have great hopes that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalize and mythologize their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, a belief in us (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy. The “Life Force,” the worship of sex, and other aspects of psychoanalysis, may here prove useful. If once we can produce our perfect work — the materialist magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshiping, what he vaguely calls “Forces” while denying the existence of “spirits” — the end of the war will be in sight. But in the meantime we must obey orders.

Man without God is nothing but prey for Satan.  With God and Man united Satan is  impotent.  Alexander Solzhenitsyn when asked why Communism seized power in Russia, used to say the following:

More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened. Continue reading

Would it Be Such a Big Leap From Inviting Sebelius?

Yet another controversial speaker at a Catholic college:

 

In a move already denounced by Catholic bishops & other leading religious conservatives, St. Sincerus University, the nation’s 84th largest Catholic university, has invited Satan to deliver its commencement speech later this month. Also known as the Prince of Darkness, Lucifer, &, more popularly, the Devil, Satan is a divisive figure among Catholics & other Christians. Several Catholic universities have upset religious conservatives in recent years by inviting controversial figures to deliver commencement speeches, as when the University of Notre Dame, the nation’s largest Catholic University, invited President Barack Obama, who supports a woman’s right to abortion, in 2009. The invitation to Satan by SSU president Fr. Thad Despereaux comes at a time when many Catholics are highly critical of the Obama administration’s attempts to reform health care, which some claim would force Catholic institutions to violate their Church’s teachings by providing contraceptives as part of their health insurance plans. Fr. Despereaux, in comments made to the Daily Sham, SSU’s student newspaper, said that having Satan on campus gives bold witness to a central Catholic principle that God can be found in all things. “The continuing politicization of the faith indicates just how important it is for us to build bridges,” Fr. Despereaux said. “Our whole mission as a university is to bring people together. Satan is badly misunderstood by many people, & we hope to show our graduates that stereotypes, & the hatred they engender, have no place on a Catholic campus. As Catholics we are to hate hate.” Continue reading

Pope Leo and Saint Michael the Archangel

In 1947 Father Domenico Pechenino related what he had witnessed over six decades before.

“I do not remember the exact year. One morning the great Pope Leo XIII had celebrated a Mass and, as usual, was attending a Mass of thanksgiving. Suddenly, we saw him raise his head and stare at something above the celebrant’s head. He was staring motionlessly, without batting an eye. His expression was one of horror and awe; the colour and look on his face changing rapidly. Something unusual and grave was happening in him.

“Finally, as though coming to his senses, he lightly but firmly tapped his hand and rose to his feet. He headed for his private office. His retinue followed anxiously and solicitously, whispering: ‘Holy Father, are you not feeling well? Do you need anything?’ He answered: ‘Nothing, nothing.’ About half an hour later, he called for the Secretary of the Congregation of Rites and, handing him a sheet of paper, requested that it be printed and sent to all the ordinaries around the world. What was that paper? It was the prayer that we recite with the people at the end of every Mass. It is the plea to Mary and the passionate request to the Prince of the heavenly host, (St. Michael: Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle) beseeching God to send Satan back to hell.”

Cardinal Giovanni Batista Nassalli Rocca di Corneiliano wrote in his Pastoral Letters on Lent“the sentence ‘The evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls’ has a historical explanation that was many times repeated by his private secretary, Monsignor Rinaldo Angeli. Leo XIII truly saw, in a vision, demonic spirits who were congregating on the Eternal City (Rome). The prayer that he asked all the Church to recite was the fruit of that experience. He would recite that prayer with strong, powerful voice: we heard it many a time in the Vatican Basilica. Leo XIII also personally wrote an exorcism that is included in the Roman Ritual. He recommended that bishops and priests read these exorcisms often in their dioceses and parishes. He himself would recite them often throughout the day.”

The Prayer written by the Pope is of course the famous prayer to Saint Michael:

Sancte Michael Archangele,
defende nos in proelio;
contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium.
Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur:
tuque, Princeps militiae Caelestis,
satanam aliosque spiritus malignos,
qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo,
divina virtute in infernum detrude.
Amen. Continue reading

Pat Robertson, Haiti and History

 

For the benefit of Mr. Robertson.  The Haitians revolted during the French Revolution and the reign of Napoleon I.  The Haitians were never ruled by Napoleon III (1852-1870), having their independence recognized in 1825 by France.  Although Voodoo has been sadly ubiquitous in Haiti, there is no evidence of a pact between Satan and Haitian insurgents, although Robertson is not the only person to propound this myth, which is quite common in some evangelical circles.  A good article debunking this myth is here and here.  This of course is far from the first time that Pat Robertson has said something factually challenged and insulting, although considering the vastness of the tragedy, Robertson expounding his kook theory at this point as Haiti mourns countless dead and lies prostrate is truly beneath contempt.  Certain Catholic religious orders enjoin silence for the good of the souls of their members.  Mr. Robertson could benefit by following their example.

For those wishing to donate to Catholic Relief Services for Haiti, here is a link.