While taking a break from watching movies in my downtime, due to the pandemic, I found myself looking at the titles of movies. What is astonishing is the sheer number of movies out there about demons, the devil, possession, Dracula (although that is a fictional character), and the living dead. To a young person, impressionable because she or he equates what it in a movie with what is real, it must be confusing. Here are some of my thoughts from a Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) on the forces of evil at work today. Most of those who do evil don’t even know what they don’t know about the devil, (Did you notice that the Devil and Evil come from the same root?)

  1. What does the Devil look like? Scripture portrays Lucifer as a snake (Genesis 1-2), seducing Eve, who in turn seduced Adam to choose themselves over God. I have never seen the Devil in person, but I have felt and seen the effects of evil. One of the best representations of the Devil is the choreography by Bob Fosse in the movie, The Little Prince. I watched it three times, once for the choreography, once time for the words (these words are important) and the third time to sit back and enjoy the whole movie as I try to see how it fits into my view of reality as a Lay Cistercian. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXonK8EBqmk

2. What is the nature of the Devil? I know, this sounds esoteric, but bear with me. Think about this. There are three natures that correspond to the three universes of reality (physical, mental, and spiritual.)

The physical universe has animal nature plus humans, the mental universe has only human nature, the spiritual universe has only God with humans admitted as adopted sons or daughters. These three natures are separate, as are the three universes. Humans are not divine in nature. Animals and humans share the same animal nature, which is why, when we act like an animal, we are not acting our nature, and that is sinful (missing the mark of being human). Genesis, that archetypal story of human nature, details how humans are not animals. God made humans last of all, to be caretakers of his garden. Into the garden (reality) comes the Devil, as a snake. The Devil is not God, nor Adam or Eve. Whereas God is seen as a human being (anthropomorphic), He is still of divine nature and Adam and Eve are human nature. Where does that leave Satan? He is an animal nature (snake). When he tempts Adam and Eve, he wants them to be like him (animal nature) and not human nature. Why should any of this matter to anyone? All these movies and television shows, such as Lucifer, have messed up who Satan really is. Here is the point: Satan is not God’s equal as light is the opposite of darkness. Stan or Lucifer is a fallen angel, one of the Archangels along with Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel. God made Lucifer. Lucifer did not make God or is he equal to God. That is what he wants you to believe.

3. Lucifer and Adam made similar choices. God made all the angels with reason and free will. If it were not so, Lucifer could not or would have made the choice to be God. There are consequences to all our choices, both good and bad. Lucifer wanted to be like God. He chose his own will instead of serving the will of God. Why is that so bad? One reason may be found in the fact that we are made for Heaven (Garden of Eden) and our prototypes (Adam and Eve) did not pass the test, just like Lucifer. That temptation is the same one the Devil used on Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. There were consequences to that choice of evil, disguised as something good. We lost access to Heaven until someone could come and redeem us. The Hebrew word for redeem is Gaal. https://biblehub.com/hebrew/1350.htm It means a kinsman buys back that which was pawned away. Do you know who the kinsman is who redeemed us from our collective sin? Jesus. Think about it. Jesus of Nazareth became human (Philippians 2:5-12) so He could be our kinsman. We have the opportunity to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father.

Read what New Advent has to say about the Devil. I quote this in its entirety so that you will get the flavor of the text and also use New Advent as a primary resource. You will find excellent Scriptural references with New Advent. https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04764a.htm

“As may be gathered from the language of the Lateran definition, the Devil and the other demons are but a part of the angelic creation, and their natural powers do not differ from those of the angels who remained faithful. Like the other angels, they are pure spiritual beings without any body, and in their original state they are endowed with supernatural grace and placed in a condition of probation. It was only by their fall that they became devils. This was before the sin of our first parents, since this sin itself is ascribed to the instigation of the Devil: “By the envy of the Devil, death came into the world” (Wisdom 2:24). Yet it is remarkable that for an account of the fall of the angels we must turn to the last book of the Bible. For as such we may regard the vision in the Apocalypse, albeit the picture of the past is blended with prophecies of what shall be in the future:

And there was a great battle in heavenMichael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels: and they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world; and he was cast unto the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Apocalypse 12:7-9)

To this may be added the words of St. Jude: “And the angels who kept not their principality, but forsook their own habitation, he hath reserved under darkness in everlasting chains, unto the judgment of the great day” (Jude 1:6; cf. 2 Peter 2:4).

In the Old Testament we have a brief reference to the Fall in Job 4:18: “In his angels he found wickedness“. But to this must be added the two classic texts in the prophets:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, who didst rise in the morning? how art thou fallen to the earth, that didst wound the nations? And thou saidst in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will sit in the mountain of the covenant, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the height of the clouds, I will be like the most High. But yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, into the depth of the pit. (Isaiah 14:12-15)”

“In this the children of God are manifest and the children of the devil: for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God appeared, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

4. Lucifer can only tempt humans. We must let him inside. I Peter 5:8 tells us: “Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary, the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.” Temptation is not a sin. Sin has to do with choosing, in this case, choosing that which comes from God, or, alternatively, what comes from Satan, the World, that which will not lead us to fulfill our destiny as adopted sons and daughters of the Father and claim our rightful inheritance.

5. If you think there is no Devil, he has already seduced you with the false promises of the World.

6. Moving from our false self to our true self means renouncing Satan and all his allurements and recommitting yourself to Christ as your center.

7. Jealousy is at the core of Lucifer’s hatred for God. Lucifer tempted Eve with Jealousy. He tempted Adam with the sin of Pride.

8. Read the story of Job to get an interesting perspective on the Devil. In this scenario, the Devil and God make a wager. Read about who won the wager and what it tells you about the power of God.

9. God created both angels and demons but gave them intelligence and the freedom to choose. Angels chose God who is love; the demons chose jealousy, envy, hatred, and the seven deadly sins. The wages of sin, says Scripture, is death. God created all that is living (Genesis 1-2) and then made a gardener tend the garden. From Gardner he fashioned Eve. He gave both of them intelligence and the freedom to choose. He told them not to eat of the fruit of the tree of good and evil, the Devil tempted them with jealousy, envy, hatred and the seven deadly sins. They chose poorly and the consequences of that sin (we call it Original because it describes human nature and the corruption in which we live). What Adam and Eve lost was their relationship with God. Since human nature offended a divine nature, human nature, by itself, could not apologize to God (seeking forgiveness). When you offend God, only God can apologies to God, which sounds a little bizarre until we realize that Christ, who is God, inserted himself into history by becoming one of us in all things but sin. (Philippians 2:5-12). The fixation of Christ is on completing his mission, the kinsman who buys us back (redeems us) from the sin of Adam, culminates with the temptation in the Garden of Gethsemani (like the Garden of Eden) where he pays the price for Adam’s sin (Romans 5), the passion, death, and resurrection to atone for our sins and open the Gates of Heaven again.

10. Just as each of us has a guardian angel, we also have assigned to us our own personal demon. At least, that is what Abbot Issac of the Monastery Stella in France thought (c. 1100-1168) What follows is an excerpt from Sermon 38, the Third Sunday of Lent. Read it for yourself.

  1. “His physical absence and the disciples’ powerlessness clearly represent what we said before: without the presence of his divine power and the grace to work with it, nothing could be cast out anywhere. For this reason, to those who asked him why they were unable to cast out the demon, he answered, Because of your unbelief. Either they did not know this yet, or they did not yet believe as they should have. So it is also that elsewhere he calls certain people who claim that they are something (arrogantes) to return to themselves, saying, Do not boast that spirits are made subject to you, etc. For I have seen Satan falling like lightning from heaven because of his haughtiness. (arrogantia)
  2. We begin by mentioning these matters, brothers, so that you will not presume to claim anything for yourselves and foolishly boast in what you have received. For it is God who does all things in us, mercifully casting out what is evil and introducing what is good, and sometimes justly taking away what is good and inflicting what is evil.
  3. Therefore, Jesus was casting out a demon, and continues to do so today. Let us ask good Jesus for ourselves, beloved; let us constantly ask him to completely cast our demons out of us, or at least restrain them for a while. All demons are dangerous to us and rejoice when they harm us or discover that we have suffered harm. They all often heap up a great many wide-ranging and chance acts around many different people to deceive them. Yet Scripture informs us that we all have our own particular (familiaris) demon who is especially attentive toward us and who watches us everywhere in all our dealings. A monk must certainly be aware of this particular demon.
  4. For I reckon that I know and understand my demon quite well, beloved. Nothing is better known to me, because nothing does me more harm. Nothing is more familiar (familiarius) to me, because nothing is more constant. I am hardly unaware of the nature and kind of temptation that most frequently and sharply pricks me. I also know in what area I am most easily afflicted. This is why I must also cry out as a man who sees his weakness and recognizes his enemy: Lord Jesus, you who alone are mighty, snatch the helpless one from the hands of those who are stronger; the poor, needy one from his plunderer. Snatch the poor one, and free the needy one from the hand of the sinner. Snatch me from the hand of the sinner and from the hand of the wicked one who acts against the law. When I sing these and other verses like them in the assembly, beloved, I certainly direct that psalm against him in secret.
  5. And it was mute, it says. Mine talks constantly to me and weaves endless and deceitful tales about the glory, beauty, and delights of this world. It whispers ideas about these things and a thousand others like them, both promising and threatening miracles. It tells a thousand lies, saying that I can do many things that I cannot, and that I cannot do many things that I can. It says that others recount amazing things about me, both good and bad. It goes on at great length to me, variously talking about my knowledge, my religious observance, my habits, what kind of person I am, my charm, my eloquence, or my refinement. In short, it often grabs and takes over my ears for itself after this fashion, so that I am free neither to read nor to listen to someone else reading to me. This is its purpose in speaking to me: to make me entirely mute, to render me deaf and dull.
  6. And perhaps this is why a wicked spirit that does not stop speaking evil is called mute: because it makes those whom it attacks mute, unable to praise God or use their rational tongues properly. If someone speaks, says the apostle Peter, let it be with God’s words, as it were. I can thus understand that the rational tongue is not for speaking empty and lying words, words of conflict and ruin, words of slander or pride, of cupidity and lust, or any kind of nonsense, which is inappropriate. The tongue, whether it calls out with all these words and chatters in the ears of others or engages in inner conversation with its particular demon, is mute before God. As it is written, Because I was silent, my bones grew old, while I called out all day long. There are three ways, then, with which the tongue speaks God’s words: when it praises God, when it accuses itself in his presence, and when it builds up its neighbor. But those who do not engage in these kinds of speech are mute, no matter how much they cry out.
  7. O Lord Jesus, cast out my demon, and open my lips to humbly confess my sins, so that my mouth may worthily announce your praise. If you do not, no beautiful praise will be found in the sinner’s mouth: You have put on confession and beauty, Scripture says. For confession is beautiful, and beauty gives praise.”

Here are some of my concluding thoughts about Satan and demons.

We live in a world wounded by Original Sin but not evil. Human nature is wounded as well.

We become adopted sons and daughters of the Father through water and the Holy Spirit.

We must constantly pray (daily) to be on our guard against the temptations of the Devil to seduce us with values and behaviors of the world.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray with Christ that we are not abandoned to the Devil when tempted.

Christ’s grace is sufficient.

The greatest triumph of the Devil is to convince the pusillanimous that he does not exist.

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