POETRY: Morning Reflections, by Enuma Okoro

What is this unfolding, this slow-
going unraveling of gift held
in hands open
to the wonder and enchantment of it all?

What is this growing, this rare
showing, like blossoming
of purple spotted forests
by roadside grown weary with winter months?

Seasons affected, routinely disordered
by playful disturbance of divine glee
weaving through limbs with sharpened shards of mirrored light,
cutting dark spaces, interlacing creation,
commanding life with whimsical delight.

What is this breaking, this hopeful
re-making, shifting stones, addressing dry bones,
dizzying me with blessings,
intercepting my grieving
and raising the dead all around me?

purple forest

HOLY SPIRIT: Pentecost, by Dorothy L. Sayers

From The Mind Of The Maker

When the writer’s Idea is revealed or incarnate by his Energy, then, and only then, can his Power work on the world.  More briefly and obviously, a book has no influence till somebody can read it.

Before the Energy was revealed or incarnate it was, as we have seen, already present in Power within the creator’s mind, but now that Power is released for communication to other men, and returns from their minds to his with a new response.  It dwells in them and works upon them with creative energy, producing in them fresh manifestations of Power.

This is the Power of the Word, and it is dangerous.  Every word—even every idle word—will be accounted for at the day of judgment, because the word itself has power to bring to judgment.  It is of the nature of the word to reveal itself and to incarnate itself—to assume material form.  Its judgment is therefore an intellectual, but also a material judgment.  The habit, very prevalent to-day, of dismissing words as “just words” takes no account of their power.  But once the Idea has entered into other minds, it will tend to reincarnate itself there with ever-increasing Energy and ever-increasing Power.  It may for some time only incarnate itself in more words, more books, more speeches; but the day comes when it incarnates itself in actions, and this is its day of judgment.  At the time when these words are being written, we are witnessing a fearful judgment of blood, resulting from the incarnation in deeds of an Idea to which, when it was content with a verbal revelation, we paid singularly little heed.  Which Ideas are (morally) Good and which are anti-Good it is not the purpose of this book to discuss; what is now abundantly manifest is the Power.  Any Idea whose Energy manifests itself in a Pentecost of Power is good from its own point of view.  It shows itself to be a true act of creation, although, if it is an evil Idea, it will create to a large extent by active negation—that is to say, by destruction.  The fact, however, that “all activity is of God” means that no creative Idea can be wholly destructive: some creation will be produced together with the destruction; and it is the work of the creative mind to see that the destruction is redeemed by its creative elements.

It is the business of education to wait upon Pentecost.  Unhappily, there is something about educational syllabuses, and especially about examination papers, which seems to be rather out of harmony with Pentecostal manifestations.  The Energy of Ideas does not seem to descend into the receptive mind with quite that rush of cloven fire which we ought to expect.  Possibly there is something lacking in our Idea of education; possibly something inhibiting has happened to the Energy.  But Pentecost will happen, whether within or without official education.  From some quarter or other, the Power will descend, to flame or to smolder until it is ready to issue in a new revelation.  We need not suppose that, because the mind of the reader is inert to Plato, it will therefore be inert to Nietzsche or Karl Marx; failing those, it may respond to Wilhelmina Stitch or to Hollywood.  No incarnate Idea is altogether devoid of Power; if the Idea is feeble, the Energy dispersed, and the Power dim, the indwelling spirit will be dim, dispersed and feeble—but such as it is, so its response will be and such will be its manifestation in the world.

It is through the Power that we get a reflection in the mind of the world of the original Trinity in the mind of the writer.  For the reader, that is, the book itself is presented as a threefold being.

First: the Book as Thought—the Idea of the book existing in the writer’s mind.  Of this, the reader can be aware only by faith.  He knows that it does exist, but it is unknowable to him except in its manifestations.  He can, of course, suppose if he likes that the book corresponds to nothing at all in the writer’s mind; he can, if he likes, think that it got into its visible form by accident and that there is not and never was any such person as the writer.  He is perfectly free to think these things, though in practice he seldom avails himself of this freedom.  Where a book is concerned, the average man is a confirmed theist.  There was, certainly, a little time ago, a faint tendency to polytheism among the learned.  In particular cases, that is, where there was no exterior evidence about the writer, the theory was put forward that the Iliad, for example, and the Song of Roland were written by “the folk”; some extremists actually suggested that they “just happened”—though even such people were forced to allow the mediation of a little democracy of godlets to account for the material form in which these manifestations presented themselves.  To-day, the polytheistic doctrine is rather at a discount; at any rate it is generally conceded that the Energy exhibited in written works must have emanated from some kind of Idea in a personal mind.

Secondly: the Book as Written—the Energy or Word incarnate, the express image of the Idea.  This is the book that stands upon our shelves, and everything within and about it: characters, episodes, the succession of words and phrases, style, grammar, paper and ink, and, of course, the story itself.  The incarnation of the Energy stands wholly within the space-time frame: it is written by a material pen and printed by a material machine upon material paper; the words were produced as a succession of events succeeding one another in time.  Any timelessness, illimitability or uncreatedness which may characterize the book belongs not here but in the mind; the body of the Energy is a created thing, strictly limited by time and space, and subject to any accident that may befall matter.  If we do not like it, we are at liberty to burn it in the market-place, or subject it to any other indignity, such as neglecting it, denying it, spitting upon it, or writing hostile reviews about it.  We must, however, be careful to see that nobody reads it before we take steps to eliminate it; otherwise, it may disconcert us by rising again-either as a new Idea in somebody’s mind, or even (if somebody has a good memory) in a resurrected body, substantially the same though made of new materials.  In this respect, Herod showed himself much more competent and realistic than Pilate or Caiaphas.  He grasped the principle that if you are to destroy the Word, you must do so before it has time to communicate itself.  Crucifixion gets there too late.

Thirdly: the Book as Read—the Power of its effect upon and in the responsive mind.  This is a very difficult thing to examine and analyze, because our own perception of the thing is precisely what we are trying to perceive.  We can, as it were, note various detached aspects of it; what we cannot pin down and look at is the movement of our own mind.  In the same way, we cannot follow the movement of our own eyes in a mirror.  We can, by turning our head, observe them in this position and in that position with respect to our body, but never in the act of moving themselves from one position to the other, and never in the act of gazing at anything but the mirror.  Thus our idea of ourself is bound to be falsified, since what to others appears the most lively and mobile part of ourself, appears to us unnaturally fixed.  The eye is the instrument by which we see everything, and for that reason it is the one thing we, cannot see with truth.  The same thing is true of our Power of response to a book, or to anything else; incidentally, this is why books about the Holy Ghost are apt to be curiously difficult and unsatisfactory—we cannot really look at the movement of the Spirit, just because It is the Power by which we do the looking.

power of the word

PRAYER: The Prayer Ablaze With The Fire Of Your Spirit

Author unknown

O Lord,

You have mercy on all.

Take away from me my sins,
and mercifully set me ablaze
with the fire of your Holy Spirit.

Take away from me the heart of stone,
and give me a human heart:
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and enjoy you.


Fire of the Holy Spirit

POETRY: Repentance, by George Herbert

Lord, I confess my sin is great;
Great is my sin. Oh! gently treat
With thy quick flow’r, thy momentany bloom;
Whose life still pressing
Is one undressing,
A steady aiming at a tomb.

Man’s age is two hours’ work, or three:
Each day doth round about us see.
Thus are we to delights: but we are all
To sorrows old,
If life be told
From what life feeleth, Adam’s fall.

O let thy height of mercy then
Compassionate short-breathed men.
Cut me not off for my most foul transgression:
I do confess
My foolishness;
My God, accept of my confession.

Sweeten at length this bitter bowl,
Which thou hast pour’d into my soul;
Thy wormwood turn to health, winds to fair weather:
For if thou stay,
I and this day,
As we did rise, we die together.

When thou for sin rebukest man,
Forthwith he waxeth woe and wan:
Bitterness fills our bowels; all our hearts
Pine, and decay,
And dropp away,
And carry with them th’other parts.

But thou wilt sin and grief destroy;
That so the broken bones may joy,
And tune together in a well-set song,
Full of his praises,
Who dead men raises;
Fractures well cur’d make us more strong.

Jesus offers his hand

POETRY: Adventures In New Testament Greek—Metanoia, by Scott Cairns

Repentance, to be sure,
But of a species far
less likely to oblige
sheepish repetition.

Repentance, you’ll observe,
glibly bears the bent
of thought revisited,
and mind’s familiar stamp

—a quaint, half-hearted
doubleness that couples
all compunction with a pledge
of recurrent screw-up.

The heart’s metanoia,
on the other hand, turns
without regret, turns not
so much away, as toward,

as if the slow pilgrim
has been surprised to find
that sin is not so bad
as it is a waste of time.

repentance 1

ROSARY: Mission Mysteries

From How to Pray the World Mission Rosary, by The Archdiocese of Cincinnati Mission Office

World Mission Rosary

In February of 1951, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith from 1950 to 1966), in a The Catholic Hour radio address, inaugurated a World Mission Rosary. “We must pray, and not for ourselves, but for the world. To this end, I have designed the World Mission Rosary. Each of the five decades is of a different color to represent the continents.” Praying this rosary, Archbishop Sheen said, would “aid the Holy Father and his Society for the Propagation of the Faith by supplying him with practical support, as well as prayers, for the poor mission territories of the world.”

Each decade of the World Mission Rosary calls to mind an area where the Church continues her evangelizing mission: green for the forests and grasslands of Africa; blue for the ocean surrounding the Islands of the Pacific; white symbolizing Europe, the seat of the Holy Father, shepherd of the world; red calling to mind the fire of faith that brought missionaries to the Americas; yellow, the morning light of the East, for Asia.

Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, encouraged everyone to “intensify your praying of the Rosary to obtain from the Lord those graces that the church and humanity especially need.”

The Mission Mysteries

Said for the missions on special occasions

The First Mission Mystery: The visit of the Magi

Three strangers arrive from the East.

Mission Intention

That all who seek Jesus will find Jesus.


The Magi were astrologers from Persia. When Jesus was born, they read in the stars that there was a newborn King of the Jews. This mission teaches us that all who seek God with an open heart will be guided to the Lord.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer.
Say a Hail Mary on each of the next ten beads.
Pray the Glory Be.
Pray the Fatima Prayer:

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are in most need of your mercy.  Amen.

On the next large bead, announce the second mystery.

The Second Mission Mystery: Jesus speaks with the Samaritan woman

Jesus speaks to someone considered unworthy.

Mission Intention

Father, help us to understand that all people are your children and that all people deserve respect.


Jesus scandalized his followers by speaking to a woman and a non‐Jew. But Jesus knows all of God’s children are worthy of respect and love. In addition, Jesus gave the woman a deep desire to know God and to have her people know God too.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer.
Say a Hail Mary on each of the next ten beads.
Pray the Glory Be.
Pray the Fatima Prayer:

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are in most need of your mercy.  Amen.

On the next large bead, announce the third mystery.

The Third Mission Mystery: Jesus cures the centurion’s servant

Jesus cures the servant of a Roman soldier.

Mission Intention

That all who are ill, especially those who face the hardship of poverty, come to know Jesus’s healing presence.


The Romans and the Jews were enemies. Yet, this centurion was friendly to the Jews. He was desperate to save his servant. His faith impressed Jesus. And Jesus used this example to teach the people of God.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer.
Say a Hail Mary on each of the next ten beads.
Pray the Glory Be.
Pray the Fatima Prayer:

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are in most need of your mercy.  Amen.

On the next large bead, announce the fourth mystery.

The Fourth Mission Mystery: Jesus sends out his disciples

Jesus sends his followers to bring the Good News to others.

Mission Intention

That all who bring the Good News to others may do so with the same love and enthusiasm of the first missionaries of Jesus.


The disciples went to others, heedless of the danger to themselves, and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Help me to consider my own missionary vocation whether it be in my own home or somewhere far away.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer.
Say a Hail Mary on each of the next ten beads.
Pray the Glory Be.
Pray the Fatima Prayer:

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are in most need of your mercy.  Amen.

On the next large bead, announce the fifth mystery.

The Fifth Mission Mystery: The conversion of Paul

In a very stunning change, through the grace of God, Paul stops persecuting Christians and starts preaching the Good News.

Mission Intention

May we experience true conversion of heart daily through our prayer and good works.


Paul transformed the church from a small sect of Judaism to a truly universal church, teaching us that we must never dismiss others as beyond God’s reach, even when their previous actions show them to be our enemies.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer.
Say a Hail Mary on each of the next ten beads.
Pray the Glory Be.
Pray the Fatima Prayer:

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are in most need of your mercy.  Amen.

Now, say the closing prayers.

Concluding the Rosary

Say the Hail Holy Queen

Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.  To you do we send up our sighs, mourning, and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, your eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!

Pray the Rosary Prayer

O God, whose only begotten Son, by his life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal salvation, grant, we beseech you, that while meditating on these mysteries of the most holy rosary, that we may both imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

Make the sign of the cross.

world mission rosary

PRAYER: Celebrating The Light Of The World

From Mother’s Union

Let all the world, in every corner sing,
My God and King!
We join with God’s people worldwide
to celebrate the light of Christ.

Jesus said: I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.
(John 8:12) 

Jesus Christ, Light of the world,
we draw near to renew our light in you
that our lives may brightly reflect your love.

Loving Lord,
inspire us with your vision
for the part of your world
you have called us to serve.

Fix our gaze on Christ
that we may brightly shine
with the outworking of his love
as we carry out your purposes.

We celebrate the light of Christ
which shines in the world
with ever-increasing glory
as God’s Kingdom grows.


light of the world

WAY OF THE CROSS: Carrying The Cross With Simon Of Cyrene, by Richard Grebenc

From Homiletic and Pastoral Review

We can be sure that Jesus was grateful to Simon
for providing some relief during the Passion,
but also for helping him reach his goal
of redeeming humanity by his suffering and death. 

He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”(Mark 8:34)

They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. (Mark 15:21)

“Carrying our cross” is a quite familiar concept to Christians.  We tend to associate this notion with physical ailments or challenges, difficulties in prayer, mental illness, emotional distress, or any of a number of unwelcome events that inevitably occur in life.  Unwelcome as they are, if they cannot be eliminated or mitigated, they must be endured.  However, Jesus tells us in all three synoptic Gospels that carrying the cross is the calling of all authentic followers of his, a cost of true discipleship.  How we deal with our crosses, then, makes all the difference for us and for many persons with whom we associate.

Of course, the best person from whom to learn how to handle the crosses that come our way is Jesus himself.  But, as fallen human beings, it is particularly instructive to consider the only man like us (in all things, including sin) who actually (not metaphorically) carried the cross of Jesus aside from our Lord himself, namely Simon of Cyrene.

Cyrene and Cyrenians

Cyrene (pronounced sai-REE-nee) is located on the continent of Africa in what is now Libya.  Nearly 900 miles separate Cyrene and Jerusalem, a journey that would have taken several weeks in the first century.  Simon was very likely a Jew coming to Jerusalem for Passover.  That he comes from Cyrene is unsurprising because we know from 1 Maccabees 15:23 that there was a Jewish community in Cyrene for at least 300 years prior to the events of Holy Week; we also know that Cyrenian Jews had their own synagogue in Jerusalem per Acts 6:9.  Earlier in Acts we are told that there were Cyrenians in the crowd who heard Peter speaking on the day of Pentecost (2:10).  Later, in Acts (11:20), we hear of Cyrenians preaching to Greek Gentiles.  Another Cyrenian, Lucius, is mentioned as being in the church in Antioch (13:1).  Certainly, Cyrene was an active center of evangelization in the early decades of Christianity.

Simon of Cyrene in the Gospels

Simon of Cyrene is mentioned only three times in the New Testament: once each in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and all in relation to the episode on the way to Calvary.  We are told that this “passer-by was coming in from the country”when the Romans “took hold”of him and “pressed him into service” to carry Jesus’s cross.  We know from John’s Gospel that Jesus initially bore his own cross but it is commonly held that the soldiers, because they feared that Jesus would not be able to make it to the place of execution without assistance due to the beating he had already endured, looked for help in the crowd. Conscripting Simon, they led him to the Nazarene and “after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus.”

From what we know of Roman crucifixions, it is most likely that only the transverse beam was carried by Jesus, and then Simon; the vertical beam was planted at the crucifixion site.  Contrary to the traditional form of the Stations of the Cross, there is no indication in the Bible that Jesus again touched the cross until he was nailed to it on Calvary.  (The Pope Paul VI approved scriptural form of the stations, celebrated publicly by Pope John Paul II, adheres only to events explicitly found in the Gospels.)

The Impact of Jesus on Simon

Simon may well not have heard of Jesus prior to his visit.  As one who had just arrived in Jerusalem from the country, it seems unlikely that he witnessed Jesus’s trial, or had been part of the crowd associated with these events (after all, as mentioned above, he is described as a “passer-by”).  Yet, after this lengthy trip, he was being forced to help this Jesus of Nazareth, a condemned man.

It is not difficult to imagine Simon’s initial reactions to being conscripted into this service:

  • Surprise in being singled out;
  • Annoyance with this unplanned detour;
  • Reluctance to be associated with a man who was a criminal in the eyes of the Roman occupiers and the Jewish religious leaders;
  • Embarrassment in being the focus of attention in bearing the device meant for the torture of convicts.

Although we hear nothing of Simon in scripture after this event, it is worth considering what Simon might have made of Jesus per his direct involvement with him, as well as with regard to subsequent news regarding Jesus:

Did he witness the execution of Jesus, or did he make haste to get away from there?  What must his companions (if any) and others have said afterwards?  Was he still in town on Sunday?  If so, did he hear of the resurrection while he was in Jerusalem?  Might he have been one of those Cyrenians who heard Peter on Pentecost?  Assuming he did not stay long enough in Jerusalem to be in the crowd for Peter’s speech, what would Simon have made of the reports that he would have undoubtedly heard from friends and acquaintances upon their return to Cyrene?  Then, what was his reaction to all of these incredible happenings in light of his intimate involvement in the march to Golgotha?  Was he eager to tell his story, or did he keep it quiet?  Did his attitude toward sharing his experience change over time?

Even though Simon is not referred to again in scripture, we know he leaves a family legacy.  Note in the second scripture passage presented at the beginning of this article that two of Simon’s children, Alexander and Rufus, are mentioned by the evangelist, Mark.  Why would Mark do this?  In all likelihood, Mark includes those names in his Gospel because they would be familiar to the Gentile community in Rome, for whom Mark was writing (in fact, Paul, in his letter to the Romans, greets a Rufus and his mother).  Simon’s boys were likely quite young at the time of Jesus’s death, if they were even born yet; this is so because, since the Roman soldiers could pick out just about anyone from what must have been a significant mass of persons, Simon was likely a younger, robust man who would not falter in taking the burden off of Jesus’s shoulders.  It seems that the impact of this event was impressed so strongly by Simon upon his sons (and how could it not have a lasting effect in light of the resurrection?) that they became prominent Christians in the heart of the Roman Empire.

Drawing Lessons from Simon’s Experience

Let us consider how Simon’s possible initial reactions, described in the previous section, can be ours as well, when an unexpected cross comes our way:

  • Surprise—Why has this happened to me?
  • Annoyance—This really puts into disarray my plans, my dreams, my life.
  • Reluctance—I’m not ready for this, I can’t handle this!
  • Embarrassment—I can’t let anyone see me like this.

Simon’s experience and ours may be ostensibly vastly different but the reactions are often the same.

This leads us to a reflection on how we handle carrying our inevitable crosses.  The cross was unexpected for Simon; the cross is often unexpected for us, as well.  He could not refuse the cross and, ultimately, neither can we.  While we will never know for sure the answers to the questions we wondered of Simon in the aftermath of his encounter with Jesus, we can use similar queries to examine ourselves:

  • Do we see through our crosses knowing (unlike Simon at the time, he was helping Jesus) that if there is no cross there is no resurrection?  Despite how heavily burdensome these crosses can become, do we continually look past the pain, striving to remain focused on the reward that comes as a result of enduring until the end?
  • Do we get from those with whom we interact, especially family and friends, support and help through our struggles, or are they impediments to our spiritual growth?  In any case, do we become a shining example of patient perseverance during such times?
  • Do we invoke the Holy Spirit, patiently waiting for his assistance in our trials, and then letting him work in us to perfect us?  Knowing difficulties will come, do we pray regularly for the graces to accept and endure such challenges in the spirit of Saint Paul who said: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church”?
  • Do we eagerly tell of the blessings we received for having endured the trial, or do we hasten to put the entire experience behind us?  Moving forward, do we, as Simon may well have done, allow the experience to change us, and allow us to grow closer to Christ, sharing our witness with family (especially our children), friends, and those whom we encounter?

As alluded to above, unlike Simon—whose knowledge of Jesus at the time he met him on the way to his death, was a passing knowledge at best—we do not have the excuse of not knowing Jesus.  Whatever our initial reactions to a significant setback, or tragic event, we can be sure that we have the Lord to fall back on—Jesus gave us his Word.  Crosses will come our way—whether they are pressed upon us, passively accepted, or actively welcomed—but, in order to reach our Heavenly goal, God’s grace is needed to help us.  This grace is not forced on us; we must be open to it.  Are we ready and willing to embrace suffering, for the rest of this Earthly journey, until the death comes that we all must experience?

Following Christ, Moving Forward

Notice again what we are told about Simon of Cyrene in Luke: “After laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus.”  Intellectually, it is quite easy to subscribe to all that has been said to this point regarding what should be our disposition in times of trial.  If we are not experiencing any particularly severe problems currently, we are probably quite willing to say we will “offer it up” when we are faced with the next challenge.  But when we actually must grapple with a certain physical, spiritual, psychological, or emotional battle, happily uniting our sufferings with Christ is not necessarily what we would consider an easy or desirable path to follow.  Most likely, we wish (and hopefully pray) that the burden will be removed.  And there is nothing wrong with asking God for relief.  If the Lord alleviates our pain, we should be quick to acknowledge it, and give thanks to him for the healing.  If God does not take away the hurt, though, he may be using it to help us grow in faith or hope or love (or maybe he wants us to grow in all three of these virtues).  It may be his way of breaking down the barriers to have us completely surrender to his will in our lives.

In the case of Simon, Jesus used his own way of the cross to draw Simon to himself, an encounter Simon would not have had otherwise, and possibly an encounter with Christianity in which he would have never engaged.  Simon may never have come to pay attention to the Gospel message had he not crossed paths with Jesus.  As a result, Simon’s sons may not have become active in the Christian community (who knows how many lives they changed?).

We can be sure that Jesus was grateful to Simon for providing some relief during the Passion, but also for helping him reach his goal of redeeming humanity by his suffering and death.  As difficult as it is to deal with our own challenges, we are also called to relieve others in their difficulties, being Christ for them—which may end up being their first real and substantial encounter with the Gospel message.  Our example, and our witness, are often the best tools for evangelization.

Jesus pulled in Simon, and then led the way.  This is the same path given to persons of every age since Christ and, just the same, the path given to us today.  By his suffering and ours, Jesus draws us to himself, calling us to follow his Via Dolorosa to death.  But it does not end there.  Jesus conquered death.  “Dying he destroyed our death, rising he restored our life,” as we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  By faithfully following Christ, we have the promise of resurrection in him.  We carry the transverse beam—the horizontal beam of this Earthly life—and Jesus raises us up on the vertical beam to eternal life.  We are called to embrace the cross joyfully, when invited to carry it, acknowledging the redemptive value that comes from it, as we walk up to Calvary with Jesus.  The reward is everlasting.


PRAYER: Simon Of Cyrene, Cross-Bearer

From Society of Archbishop Justus

As Jesus was carrying his cross out of Jerusalem to the place of execution, a man named Simon of Cyrene was coming in, and the soldiers compelled him to carry the cross of Jesus. (The word Angareuo (Greek Gamma Gamma corresponds to English Ng as in “finger”), here used for “compel,” is a technical one, perhaps better translated “impress,” and referring to the legal right of a soldier to require a provincial to carry his gear one mile for him.)

Mark calls him “the father of Alexander and Rufus” without further explanation, apparently taking it for granted that his readers would all know who Rufus and Alexander are. The Christian writer Papias (died around 130) tells us that Mark originally wrote his Gospel for the Christian community in Rome. This suggests that Alexander and Rufus were well known to, and probably part of, the Christian congregation in Rome. Very possibly their father Simon had himself become a Christian, though this must remain conjecture.

PRAYER (traditional language):

Heavenly Father, whose most dear son, as he walked the Way of the Cross, accepted the service of Simon of Cyrene to carry his physical burden for him: mercifully grant unto each of us the grace that we may gladly bear one another’s burdens, for the love of him who said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,” even the same thy son Jesus Christ our Lord, who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever.

PRAYER (contemporary language):

Heavenly Father, whose most dear Son, as he walked the Way of the Cross, accepted the service of Simon of Cyrene to carry his physical burden for him: grant us each the grace gladly to bear one another’s burdens, for the love of him who said, “As you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me,” your son Jesus Christ our Lord, who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

simon of cyrene

SPIRITUAL WARFARE: Lucifer — Soulless Evil

I’ve always thought of myself as the weirdest person on Earth.

One of the reasons for that is how, when I began the study of evil from its soul-structure point-of-view, one of the first things I wondered was, If evil has to do with the soul, and Lucifer doesn’t have a soul because he’s an angel, is he really evil?  And if he is, what kind of evil is it?

This question has been like a slowly drip of water at the very back of my brain ever since.

In fact, whenever faced with another lesson on evil, I wondered where Lucifer was.

Reading about Lucifer never helped me.





Is one who battles God by definition evil?

Isn’t evil something that affects human on Earth?

If evil is only in the realm of God, is it still evil?

As I said, definitely weird.

Years go by.

Same questions.

Not an inkling of an answer.

My study widens.

I study the evil that is the dragon.

I meet an evil that will, for me, anyway, remain without a name.  Just a face.

I study how today things are getting worse for us because different expressions of evil have figured out how to join together.

But still no Lucifer.

Not even a hint.

So for the past few weeks I have lived with angels.  Day in and day out.

All angels.  All day.

And night.

If I’m still awake.

No soul.

Various functions.

Some interaction with Man.

Where is Lucifer?

In fact, any reading on Lucifer usually leads off to another form of evil: Satan, the devil.

But to my mind, Satan and the devil are here with us, and they mess with our souls.

Like used-car salesmen with desperate people needing a way to get to work.

Step into my showroom.  Let me show you what I can do for you.

Still no Lucifer.

It’s like he’s hiding or something.

Or he’s such a nothing in God’s world that we don’t really have to be bothered by him.

But I’m bothered by him.

He’s there.

He’s labeled as evil.

I want to know.

And then it fell into me one day while I was driving.

There he was.

In all his glory.

The good “son.”

The best of the best.

Beautiful.  Intelligent.  Capable.

So what happened?

We happened.

God embodied us.

Doesn’t matter how.

Or when.

But we are here on Earth.  In bodies.


And with us came God himself.

His son.

His Spirit.

All in care for us.

Like a couple having a baby for the first time.

All attention goes to the baby.

Everyone else is left out.

And Lucifer did not like that.

Somewhere along the line, Lucifer has taken God’s adoration of him as something real.  Something tangible.

Not just the affection and love that God naturally gives to his own.

But something special.

And he was no longer feeling this adoration.

And then the real error occurred.

Lucifer had the notion that he deserved this adoration, and he began to conceive the ways in which it should be shown to him.

Lucifer became the object of adoration.

It’s not as though God can be such an object.  God is everything, after all.

Perhaps you can think that you adore the idea of God.  But that’s more gratitude, really.

Gratitude for what you are.  For what you have been given in life.

See, when angels chant their adoration for God, really they are chanting adoration for all that exists.

And for all that doesn’t exist.


God is everything.

We’re not as capable as angels.  If we were told right upfront that when we adore God we are adoring everything, we would stop and say, Wait a minute.  I’m adoring the AIDS virus?  Child molestation?  Mosquitoes?

(Yeah, I know.  That’s probably just me.  And a few others.  Especially these days.)

And we find something else to do.

Most people can’t even conceive of adoring their own neighbors just for the gift of it.

Let alone all the mess we have to face every day.

Let the angels do it.  That’s what they are there for, after all.

OK.  Back to Lucifer.

Seeing Lucifer for the “first” time, I realized that the big deal with Lucifer is his growing obsession to be adored.

Above all others.

Even God.

Why not?  What’s God got that I haven’t?

Well, pretty much everything.  Not that that really matters in such an argument.

A false argument.

There it is again.

Just like in the Garden of Eden and the Good Snake.

Then I saw how we live with what we could call the Lucifer soul all the time.

People who do what they do just to get people’s attention and acclamation.

Movie stars.


Olympic gold medalists.

Some religious figures.

They are everywhere.

Give me your eyes.  Swoon over me.  Make me your idol.

Idol = Lucifer.

And when you find yourself in a relationship with a person like this, eventually you notice that for all the love you are putting into the relationship, there’s very little (if any) coming back to you.  You might even realize that the only time you get some affection, it’s to bind you to the relationship.

It isn’t there just because you are you.

I imagine that at the bottom of most broken relationships is this dynamic.

Lucifer on Earth.

After all.

Just without a face.

Caught in the idea that I deserve to be adored just because.

Perhaps one of the most dangerous ideas we have to deal with.

Because what will a person do to obtain and keep this adoration going?

Behind it all, of course, is yet another false argument.

Or, better, a mask.  A mask that convinces the world that adoration is right for this person, but a mask that hides the inadequacy that exists behind it.

On some level, Lucifer never could have forgotten that he was not God.  Could he?

But the spin happened, and the false argument formed, and he got caught in its eddy, and away he went.

We see this all the time.

Big stars who come crashing back down to Earth from their pedestals.

Once considered blessed politicians who get caught with their hands on someone else’s money.

Religious men and women exposed as nonreligious in their acts towards others.

It’s heartbreaking.  But we’ve become numb to it all.

We may even wind up thinking, There is no such thing as good.

Lucifer on Earth.

God is not here.  But I am. 

Worship me.

It’s the false argument that asks us to trade our willingness to be shown someone’s glory in exchange for our forgetting that God is here with us.

Every day.

And in every way.



POETRY: Pomegranate As My Heart, by Gary Soto

I don’t have much to offer
But this pomegranate,
A fruit ancient as the Nile,
A fruit that bleeds like a heart.
I can only think of how beautiful you are.

If I could crack open this pomegranate
And share it with you,
Would that be a nice gift?
We could nibble these jewels,
Smile red smiles.

I wait at the curb, tossing the pomegranate
From one hand to the other.
Come out, please.  I’m waiting.
How many times will I juggle
This ancient fruit before it drops?
If I do—and it splits open
To reveal its jewels—
I’ll give you the largest part.


MYSTICISM: The Throne Of Lucifer, by John Ryan Haule

From The Ecstasies of St. Francis

In the morning Brother Pacificus was caught up in ecstasy and saw a host of thrones in the sky; one, higher than all the others, was radiant with the glory and brilliance of all kinds of precious stones.  Admiring its splendor, he wondered what this throne was and for whom it was prepared.  Suddenly he heard a voice say to him: “This was Lucifer’s throne.  Blessed Francis will occupy it in his stead.”

Pretending that nothing had happened, for he did not want to reveal his vision, he asked blessed Francis: “Brother, what do you think of yourself?”  “I think,” he answered, “that I am the greatest of sinners.”  Immediately Brother Pacificus heard the voice in his heart saying to him: “By this sign you will recognize the truth of your vision: just as Lucifer was hurled from his throne because of pride, so will blessed Francis deserve to be exalted because of his humility and take his place.” (Perugia)

By the time he had been laid out naked on the ground to die, God’s Simpleton had suffered some major complications.  Although nothing seemed more straightforward than the choice of poverty, difficulties had begun at once.  Giving things away brought him face-to-face with narcissism.  Reversing the values of the material world required an internal reversal.  What made him feel grand poisoned his spirit, and what brought shame transfigured it.  He set out to serve a loving and generous God, the antithesis of his driven, upwardly mobile father, but found a tormentor of body and mind.  Francis the Simpleton saw his body as the enemy of mystical practice, but Francis the Stigmatic learned that the sadhana [the practice of meditation] itself had become his greatest obstacle.  For although the body tends to anchor us in the profane world through its love of comfort, anchors are everywhere.  Francis found himself anchored to his sadhana, the method of spiritual experimentation he had refined enough to render transmissible.

His Great Temptation was his tormented response to a fait accompli: poverty as a sadhana was to be buried, while poverty as a pious affectation would survive.  It was an insult to everything he stood for.  But worse than that, it was a religious, spiritual, and political disaster; for the passageway to God he had discovered would remain a secret; the world would not be changed; and to complete the deal, God required his acquiescence.  Was it possible God wished to remain inaccessible or that the constabulary God had a sadistic streak?  If Francis learned anything from his two years of struggle and if the stigmata represented genuine transcendence and not a “conversion symptom” of neurotic escape, he must have realized this last test was not so different from the ones that had gone before.  For although the sadhana of poverty selected trading downward as its characteristic focus, we have seen repeatedly that what truly counted in Francis’s mystical practice was attending to his awareness.  Every move in the strategy of poverty stirred up reactions in his body and mind that constituted the real spiritual challenge.  Every choice he made, every action he took, reopened old issues and required new conquests of himself.  Each moment-by-moment battle pared down his life and left it simpler.  In the end there was nothing left but the method itself and his conviction that it was the royal road to the Kingdom of Heaven as a mode of seeing and a way of life.

To illustrate what this might mean for us, we can conduct a “thought experiment” employing some of the principles we have learned from the inner life of Francis.  Imagine a contemporary man, perhaps a computer programmer with a small family, who is convinced there has to be more to life than his contemporaries seem to assume.  He happens on the story of Francis of Assisi and concludes, as we have, that the sadhana of poverty is but one form of spiritual life one might take.  Because trading downward would be unfair to his wife and children, he casts about for another discipline, one that will be less obvious to the outer world.  Although such a plan would seem to diminish the narcissistic issue of shame in the eyes of his contemporaries that was so important in Francis’s initiation, Brother Ass and the anchor of bodily comfort will still play an important role.  Perhaps he notes that he has already become somewhat thick in the waist and takes it as an indication that there are some strong attachments in the area of food.

Pursuing a sadhana of fasting, however, is not the same as going on a diet.  Indeed, there is something deeply conflictual in the very choice of this sadhana.  For if he is successful in reducing his food intake, his ego will surely be gratified to imagine and possibly eventually to have a trim, new figure.  Our programmer’s narcissistic need for admiration will threaten to turn his spiritual aspirations inside out and employ them to solidify the habitual concerns of the conventional world.  If there is a way out of this predicament, he will have to discover it on his own in the course of his battle with himself.

There is another drawback to the sadhana of fasting.  Our spiritual experimenter will be determined not to disregard his health, lest he compromise his family responsibilities.  Furthermore, Francis’s early follies have shown quite clearly that the abuse of Brother Ass was a mistake.  Our man’s eating practices, therefore, can have nothing absolute about them – nothing as simple as Francis’s finding beggars more poorly clad than himself with whom he could trade garments.  The programmer will have no external measure by which to judge his progress.  If he is to practice fasting while maintaining the vigorous health of his body, it will not be possible to measure each day’s food ration, for instance, to ensure that it does not exceed yesterday’s.  For what makes an exercise a sadhana is not a rigid plan of asceticism but rather the attention it directs back upon our own awareness.  No rational program of steps can be designed in advance to assure the practitioner he is on the right track.  He has to navigate, rather, by attending to disturbances in his body and mind.  He will learn to discriminate a wide array of types and degrees of hunger as well as the various ways of feeling satisfied.

What we usually associate with fasting and dieting overrides the protests of body and mind while perhaps seeking to induce altered states of consciousness by maintaining an empty stomach.  In a sadhana of fasting, however, there will be no counting of calories and no favored or restricted types of food.  Our would-be mystic will eat what is put before him or choose from the list of possibilities in the restaurant menu.  If his dinner partners are aware of his practice, he may imitate Francis in designating one of them as his temporary “superior” to make the menu decision for him.  The purpose of a sadhana is to dislodge the ego from the director’s chair, to accept as much as possible what the world provides, to resemble Francis’s birds of the air and lilies of the field.  A sadhana of fasting, in fact, will not array itself against the body as though this lump of flesh were an enemy of spirituality.  Rather it will embrace the body as a partner in the quest.

The body’s hunger, satiety, and energy level will all figure in a moment’s judgment about laying down the fork or asking that the carrots be passed.  It is not a matter of denying oneself treats but of discerning which impulses belong to the body as its essential needs and which are passing whims that serve primarily to distract one from one’s sadhana.  By sharpening his consciousness of bodily and emotional states, our proto-mystic will enter a field of concern that is no longer part of the conventional world.  Paying attention to his consciousness is a radical act, a withdrawal from the everyday but not yet an entry into an alternate cosmos.  In the beginning his efforts will have to be devoted almost exclusively to staying in this transitional space, where dialogue between observing ego and the awareness of body and mind is conducted.  The pure enjoyment of tasting, chewing, and swallowing always threatens to overwhelm his attention, draw it away from his sadhana, and reestablish mindless eating as the “default” state of consciousness.

If our spiritual novice is determined, patient, and returns again and again to mindful eating despite all the failures and distractions, he may find after a few months of diligence that the shift in his attention has become more easy to sustain.  This will be his first real “breakthrough,” the first time he can feel that his sadhana is beginning to take on a life of its own.  Indeed, Francis has made it clear through his biographers that as long as we are straining with ego-directed effort we have not found the “perfect joy” that marks the path of a genuine sadhana.  We know we are on that path only when we find that it is no longer we who do the work but that we are carried along by a larger current of interest – something like Francis’s erotic involvement with Lady Poverty.

With this breakthrough, however, everything becomes possible.  For now our attention can direct itself as readily to awareness of our body and mind as it can to an altercation that has just flared up in the street outside our window.  Consequently, the practitioner of joyful fasting will find himself entering that transitional space of body and mind awareness even when he is not sitting down to eat, and even when he does not intend to do so.  While driving his car, dandling his daughter, or making love to his wife, our proto-mystic will become momentarily aware of what it is doing, the body and mind which is the real agent of his life.  The illusion of the ego’s control is finally being undermined, and the ego-membrane thinned out.  At first he will experience only flashes of this alternate perspective, perhaps once every week or two.  Gradually, however, these moments will become more frequent; and as they do, the taken-for-granted nature of the conventional world will be as radically undermined as the ego.  Portals to an ecstatic world may be found, and if the evidence of Francis’s life does not lead us astray, we can expect encounters with the narcissistic emotions to become more frequent.

Portals to an alternate cosmos will surely emerge once the conventional world and habitual ego have been undermined.  But we have imagined no shape for that world and no exercises by which our proto-mystic might assist his entry into what corresponds to Francis’s Kingdom of Heaven.  Francis employed the Bible rather aggressively in preparing his consciousness for the sacred cosmos.  He repeated favorite verses, composed canticles, and above all designed for himself an intensive all-day meditation on the passion and death of Christ.  Our computer programmer may not be capable of this sort of relationship with the Bible.  He may have to attend to his own unconscious moments when the conventional world begins to break up or fade out, in order to find the mythic foundations of his own life.  Perhaps, like Francis, he will devote years to composing and refining phrases to repeat and images to contemplate.  Furthermore, he might try a form of dharma preaching, even if he has no community in which to do so.  He can, for instance, speak spontaneously of the other world, aloud, while driving alone in his car.  If he does so, he will attend to how readily the words come and whether they seem to be generated from somewhere other than his ego.

Paralleling the story of Francis’s life, our “thought experiment” employs the Poverello’s discovery that each moment of the day and night provides an opportunity either to reassert the conventional world-construction of our habitual ego-attitude or to open ourselves to an unpredictable rearrangement of the world.  The latter alternative may be too frightening for most of us to consider – or even to entertain as an abstract possibility – for if we do embark on such a course, we are in for a radical rearrangement of ourselves.  Every step along the way takes the form of an insult to our ego’s pride of accomplishment and mastery.  It makes no difference what practice we take up to get us started – trading downward, eating mindfully, or something entirely different – its essence will always come down to finding and overturning the ever more subtle ways by which our habits reassert themselves.  The work always takes us to the narcissistic sector of our body and mind where the ego stands on shaky ground.  Again and again, we have to relinquish our preconceptions and open ourselves to reality as it is rather than what we want it to be and habitually construe it.  Every step is a letting-go of a formerly unconscious attachment and a stepping-down from an inadvertent pretense.

This is why Brother Pacificus’s vision of the Throne of Lucifer is so apt.  According to tradition, Lucifer, the “Light Bearer,” was once the loftiest of the angels but had to be expelled from Heaven for his pride.  He is, therefore, the model of an overconfident ego and represents the antithesis of trading downward.  Every “enthroned” ego is necessarily excluded from the ecstatic world, for ecstasy is precisely leaving the throne and standing outside one’s habitual self.  Ecstasy supervenes only when the ego has been moved out of the driver’s seat and becomes an observer of realities generated elsewhere.  When Francis vacated that seat, he found himself to be “the greatest of sinners.”  He was thinking of how ungrateful he was in view of all the favors the director of his ecstasies had shown him; how easily he was distracted and forgot to observe his awareness of body and mind; and how ready he was to take up the cudgels for an idea or practice he believed in so fiercely that he had become attached to it.  His sinfulness was a good deal more subtle than ours, but he was no less burdened by it.  When Francis called himself a sinner, he was referring to what he had learned in his bouts with the narcissistic emotions.

The claim that Lucifer’s throne has been reserved for Francis signifies not merely the glorification of the Poverello’s saintly life but commends his methods as well.  For his techniques of ecstasy always involved standing aside and standing down.  His employment of the narcissistic emotions deliberately challenged the ego and “unseated” it so as to open the way for the wholly unanticipated to enter consciousness.  In the end, the Throne of Lucifer stands for the narcissistic extremes of grandiosity and shame.  Lucifer clung pig-headedly to his grandiose throne and was hurled sprawling into the shameful depths.  Francis willingly chose to enter the domain of his shameful shadow, rolled in it like a pig, and thereby lighted up his body and mind from within.  The throne belongs to him because he knows his grandiose impulses better than anyone, and how to convert them into light.

St. Francis

POETRY: Lucifer in Starlight, by David St. John

Tired of his dark dominion …
—George Meredith

It was something I’d overheard
One evening at a party; a man I liked enormously
                     Saying to a mutual friend, a woman
Wearing a vest embroidered with scarlet and violet tulips
          That belled below each breast, “Well, I’ve always
Preferred Athens; Greece seems to me a country
                     Of the day—Rome, I’m afraid, strikes me
As being a city of the night…. ”
          Of course, I knew instantly just what he meant—
                     Not simply because I love
Standing on the terrace of my apartment on a clear evening
          As the constellations pulse low in the Roman sky,
The whole mind of night that I know so well
                     Shimmering in its elaborate webs of infinite,
Almost divine irony. No, and it wasn’t only that Rome
          Was my city of the night, that it was here I’d chosen
                     To live when I grew tired of my ancient life
As the Underground Man. And it wasn’t that Rome’s darkness
                     Was of the kind that consoles so many
          Vacancies of the soul; my Rome, with its endless history
Of falls…. No, it was that this dark was the deep, sensual dark
                     Of the dreamer; this dark was like the violet fur
Spread to reveal the illuminated nipples of
                     The She-Wolf—all the sequins above in sequence,
The white buds lost in those fields of ever-deepening gentians,
          A dark like the polished back of a mirror,
                     The pool of the night scalloped and hanging
Above me, the inverted reflection of a last,
                                                                Odd Narcissus….


                                           One night my friend Nico came by
Close to three a.m.—As we drank a little wine, I could see
                     The black of her pupils blown wide,
The spread ripples of the opiate night…. And Nico
          Pulled herself close to me, her mouth almost
                     Touching my mouth, as she sighed, “Look…,”
And deep within the pupil of her left eye,
          Almost like the mirage of a ship’s distant, hanging
                     Lantern rocking with the waves,
I could see, at the most remote end of the receding,
          Circular hallway of her eye, there, at its doorway,
At the small aperture of the black telescope of the pupil,
                               A tiny, dangling crucifix—
Silver, lit by the ragged shards of starlight, reflecting
          In her as quietly as pain, as simply as pain….
Some years later, I saw Nico on stage in New York, singing
          Inside loosed sheets of shattered light, a fluid
Kaleidoscope washing over her—the way any naked,
                     Emerging Venus steps up along the scalloped lip
          Of her shell, innocent and raw as fate, slowly
Obscured by a florescence that reveals her simple, deadly
                               Love of sexual sincerity….
          I didn’t bother to say hello. I decided to remember
The way in Rome, out driving at night, she’d laugh as she let
          Her head fall back against the cracked, red leather
                               Of my old Lancia’s seats, the soft black wind
Fanning her pale, chalky hair out along its currents,
          Ivory waves of starlight breaking above us in the leaves;
The sad, lucent malevolence of the heavens, falling….
                     Both of us racing silently as light. Nowhere,
Then forever….
                                           Into the mind of the Roman night.

POETRY: Lucifer In Starlight, by George Meredith

On a starr’d night Prince Lucifer uprose.
Tired of his dark dominion swung the fiend
Above the rolling ball in cloud part screen’d,
Where sinners hugg’d their spectre of repose.
Poor prey to his hot fit of pride were those.
And now upon his western wing he lean’d,
Now his huge bulk o’er Afric’s sands careen’d,
Now the black planet shadow’d Arctic snows.
Soaring through wider zones that prick’d his scars
With memory of the old revolt from Awe,
He reach’d a middle height, and at the stars,
Which are the brain of heaven, he look’d, and sank.
Around the ancient track march’d, rank on rank,
The army of unalterable law.

lucifer in starlight 2

POETRY: Lucifer in the Train, by Adrienne Rich

Riding the black express from heaven to hell
He bit his fingers, watched the countryside,
Vernal and crystalline, forever slide
Beyond his gaze: the long cascades that fell
Ribboned in sunshine from their sparkling height,
The fishers fastened to their pools of green
By silver lines; the birds in sudden flight—
All things the diabolic eye had seen
Since heaven’s cockcrow. Imperceptibly
That landscape altered: now in paler air
Tree, hill and rock stood out resigned, severe,
Beside the strangled field, the stream run dry.

Lucifer, we are yours who stiff and mute
Ride out of worlds we shall not see again,
And watch from windows of a smoking train
The ashen prairies of the absolute.
Once out of heaven, to an angel’s eye
Where is the bush or cloud without a flaw?
What bird but feeds upon mortality,
Flies to its young with carrion in its claws?
O foundered angel, first and loneliest
To this bitter sand beneath your hoe,
Teach us, the newly-landed, what you know;
After our weary transit, find us rest.

lucifer pinned

EVIL: The Life Of Lucifer, by Jeffrey Burton Russell

From Lucifer: The Devil in the Middle Ages

Evil is real and immediate.  On March 8, 1980, the Los Angeles Times reported the activities of the convicted murderer Steven T. Judy:

The brutal murder that made today Judy’s last day to live occurred around 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday, April 28, 1979.  Terry Lee Chasteen, 23, was taking her children – Misty Ann, 5, Steven, 4, and Mark, 2 – to the babysitter en route to her job at an Indianapolis supermarket when she was flagged to the side of the interstate highway by a man indicating there was a problem with her car.  It was Judy, just five days out of jail after posting $750 bond on an armed robbery charge, playing the role of a good Samaritan.  But while pretending to help, he covertly disabled her car completely and then offered the family a ride.  The ride ended at White Lick Creek just off a roadway where he raped the woman and then strangled her with torn bits of her clothing.  When the children began to scream, Judy silenced them one by one in the river.

On April 29, 1981, the Times reported the conviction of Lewis Norris, aged 33, and his partner, Lawrence Sigmond Bittaker, aged 40:

The Norris-Bittaker case included some of the most shocking testimony in American criminal court annals.  From June to October, 1979, it was brought out, the two prowled the South Bay area and San Fernando Valley in a sound-proofed van they called the “Murder Mack.”  The five known victims ranged in age from 13 to 18.  The young victims were forced to submit to repeated rapes and other sexual outrages, which in two cases lasted for two days.  Some were forced to carry air mattresses and torture paraphernalia from the van to grassy knolls in the mountains above Glendora, where four of the victims were slain.  The killers ripped the girls with pliers, beat them with a sledge hammer, drove icepicks into their skulls, and strangled them with wire coathangers.  In the case of the first victim, Lucinda (Cindy) Schaefer, 16, who was kidnapped as she walked from church to her Torrance home, Norris and Bittaker rejected her plea to be allowed to pray before they killed her.  They immediately began throttling her with a wire coathanger.

Real, absolute, tangible evil demands our consideration.  It threatens every one of us and all of us together.  We avoid examining it at our grave peril.  And on no account may we ever trivialize it.  Unless the devil is perceived as the personification of real evil, he becomes meaningless.

The heart of evil is violence.  In Violence and Responsibility, J. Harris defines violence as that which “occurs when injury or suffering is inflicted upon a person or persons by an agent who knows (or ought reasonably to have known) that his actions would result in the harm in question.”  Suffering is an aspect of pain, which has three distinct components.  The first is the cause of pain, whether natural or deliberate violence.  This action of causing harm is the active evil: it is here that Satan dwells.  The second is the pain strictly defined as an acute physical response to sensory stimula.  Pain in this sense is morally neutral: it can be constructive if it warns you that your foot is burning.  The third is suffering, which is a response to pain that includes terror, anxiety, alarm, and fear of annihilation.  Suffering is passive evil, the result of active evil.

Violence can be defined as the evil infliction of suffering.  Some instances of causing pain – for example, the surgeon’s knife – cannot be classified as violent because the intent is to heal, not to cause suffering.  The conscious and deliberate inflicting of suffering is the heart of violence and of moral evil.  “Natural evils” such as floods and muscular dystrophy are also examples of violence.  They cannot be dismissed as morally neutral or as logical necessities in the cosmos.  If God is responsible for the world, he is responsible for these natural evils and the suffering they entail.  The doctrine of double effect cannot relieve God from responsibility.  “Double effect” is the distinction between what a person strictly intends by an action and what that person foresees as its probable results; for example, if a person sees two people drowning at the same distance away, he may swim out to save one, intending what is good for him, while knowing that the other will probably drown.  The limitations of “double effect” are clear from another example: a person who sets off a nuclear war with the intention of freeing the world from injustice.  It seems impossible that an omniscient God does not intend what he knows absolutely will result.  God knows, surely and clearly, that in creating the cosmos he creates a cosmos in which children are tortured.

Today two currents of belief run counter to one another.  One of the currents is carrying us away from a sense of evil.  The vague egalitarianism of our day insists that no qualitative standards exist.  If no standards of value exist beyond personal preferences, then nothing is really good or really evil – including the actions of Norris and Bittaker.  The other, opposite current is a renewed awareness of evil, sometimes linked with a revived interest in the devil.  One element in this current is the growth of evangelical Christianity, though this has been offset by a growing skepticism among Roman Catholics about the existence of the devil, in spite of the cautions of Pope Paul VI.  The renewed awareness of evil derives from the events of the twentieth century.  Since 1914, world wars, rootlessness and crime, concentration camps, totalitarian states, the genocide of Jews and Cambodians, and widespread starvation in a world of riches have pulverized the assumptions of secular progressivism.  Warplanes, missiles, and napalm are physical concretizations of the demonic in our day.  The horrors of the twentieth century have provoked a reevaluation of assumptions of progress and an increased readiness to believe that evil is radically inherent in human nature and perhaps in the cosmos.

The devil is rooted in a perception of this radical evil.  To suppose belief in the devil outdated and superstitious is false.  The question to ask about any idea is not whether it is outdated but whether it is true.  The notion that new ideas are necessarily better than old is an unfounded and incoherent assumption, and no idea that fits into a coherent world view can properly be called superstitious.  Those who believe in the devil without fitting this belief into a world view may be superstitious, but those who have a coherent structure embracing the concept are not.  Superstition is any belief held by any individual who has not fit that belief into a coherent world view.  This definition varies from the usual dictionary definition of superstition as belief founded on ignorance.  The dictionary definition does not work, because one man’s ignorance is another man’s wisdom.  Jesuits hold beliefs that Marxists deem superstitious; Marxists hold beliefs that phenomenologists hold superstitious, and so on forever.  No one has valid claim to absolute or objective knowledge.

Prior to the question of whether the devil exists is the question of what the devil is.  The method used in this book to answer the question is the history of concepts, which is an effort to examine the bases of historical thought, to construct a coherent system of historical explanation of human concepts, and to validate that system as at least equally sure as scientific systems.  In outline, the method begins, as all systems must, with epistemological skepticism, the understanding that nothing at all is known, or can be known with absolute certainty.  The single exception is Nietzsche’s es denkt:  something is thinking.  Absolute knowledge is not attainable.  We can attain a lesser degree of knowledge from experience.  But this kind of knowledge is private, not necessarily validated or socially accepted.  By comparing our experiences with others’ and learning from them we can eventually construct knowledge, publicly validated knowledge.  If any supposed knowledge, is not validatable within a coherent system, it is not knowledge at all but superstition.  All of us are superstitious some of the time, and some of us are superstitious all of the time.  Knowledge can be called knowledge only when it is part of a coherent world view.  Many coherent thought systems have existed and do exist; their relative value can be judged according to the breadth of their ability to accommodate phenomena.  Copernicus’s solar system is better than Ptolemy’s geocentric world, not because Ptolemy’s is incoherent but because Copernicus’s can embrace the phenomena more easily and simply.  But no knowledge is available by which to judge any system absolutely.

Certain systems work best with certain problems.  Some questions are treated best by physics, some by poetry.  The best system of defining and explaining such human constructs as the Constitution or the devil is the history of concepts.  The system is best because it rests upon the fewest unproved assumptions, embraces every human concept, and does so with the greatest economy consistent with a full explanation.  The definition it offers is at once the broadest and the most coherent.  Other approaches to a definition of the devil are solipsism, a priori reasoning, and ecclesiastical or other ideological authority, but each has a validation problem.  Why should anyone accept your view of the devil, or your uncle’s, or your pastor’s, unless it fits into a coherent pattern?  The historical definition, on the other hand, should be acceptable to every ideological point-of-view.  Protestants, Roman Catholics, atheists, Muslims, and Marxists should be able to agree as to the general lines of the development of the concept (naturally disagreement will exist on details).  The devil is what the history of his concept is.  Nothing else about him can be known.  The history of the concept of the devil reveals all that can be known about the devil, and it is the only way that the devil can be known (in the sense of knowledge) at all.  One may then decide to believe in the devil or not, or to use the concept to illustrate some other point altogether – Marxists, for example, will be interested in it only as it illustrates social history.  But everyone ought to be able to agree on the historical definition of the devil.

The history of concepts observes individual perceptions of the devil; it describes these perceptions constellating as they acquire social validation and become knowledge; it shows these constellations growing in time, gradually excluding the eccentric and forming the boundaries of a tradition; and it perceives the tradition as always unfinished (so long as anyone has a direct perception of evil).  The concept is four-dimensional, seen throughout its entire existence in space and time up to the present.

The history of the concept of the devil has deep implications for historical theology.  In themselves God, angels, and the devil have no history, for if they do objectively exist, historians cannot get to them in order to investigate them.  Historians can only establish the human concept of the devil.  But theologians, as opposed to historians, want to ask whether the historical concept of the devil corresponds with reality or at least is consistent with reality.  Like historians and scientists, theologians are aware that they cannot obtain knowledge, that their own perceptions are private, and that whatever systems they devise or accept are, like all other systems, precarious.  With these reservations in mind, the theologian begins with an assumption (all theological, historical, and scientific systems are built on assumptions) that the human mind can obtain at least some knowledge about God and the devil that transcends merely human perceptions.  The history of concepts provides the theologian with the only coherent picture of the devil that is demonstrably consistent with historical reality.  Historical theologians may personally assent to the historical tradition or reject it, but they cannot meaningfully define the devil in terms foreign to it.

Historians draw the lines of a concept’s development without making any kind of statement about its religious truth; historical theologians use these lines to distinguish legitimate from illegitimate developments, lasting ideas from those that will not fit permanently into the tradition.  The idea of the development of doctrine has its difficulties; we no longer expect the clear answers that J. H. Newman expected.  The possibility that the entire tradition is objectively false always exists; no tradition based upon false assumptions has any validity.  But the only way the devil can be defined is through his tradition, and when the tradition becomes too intricate, incoherent, or off the track, then it becomes untrue.  Yet if the tradition is false, then we have no idea about the devil at all, and any statement made about him is philosophically and literally meaningless.  Wrongly used, the method might produce a tautology: we believe because we believe.  But the validation of the belief is not the belief itself; it is, rather, the demonstrable tradition of what the community in space and time has believed, combined with a critical attention to eliminating distortion and unnecessary detail.

The theological alternatives to belief in tradition as a vehicle of truth, other than skepticism, solipsism, and tautology, are (1) empirical observation, which cannot be applied to beings such as the devil that are normally unobservable by the senses; (2) democratic scholarly consensus, which is always shifting; (3) reliance upon scripture alone, itself based upon undemonstrable assumptions that scripture is both objectively true and only source of revelation; (4) dialectic applied to revelation – the scholastic method – which itself changes through time both as to its interpretation of scripture and as to the function of its logic; (5) authority of ecclesiastical office through apostolic succession, again based upon undemonstrable assumptions.  Only the historical approach is verifiable by and acceptable to those of any persuasion that is not doggedly irrational.

Today we have more reason than ever to be concerned with evil in that we seem to be standing at the end of time.  In the nineteenth century people could assume that though things might go wrong occasionally and temporarily we had time to resolve the difficulties and eventually make things right.  Marxists and other secular progressives could assume that the future would bring a better world.  But now we have run out of time.  J. Robert Oppenheimer and his colleagues began the end of time, and of secular progressivism.  After ten billion years we, in our century, have begun the process of putting an end to evolution, to progress, to life.  Only by grappling with evil now, with clear sight and with courage, can we have any chance of avoiding the ruin that looms.


POETRY: The Fall Of Lucifer, from Piers Plowman

Lucifer with his legions · learned it in Heaven,
But because he obeyed not · his bliss he did lose,
And fell from that fellowship · in a fiend’s likeness
Into a deep dark hell · to dwell there for ever;
And more thousands with him · than man could number
Leapt out with Lucifer · in loathly form:
For they believed in him · that lied in this manner—

Ponam pedem in alquilone, et similis ero altissimo.

And all that hoped it might be so · no Heaven might hold them;
They fell out in fiend’s likeness · nine days together,
Till God of his goodness · steadied and stayed
Made the heavens to be shut · and stand so in quiet.

When these wicked went out · wonderwise they fell;
Some in air, some in earth · and some in deep hell;
But Lucifer lowest · lieth of them all.
For the pride he put on · his pain hath no end;
And all that work wrong · wander they shall
After their death day · and dwell with that wretch.
But those that work well · as holy writ telleth,
And end, as I have said · in truth, that is best,
May be sure that their soul · shall wend to Heaven,
Where Truth is in Trinity · and enthroneth them all.
Therefore I say, as I said · in sight of these texts,
When all treasures are tried · Truth is the best.
Learn these unlearned · for lettered men know it,
That Truth is treasure · the best tried on Earth.


FALLEN ANGELS: The Seven Deadly Sins, by Carol K. and Dinah Mack

From Demons, Vampires, Fallen Angels, and other subversive spirits

The Christian West

The seven deadly sins were grouped together by Saint Gregory the Great in the sixth century.  The seven later appear importantly in the Summa Theologica of the thirteenth century, where they are defined and described by Saint Thomas Aquinas as “appetites.”  The Sins are agents of serious moral offences, transgressions of the divine law that lead to eternal damnation.  They are one of the most virulent and chronic of the possession species that roost within the psyche.  They are seen as tendencies, temptations, passions – all interconnected strands of the fabric of the human condition, the stuff of exaggerated cravings that cause mortal suffering.


Why seven?  It is a powerful number.  There are seven days of the week, seven seas, and seven heavens; and seven is a popular number in ancient magical incantations.  The most extreme use of seven may occur in the following Talmudic prescription for a fever:

Take seven prickles from seven palm trees, seven chips from seven beams, seven nails from seven bridges, seven ashes from seven ovens, seven scoops of earth from seven door sockets, seven pieces of pitch from seven ships, seven handfuls of cumin, and seven hairs from the beard of an old dog, and then tie them to the neckhole of a shirt with a white, twisted thread.

Seven of the Babylonian Evil Spirits railed against in incantations are specifically identified in this fragment:

Of these seven, the first is the south wind.
The second is a dragon with mouth agape that none can withstand.
The third is a grim leopard that carries off the young.
The fourth is a terrible serpent.
The fifth is a furious beast, after which no restraint.
The sixth is a rampant [missing] against god and king.
The seventh is an evil windstorm.

These seven evil spirits are “workers of woe,” “bear gloom from city to city,” cause “darkness over the brightest day,” and “wreak destruction,” and can be said to define the traits of the sins, that are also usually seen riding animals or as animals that represent their specialties.  In their medieval heyday, the Sins were impersonated by actors in morality plays, standing against the Seven Virtues that neatly opposed them to remind audiences to be ever-vigilant.

The Seven Deadly Sins were seen as agents of actions that always led to worse and worse sins.  From Avarice, for a familiar example, springs fraud, treachery, deceit, violence, perjury, and hardness of heart.  Each Sin has its own escalating consequences.  They also have an ordered sequence that is generally agreed upon.  Five of the Sins are spiritual in nature, and two, Lust and Gluttony, carnal.  All of the Seven Deadly Sins are notable in their selfishness.  They each isolate person from person and act within to inflame personal ambitions, needs, and gratifications to the neglect of family, community, or spiritual development.  Medieval scholars placed seven fallen angels as promoters of the seven specific temptations.  The efforts of these fallen angels was tireless because their goal was to hinder humankind from goodness and keep it from the presence of the Divine, as they themselves had been when they fell from Heaven.  Because the Sins are each so vividly depicted, and recognizable, these hypostatized passions that reside in the psyche follow in separate glory:

One: Pride † Lucifer

Pride is considered the root of all evil.  It is for Pride that Lucifer (Satan, Iblis) fell from the celestial to the subterranean realm.  The selfish sin is to be “vainglorious” and think oneself better than others.  Arrogance blocks the Divine as well as other persons from the heart.  Pride is invariably seen as a lion.  Its opposing virtue is Humility.

Two: Avarice † Mammon

“By Mammon is meant the devil who is the lord of money,” wrote Thomas Aquinas.  Avarice is a worldly sin, creating misers, thieves, and even murderers.  The wolf is the animal usually depicted in medieval bestiaries, coming up from hell carrying Mammon to inflame the human heart with Greed.

Like the “hungry ghosts” of the Buddhist hell, the greedy always crave more no matter how much they have.  Wretched and envious, Avarice escalates to a state of infinite dissatisfaction, and the sin’s obsession with worldly goods promotes neglect of spiritual wealth.  The opposing virtue is Sufficiency.

Three: Lust † Asmodeus

Lust is carried up from hell by the goat, an animal long considered lascivious, or the ass, who played the same role in ancient Rome.  This “sin of the flesh” is said to lead to “uncleanliness” and away from its opposing virtue, Chastity.

Four: Envy † Leviathan

That the “twisting serpent” from the primordial deep, Leviathan, is Envy incarnate seems appropriate.  Dante saw the spirit of evil as a huge serpent, who so entangled himself with his victim that they became utterly intertwined and no longer distinguishable, one from the other.

Envy is a “sin of the Devil,” for “Thou shalt not covet,” is one of the Ten Commandments.  The Sin usually is represented by a dog, and often depicted as a heart being eaten away, as in “Eat your heart out.”  Overconcern with the possessions of others is seen escalating to hinder sympathetic human relationships.  When one is consumed by Envy, the opposing virtue, Charity, is completely erased.

Five: Gluttony † Beelzebub

Beelzebub, seen as Gluttony, started out as a Canaanite deity whose name in Hebrew (Baal Zebub) meant Lord of the Flies, and who later came to be equated with Satan.  In the Gospels, Beelzebub is called Prince of the Demons.  As a Sin, he rules over all excessive eating and drinking.

The endless maw of the glutton is never satiated, and he or she is never satisfied.  The glutton lives to eat, a state that soon escalates to forgetting gratitude.  The pursuit goes on and leads to a specific damnation: the glutton in hell will dine on toads and be forced to drink putrid water.  The opposing virtue is Sobriety.

Six: Anger † Satan

Anger is another Sin of the Devil and one of the immense important and fiery power.  It is usually embodied by a sharp-toothed animal such as a leopard with bared fangs, or a wild boar, raging, attacking, ready to commit bloodshed.  The consequence of this inflaming indwelling passion is to feel vengeance in one’s heart.  This sin escalates to rage, obliterating all but negativity within, and results in murder and war.  Often seen in icons, Anger is a creature stabbing himself in the heart with a knife.  The opposing virtue is Patience.

Seven: Sloth † Belphegor

Belphegor is depicted as Sloth incarnate.  This Sin is considered one of the flesh.  Usually it is represented by scenes of falling asleep on the job, especially if the job is done by a monk.  When in a state of Sloth, negligence and apathy soon set in.  The donkey, a slow-moving, lazy creature, is Sloth’s representative animal.

Thomas Aquinas wrote that all sins that are due to ignorance are due to Sloth.  One needs to be awake and alert to even begin to set out on and maintain a spiritual practice, thus the opposing virtue is Diligence.

Disarming and dispelling techniques

The seven penitential psalms were sometimes illustrated by the Sins in medieval manuscripts to remind the reader which psalm was effective against which Sin, and the recitation of these psalms was considered a way of obtaining forgiveness.  The opposing virtue to each Sin is mentioned separately as an antidote, and the practice of Patience, Humility, and Diligence were intended to subdue Anger, Pride, and Sloth

PRAYER: Prayer For Defeat Of The Luciferian New World Order

Author unknown

Almighty Alpha-Omega, Most High I-Am, Great Spirit, Creator of Love and Light, we pray not as beggars, but as sons and daughters to your majesty.

You have gifted to us free will. We pray for wisdom, that we will use our free will righteously and courageously towards protecting the weak, and pulling down the wicked oppressors who in vain presume to judge others by choosing what groups will live and what groups will die.

They think they are fit to rule the world. They call themselves elite. They plot the death of your children, Oh Lord.

They mock the Lord God.

They are empowered by fallen angels.

Lord, in Christ’s name we pray for protection against fell demons and their vile followers.

We pray for guidance, Lord.

Help us to tread the narrow path of Truth and Love. Help us to resist the temptations of the evil one.

We pray for strength and endurance. Help us to never give up doing what is right and good.

Bless us with the courage of heart to stand for what is right in the hour of fear and darkness.

In that hour, when our enemy Lucifer appears to be at his strongest, bless us with holy vision and discernment.

In that hour, when hope flees from the hearts of men, bless us with the heart of young lions, Lord God.

Help us walk boldly into the fire as Daniel once walked into the lion’s den.

Forgive us, Lord, for the deeds we have committed, which we should not have done.

Forgive us, Lord, for not doing that which we should have done.

Forgive us, Lord, for our multitude of sins and wicked thoughts.

Help us to repent of our evil ways, Lord. Also, Lord, help us to forgive ourselves, so that our enemy may not use our own minds against us, causing us to despair.

Let us feel your Holy Spirit, Lord. Let us feel your Grace of Forgiveness. Let us know that no demon or devil can do any permanent harm to us, Lord, and that Lucifer and his legions, and those who seek the scientific dictatorship of a new world order, are weak, afraid, and ultimately terrified because their demon-god is the father of lies, and nothing good can come from it.

Lord God Almighty, we pray that the angels will win, and the devils will lose.

In the Light and Love and Name of Christ our Lord we pray.



SATURDAY READING: The Voice From The Dead, by Sheila St. Clair

From Mysterious Ireland

This seventeenth century account of a very unusual haunting comes from Drumbeg, County Down.  In those days the area was known as Drumbridge, as the road passed over the River Lagan.  The time is the autumn of 1662.  One Francis Taverner, a servant of Lord Chickester, was riding homeward from Hillsborough to Mallon (Malone), County Antrim.  Mallon is now on the edge of what can be called Greater Belfast, on the south side of the city.

Suddenly, there appeared on the road beside Taverner an apparition in a white robe and on horseback, with two other riders beside him.  The apparition bore a resemblance to James Haddock, whom Taverner had known slightly in life and whose remains now lay in the churchyard at Drumbeg; the wall that Taverner was passing belonged to that churchyard.  It is believed that Haddock died about 1657.  The apparition identified itself to Taverner by recalling some trivial incident that had taken place in Taverner’s father’s house, while Haddock was still alive.  The apparition became increasingly agitated and begged Taverner to ride with him, as he had a favor to ask.  Understandably, the terrified Taverner clapped spurs to his horse and fled, while from behind him came the sound of a “mighty wind” and other violent noises that scared him out of his wits.

After a week or so, as the memory of the ghastly encounter began to fade, Taverner assumed that the visitation was unlikely to be repeated and he regained his customary good humor.  However, once more the apparition appeared before him, this time at his own fireside, begging most piteously that Taverner would give him aid.  Partly through fright and partly through pity, Taverner agreed to listen to Haddock’s story.

The ghost complained that, after his death, his widow, Eleanor Walsh, had married a man called Davis.  Davis had known Haddock all his life, and was in fact one of the executor’s of Haddock’s will.  This duty included guarding the rights of Haddock’s young son, David, until he came of age.  Davis, however, had abused that trust with regard to some property and had defrauded the boy.  Haddock now wanted the matter to be laid before the justices, and this was the “aid” that he required of Taverner – to act, as it were, “in loco parentis.”

Despite the pity that Francis Taverner felt for the apparition, he was loathe to get mixed up in Haddock’s affairs, especially if Davis was involved – a man notorious for his violent ways.  Taverner was also a logical man, and could see no reason why anyone should believe this bizarre tale.  He protested that, much as he would like to, he really could not help.  Then the apparition fell into a terrible rage and told Taverner that “he would have no peace,” a threat it proceeded to carry out by tormenting Taverner night and day with music, yells, and bangs, and hammering on the furniture.  The crowning terror was when Francis woke in the night and found Haddock bending over him, threatening to choke him if Taverner did not contact Elanor Walsh at once.  With the threats of being “torn to pieces” ringing in his ears, Taverner confided his plight to Lord Chichester’s chaplain, a man called James South, who advised him to carry out the apparition’s wishes, such requests from the departed being regarded as sacrosanct in those days.

For some days after seeking out Haddock’s widow, Taverner had peace.  Then Haddock came again, and this time demanded that Taverner inform the executors, and these, of course, included Davis, that he was to make a complaint.  When the terrified Taverner pointed out that to tell Davis was more than his life was worth, the apparition promised, somewhat vaguely, to protect him and put the fear of God into Davis.  By now Taverner was so beside himself with anxiety that he sought advice from no less a person than the great divine Bishop Jeremy Taylor, who presided over the diocesan court of Down.  The bishop, however, was more interested in eliciting spiritual information from the apparition than concerning himself unduly with Taverner’s plight.  He required Taverner to question the apparition, asking such questions as: “Whence came you?” and “Where is your abode?”, which the apparition refused to answer.  Furthermore, that same night, as Taverner rested at the house of Lord Conway, the apparition crawled over the wall and manifested itself to several people.

One ray of hope for Taverner was that the worthy bishop decided to take up the case and bring it to court.  Naturally, the apparition was delighted and assured Taverner of signs and wonders to back up his story.  One of these “wonders” was that the grave slab on Haddock’s tomb refused to lie straight, no matter how often it was put right.  This was meant to be a token of the “crooked dealings” that Haddock had had to suffer.  It is true that if one visits the grave the stone is turned at a curious angle against the general inclination of the surrounding ground, despite efforts to rectify this.

At last the case came to the church court in Carrickfergus, presided over by Bishop Taylor.  Meanwhile, Davis had hired a clever attorney, who intended to get Taverner laughed out of court.  Taverner realized, gloomily, what a figure of fun he was, and that as sole witness to this extraordinary complaint his evidence would be untenable.  Having set the court sniggering at some witticism, the attorney for Davis inquired sarcastically if Taverner wished to call a witness.  Taverner, now at the end of his patience, appealed to the bishop.  “Call James Haddock!”

There was uproar in the court, but after momentary hesitation the bishop, determined to show justice being done, instructed the court usher to do just that: “Call James Haddock!”  Bishop Taylor said gravely to the court, “I must allow it, for assuredly this man is known unto God, whose servant I am.”

“James Haddock, come into the court!” the usher called out three times.  On the third call there was a clap of thunder and a man’s hand was seen on the table of the clerk of the court while a voice demanded, “Is this enough?”

It seemed that it was, both for the bishop and the hushed courtroom.  The case was accepted and matters set in motion for Davis’s affairs to be looked into.

It is said that David rode away from court swearing all kinds of vengeance on Francis Taverner, and matters might have fared ill for him if, on the way home past the Drumbridge churchyard, Davis’s horse had not taken fright at “something” in the road and thrown him to the ground, breaking his neck.  Five years later a man called Costlett, who had aided and abetted Davis, also died from a fall from his horse, in approximately the same spot.

There appears to be some grounds for this unusual tale, based on historical fact.  The bishop’s secretary at that time was Thomas Alcott, who set down details of the case in a letter, and certainly there was an account set down by Joseph Glanville, Chaplain-in-Ordinary to Charles II.  There were minor variations, but in the main, the story remained the same.

There is a postscript.  In the autumn of 1973, the author received a call from an elderly lady who, passing by the church at Drumbeg in the early evening, saw a man’s head bobbing up and down inside the old churchyard wall.  “He appeared to be trotting on a horse,” she explained.  “He wore a coat with a tall collar.”  She did not stay to investigate further but fled to the safety of her car.  It is interesting to note that the front wall of Drumbeg Church today would approximate to the location of the road from Drumbridge to Mallon that had been frequented by both Taverner and Haddock.  This witness was quite convinced that she had seen James Haddock, whose body lay beyond the wall.

Down Patrick (Dun Padraig: St. Patrick’s Fort) is an ancient and interesting town standing near where the widening River Quoile enters Strangford Lough.  Here in the chruchyard of the Church of Ireland Cathedral is an enormous block of granite that traditionally covers Saint Patrick’s grave.  In fact the old rhyme says: “Three saints one grave do fill, Patrick, Brigid, and Columcille.”

Near to Down is the little townland of Saul, a site given by the chieftain Dichu for Patrick to build his first church.  Outside the town is a stretch of road haunted, it is said, by an old woman in a shawl and a phantom coach.  Three Mile Hill is haunted by two children, believed to be famine victims.  And then there are the gates of Finnebrogue House.

These famous gates once adorned the chief entrance to the house, not far from Inch Abbey on the banks of the Quoile.  All that may be seen of them now are two crumbling stone pillars standing behind the present wall of the demesne.  The present entrance to the house has been moved a few yards down the road, leaving the gates to stand alone amid a tangle of shrub and weed.

Local legend has it that the stones used to make the gates were taken from the ruined abbey of Inch, and from the moment that the gates were hung on the pillar stones things started to go wrong.  The first curious event was that the gates refused to hang properly.  Workmen would erect them one day and the next day would find them lying on the ground.  Keeping guard to watch for the culprits responsible proved fruitless, for under the astonished eyes of watchers the gates detached themselves!

Trying to persuade horses to pass through them was a wasted effort, and many a gentleman had to dismount and throw his coat over his horse’s head in order to walk the frightened animal through the gates.  Eventually, the masters of Finnebrogue House bowed to the unknown power and the gates were abandoned and a new entrance built.  The fact that the stone had come from a sanctified spot was cited by local people as the reason for these strange disturbances.

A more recent report surfaced on an event that took place at Inch Abbey itself.  Inch was founded in 1187 by John De Courcy, a Norman knight, on the site of an older Celtic monastery.  It was occupied, at De Courcy’s behest, by monks from Furness Abbey in Yorkshire.  Here in this beautiful and tranquil spot on the river bank the Cistercian community cultivated its land and tended its flocks in one of the most revered sites in Ireland.  For many years they spent their days in prayer and thanksgiving, until the dark days came and the abbey lay desolate.  Yet here is still a sense of peace and tranquility among its ancient stones.

In the late summer of 1980 two visitors were strolling about the abbey ruins and enjoying the sights and sounds of the river, occasionally stopping to look across the fields to where the spire of Down Cathedral could be seen.  The husband, a keen photographer, was taking shots of the ruins and was standing with his back to the river to get a good angle; his wife was standing at the water’s edge, admiring a family of swans.  While she watched the swans, a small boat came round the curve of the bank, and on board were three men.  They were sailing about one hundred yards off shore; two of the men were seated while the third, half standing in the stern, was trailing a piece of rope in the water.  The boat appeared to be drifting with a prevailing current.

The wife watched the boat idly as it crossed her line of vision and then sailed gently around the edge of a small grassy island.  She found herself speculating on what the men were doing and, turning, tried to catch her husband’s attention.  “I wonder what they’re fishing for?” she queried.  “They seem a bit close in.”

“Who’s a bit close in?” asked her husband, giving the river a cursory glance.

“The men in the boat, of course!” responded the wife with an exasperated edge to her voice.  Her husband looked mystified.  “What boat?  What men?  What on Earth are you talking about?”

She could see the tail end of the boat just disappearing out of sight behind a grassy headland.  The wife gave a snort of disbelief.  “Have you gone blind, or what?  That boat over there!”

“I can’t see a boat,” replied her husband, a trifle nettled by her tone.  “There’s no boat or men.  I can only see the river.”

Without replying the wife hurried along the river bank to a vantage point where she was bound to see the boat emerging from around the headland.  But the river was empty; no boat, no men.  Nothing.

Ahead of the woman two elderly men were strolling along the river bank.  The woman ran up to them.  “I’m sorry for troubling you,” she said, “but can you tell me, did you notice a small boat a moment ago, out there?”  And she indicated the spot where she had first seen it.  The men looked puzzled.  “A boat?  What boat, we never saw any.”  “I can’t have imagined it,” the woman blurted out.  “It was real, solid, and so were the men!”  She described what she had seen and added, “They were dressed in sort of grayish woolen jersey.  I could see that they nearly reached their knees.  One was standing up, he had a rope in his hand, while the other two were sitting down.  I thought they were fishing.”  The older of the two men looked at her a trifle oddly and said, “Ah well now, maybe it was the brothers you saw fishing.  A wee bit of fish for the supper, likely.”  He smilingly refused to elucidate further but winked at his companion.  The man and his wife turned away, still confused at what the woman woman had seen.

Some months later the same couple were attending a meeting on local folklore, when they got into conversation with the speaker for the evening and they told her about the “three men in a boat.”  She became quite excited.

“How extraordinary!” she declared.  “You are not going to believe this, but I had an almost identical experience at Inch.  I saw a boat with three men in it that I took to be fishing.  Just like you, I drew my husband’s attention to it, only for him to say, “What boat!”  I knew he wasn’t pulling my leg.  He really could not see it.”

The two women began to confirm details about the men’s clothes, and the lecturer suggested that what they had thought were “jerseys” could have been the top half of cassocks, and the “rope” in one of the men’s hands could have been a girdle.  Neither woman had heard any noises from the boat and it had had no distinguishing features.

The interesting slant on this event was that this was a perfect example of someone experiencing an event which, had they not mentioned it to another person, they might never have known that they were seeing an apparition.  It makes it doubly interesting that another person could confirm the sighting and gives added weight to the view that many people will declare that they have never had a paranormal experience simply because the experience was so “normal” that they would not have had any reason to question it.  One wonders how many other visitors to Inch Abbey had seen “the three men in a boat” on other occasions.

One associates hotels with the quiet clinking of glasses and the hum of conversation in the bar.  While the Slieve Donard has no history of the paranormal, there is a bar in nearby Holywood, county Down, that had quite a lively “visitor.”  Chiccarinos Bar was a popular and thriving restaurant, but it had inherited a poltergeist along with the bar room fitting.  Both management and guests would hear voices and noise coming from rooms that were unoccupied.  Some mornings bottles would be found half-empty, and yet the bar staff could swear to cleaning up the bar thoroughly the night before.  This practice extended more worryingly to the kitchens and the gas appliances, which were sometimes found turned on, even after they had been twice checked.

The bar had once been part of the old Lynch’s hotel, but was sold as a separate establishment and the communicating doors to the rest of the building closed off.  The paranormal disturbances began almost before the new owner had had a chance to open the doors.  Most of the staff could attest to unusual happenings and were reluctant to go up to the storerooms after dark.

While it was true that none of the incidents were harmful, there was a potential for physical injury.  Staff had plates and tumblers hurled at them and a crate of cordials were knocked over in a disused passage and the contents hurled down the stairs.  One morning the member of staff deputed to open up could not get in the door, as “someone had stacked crates against it from inside.”

One of the more amusing incidents might lead one to speculate on the gender of the unwelcome guest, because after the bar was closed at night and before the owner or his wife had left the building, they would hear the toilets in the “Gents” being flushed not once but several times.  The owner’s wife explained to a reporter, when asked if she had investigated the incidents, that she was “too much a lady” to go peering about the Gents loo!  It did have a social conscience, however, for sometimes “someone” would carry the cleaner’s materials from the Ladies to the Gents to help the early morning cleaner on her way.

Grey Abbey, County Down, was, like Inch, the site for a daughter house to an English community in the twelfth century.  In 1193 Affreca, daughter of the King of Man and wife to John De Courcy, founded a community at Grey Abbey, a daughter house to Holme Cultrum Abbey in Cumbria.  Located seven miles from Newtownards on the Strangford peninsula, it was a beautiful and well constructed building that would rival her husband’s foundation at Inch.

By the time the wars of Edward the Bruce were over the abbey was controlled by the O’Neills of Clandeboye, and when the infamous dissolution of the abbeys took place in 1541, Grey Abbey was but a shadow of its former self.  It was burned down in 1573 and only rescued from complete decay when the property was granted to Sir Hugh Montgomery in 1607.  Thankfully, at this time the roof was restored and the building established as a parish church.  For those visitors interested in architecture, there is a beautiful and elaborate thirteenth century west door, and a fine triple lancet window over the high altar.  Included in the buildings were a chapter house and cloister, day-room, parlor and kitchen offices.  In all respects it was a typical Cistercian house.

It is self-evident that Grey Abbey exudes a certain tranquility that can often be found in such locations.  There is none of the brooding, sinister atmosphere to be sensed at monastic ruins elsewhere, for example at Quin Abbey, County Clare.  As one visitor remarked, a “holy calm” pervades Grey Abbey.  Nor does it have a long or harrowing paranormal history.

There are two incidents, however, worth mentioning.  In the early 1960s, a photographer taking pictures in the cloisters suddenly became aware that he was being “watched.”  Turning his head slowly, he saw, standing in the shadow of an archway, a young man clad either in black or dark brown garments.  In his arms was what looked like a parcel of books bound with a strap.  He was quite well-defined, although the photographer got the impression of a certain wispyness about the edge of the figure.  The encounter only lasted a few moments; then the figure walked out of sight.  The photographer made a valiant effort to get a shot of the figure, but when the film was developed only the archway appeared clearly.  In its center there was a fuzzy darkness.

The second manifestation was quite unexpected.  One evening a friend of the author was waiting for a companion as they strolled about the abbey ruins.  He saw on the path to the west door a trio of ladies in full length gowns.  As they walked towards him they were chatting together, and the color of these figures was a misty grey.  While the witness was collecting his senses, the figures simply faded away into a mist.  His impression of them from a distance was that they were real people.  Not having had an experience like this before, he was ill equipped to observe them in detail, but he did get the impression that the costumes worn dated from the early nineteenth century.  “Perhaps they were earlier visitors to the abbey,” he conjectured, “or a time slip.”


POETRY: White Owl Flies Into And Out Of The Field, by Mary Oliver

Coming down out of the freezing sky
with its depths of light,
like an angel, or a Buddha with wings,
it was beautiful, and accurate,
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint
of the tips of its wings—five feet apart—
and the grabbing thrust of its feet,
and the indentation of what had been running
through the white valleys of the snow—
and then it rose, gracefully,
and flew back to the frozen marshes
to lurk there, like a little lighthouse,
in the blue shadows—
so I thought:
maybe death isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light wrapping itself around us—
as soft as feathers—
that we are instantly weary of looking, and looking,
and shut our eyes, not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river that is without the least dapple or shadow,
that is nothing but light—scalding, aortal light—
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones.

white owl

POETRY: Transformation, by Anna Kamieńska

To be transformed
to turn yourself inside out like a glove
to spin like a planet
to thread yourself through yourself
so that each day penetrates each night
so that each word runs to the other side of truth
so that each verse comes out of itself
and gives off its own light
so that each face leaning on a hand
sweats into the skin of the palm

So that this pen
changes into pure silence
I wanted to say into love

To fall off a horse
to smear your face with dust
to be blinded
to lift yourself
and allow yourself to be led
like blind Saul
to Damascus


FALLEN ANGELS: Our Other Side, by Harold Bloom

From Fallen Angels

We want demons and devils to entertain us, at rather a safe distance, and angels to comfort or look after us, again at a safe remove.  But fallen angels can be uncomfortably close, since they are ourselves, in whole and in part.  Our Frankenstein movies have given us a famous monster who simply does not exist as such in Mary Shelley’s Romantic novel Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus.  In that book, Frankenstein is the Promethean scientist who creates not a monster, but a daemon, who makes a remarkable appeal to his morally obtuse maker: “Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other, and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency, and affection, is most due.  Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed.”

Mary Shelley’s poignant sentences render the fallen angel another form of Adam, which seems to me exactly right.  In relation to death, we once were the immortal Adam, but as soon as we became subject to death we became the fallen angel, for that is what the metaphor of a fallen angel means: the overwhelming awareness of one’s mortality.  Hamlet’s angelic apprehensions are sharper intimations of mortality than are elsewhere available in imaginative literature.  The dilemma of being open to transcendental longings even as we are trapped inside a dying animal is the precise predicament of the fallen angel, that is to say, of a fully conscious human being.  Old age, illness, and death itself were regarded as demons in most of the world’s traditions, and the doublet of “death and the devil” is one of the most famous of Christian phrases.  Fallen angels, not in any ideological sense but as images of the essential human predicament, are far more central to us.

I think now that current American post-millennial obsession with what we call angels is mostly a mask for the American evasion of the reality principle, that is, the necessity of dying.  There is very little difference between the so-called near-death experiences and the popular cultivation of the angels.  Both near-death experiences and angelicism have been vigorously commercialized and remain growth industries.  Deep reading conversely is in decline, and if we forget how to read and why, we will drown in the visual media.  Fallen angels, as Shakespeare and Milton emphasize, should never stop reading.  The sacred Emerson once remarked that all Americans were poets and mystics, and he is still accurate, even if their poetry and their mysticism is now all too frequently debased.  But this is the Evening Land; our culture, such as it is, ebbs into twilight.  The angel of Evening is at hand, fallen yet imbued with a final vitality.  Is not the United States now such an angel?  Knowingly to be a fallen angel is not the worst of conditions, not the least imaginative.

Tony Kushner’s Angels in America is probably our most recent American instance of the sense in which all of us are fallen angels.  Kushner’s angels have been abandoned by God and decide to sue him for desertion.  Unfortunately for all of us, God retains the truly Satanic Roy Cohn as his defense attorney, and so the angels will lose their case.  As a parable for our current situation, Kushner’s vision is beautifully appropriate.

our other side

DIABOLOGY: Encounter With Evil, by Malcolm Godwin

From Angels: An Endangered Species

We now turn to what are claimed to be first-hand accounts of meetings with the enemy.  During the five centuries after Christ many Christian hermits and monks withdrew into the wilderness in order to leave worldly temptations.  Legions of demons seemed to follow them with enthusiasm, if the contemporary monastic diabology is anything to by by.  This diabology was a new type of writing which gave instructions as to how to resist temptation and cope with the threat of demonic attacks.  It also gave the writers an opportunity to give the most lurid accounts of the archenemy himself.

The most influential of these visionary, yet practical, manuals of how to deal with both angel and Devil was the classic Life of Anthony, composed by the Bishop of Alexandria in 360.  In it we read of the constant struggle of the hermit Anthony (and thus all his monastic brethren) with the Devil and his demons.  “The Devil’s eyes are like the morning star.  In his mouth gape burning lamps and hearthfuls of fire are cast forth.  The smoke of a furnace blazing with the fire of coals flares from his nostrils.  His breath is of coals, and from his mouth issues flames.”

In spite of Christ’s passion to redeem sinners and destroy Satan’s power, the Devil and his hordes seemed to have suffered only a minor inconvenience.  In composing his Life of Anthony, Bishop Athanasius is at considerable pains to assure the monks that Christ really had pulled Old Nick’s teeth.  However threatening the demons appeared, the Bishop tell us, all they could actually do was to tempt or to accuse.  So the next meeting with the Evil One reveals a complaining devil, stripped of power and almost unrecognizable from his earlier image, yet very perceptive of the monkish habits.

“Someone knocked at the door of my cell, and opening it I saw a person of great size and tallness.  I inquired, ‘Who are you?’ and he replied, ‘Satan.’  When I asked, ‘Why are you here?’ he answered, ‘Why do monks and other Christians blame me so undeservedly?  Why do they curse me every hour?’  I answered, ‘Why do you trouble them?’ He replied, ‘I don’t trouble them, for I am become weak: they trouble themselves.  Haven’t they read that the swords of the enemy are finished and the cities destroyed for him?  I no longer have a weapon or a city.  The Christians are spread everywhere, and even the desert is now filled with monks.  Let them take care of themselves and cease cursing me.’  I marveled at God’s grace and said to Satan, ‘Although you are a liar and never speak the truth, you have spoken the truth here, albeit against your will.  For the coming of Christ has weakened you, and he has cast you down and stripped you.'”

Gradually such “do-it-yourself” manuals gave way in popularity to more visionary works of Heaven and hell.  While the diabologies had an almost exclusive readership within monastic walls, the new visions of Paradise and the spectacular and often grisly scenes of the inferno held the secular public in thrall.

The following account of one such vision was written in 1149 by an Irish monk and was enormously popular in the Middle Ages, being translated into no less than fifteen different languages and being the subject of many paintings.  Part of its popularity was that the witness was an unabashed sinner, an Irish knight who was well on the burning road to hell before he had this transforming vision.  One day he collapsed, having eaten something poisonous or drugged, and had every appearance of being dead.  Only a mysterious warmth on his left side prevented his immediate burial.  He lay in this state for three days during which time his soul was met by a guardian angel who took him on an educational tour of both Heaven and hell.  Even the celebrated Dante or Milton cannot excel this graphic description of the prince of hell.

The Irish knight was called Tundale.  His guardian angel, having led him through some of the more harrowing scenes of the underworld, now invites him to see the greatest adversary of the human race.

Drawing man, Tundale’s soul saw the depths of hell, and he would not be able to repeat in any way how many, how great , and what inexpressible torments he saw there if he had a hundred heads and in each head a hundred tongues.  I do not think it would be useful to omit the few details that he did bring back for us.

He saw the prince of shadows, the enemy of humanity, the devil whose size overshadowed every kind of beast that Tundale saw before.  Tundale was not able to compare the size of the body to anything, nor would we dare to presume to say what we did not draw from his mouth, but such a story as we did hear we ought not to omit.

This beast was very black, like a raven, with a body of human shape from its feet to its head, except that it had many hands and a tail.  This horrible monster had no less than a thousand hands, and each hand was a thousand cubits long and ten cubits wide.  Each hand had twenty fingers connected to it; they had very long claws with a thousand points, and they were iron, and his feet were just as many claws.  Moreover, he had a very long and great beak, and his tail was very long and sharp and ready to injure souls with its sharp points.  The horrible stooping spectacle was seated on a forged iron wickerwork placed over coals inflamed by the inflated bellows of an innumerable number of demons.  Such a multitude of demons and souls circled above him that no one can believe how many there were, because the world has produced all those souls from the beginning.  This host of humanity was attached through each member and at their joints with very large and flaming iron bonds.  Moreover, when this beast was turned to coal and then burned, he turned himself from one side to the other in very great wrath, and he stretched out all his hands into the multitude of souls and then compressed them when they were all replenished.  This thirsty boor pressed out the clusters so that there was no soul able to avoid him, who was not either dismembered or deprived of head, feet, or hands.

Then by just breathing, he inhaled and exhaled all the souls into different parts of hell.  Immediately the pit belched, from which, as we said before, there was a fetid flame.  When the dreadful beast drew his breath again he sucked back to him all the souls that he dispersed before, and he devoured those who fell into his mouth with the smoke and sulfur.  But whoever fled from his hand he struck down with his tail; and the miserable beast, always striking hard, was struck hard, and the burning tormentor was tormented in the punishment with the souls.

Seeing this, Tundale’s soul said to the angel of the Lord, “My Lord, what is this monster’s name?”  Answering, the angel said, “This beast whom you see is called Lucifer, and he is the prince of the creatures of God who took part in the pleasures of paradise.  He was so perfect that he would throw Heaven and Earth and even hell into total disorder.

tundale's vision

POETRY: The Delicate, Plummeting Bodies, by Stephen Dobyns

A great cry went up from the stockyards and
slaughterhouses, and Death, tired of complaint
and constant abuse, withdrew to his underground garage.
He was still young and his work was a torment.
All over, their power cut, people stalled like street cars.
Their gravity taken away, they began to float.
Without buoyancy, they began to sink. Each person
became a single darkened room. The small hand
pressed firmly against the small of their backs
was suddenly gone and people swirled to a halt
like petals fallen from a flower. Why hurry?
Why get out of bed? People got off subways,
on subways, off subways all at the same stop.
Everywhere clocks languished in antique shops
as their hands composed themselves in sleep.
Without time and decay, people grew less beautiful.
They stopped eating and began to study their feet.
They stopped sleeping and spent weeks following stray dogs.
The first to react were remnants of the church.
They falsified miracles: displayed priests posing
as corpses until finally they sneezed or grew lonely.
Then governments called special elections to choose those
to join the ranks of the volunteer dead: unhappy people
forced to sit in straight chairs for weeks at a time.
Interest soon dwindled. Then the army seized power
and soldiers ran through the street dabbling the living
with red paint. You’re dead, they said. Maybe
tomorrow, people answered, today we’re just breathing:
look at the sky, look at the color of the grass.
For without Death each color had grown brighter,
At last a committee of businessmen met together,
because with Death gone money had no value.
They went to where Death was waiting in a white room,
and he sat on the floor and looked like a small boy
with pale blond hair and eyes the color of clear water.
In his lap was a red ball heavy with the absence of life.
The businessmen flattered him. We will make you king,
they said. I am king already, Death answered. We will
print your likeness on all the money of the world.
It is there already, Death answered. We adore you
and will not live without you, the businessmen said.
Death said, I will consider your offer.

How Death was restored to his people:

At first the smallest creatures began to die–
bacteria and certain insects. No one noticed. Then fish
began to float to the surface; lizards and tree toads
toppled from sun-warmed rocks. Still no one saw them.
Then birds began tumbling out of the air,
and as sunlight flickered on the blue feathers
of the jay, brown of the hawk, white of the dove,
then people lifted their heads and pointed to the sky
and from the thirsty streets cries of welcome rose up
like a net to catch the delicate and plummeting bodies.

the delicate, plummeting bodies

POETRY: The Angel with the Broken Wing, by Dana Gioia

I am the Angel with the Broken Wing,
The one large statue in this quiet room.
The staff finds me too fierce, and so they shut
Faith’s ardor in this air-conditioned tomb.

The docents praise my elegant design
Above the chatter of the gallery.
Perhaps I am a masterpiece of sorts—
The perfect emblem of futility.

Mendoza carved me for a country church.
(His name’s forgotten now except by me.)
I stood beside a gilded altar where
The hopeless offered God their misery.

I heard their women whispering at my feet—
Prayers for the lost, the dying, and the dead.
Their candles stretched my shadow up the wall,
And I became the hunger that they fed.

I broke my left wing in the Revolution
(Even a saint can savor irony)
When troops were sent to vandalize the chapel.
They hit me once—almost apologetically.

For even the godless feel something in a church,
A twinge of hope, fear? Who knows what it is?
A trembling unaccounted by their laws,
An ancient memory they can’t dismiss.

There are so many things I must tell God!
The howling of the dammed can’t reach so high.
But I stand like a dead thing nailed to a perch,
A crippled saint against a painted sky.

angel with broken wing

SPIRITUAL WARFARE: The Fallen Angels, by Ignatius Brianchaninov

From Eternal Mysteries Beyond the Grave

The evil spirits are fallen angels.  God created them along with the other angels, and at first they all were pure, good, and holy, and generously endowed with many gifts, both natural and given by the grace of God.  But some of the angelic spirits became darkened by pride and began to attribute their profusion of various gifts, their excellent qualities, and even the gifts of grace to themselves.  They no longer considered themselves created beings.  Instead, they began to think of themselves as self-sufficient, and forgot that they had been made by God.  Such was the disastrous cause of their disregard of their sacred obligations to God their Creator.  Among the most eminent angels, there was one whom the holy Prophet Ezekiel calls the “anointed cherub,” and whom all the other sacred authors number among the highest of the angels.  He drew his companions toward arrogance and self-deception.  He himself also sank so deeply into pride that he thought himself to be God’s equal and openly revolted against God.  He became God’s adversary and his desperate enemy.  He and the other spirits who rejected obedience to God were cast down from Heaven.  They drag out their existence on Earth, fill the space between Heaven and Earth (and are therefore called the spirits of the air, or the spirits dwelling in the air), and have also descended into hell, down into the Earth.  All this is attested to by Holy Scripture.  The apostle calls the highest spirits who fell, principalities and powers.  The fallen cherub is the chief and the prince of the kingdom of darkness consisting of fallen angels.  He is the beginning, the source, and the fullness of evil.  He is the superior to all the other fallen angels in his abilities, and superior to them all in evil.  It is natural that the spirits that were urged on by him, and of their own accord subjected their wills to him, must still borrow evil from him, and hence be subservient to him.  But while God left it to the volition of the fallen angels to persist in the evil that is beloved by them, he, through his absolute might and wisdom, infinitely superior to the intelligence of the most intelligent creatures, still remains the highest and most powerful Lord of them all.  They continue to exist within the confines of God’s will.  They are held in these confines as in chains and can do only that which God lets them.

Instead of the fallen angels, God created new intelligent creatures – men.  He put them in Paradise, which was placed in the lowest Heaven that was governed previously by the fallen cherub.  Paradise was now under the dominion of the new creature, man.  It is quite understandable that the new creature thereupon became the object of envy and hatred on the part of the fallen angel and his fallen companions.  Led by their leader, the rejected spirits made the attempt to subvert the newly created human creatures and to make them their partners in the fall.  The fallen angels sought to make humans share their fallen attitude toward God, and to taint them with the poison of their own enmity toward God.  They succeeded in their purpose.  Although man sinned because he was beguiled and deceived, he still of his own volition rejected obedience to God.  Of his own volition, he consented to the demons’ protests against God; of his own volition he entered into communication with the fallen spirits and began to obey them.  He fell away from God and from the throng of the holy spirits, to whom he belonged by the nature not only of his soul but also of his spiritual body.  After the fall his soul became like that of an unreasoning animal.  The crime committed by the fallen angels toward men ultimately decided the fate of the fallen angels.  God’s grace completely left them, and they became confirmed in their fall.  They, being spirits, were not destined to persist in thoughts and feelings exclusively bodily and material!  Being spirits, they were unable to rise from the Earth!  Being spirits, they were unable to rise to anything spiritual!  Thus the fathers of the church explain the verdict uttered by God over the fallen angel after this angel had brought eternal death upon the newly created man.  “On your belly you shall go.  And you shall eat dust all the days of your life,” said God to the devil.  Although man had now joined the number of fallen angels, his fall was of a totally different character and happened quite differently from the fall of the angels.  The angels fell in full realization of what they were doing.  They brought about evil within themselves.  After they had committed one crime, they obstinately and desperately rushed toward another.  Therefore, they completely lost share in the good, they were quite filled with evil, and evil is now their own quality.  Man, on the contrary, fell unconsciously, without premeditation, beguiled, and deceived.  Thus his natural good was not destroyed but became mixed with the evil of the fallen angels.  But this natural goodness, since it was mixed with evil and poisoned by evil, became useless, insufficient, and unworthy of God, who is the entire and the purest Good.  Man is most prone to doing evil while he thinks that he is doing good, for he does not see evil when it is covered by the mask of good.  Man’s reason and his conscience are darkened.  The fallen spirits, however, do evil for evil’s sake, and find a delight and a glory in doing evil.

Through his unspeakable goodness, God gave to the fallen man a Redeemer and redemption.  But the redeemed man is still free: free either to make use of the redemption given him and to return to Paradise, or to reject redemption and remain numbered among the fallen angels.  His entire life on Earth is the time given to man to express his will.  Redemption gives man his communion with God, but since man can freely express his will, he is granted the possibility of remaining in this communion or breaking it.  Besides, he is not deprived of the possibility of communing with the fallen spirits – a communion into which he entered of his own volition.  Thus man’s condition is undecided during his entire life on Earth, and all during it God’s grace does not cease to assist him until the very minute when man goes over into eternity, but God’s grace helps him only if he desires it.  The fallen angels also do not cease to use all efforts on their part in order to keep man in communion with themselves – to keep him a captive to sin and to themselves, to eternal death and perdition.  The rejected spirit has frequently assailed the holy martyrs and the blessed fathers, even while they were engaged in the greatest works of penance and performing the greatest miracles, and even before their very demise, in the very sight of the Heavenly crowns that were to be theirs.  The holy church teaches us that every Christian receives from God at his baptism a holy guardian angel, who, invisibly guarding the Christian, inspires him with every kind of good deed during his life, and reminds him of God’s commandments.  The prince of darkness, who desires to draw the entire human race into destruction allotted to himself, also appoints one of the wicked spirits to attend man, and this spirit follows his man everywhere and tries to draw him into every kind of sin.

Since the fallen angel is destined to existence on Earth, he uses all his efforts to make man also confine himself to Earth.  Man feels that he is eternal, but since this feeling is corrupted by his deceptive reason and by his corrupted and false conscience, he tends to think of his life on Earth as something that will go on forever.  On the basis of his beguiling, false, and destructive feelings, man devotes himself exclusively to cares and labors devoted to establishing himself on Earth.  He forgets that he is but a passing pilgrim here, and that his enduring above will be either Heaven or hell.  If he misuses for temporal gains the time given to him for repentance and for gaining a blessed eternity, he will be unable to get another span of time for a second chance.  His loss will be irretrievable, and he will weep for it eternally and fruitlessly in hell.  If during his Earthly pilgrimage man will not dissociate himself from evil spirits, he will continue in his association with them after death and will continue belonging to them in greater or lesser degree, depending on his closeness to them during his life.  Failure to dissociate oneself from the fallen spirits subjects man to eternal perdition.  If he dissociates himself from them incompletely, he subjects himself to hard trials on his way to Heaven.

Look, my brethren, look what the devil has accomplished, accomplishes now, and will yet accomplish while he brings man’s mind down from the spiritual Heaven to the material Earth and chains man’s heart to Earthly occupations and to the Earth itself.  Look, and grow afraid with a healthy fear.  Look, and beware; cultivate a necessary and soul-saving care!  The fallen spirit has captivated some men by the acquisition of various expensive and rare things, and has attached their thoughts to this pursuit and alienated them from God. Others he has occupied with the study of various sciences and arts, all of them fit for Earth only.  Having attached all their attention to passing knowledge, the devil deprived them of the vitally necessary knowledge of God.  Still others he has busied with the acquisition of wealth, lands, and houses; the cultivation of gardens, fields, and meadows; the keeping of cattle; and among these occupations they, too, forget God.  Some others he has persuaded to attach an exaggerated importance to the material aspect of church ritual, while the spiritual importance of such ritual becomes obscured.  Having thus taken away from these unfortunates the very essence of Christianity, he has left to them only its distorted material envelope.  He has drawn them away from the church into a false and most foolish error, schism.

The fallen spirit finds this kind of warfare so convenient that he uses it everywhere.  This kind of warfare is so convenient for the devil’s purposes and for man’s destruction that in the last days of the world the devil will use it in order to draw the entire world completely away from God.  Indeed, the devil will use this kind of warfare with astonishing success.  In the last days of the world, men, through the influence of the prince of this world, will be overpowered by their attachment to the Earth and to all things material and bodily.  They will give themselves to cares of this Earth and to material progress.  They will busy themselves with improving and taking care of this Earth as if it were to be their eternal abode.  Having become materialistic and thoughtful of their flesh only, they will forget eternity, as if it did not exist.  They will forget God and abandon him.  The Lord has foretold these days: “And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also the days of the Son of Man.  They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.  Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from Heaven and destroyed them all.  Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.”

He who has a vivid faith in God and gives himself to God while he rejects his own self – such a man endures undisturbed in the midst of all the temptations raised against him by the spirits of evil.  He sees in these spirits only the blind instruments of God’s providence.  He gives them no attention and hands himself over to God when he is assailed by temptations that issue from the evil spirits.  Devotion to God’s will is the peaceful and restful haven in all temptations and sorrows, while reliance on one’s own powers is destructive.

Even the most experienced monk who has spent a hundred years exercising all the virtues of a monk is not sufficiently experienced compared to a fallen angel, whose experience in his struggle against the servants of God has been perfected over thousands of years.  How, then, can an inexperienced beginner succeed in his struggle against such an angel?  A beginner does not even have knowledge based on experience about the existence of the fallen angels.  A struggle against the devil in which one counts on one’s own resources will inevitably lead to defeat.  Our ancestor, Eve, although she was pure and holy, was affected by the serpent’s evil and cunning.  Immediately after she entered into conversation with him she transgressed God’s commandment and fell.  All the fathers of the church agree that a novice must reject all thought of sin and every kind of daydreaming at the very beginning and must neither enter into debate against sinful thoughts nor entertain them for any other reason, however good the reason may seem.  All sinful thoughts are to be rejected immediately as they occur.  The ancient monks regarded it absolutely necessary to confess all their thoughts to their spiritual father and to abide by his advice.  In no other way, they said, is it possible to be saved, for the instructions of his spiritual father constantly lead the novice along the way of the commandments contained in the Gospel, while nothing separates him better from sin and the devil, the originator of sins at their very beginning.  Those monks who for some reason had no spiritual father, and were unable to counteract sin by a constant and frequent recourse to confession of their sinful thoughts, still counteracted the devil by constant and intense prayer.  Such was Saint Mary of Egypt, who dwelt alone in the desert.

If you take recourse to prayer, then you must do this decisively, without waiting to entertain a sinful thought for even the shortest while for any reason whatsoever.  Much less are you to seek delight in such thoughts.  As soon as you feel the approach of your enemy, begin your prayers, kneel, raise your arms to Heaven, or else prostrate on the ground.  Attack your enemy by casting a lightning bolt in his face, and he will be unable to resist you and will become accustomed to immediate fight as soon as you face him.

True Christianity is martyrdom.  A Christian’s life is a chain of struggles and sufferings that constantly follow one another.  The victor is given life eternal and is wedded to the Holy Spirit.  He whom God desires to enrich with spiritual intelligence and with gifts of the Spirit is granted great struggles.  Scripture says, “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.”  Thus let us not be disheartened.

fallen angel

DEMONS: How Angels Fell, by Vinita Hampton Wright

From A Catalogue of Angels

I watched Satan fall from Heaven like a flash of lightning.  See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. (Luke 10:18-19)

No matter which holy text, legend, or theory you believe, all versions of the angels’ fall have one thing in common: the angels’ relationship to human beings.  The Christian story is possibly the most kind, in terms of the beginning of the strife.  The first we hear of the devil, or Satan, he is in the form of a serpent in the Garden of Eden, convincing Eve that all is not as God says it is.  We get hints of the devil’s beginning – Satan had once been an angel – in one or two passages of the later prophets, and only in the New Testament, in the Book of Jude, do we get a little more of the story:

The angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgment of the great day. (v. 6)

But the real dirt on the devil is found in the legends of Judaism, in which we discover that the angels as a whole disapproved of the enterprise called humanity.  They resented that God would give any sort of honor to these creatures made from simple earth.  They were indignant about how physically weak we are, our bodies harboring all sorts of lusts and passions that lead to no good.  Later, even the angels who had not fallen and who were in Heaven with God were not at all happy when they learned that God was about to give Moses the Torah.

The event that led to the fall of some of the angels was God’s requirement that they prostrate themselves before Adam.  Some of the early scholars (including Thomas Aquinas) theorized that the angels made themselves holy by their first good act.  They had the will and intellect to do good or evil, and once they chose either, that’s what they became.  If we hold to this theory, then perhaps the angels’ first opportunity for good or evil was how they reacted to God’s creation of the human race.

In Jewish lore, Satan refused to bow before Adam, declaring that the man was inferior to him.  So God cast Satan – and the angels who, along with Satan, refused to bow – out of Heaven.  Satan came to the Garden of Eden to tempt Adam and Eve and thus have his vengeance.

This legend is repeated, with some adjustments, and becomes holy text in the Qur’an, appearing in at least two different places.  In one, God tells the angels that Adam will be his deputy on Earth, and the angels protest that God would make as deputy one who would “do evil and shed blood, when we have for so long sung your praises and sanctified your name.”  But God taught Adam the names of things, and this knowledge had not been given to the angels; thus Adam’s superiority was proved.  Whereupon God told the angels to bow before Adam, and all but Satan did so.  In the next account, Satan (Iblis, in Arabic) argues that man is made from clay, and he, the angel, is made from fire, so he will not bow before the man.  So God casts out Satan and his companions.

So at the heart of the angels’ fall was pride, or envy; they did not want human beings to enjoy God’s favor or the angels’ honor.  Lust also became a theme in the angels’ downfall.  According to a prominent Jewish legend, a lower rank of angels, called the Watchers, were placed on Earth to help humans.  They were teachers and guardians.  But in the course of their work, they began to lust after human women.  And some of the Watchers had sexual relations with the women.  Out of these unions came the giants, or Nefilim, mentioned in Genesis 6:4.

The problem with their theory is that angels were considered to be spirit and genderless, and so how could they lust after human women?  Some churchmen decided that the Watchers were actually a tenth rank of angels, who had material – and sexual – bodies.  The Christians gave them the name Grigori.

In the book of Ezekiel, chapter 28, we have a portrait of Satan’s pride and fall, folded within a prophecy about the evil king of Tyre:

Because you have been so haughty and have said, “I am a god; I sit enthroned like a god in the heart of the sea”….

You were the seal of perfection,
Full of wisdom and flawless in beauty,
You were Eden, the garden of God;
every precious stone was our adornment….

I created you as a cherub
With outstretched shielding wings;
And you resided on God’s holy mountain;
You walked among stones of fire.
You were blameless in your ways,
From the day you were created
Until wrongdoing was found in you….

You grew haughty because of your beauty,
You debased your wisdom for the sake of your splendor,
I have cast you to the ground,
I have made you an object for kings to stare at.
(verses 2, 12-13, 14-15, 17, Tanakh)

Satan has been considered the prince of the demons, the great angel who led many other angels astray.  Many versions of Satan exist in mythology and belief.  Malcolm Godwin presents a helpful summary of them in Angels: An Endangered Species.  Satan has been identified with the Hebrew name of Apollyon, the angel of the bottomless pit.  He is also known as Samuel, the Angel of Death; as Belial, the ruling prince of Sheol; as Beelzebub (this name was applied earlier to a Canaanite deity); as Azazel, the chief of the Grigori; as Masterna, the Accusing Angel; and Lucifer, Prince of the Power of the Air, once the greatest angel.

It has long been believed that Satan was the great angel, perhaps the greatest, the first angel created, God’s favorite.  Because the order of Seraphim are considered to be those closest to God’s glory, many have conjectured that Satan was the archangel prince of the Seraphim before his fall from Heaven.  In Ezekiel 28:14, Satan is referred to as God’s cherub, leading some to believe that he was the chief of the Cherubim.

According to tradition, Satan convinced a third of the Heavenly host to rebel with him, and those multitudes became fallen angels, or demons.


FALLEN ANGELS: A War In Heaven, by David Albert Jones

From Angels: A History

Now war arose in Heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in Heaven.  And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world – he was thrown down to the Earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.  And I heard a loud voice in Heaven, saying, “Now the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. Rejoice then, O Heaven and you that dwell there!  But woe to you, O Earth and sea, for the Devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Revelation 12:7-12)

This passage is from the book of Revelation, the last book in the New Testament.  It paints a vivid picture of spiritual warfare between two forces, the forces of light and the forces of darkness.  The forces of light are the angels, but who are the forces of darkness?  And where did they come from?  The answer from this passage seems to be that the forces of darkness, led by the Devil, who is also called, “the Satan,” were originally good angels, but they rebelled and turned against God.  The Archangel Michael, as military commander of the angelic army, drives the bad angels from Heaven.  This is good news for Heaven but bad news for the Earth, as the bad angels now prowl the Earth trying to cause trouble for human beings.  Nevertheless, the author of the book of revelation does not intend any equivalence between the Creator and the Devil.  For Judaism, Christianity, and Islam there is only one Creator, and the angels are creatures.  If the Devil and his army are fallen angels, then the Devil also is a creature.  This is shown by the fact that the Devil directly fights (and loses) against the Archangel Michael.  There is no direct fight between God and the Devil.

These “fallen angels” are also called evil spirits, unclean spirits, or more simply demons.  In the Greek world the word, daimon, was a positive word referring to supernatural creatures midway between gods and human beings.  A daimon was someone’s spirit, genius, or inspiration.  Aristotle called the state of perfect human happiness, eudaimonia – having a good daimon.  This word is not far from the meaning of angel.  However, the word daimon took on a very different and much darker meaning for Jews.  This was colored by a clash between Judaism and Hellenistic (Greek) culture.

The background to this culture clash was the success of Alexander the Great in creating an empire stretching from Egypt to India.  The Seleucid Empire lasted 300 years, and its influence lasted many centuries longer, in some ways to the present day.  It caused Hellenistic ideas and the Greek language to spread throughout the ancient world.  However, the relationship between Judaism and Hellenistic culture was not always happy.  In 175 BCE Judea was under the control of the Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes.  He decided to enforce Hellenistic culture and to forbid the Jewish religion.  This resulted in a vicious persecution, which was followed by a Jewish rebellion led by Judas Maccabeus.  These events are the topic of the books of Maccabees, the first two of which are included in Roman Catholic Bibles.  They are sometimes included in Protestant Bibles in the apocrypha.

In the context of the Maccabean revolt, the Greek word daimon became synonymous with evil spirits and with idolatry.  The original positive meaning of the word “demon” was thus inverted, and this inversion was shaped by the experience of persecution in the name of religion.  This is fitting, for just as a demon is an angel that has become vicious, so a persecuting religion is a religion that has become vicious.  When religion goes bad, it can go very bad indeed.  The demonic is the corruption of something that was once positive, powerful, and holy.  Philip Pullman has sought to revive the old positive meaning of daemon.  This attempt usefully reminds us that categories of thought can shift and should be subject to criticism.  Nevertheless, it is useful to have a word for a malicious spirit, and this is sure to remain the ordinary meaning of the word “demon.”

Paul the apostle, in one of his letters, encourages Christians to Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil.  For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the Heavenly places.  Notice that Paul uses the language of warfare: “armor” and “contending” against “principalities” and “spiritual hosts [armies] of wickedness.”  The Devil and his angels are an enemy army and Christians should expect to come under attack.

In the Middle Ages, Christians felt it was very important to be clear that demons had once been good angels and had fallen through their own free will.  This was stated authoritatively at a council of the church: The Devil and the other demons were indeed created by God, good by nature, but they became bad through themselves; human beings, however, sinned at the suggestion of the Devil. (Creed of Lateran IV)  Christians at that time wanted to make clear their belief that the world and everything in it was created by God and that, when it was created, it was very good.  They rejected the idea that there were two gods: a good god  and an equally powerful bad god who were constantly struggling against each other.  For Christians the Devil is not a bad god but is a good creature that has gone off the rails and turned against his Creator.

fallen angel

PRAYER: Fallen Angel’s Prayer 

Author unknown

Lord, may I go back to being an instrument of your peace.
Where there is loathing in me, fill me with devotion.
Where there is accusation in me, fill me with forgiveness.
Where there is discord in me, fill me with harmony.
Where there is doubt in me, fill me with faith.
Where there is error in me, fill me with truth.
Where there is despair in me, fill me with hope.
Where there is sadness in me, fill me with joy.
Where there is darkness in me, fill me with light.
Lord, help me to console the wounds I have caused.
Help me to understand the consequences of my pride and ignorance.
Teach me to sow love where I have planted hate.
And in this way make me worthy to return to the bosom of your Holy Spirit.