Casting out devils

The struggle at the heart of the Gospels, to put it scripturally, — or in Christ’s mission to Earth, to put it more traditionally, — is against the Devil. I can’t imagine how this point, driven home with a mallet in the Old Mass today, can have been overlooked in so much of the modern Church. Christ casts out devils; and through this Lenten season we recall the dramatic desert encounter between the Son of Truth and the Father of Lies. That Christ will win the victory, or rather, has already won, is the resolution of this conflict. But contrary to the code of apathy which governs proceedings in the Church of Nice, we are not innocent bystanders.

For us, thank God, the war isn’t over. (We’re not dead yet.) Look around, and this will be seen. The front line runs through every human heart, and so long as there is breath in us we can know that there is no such thing as neutrality at the front line. Christ is Our Lord and captain, but if we do not also recognize that Satan is the Enemy, we are not actually in the battle.

Oculi mei semper ad Dominum, … “My eyes are ever towards the Lord: for He shall pluck my feet out of the snare. Look Thou upon me, and have mercy on me; for I am alone and poor.”

These words, plucked from Psalm XXIV, launch the Introit at this Third Sunday in Lent, and express our condition, exactly, even when we are turned the right way. And when we are not, we are devil’s prey. We look to Christ, because we look for orders.

And if we do, we find He leads, by example as every great field commander. We find Him in the Gospel today, doing what? Casting out a devil. It is a passage from Luke, in the course of which we are told, that “every kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to desolation.” … And, “he that is not with Me is against Me.” … That, “you gather with Me or, you scatter.”

For this is war.

Is the Church then a field hospital? Yes, it is a function of the Church to bind her wounded, and to heal them. Note this latter point: to heal, not to provide those displaying ghastly wounds with certificates of health. That is not mercy, in a field hospital.

“Let no man deceive you with vain words.” In today’s Epistle, Saint Paul lays down the law, telling the Ephesians without hesitation or doubt what these wounds are. He mentions fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, obscenity, foolish talk and scurrility, and finally, unbelief — all the causes dear to the Left. These are wounds that need treatment, in the field hospital on our side, and our doctors must know what they are, and judge them accurately.

But the war is not won with field hospitals. The aspect of Christian life we overlook, or flinch from, is the field artillery. This is what Our Lord brings forward. We intend to take territory from the Enemy; to make him abandon the territory he has. We are not negotiating a hudna with the devils. Our purpose is to drive them from the field, with extreme prejudice — to create some space where we can stop taking casualties. In other words: to cast out devils.