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Next in the Anglican Bloggers' meditations from Lent and Beyond: The Confessing Reader
Prydain ^ | 3/18/2006 | Will

Posted on 03/18/2006 11:08:22 AM PST by sionnsar

Next in the excellent series of Lenten meditations from Lent and Beyond's Anglican bloggers' collaboration, we have Jesus' Victory Over Sin, Evil and Death by Todd Granger of The Confessing Reader. Todd is always worth reading and this is no exception!

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant
Todd Granger: Jesus’ Victory Over Sin, Evil & Death
Filed under: Lent 2006, Anglican Bloggers Lenten Devotionals — Karen B. @ 7:02 am

This is the twentieth in a series of daily Lenten devotionals by a group of Anglican bloggers and friends. Today’s entry is by Todd Granger of the Confessing Reader blog. You can read other entries in the series here.

Saturday in the Second Week of Lent

Daily Office Lectionary Readings
Psalms 75, 76 * 23, 27

Genesis 43:16-34
1 Corinthians 7:10-24
Mark 5:1-20

“I adjure you by God, do not torment me!”

Surprising words for a demoniac to shout at the top of his voice to Jesus, the Son of the Most High God. “I adjure you by God?” Isn’t this more the language of the exorcist than of the one being exorcised? Perhaps this demon-possessed Gerasene man, naked, isolated among the tombs, and self-destructive, had heard those words, “I adjure you by God!” spoken over or toward him by a succession of would-be exorcists, seeking to rid him – and the country of the Gerasenes – of the Legion who possessed and tormented him. But the man spoke the words without power and without true understanding, not unlike the seven sons of Sceva, who attempted to cast out an evil spirit who taunted them that he knew Jesus and Paul, but not them, and then caused the man possessed to leap on the seven and beat them severely (Acts 19).

Exorcism, the casting out of evil spirits and influences by means of prayer, Holy Scripture, and certain liturgical actions, played an important role in Jesus’ announcement of the kingdom of God and in the apostolic witness to Jesus as Messiah and Lord. Through the centuries the Church has continued to practice exorcism, and not only in the rather spectacular form of casting out demons that excites the interest of the curious and the prurient (which is why the Church so closely guards the practice). Exorcisms have formed a part of the baptismal preparation of catechumens from very early on in the Church, and exorcisms continue to form a part of the baptismal preparation in the Catholic and Orthodox rites for catechumens, as well as in the Episcopalian rites for catechumens in The Book of Occasional Services (admittedly, in an informal and optional way in these Episcopalian rites).

In the fourth century, Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem (whom we commemorate in the Church’s calendar today), wrote about the preparatory exorcisms in his prebaptismal catechesis:

Let thy feet hasten to the Catechizings, receive with earnestness the Exorcisms; for whether thou art breathed upon, or exorcized, the Ordinance is to thee salvation. It is as though thou hadst gold unwrought or alloyed, blended with various substances, with brass, and tin, and iron, and lead: we seek to have the gold pure, but it cannot be cleansed from foreign substances without fire. Even so, without Exorcisms, the soul cannot be cleansed; and they are divine, collected from the divine Scriptures. Thy face is veiled, that thy mind may be henceforth at leisure; lest a roving eye cause a roving heart. But though thine eyes be veiled, thine ears are not hindered receiving what is saving. For as the goldsmith, conveying the blast upon the fire through delicate instruments, and as it were breathing on the gold which is hid in the hollow of the forge, stimulates the flame it acts upon, and so obtains what he is seeking; so also, exorcizers, infusing fear by the Holy Ghost, and setting the soul on fire in the crucible of the body, make the evil spirit flee, who is our enemy, and salvation and the hope of eternal life abide; and henceforth the soul, cleansed from its sins, hath salvation. Let us then, brethren, abide in hope, surrendering ourselves and hoping; so may the God of all, seeing our purpose, cleanse us from sins, and impart to us good hopes of our estate, and grant us saving penitence! He who calls, is God, and thou art the person called (St Cyril of Jerusalem, Lecture on the Christian Sacraments: The Procatechesis and the Five Mystagogical Catecheses, ed. F.L. Cross, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995).

How different are St Cyril’s words from the treatment of evil, and the attempts at defeating evil, presented in many recent cinematic films and television programs. There, as a weblog entry reviewing a particular television show noted recently, good (not God) is an impersonal force with no real interest in whether humans are destroyed by evil or not, a dualistic universe in which good and evil are nearly evenly-matched is assumed, and evil – usually in the form of demons or vampires or the like – is conquerable only by those with special knowledge or power. Of course, these characteristics recall the gnostics of old who believed they could defeat the evil powers of the material universe by means of specially-imparted knowledge (often including incantations that recall ritual exorcisms) and ascend to the spiritual realm ultimately presided over by a distant and unknown Good.

“Let us then, brethren, abide in hope, surrendering ourselves and hoping….” Shouted at by this pathetic, naked, isolated man, Jesus did not abandon him to the evil power that held him in its thrall. Jesus did not dicker with the evil power, but demanded that it leave the man; and his negotiations with the evil power extended only to allowing Legion to enter into a herd of pigs.

But, though Jesus’ action freed the Gerasene man from the evil power, thankfully restoring him to his right mind, this constituted no more a final defeat of evil than Jesus’ exorcism of the man in the synagogue at Capernaum or his thrice overcoming Satan’s temptations during his post-baptismal fast in the desert.

No, to think that would be to lose sight of the big picture, the eucatastrophe that would mean the final victory over sin, evil, and death. At the climax of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus himself will end up naked, isolated, outside the town among the tombs, an unclean thing hanging on the cursed cross and shouting incomprehensible things as he hangs there, an object of scorn, and fear, and derision. “And that, Mark is saying, is how the demons are dealt with. That is how healing takes place. Jesus is coming to share the plight of the people, to let the enemy do its worst to him, to take the full force of evil on himself and let the others go free” (Bishop Tom Wright, Mark for Everyone).

Let us then, brothers and sisters, abide in hope, surrendering ourselves and hoping; so may the God of all, seeing our purpose, cleanse us from all evil, and impart to us good hopes of our estate, and grant us saving penitence! The One Who calls is God, and we are the people called.

Todd Granger (in his own words) is: “a husband and father, by training and profession a physician, by avocation an amateur student of theology and liturgy, a lover of early medieval British history and Renaissance and early modern European history, a Lay Catechist of the Diocese of North Carolina, a church musician, a communicant member of a splendid Episcopal parish in central North Carolina.”

1 posted on 03/18/2006 11:08:24 AM PST by sionnsar
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2 posted on 03/18/2006 11:08:54 AM PST by sionnsar (†† | Libs: Celebrate MY diversity! | Iran Azadi 2006)
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