|Image of Satan by Gustave Dore, inspired by Dante|
Catholicism teaches that God--who is pure love--created angels as pure spirits (without bodies) to share in and spread His love. These angels were had free will, which is a prerequisite for true love. Unfortunately, Lucifer, a.k.a. Satan, (an angel of light) turned against God, along with a large number of other angels. Since angels are pure spirits, their decision was permanent, irrevocable, and resulted in their self-destructive misery. In fact, from a poetic standpoint Dante imagines Satan frozen in His own tears in the depth of Hell. Indeed, sin is ultimately sadness (an insight I picked up recently from Fr. Robert Barron, in his book And Now I See. To make matters worse, we see that the demonic powers are bent on human destruction.
In the Nicene Creed, we who are Christian profess a belief in "things seen and unseen." Yet many people today do not have an awareness of, or belief in, these things. C.S. Lewis wrote The Screwtape Letters, a great book from the persective of a senior demon teaching a junior demon. Lewis warns of overly exaggerating the presence and power of Satan. After all, although Satan and His legions are still active, God is INFINITELY stronger and has conquered evil definitively through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. However, Lewis also cautions against negating the existence and work of Satan. If we do, we miss the mis-leader in our midst.
The Rite does a fine job of probing viewers to consider the question and the evidence of demonic existence. it shows a seminarian who has lost his faith and thus is more vulnerable to Satan's lies. St. Ignatius calls Satan "the enemy of our human nature" and in the Meditation on the Two Standards, he encourages Christians in the Spiritual Exercises to actually contemplate the vast numbers of demons. Jesus also believed in the demonic. In John 8:44, Jesus says about Satan, "He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies."
The Rite compellingly shows this primary characteristic of Satan: to mislead. It shows the force and terror of Satan's attack. It is shocking the ways that Satan works to utterly warp and ruin the lives of the characters in this story (and in the human Story) through the power of a lie. We do not have to be possessed in order to believe diabolical lies about ourselves. Whether these come directly from "the enemy of our human nature" or not, they accomplish his ends just as well. What are the lies to which you are beholden? One of the lies I am uncovering is that I--and for that matter--must be perfect in order to deserve love. This is a very destructive lie if believed. One of my novice brothers speaks of how the devil works on him through fear. There are lies behind many fears, are there not? What other lies are out there in our lives, in society, etc.? (hint: post your comments and ideas below)
Whatever the lies, let's be vigilant to listen again to the One who speaks Truth to our souls by drawing us closer to Him.