Friday, October 07, 2005

Tired musings

As expected, this is turning out to be my most demanding semester yet in terms of workload. Thus, the reduced frequency of the posts. That being said...

In one of our classes we discussed demonic possession in its various forms. It is a tricky and difficult subject to approach. From my notes:

"Demonic possession is not an every day event. More often evil subverts and seduces
us not through a ferocious attack, but by luring us into complacency - we see ourselves as good, the vigilance is disarmed, etc. More often evil wins not through direct attack, but through stealth, through the most ordinary and mundane. Evil undermines us subtly."

"We live in a society that tends to trivialize and marginalize evil is seen as an irrelevant abstraction. A concrete understanding of evil is seen as anachronism, unworthy of rational people. This way we are forced to ignore the daily experiences which show us the evil around us. [...] we ignore evil, but see more of it around us (wars, etc.)"

"The Church provides a ministry of sacrament and prayer in conjunction with modern medicine" - as a wholistic approach to man, trying to heal both physically and spiritually.

I thought the class was interesting not only because specific cases of demonic possession were presented to us, but because it put these cases in a different type of light. Yes, these exist, yes they can be as 'spectacular' as seen in movies. However, the biggest fight that we face, as members of Christ's body, is in the daily life and in avoiding its temptations.

Another thing that I found this week in reading some of St. John Chrysostom's homilies for my exegesis class was this quote:

"For if foul speech defiles and invites devils, it is clear that spiritual reading sanctifies and draws down the grace of the Spirit."

For a few years now I have had this aversion to foul language that I could not explain. I did not have the spiritual insight to see what it was that provoked that aversion, that made me feel restless and ill-at-ease, but reading St. John, I think I understand.

Final thought for this evening. In our Ethics class we looked at the question "What is good?" Our professor's assertion is that 'what is good' is fundamentally the wrong question to ask, because good is an attribute of God, so good is not a 'what' but a 'who.' Without that framework, trying to find out 'what is good' does not lead anywhere (good). I'm still working out the practical implications of changing the way we look at ethics - probably will be for a while.


Anonymous Jim N. said...

About the demon possession: how might react to a request such as seeing The Exorcism of Emily Rowe and contrasting what is seen and/or 'pitched' in that movie with the Church's experiernce in the matter via what you've learned in class?

That last thing on 'good' is a doozy!

10:21 PM  
Blogger Virgil Petrisor said...

There are a couple of people on campus who have seen it. I am not one of them, yet. I can see what I can do about it, though.

2:28 PM  
Anonymous Jim N. said...

Works for me. I don't know anything about the Church's experience with it. A friend of mine interviewed the writer/producer, who had done 'extensive research' into documented demonic possessions. But it's all outside the Church (RCC, various Prot groups). What is the Church's experience? Is it the same? Is it different?

Anything you can dig up would be wonderful. Thanks VP!

5:44 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

What a brilliantly thought-provoking post ! Thank you - it`s a keeper !
I am increasingly convinced after reading The Screwtape Letters, that C S Lewis was undoubtedly Orthodox in his heart. His ideas of evil and temptation are so- well, Orthodox !

2:12 AM  
Blogger olympiada said...

What would you describe as 'foul language'?

9:08 PM  
Blogger Virgil Petrisor said...

Elizabeth - I'm not sure if you visit OrthodoxWiki, but there is an article there arguing for C.S. Lewis' Orthodoxy.

Olympiada - I think that will have to be the subject of my next post.

in Christ,

11:02 AM  
Blogger Lissa said...

I share your aversion to foul language. When people are upset and use foul language in rough voices directed at a specific person, it tears a part of me inside. I think that feeling is best explained by my grandmother, who told me that we don't hate people -- we may hate what they do, but not the people themselves -- and thus such language is misdirected and is harmful to someone undeserving of our imperfect hatred. (Our hatred is imperfect because we cannot see all people as God sees them, and thus we do not know people well enough to judge whether they should be hated.) Your entire post really explains why foul language is so harmful. If we are accepting of some little hateful thing then we are being less vigilant against that hatred in our hearts. And if we accept verbal abuse as somehow "better" than physical abuse, then we are ignoring the very real spiritual and emotional needs of the person in favor of his physical needs.

On a different note, I do struggle with the idea of demonic possession, and even the extrodinary gifts of the Holy Spirit. You are more likely to see someone pretending to have the gift of tongues than to witness that actual gift, and thus I tend to be skeptical of all such extreme ideas. I know that this doubt is probably one of the biggest challenges to my faith, but it is a hurdle that I have not yet crossed.

4:32 PM  
Blogger Virgil Petrisor said...

Lissa, on foul language I'll try to post soon. As for demonic possession, gifts of the Spirit and other such things, I agree that you will find more people who pretend, but there are real cases out there.

In Christ,

9:17 PM  

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