Jul 25, 2012

Incarnation, in the context of demon possession

A fascinating thing about demonology and explanations of exorcisms is the way theology -- sometimes very abstract theology -- is re-cast in very different terms.
 
So, for example, an anonymous Catholic priest from the Midwest who participates in about three exorcisms a day talked to the Catholic News Agency about the incarnation, as thought about in the context of demon possession. CNA reports:
"The early Church Fathers, including St. Jerome and St. Augustine, speculated that these angels rebelled 'because of the revelation to them of God’s plan of incarnation' and their 'repulsion at the notion that God, who is pure spirit and infinite, should become a man.'
For this reason, the priest observed, they have a 'fascination with physicality' and 'making people suffer.'
'So once the rite begins, normally [the demon] starts to manifest himself in the suffering person different ways - violence, changing of the face, changing of the voice [so it] is different,' he said."
This means, according to the priest, 1) the demon is, from the demon's perspective, slumming; 2) the suffering person is suffering because of the incarnation; 3) suffering is inextricably linked to redemption.

This isn't so different than traditional Catholic theology of incarnation. But when those doctrines are illustrated with the image of a 13-year-old boy who falls down and starts growling in response to a priest's prayer, the context for the meaning of these ideas changes, and some aspects are more notable that they would be otherwise.

The idea that suffering is related to redemption, specifically, looks a lot different in this context:
"'These suffering people are becoming saints (by) the offering of their sacrifices' which God then receives and 'blesses large parts of the Church around the world.'

'When you remind the Devil of that it makes him furious,' because he knows he is losing and hence 'he wants to get what he can, while he can. If he can't win these peoples' souls, he wants to at least make their lives miserable.'"