May AD 2008
Our Lady of the Rosary
ON THIS PAGE:
Why is the Devil on the Loose?
"Do not Touch Me, Mary Magdelane"
WHY IS THE DEVIL ON THE LOOSE?
would God allow the devil to roam freely, tempting people to the loss of their
souls? Why did He not annihilate the devil, or consign him Hell
immediately after his fall from grace? S.T.
Answer: A great
deal of what we think about devils or angels is speculative. While
Scripture gives a unified account of the creation of the material world, the
information revealed about the creation of the angels is scattered throughout
the Bible from Genesis to the Apocalypse and many places in between. The
only fully authoritative interpretation of these revelations concerning the
devil seems to be that made, almost in passing, by Fourth Lateran Council
We firmly believe . . . that the Devil and the other demons
were created by God good in their nature but they by themselves have made
themselves evil. But man sinned at the suggestion of the Devil....
A few lower level pronouncements speak of the devil as eternally
condemned to Hell (Dz.211), as an angel gone wrong, and not creating anything
nor controlling the weather by his own authority (237-8), as not tempting by
means of “stones and herbs” (383), made evil by an act of the will (427), as
not entering into man through the forbidden fruit (Dz.1923).
Two passages from the Old Testament are accommodated to the devil
and his fall. Although they are presented as literally describing the King
of Babylon and the King of Tyre respectively, many commentators see them as
equally applicable to the devil:
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, who didst rise in the
morning? how art thou fallen to the earth, that didst wound the nations? And
thou saidst in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne
above the stars of God, I will sit in the mountain of the covenant, in the sides
of the north. I will ascend above the height of the clouds, I will be like the
most High. But yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, into the depth of the
pit. (Isaiah xiv:12-15)
You were the seal of resemblance, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.
You were in the pleasures of the paradise of God; every precious stone was thy
covering; the sardius, the topaz, and the jasper, the chrysolite, and the onyx,
and the beryl, the sapphire, and the carbuncle, and the emerald; gold the work
of your beauty: and your pipes were prepared in the day that you were created.
You a cherub stretched out, and protecting, and I set you in the holy mountain
of God, you have walked in the midst of the stones of fire. You were perfect in
your wave from the day of creation, until iniquity was found in you. (Ezekiel xxviii:12-15)
We get the English noun, devil, from the Greek diabolos; coming
from the verb diaballein, "to traduce" meaning a
“slanderer,” or “accuser.” It is equivalent to the Hebrew name Satan
which denotes an adversary, or an accuser. This is the sense of the word
as it is used in the first chapters of the Book of Job:
When the sons of God came to stand before the Lord, Satan also was
present among them....And the Lord said to him: “Hast thou considered my
servant, Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a simple and upright
man, and fearing God, and avoiding evil?” And Satan answering, said:
“Does Job fear God in vain? Hast thou not made a fence for him, and his
house, and all his substance round about, blessed the works of his hands, and
his possession hath increased on the earth? But stretch forth thy hand a
little, and touch all that he hath, and see if he bless thee not to thy face.”
Then the Lord said to Satan: “Behold, all that he hath is in thy hand: only
put not forth thy hand upon his person.” And Satan went forth from the
presence of the Lord (Job i: 6-12).
Satan is one of the “sons of God” though fallen. Job is,
indeed, a just man. God allows Satan to accuse and even torment him
through the forty-two chapters of the book. In the end Job’s fidelity is
demonstrated, and along with it the goodness of God, who gave Job graces
sufficient to conquer temptation to evil.
We do have some revelations specifically about the devil being cast out
of Heaven, and eventually being consigned to Hell:
And there was a great battle in Heaven, Michael and his angels fought
with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels: and they prevailed not,
neither was their place found any more in Heaven. And that great dragon was cast
out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole
world; and he was cast unto the earth, and his angels were thrown down with
him.... the accuser of our brethren is cast forth, who accused them before our
God day and night. (Apocalypse xii:7-9).
But notice that the devil was cast down to Earth, and not to Hell.
Yet it appears that at the time of Christ, the devil was restrained from acting
against men—perhaps through the power of the Sacraments or exorcism.
For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but delivered them, drawn
down by infernal ropes to the lower hell, unto torments, to be reserved unto
judgment: (2 Peter ii: 4; Saint Jude says much the same,
substituting “chains for “ropes.”)
This “chaining” of the devil during the era of the Church is the
“thousand year” (i.e. a long, indeterminate period.) reign of Christ spoken
of in Apocalypse xx: 1-3
And I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the
bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon,
the old serpent, which is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand
years. And he cast him into the bottomless pit and shut him up and set a seal
upon him, that he should no more seduce the nations till the thousand years be
finished. And after that, he must be loosed a little time....
The “little time” must end in apostasy—the outright rejection by
Catholics of the Mass and Sacraments, sound moral and doctrinal teaching—for
nothing else could empower the devil to make war on Christendom:
And when the thousand years shall be finished, Satan shall be loosed
out of his prison and shall go forth and seduce the nations which are over the
four quarters of the earth..... 9 And there came down fire from God out of
heaven and devoured them: and the devil, who seduced them, was cast into the
pool of fire and brimstone, where both the beast 10 And the false prophet shall
be tormented day and night for ever and ever (Apocalypse xx: 7,9,10).
So why doesn’t God rid Himself and us of the devil? Many would
say that this is simply a mystery which God has nor seen fit to explain.
But we know that there would be both natural and moral evil in the world even if
there were no devil. The account in Job suggests that God keeps the devil
around in order to demonstrate the power of His grace to aid good people with
free will to triumph over evil. All creation is good; made so by God.
Evil exists only as a negation, when some important good is lost by creation, or
when a created good is desired for the wrong end. For example, food is
good, but it may lose goodness if not preserved; it may be misused by the
glutton who desires it only for the pleasure of taste, without due regard to
good health. Very likely, God would find the outright annihilation of one
of His creatures repugnant or contradictory to His own nature—creating some
thing good and then destroying it is much like the negation that is evil;
something absolutely foreign to God.
One might also view the threat of outright annihilation as the
elimination of the devil’s free will; another action unlikely for God as we
The devil and his apostate angels are bound during the thousand year
reign of the Church. They will be unbound for a while at the end of time,
with the Great Apostasy, and then will be cast forever into Hell.
DO NOT TOUCH ME?
Saint John's Gospel, our Lord is heard to say to Mary Magdalene, when she
encountered Him in the tomb after His resurrection: “Do not touch Me, for I am
not yet ascended to My Father.” Why couldn't Magdalene touch Him, while he
allowed the doubting Saint Thomas to even stick his fingers into His wounds?
A.H. & M.R.
question keeps coming up. We reprint the Q&A from the November AD 1996
As the questioner points out, our resurrected Lord possessed a tangible
body, which the apostles were seemingly able to touch without any ill effect.
One is tempted to explain this in terms of our Lord's resurrected Body being
held only in the hands of His ordained priests (as should be the case with the
Blessed Eucharist), but such would be a highly conjectural and altogether too
The Greek text may be translated as “don't cling to me,” so that
some scripture scholars explain this passage as an expression of haste to spread
the word of the Resurrection.
Immediately after “Do not touch Me, for I am not yet ascended to My Father,”
our Lord says “go to My brethren and say to them I ascend to My Father....”
This would allow us to understand our Lord as saying, in effect, “Let go of
Me. A lot of things need to be done before My Ascension. Go and tell the
Apostles what you have seen.”
The following verse has Mary doing just that; going to the disciples and
telling them: "I have seen the Lord, and these things He has said to me.”
Question: Is it a sin
to shop on Sundays? A.H.
third Commandment requires us to “Keep holy the Lord’s day. Even
without the positive law of the Commandment there would be a natural law
obligation to put aside one’s normal duties and attend to the duty of
worshipping God. The Church has determined that this day of worship and
rest is to be observed on Sundays and a few Holy days. For the Catholic,
these days involve an obligation to attend Mass and to abstain from “servile
work,” which is work that requires physical rather than mental effort, and is
done for material purposes. There
are excusing causes for both of these obligations.
Those who are sick; those who provide the only care for the sick
or the very young, and having no one to relieve them; those who provide
essential public services, such as police and fire protection, transportation,
cooks, workers in industries which cannot shut down for a day; those who
must travel an excessive distance to church—all are excused from attending
Mass if there is no reasonable way to squeeze It into their schedules. One
cannot legitimately decide to attend Mass on some other day than the Sunday of
Holy day just on the basis of personal preference—but it is laudable to attend
Mass another day of the week if one had a legitimate excuse on the day of
Necessary work may be performed on days of obligation by those who could
not otherwise support themselves; by those who must work daily to
accomplish their task without loss (e.g. the farmer at harvest time, the steel
mill worker, etc.); in time of disaster; by those whose work is
necessary for the essential public services mentioned above; by those who
do necessary housework like cooking and dish washing. Walking, running,
swimming and other such recreational activities are permitted even though they
are physically fatiguing. Work that is more intellectual or artistic than
physical, is not forbidden.
A bishop, pastor, or delegated confessor can dispense from the
observance of a Sunday or holy day on occasion for individuals of families (c. 1245).
Forty or fifty years ago most municipalities had “blue laws”
prohibiting unnecessary shopping on Sundays and requiring most commercial
establishments to remain closed for the day. Since then, our society has
lost most of its identification with Christianity, and Sunday commerce is now
generally legal. Insofar as it is possible, Catholics ought to observe the
traditional ban and avoid all unnecessary shopping. If there is a question
in one’s mind about the sinfulness of an activity on a Sunday, one ought to
ask “Can I do this another day?” It may not be sinful to take out a
library book, or play miniature golf, but doing so requires someone to work on
Sunday. At the very least, employers should get the message that there is
no point in doing business during the hours when everyone should be in church.
Sundays and feast days should be days of attendance at Mass and other
prayers, rest, recreation, and family togetherness. As few people as
possible ought to be required to work on those days as a result of our
patronage. They should not be days of indiscriminate buying and selling.
Question: What is the
stuff we burn to make incense? Or is the incense the stuff we burn? C.F.
word incense may be used as a noun to denote the material which is burned or the
smoke which is produced. It is also a verb, “to incense.”
The material to be burned may come from any number of plants and even a
few animal substances: Cedar, Sandalwood, Juniper (woods);
Coriander, Nutmeg, Star anise, and Vanilla (seeds); Copal, Frankincense,
Myrrh, Storax, Galbanum, Camphor, Balsam (resins and gums); Sage, Bay, Tea
(leaves); Calamus, Spikenard, Galangal (roots); Clove, Lavender,
Saffron (flowers). Ambergris and Musk come from whales and deer
An enormous variety of aromas can be produced by mixing these and other
ingredients. Most of what is used in Catholic churches is a mixture of
By command of God, the Jewish people burned precious incense on a golden
altar each morning and evening as a sacrificial offering. It was in making
this offering that the priest Zachary was informed that he and Elizabeth would
give birth to Saint John the Baptist.
There was also an offering of incense in the Holy of Holies, once a year, on the
Day of Atonement, by the High Priest. God Himself prescribed the
ingredients for His incense:
And the Lord said to Moses: Take unto thee spices, stacte, and onycha,
galbanum of sweet savour, and the clearest frankincense, all shall be of equal
weight. And thou shalt make incense compounded by the work of the
perfumer, well tempered together, and pure, and most worthy of sanctification.
And when thou hast beaten all into very small powder, thou shalt set of it
before the tabernacle of the testimony, in the place where I will appear to
thee. Most holy shall this incense be unto you. You shall not make such a
composition for your own uses, because it is holy to the Lord. What man
soever shall make the like, to enjoy the smell thereof, he shall perish out of
Note the penalty for profane use of this incense! Would that
modern Catholics has such reverence for holy things!
It is not exactly known when the Catholic Church adopted the use of
incense. The earliest references come in the fifth century—as the Church
was persecuted until the fourth century it is reasonable to assume that the need
to worship in secret precluded much use of incense until then.
In modern times Catholics offer incense at Solemn Mass: the altar
is incensed near the beginning; the Gospel book is incensed before Gospel
is chanted; the bread and wine, the clergy, and the people are incensed at
the Offertory; the Blessed Sacrament is incensed at the elevation of the
Host and the Chalice. The Blessed Sacrament is incensed at Benediction.
The more solemn blessings—of Candlemas, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, and the
fire of the Easter Vigil—require that the objects being blessed be incensed.
Grains of incense are placed in the red wax nails inserted into the Paschal
candle, and in the cavity of an altar as it is consecrated.
The vessel in which the incense is burned (on a piece of well lit
charcoal) is called the censer. A censer suspended on chains is a thurible,
and the cleric who handles it is called the thurifer. The small container
holding the supply of incense grains is called a “boat” (many are
The Church’s Eastern Rites tend to make more prolific use of incense
than those of the West. This writer has attended a Maronite Low Mass in
which incense burned continuously from beginning to end in a censer sitting on
the altar. The Byzantines use a censer suspended on chains (which may have
little bells on them), which they use liberally with a powerful back and forth
motion of the arm that appears rather dangerous to us Westerners!
The numbers are
citations in Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum.
A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (NY: Nelson,
1953), pp. 1015-1016; CCD edition of the New Testament ( 1941), note 20,17 on p.
v. 21; cf. Matthew xxviii: 8; Mark xvi: 10; Luke xxiv: 10.