Friday, June 5, 2015

What do you mean the "Our Father" is dangerous - part 9

Letter to Dan. J. Russ continued.

“But deliver us from evil…”  Another problem! This phrase comes to us from the Latin translation of the Our Father. There is a grammatical problem with Latin. Ancient Romans talked like cavemen. They had no articles. Remember grammar from long ago and far way? Remember how your fifth grade teacher said that someday you would need to remember your grammar lessons? Well, that’s today. 

The article is an adjective, a determiner that precedes a noun. There are two types of articles in English: the definite article (the) and the indefinite (a/an). The definite article specifies a particular individual; the indefinite article indicates that the noun following it is a member of a larger group. Got that?  Essentially we are talking about “a” or “the.” For instance, “a dog” means any old dog. “The dog” refers to that beloved family pet whom you follow around with a plastic bag on a cold winter morning. 

In English we might say “We need a dog!” or “Do I have to take the dog out for a walk this morning. It’s Becky Sue’s turn.”  Romans and, presumably, cave persons did not have articles of any kind. They would say, “We need dog” or “Do I have to take dog out for walk this morning. It’s Becky Sue’s turn.” You see, Romans talked just like cavemen.

Greek and English both have articles, though Greek only had a definite article. They are used in a remarkably similar way in both languages. One of their uses is to turn an adjective into a noun. For instance to say these three adjectives preceded by the definite article, “the good, the bad, and the ugly’” clearly indicates “the good person, the bad person and the ugly person,” — or it indicates a Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western. Forget about the Western. Concentrate on the substantive adjective, Greek did the same thing. 

This whole harangue about grammar is essential for understanding the final phrase of the Our Father. As I said, we get the prayer from the Latin text which says “Deliver us from evil.” that’s not what the prayer is really saying. In Greek it says “alla hrusia hemas apo tou ponerou  Tou” means “the.”  Deliver us from “THE evil (one). In other words in the final phrase of the Our Father we are admitting that there is such a thing as the devil and we need to be freed from him.   

We are in a war with unseen powers, and I don’t mean just the Internal Revenue Service. There is an unseen world on whose border we live. As the old Scottish prayer says,

“From ghoulies and ghosties, and long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!”   

I don’t know about ghosties and ghoulies, but there are certainly things unseen that would devour us. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  (1Peter 5:8)  

In praying the Our Father, we are admitting that there is such a world and if you are not of that opinion, perhaps you should leave out this part of the Our Father next time you say it. In the introduction to his Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis says, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” 

He goes on to say that we moderns either think of them as humorous fellows with horns, a tail and wearing a red union suit, or oppositely, something much more powerful that they really are. And that the devil’s most clever strategy in this present age is to make us think he does not exist. St Paul warns us clearly. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  (Ephesians 6:12)  We disregard their existence at our own peril, and the world is currently being devoured and no one is noticing. The devil feasts on the blood of children. It is his favorite dish. We are providing the feast while insisting all the while that there is no devil.

So who are the devils and why do they hate us? The scriptures and the teaching of the Church are fairly silent on the point, but there are theories. The most common one goes something like this. The celestial spirits, whom we usually call angels, are as if infinitely more wondrous than we. They are as if all powerful; as if all knowing; as if all seeing and eternal — that is timeless. Only God is truly omnipotent and all-knowing, but compared to the angelic spirits we are like insects, like worms. 

The theory holds that the Heavenly Father presented his plan to the angels, saying that for love of the human insects, He was going to incarnate His heart, His very Son as one of them and that He planned to elevate them even above the angels. Fully a third of the celestial spirits, decided that if this was God’s decision, God could not be God and so they rebelled under the leadership of the Angel of Light, called “Lucifer” in Latin. They were cast out of heaven in a great battle led by the archangel Michael. The book of Ecclesiasticus (2:24) says, “Nevertheless through the envy of the devil came death into the world: and they that do hold of his side do find it.”

The fallen angels conceived an unending hatred for humanity, because God had shared with the humans something he did not share even with the celestial spirits. Angels do not reproduce. Of them Jesus said, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” (Matthew 22:30) The devil hates all forms of creativity. The ugliness of current art and its desire to shock rather than uplift is demonic. It is interesting that so many modern churches look more like spaceships from the planet Ugly than like the House of God; but more than art, the devil despises children. A man and a woman in their union can create something immortal. True, God creates the soul, but from a woman’s body there emerges a unique new body and, if what Christ said is true, the body is eternal, for good or for ill.  

The angels do not create, and they do not reproduce. The devil wants to end human creativity. Our generation in the name of human freedom has ruined art and has created narcissistic, sterile marriages. Same-sex marriage, abortion, pornography, artificial birth control, are all forms of sterile sexuality, and that is exactly what the devil is going for. God loves children. The devil hates them. He likes to kill the ones that are conceived and better still, to keep them from ever being conceived.  We think we are free. We are snared just as surely as the fly in spider’s web. 

“From ghoulies and ghosties, and long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!”

Rev. Know-it-all


  1. Hi Father !
    What you said about evil and devil comes indirectly from the Book of Enoch (see St Juste letter ) and also perhaps The pseudo-Denys l'areopagite.
    Onne of the best thinfg I read about Evil is from A; Gesché qoting Paul Ricoeur. Evil is what God don't take in His Creation. So those nothing is trying to come in our Real World. As said Paul Ricoeur Evil is the left hand of God. Plerase answer

  2. Hello, Fr Simon! I love your articles and radio program! My biggest regret is not having had more children. That was before I was Catholic so I was ignorant. Please pray for my daughter and son-in-law for them to be open to having more children if God wills it. Thank you andkeep up the Good work!