01 February 2015

Between a demon and the Almighty, or silence imposed on truth

An early 4th century synagogue built over the original one at Capernaum
The exchange in today's Gospel between a demon and Jesus at the synagogue in Capernaum on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee is an intriguing one:
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him” (Mark 1:23-25).
I have often wondered why Jesus commands the demon to be quiet and looking toward in the works of Saint Bonaventure I found a good answer. The Seraphic Doctor's commentary on the same passage in the Gospel of Luke is worth quoting at length:
Now on the part of the demon is shown a sense of the divine presence, when it is said: And he cried out with a loud voice, so that from the intensity of his clamor might be shown the emotion of sorrow in the demon. Isaiah 65:14 has: "Behold, my servants will praise for joyfulness of heart, and you will cry out for sorrow of heart, and will howl for grief of spirit." Thus, it is inferred from the demon's clamor that he was experiencing sorrow and trembling from the presence of Christ. Thus Augustine writes: "Would that human beings would acknowledge God as Savior in the same way that the demons acknowledged God as Judge. The demons saw and trembled, but human beings saw and killed. O what great wretchedness, human beings are found to be worse than the demons!"

Now fear itself compels the demon to confess the truth, namely, that Christ is the one who destroys demons and the one who sanctifies human beings.

On account of the first, the text adds: Saying: Let us alone. What have we to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? Let us alone, that is, desist from afflicting and persecuting us, because it is unbearable. Job 13:21 says: "Withdraw your hand far from me, and let not your dread terrify me." Or the interpretation is this: Let us alone, that is, allow me to separate myself from you, because what have you to do with us?, as if he were saying: We have nothing in common, and therefore we cannot be together. II Corinthians 6:15, 14 has: "What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What has light in common with darkness or justice with iniquity?" And the Evangelist shows that there is no communication or harmony when he continues: Have you come to destroy us? Proverbs 24:22 reads: "Their destruction will arise suddenly." So I John 3:8 says: "To this end the Son of God appeared, that he might destroy the words of the devil."

And note that the destruction of the demons is twofold, namely, one on account of the sin of pride, through which they were destroyed in the beginning. Ezekiel 28:16 reads: "I have destroyed you, O cherub, proceeding from the midst of the stones of fire." The second destruction comes about because of additional sins, for which they will be destroyed at the last judgment, when all power will be taken away and every fitting punishment inflicted. Concerning this Deuteronomy 32:35 has: "The day of destruction is at hand." And this destruction will not happen entirely before the day of judgment. Thus Mark 1:24 [see also Matthew 8:29] reads: "Have you come to destroy us before the time?" But now from the time of Christ it has begun. John 12:31 has: "Now is the judgment of the world, now will the prince of this world be cast out."

But not only is he confessed to be the destroyer of demons, but also sanctifier of human begins, when it is said: I know that who you are, the Holy One of God. That one, about whom Daniel 9:24 says: "That the Holy One of the Holy Ones may be anointed." He did not know this with certain knowledge, since I Corinthians 2:8 has: "If they had known, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory." But he knew only by conjecture. Proverbs 23:7 reads: "Like a soothsayer and a diviner he thinks that which he knows not." For he came to this estimation of Christ because of the pain he was experiencing.
 Now on the part of Christ is shown a work of immense power, when this is attached: And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Be silent. For as almighty he imposes silence on the demon by a mere rebuke. Zechariah 3:1-2 has: "The Lord showed me Jesus the high priest .... May the Lord rebuke you, O Satan, and may the Lord rebuke you." Although the devil did speak the truth, he, nevertheless, imposed silence, because, as it is said in Sirach 15:9, "Praise is not winsome from from the mouth of a sinner." And thus in the Psalm it has: "God said to the sinner, Why do you declare my justices" (49:16). Another interpretation is that he prohibited the demon from speaking because he speaks deceitfully and frequently mixes falsehood with truth. This is also what Mark 1:34 says: "He did not allow the demons to speak," while the Glossa says, "lest, while the people saw him speaking the truth, they would follow the one who was in error." And therefore, the Psalm has: "Let deceitful lips be made dumb, which speak iniquity against the just" (30:19). He also shows here that vain glory is to be avoided, so that we do not seek to be praised by vane and deceitful persons. Let's take the example of Paul in Acts 16:16-17.
But not only does he impose silence by a rebuke, he also expels it with a command, when it says: Go out of that man. Now is fulfilled what Habakkuk 3:5 says: "And the devil will go forth before his feet." And so that text continues: And when the devil had thrown him down into the midst, he went out of him. By this the anger of the devil is shown, because, having been summoned, he went out and with murmuring. So also in Mark 1:26: "And convulsing him, he went out." Now the devil does this, when he sees that he is loosing what he evilly possesses. Revelation 12:12 has: "The devil has descended upon you in great anger," etc. But his anger did no harm, because the Lord prohibited it. Whence this is joined: And he did him no harm. Isaiah 11:9 reads: "They shall not harm nor kill on any of my holy mountains." - Now from this we gather that the devil always has the will to harm, because he has this in himself, but he does not have the power to harm always, except for as much and for as long as he is permitted by God in a just manner. So in Romans 13:1 it says: "There is no power except from God." And thus I Peter 3:13 has: "Who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?"

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