Louder Fenn

Monday, February 18, 2002

Sgt. Stryker wonders why the ritual of exorcism can be so elaborate, when it seems that all one really needs to do is cry: "Begone in the name of Christ!" -- and poof! The demon should be gone. Stryker wonders if this does not represent some sort of disparity in the traditions of the Church.

There is no disparity.

Christ gave seven sensible signs to the Church that are meant to convey grace to men, in different ways and to different ends. These signs are known as Sacraments. Sacraments are divine, in that they were instituted by God Himself (Christ = God).

What is important to note is that the Sacraments are all very simple. You could say that God is economical; He is surely wise. One can confer the grace very simply, provided you use the proper matter and words. For example, I could baptize you by pouring water over your head and saying: "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." And that's it: The grace would be truly conferred and your stain of Original Sin removed.

All the elaborate ceremony surrounding a baptism is there for the same reason there is elaborate ceremony surrounding all the Sacraments: To indicate more fully the graces conferred and especially to increase the devotion of those who dispense and those who receive the Sacrament. While God was very practical in making the Sacraments concise and brief, it behooves us to be as far from cavalier as we can be, and to carry out the Sacraments with a due and substantial reverence.

The same applies to the Sacramentals -- of which exorcism is one. The Sacramentals were not instituted as such by Christ; they are rituals instituted by the Church to make use of powers granted by Christ. (As Stryker suspects, the Bible does say, in Matthew 10:1, that Christ granted the apostles -- and hence the Church -- the power to exorcise.) I actually don't know the sufficient matter and words of an exorcism; but I imagine that, in a pinch, an exorcism could be as brief as a baptism and still get the job done.

Think of it this way: You can eat a burger straight from the wrapper as you're driving down the road; or you can sit at a table, put the burger on a plate, say grace, take a bite, take a sip of Coke, have some fries, and generally take your time and enjoy the meal. Either way your hunger ends; but one way certainly allows you to appreciate what you are doing and even, perhaps, be even more grateful for that burger.

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