We read narratives in the four gospels about five instances when the Lord Jesus cast demons out of people. The gospels also refer to other cases, without narrating them.
Now, I’m no art historian. But in my limited study of illuminated gospel manuscripts, I have noticed an interesting style in drawings of Jesus casting out demons. Many medieval artists show the demons exiting through the mouths of the possessed people.
There’s a drawing of Christ on the hillside, with the Gadarene demoniac, with a demon emerging from the possessed man’s mouth. And pictures of a demon exiting the mouth of the man in the synagogue in Capernaum.
Forgive me; I don’t mean to get gross. But these pictures suggest vomiting. It’s like Christ’s power acts as an emetic, driving the power of evil out of the system in a violent convulsion. Hurry, get the bucket! Then: relief. A moment of peace and quiet. Followed by the resumption of normal, healthy bodily operations.
The Catechism says that Jesus’ exorcisms anticipate His great victory over the “ruler of the world”—the victory He won on the cross. The coming of God’s Kingdom means the defeat of Satan’s.
A great convulsion of evil, of undeserved suffering—of genuine ugliness; a moment of terrifying grotesqueness—the innocent Lamb, lacerated, bruised, bloodied to the bone, stretched out under the cruel sky. Who could stand to watch it? They cried and hid their eyes.
But then: the peace of Christ. The world made right and whole again. Healthy life resuming—undying life, which nothing can crush.
Imagine trying to write a paperback made up solely of letters. They are letters from an experienced demon to a “junior tempter” containing advice about how to lure the “patient” away from the snares of the Enemy (God).
It would take a master of both the spiritual life and English style to produce an entertaining book like this. C.S. Lewis was a master of both, and he did it: The Screwtape Letters.
Now imagine trying to set this paperback on the stage. This is one of the most formidable theatrical challenges of all time.
There is only one speaking part.
The only “plot”–the twisting fortunes of the ‘patient’–is completely invisible to the audience.
It would take a madman to attempt to stage The Screwtape Letters.
It would take a true thespian genius to pull it off–to make it fun, exciting, and edifying.
Max McLean is the genius who has managed to do it.
He transforms the clever book into a 90-minute dramatic production that moves–moves itself and moves you.
I almost never say this: This play is better than the book–more delightful, a great deal more exciting.
Tickets are available in Washington for one more weekend–this coming weekend.
On the other hand, fatal subway crashes, endless delays, surprise station closures, and other signs of managerial incompetence are usually atributable to human error.
…For the record, my disapproval of John Catoe’s regime began two years ago, when he instituted the following public-address message in the stations:
We have a lot of escalators in our system. You’ll notice that most people stand on the right side. And while you’re riding, hold the handrail for your safety. Enjoy your trip, and thank you for riding Metro.
This is not an effective message. It is an effete message.
But Catoe did not want to insist that anyone stand to the right. He didn’t want to give an order. He thought doing so would only encourage Type-A personalities to rush through stations in a furious hurry on the left.
Call me a Type-A personality if you want–call me something worse–but I do not think “stand to the right” is a suggestion. It is like the eleventh Commandment. It is escalator Rule Number One.
1956 in New York: The I.R.T. has a subway station which has been flooded by the Fire Department, and there is a train sunk into the roadbed. Everything is fully repaired and operational five days later.
2009 in Washington: John Catoe does not want to encourage rushing. It is the deadliest, most bogged-down year in the history of Metro. The WMATA Board renews his contract and gives him a standing ovation.
November is the month of death. There is no getting around it. The leaves wither and fall. The song birds fly away. The night grows longer and longer.
The Church knows that November is the month of death. We begin the month by praying to all the dead people in heaven. The next day we start praying for all the dead people in purgatory. We spend the whole month praying for the dead people in purgatory.
So November is the month of death. The month of death begins on All Hallows’ Eve, Halloween, the night before All Saints Day. Is Halloween a Christian holiday? Yes, it most certainly is.
What happens on Halloween? We confront ourselves with the darkest and most mysterious things: Death. Evil spirits. Putting on a costume poses the most murky question of all: Who am I really?
Then what happens? Laughter and merriment. On Halloween, little children dress up as skeletons, witches, ghosts, goblins—evil, dark things. Then they proceed to run around and giggle.
How is this possible? How is it that on Halloween night, the night when the month of death arrives, the night when darkness appears to conquer the sunlight—how is it that we make merry?
There is one reason. The one reason why we need not fear everything that is evil and dark. Only a Christian people could laugh during the dark night and have fun dressing up like demons. We are not afraid of these things.
Why? Because of Christ. The Light has come to the world, and the darkness has not overcome it. We Christians laugh at all the things before which pagans cower.