October is, among other things, the month in which the devil sends out the most press releases about how business is booming, what with Halloween and all. Of course, like any big international business operation, Hell has to maintain several faces depending on the public it is talking to. To secularists, it frequently issues press releases from the Materialist Myth Manufacturing Ltd. subsidiary of Hell, reminding its customers that Hell doesn’t exist, that God doesn’t exist, and that everything is just atoms and energy, followed by the long long night of death (so be sure to pick up as much sex, drugs, rock n’ roll and self-indulgence as your shopping cart can hold in our Life Clearance Sale! Available now!)
On the other hand, Hell has another corporate image for those who know the devil does exist: intimidate ’em! Some people are simply scared to death of the devil, as if he is more powerful than God himself. Such people (typically Evangelicals or Fundamentalists) often have the curious habit of believing in a sort of “anti-sacramental” universe. In such a universe, God is evidently unable to use material means to give grace to the world. Thus, baptism “does nothing, it’s just a symbol”. Likewise, Eucharist is “just a ritual. It can’t get you closer to God.” And, course, a prayer such as the Rosary or even the Lord’s Prayer is just “vain repetition” devoid of spiritual power. For such people, God has to confine his activities to the “spiritual realm” (which is to say, to the disembodied and immaterial). Sacraments are, for such people, not spiritual at all.
But hand such people a Ouija board or ask them to vainly repeat a bit of doggerel out of a book of magic spells by some New Age quack and shazam! All of sudden sacramentality is bursting out all over! Mere physical contact with a Ouija board is recognized to be a spiritually dangerous association with matter contaminated by unclean spirits and the mere recitation of a spell or a prayer to some pagan deity (often in a language the speaker does not even understand) is recognized to be a profoundly dangerous opening of oneself to the powers of evil.
Now, I don’t disagree that magic spells, prayers to demons and Ouija boards are dangerous and shouldn’t be messed with. What I disagree with is the notion that the devil can work through matter and words but God can’t. It seems to me that if anybody has the right and power to make spiritual power available to us through material means it is the One who invented matter and who uttered the Word made matter in the Incarnation.
Curiously, Hell’s press releases for both the Materialist and Fundamentalist have something in common. For all the hard-boiled atheism of the one and all the sincere religious faith of the other, there remains this common thread: Matter and Spirit must never intersect. If they do, the atheist fears that you will lose your intellect and the Fundamentalist fears that you will lose your soul.
But the reality is that matter and the Holy Spirit are old friends. He made it, he overshadowed it (in the person of the Blessed Virgin), he conceived the Second Person of the Trinity in a body made of it, he raised it from the dead, established it as the channel of his sacramental power, and, at the end of time, will raise it (and us) to participate in heavenly glory.
The materialist recognizes some of this supernatural glory pertaining to matter (in his unaccountable worship of the intellect which is, on his own reckoning, a mere function of an unusually clever piece of meat). The Fundamentalist recognizes this glory in other flawed ways. But only the Catholic Faith grasps this truth in completeness. This Halloween, celebrate the sacraments, the intersection of the Spirit of God and Creation and help undermine HellCo’s corporate propaganda a little bit.