Renouncing the Devil

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Two Angels and Two Devils – Paolo Uccello

The news today is that the Church of England is considering an alternative liturgy for Holy Baptism. Candidates, parents and godparents are no longer called to repent of their sins, nor will they ‘renounce the Devil and all his works’.

I think that’s a shame but it is none of my business.  I was thinking recently about the Devil making work for idle hands to do. And, coincidentally, about a particular busybody from years ago who managed to create havoc in the workplace from a (excuse me for being undemocratic) junior position.  Elevated, eminent men walked in fear of this unstoppable lady. She, as is often the case – and none of us are immune from this –  spent more time and energy in messing things up than in doing her pedestrian paid work. The pedestrian nature of her work might well have been the problem, I suppose.  This was a lady who liked to solve problems and if you didn’t have a problem when you met her, you soon had one specially made for you.

A quick internet search brings up a wealth of articles, mostly based on the verse in 2 Thessalonians: “3.11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies.” or on 1 Timothy “5.13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to.” Since meddling is also condemned in Leviticus, it’s probably fair to say that human nature has some constants and that the sin of minding other people’s business has always been with us. The 1 Timothy reference appears to have been directed at young widows with energy and time to spare – but let us be clear that some of the worst (covert) meddlers I have known have been male, masculine and, not to put too fine a point on it, ‘manly men’. Ok, butch.

Another devilish saying that comes to mind is about using a long spoon. Shame that we think often that we can ‘risk it’, whether this be in the area of sex, love, drugs, alcohol, work, gossip, petty theft, small frauds, big deals. I once worked with a (very) High Anglican who ended up viewing the inside of a cell for petty embezzlement – because he just thought one day he would see if he could get away with it. And the next day he tried again…and the next…

And do not forget, dear readers, that the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for souls to devour and laying traps for the unwary. Exhibit A : the 21st century. (Although we do have protection: yesterday saw the blessing of Epiphany water, including a stern command to Satan to depart in the holy and awesome name of Jesus, before whom hell quakes. Good).

So I think it’s a pity that the Devil is being discarded – but, really, it’s none of my business.

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