Friday, May 27, 2016

About Wearing Cassocks and Other Good Habits

I am a great fan of the BBC series “Call the Midwife”, which features a group of Anglican sisters working among the poor in a London neighbourhood as midwives.  Their order is fictional, but is based upon the actual order and London experiences of the Community of St. John the Divine, then working in London and now moved to Birmingham.  Being such a fan of the series, I wanted to check out the real community online.  Their numbers are fewer now, as the community has been reduced to five elderly women.  What interested me was that unlike their BBC counterparts who wore a blue monastic habit, veil and wimple, the sisters today no longer wear a monastic habit, having dispensed with it since the days when they wore it in the 1960s.  In this they are no different than other western monastic orders of nuns, including many Roman Catholic nuns, who since the days of Vatican II have also put aside their monastic habits and adopted secular dress. 
It reminded me of a similar phenomenon among the parish clergy.  It used to be that a parish priest could be as readily identified on the street by his outward dress, just as monastics could be identified by theirs, at least in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox traditions.  Anglican clergy wore a black suit, and a white collar (popularly called “a dog collar”), as did Roman Catholic clergy.  Since the days of Vatican II, western clergy have begun dispensing with black suit and collar, and now cannot always be readily identified as clergy when on the street or not officiating at the altar.  In some Anglican circles, this outward shedding of clerical dress has been also accompanied by a shedding the clerical title:  the clergyman is no longer “Rev. Smith” or “Father Smith”.  Now he says, “Just call me Bob.”  An exception is that of women clergy—a priestess, in my experience, can usually be counted on to sport the clerical shirt and collar, thereby stressing her clerical status.  I remember in particular one photo of a group of Anglican clergy:  the male bishop and the male priests in the group photo all wore sport shirts and turtlenecks.  The one female priest in the group wore a prominent clerical collar.  As she doubtless intended, there was no mistaking her for a layperson. 
            So, what’s the deal with clerical dress and monastic habits?  Do they really matter?  Obviously there are things more important than the clothes on one’s back, and no one suggests that one cannot be holy without clerical dress or that outer clerical dress automatically bestows inner sanctity.  But I suggest that even so, such things do matter.  The proof that they matter is that some have dispensed with them.  No one who says of something, “It doesn’t matter, so we should get rid of it” is really quite honest.  If it really didn’t matter, then one wouldn’t be concerned about it one way or the other.  Clearly the thing has some significance; it is that significance that the reformers are concerned to deny and ditch.  When a Baptist says to me, “Incense doesn’t matter, so why use it?”, and when I reply, “If it really doesn’t matter, then let’s keep it”,  it then becomes apparent that to him it matters a great deal, which is why he wants to get rid of it.  So then we may ask:  what is the significance of monastic habit and clerical dress?
            It is not just that such habits and cassocks are hot to wear and can be uncomfortable in warm weather.  That is true, but it is also true for the wearing of Eucharistic vestments in August, and no one suggests that we ditch them during the Eucharist in the summer in favour of an open neck sports shirt.  If the sole perceived problem was merely that the clothes were too warm in summer, one would find the answer in lighter fabrics.  Obviously the perceived problem lies elsewhere.
            Those monastics arguing in defense of secular dress (such as Sr. Marilyn Baker, a humbleand sincere nun of the Sisters of Providence) themselves state where they think the problem lies, and why they dispensed with their monastic habit.  They report that they were “advised to become more part of the modern world”, and so they complied by dispensing with their habits. That is, the shedding of the habit was part and parcel of the drive toward secularization, closing the distance between the Church and secular society.  For obviously nuns such as the Sisters of Providence were already geographically “part of the modern world” by virtue of them not living a completely enclosed life shut off from everyone else.  They did not live as cloistered hermits, but lived and worked among others in society—rather like the nuns featured on “Call the Midwife”.  They just wore their habits while working as part of the modern world as a sign and pointer to another power beyond that of merely secular society.  The directive to become more part of the modern world therefore referred to ideology, not geography.
            This is why the shedding of the habit (or, for Orthodox clergy, the cassock) is a mistake.  It is true that the monastic or the clergyman knows who they are, and do not need the clothing to tell them that.  But they do not wear that clothing in public for themselves, but for others.  If it really is too warm to wear while weeding the garden, it can be dispensed with privately while doing the weeding.  The different form of dress worn in public witnesses to the presence of the Church in society, and confirms that the Church is compassionately active in the modern world. 
            More than that, such clothing witnesses and manifests historical continuity.  A habit is not just a bit of clothing, but a uniform, a link, one that stretches through space and time.  It unites the wearer to all those others who wear the same uniform, bonding them together visibly as one single reality, wherever those others may live in other parts of the world.  It also (and perhaps more importantly) unites the wearer to all those who have worn it in centuries past.  A person in today’s society sees a monastic habit and does simply think, “here is a monastic”, but also “here is the presence of centuries of liturgical practice, and history, and tradition, and dogma”.  It is this last that I suspect is the sticking point for those advising people like Sr. Marilyn to “become more part of the modern world”.  In advising this they were not asking her to mix with the people around her more than she already was, but to close the ideological gap separating the Church and the World.   The true target of those advising ditching the habit was the dogma and tradition it represented, not the warm yards of cloth themselves.
            This is perhaps why, anecdotal evidence suggests, the western monastic orders which have dispensed with the habit are declining, while those which have retained it are growing.  For secular people may applaud the church when it becomes secular and more like “part of the modern world”.  But they will not join that church.  Pro-choice people, for example, will be happy if the church adopts a pro-choice stance, but they will not get up out of bed and troop to that pro-choice church for liturgy on Sunday.  Rather, they will roll over and sleep in, or else go jogging on Sunday morning, like all the other secular people.  One joins a church or a monastic community precisely because it is in some way unlike the modern world, and presents one with a clear alternative to secularism.  The different clothing witnesses to the presence of this clear alternative—one rooted in the past centuries and preserving its liturgical practice, history, tradition, and dogma.  Wearing a cassock will not save the wearer, or even necessarily indicate that the wearer is spiritually healthy.  As Christ warned us, Pharisees also like long robes (Luke 20:46).  But a church intent on ditching the cassock to become more part of the modern world is church preparing to die.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Confessions of a Jesus Freak

As I continue to age, I find increasingly that a generation gap opens up unexpectedly at my feet.  The first time it happened was in my first (Anglican) parish, in 1980.  I had just heard that John Lennon had died, and I shared the news with a teenaged boy in the parish.  “David,” said I, “John Lennon died!”  He just stared at me blankly, so that I repeated the newsflash again.  With wide and guileless eyes, he asked, “Who’s John Lennon?”  It was the first time I ever felt old. 
            It would not be the last.  Just a few weeks’ ago I was teaching my catechumen class after our weekly post-Liturgy coffee hour, and made a reference to the Jesus People.  Again the same blank stares from people too polite to ask what on earth I could be talking about.  Turns out they had never heard of Jesus People (or “Jesus Freaks”, as the less appreciative called them).  A short history lesson was in order.
            Admittedly the Jesus People were not a major movement, like (say) the Methodists.  They grew out of the disenchanted Hippie movement of the late 1960s in California, and spread through North America and beyond.  (A scholarly history can be found in Larry Eskridge’s God’s Forever Family, published by Oxford University Press.) By the early 1980s it was all over, leaving no trace on the North American denominational scene, with the exception of what came to be called “Contemporary Christian Music” (i.e. praise bands and guitars).  All in all, not a spectacular legacy. 
            Unless, of course, you count such men as Jack Sparks and Duane Pederson, who finished their lives as Orthodox clergy—or even guys like myself.  That is, I am but one of many former Jesus People who came to Christ through that movement and who went on to find a home in more traditional places, such as the Orthodox Church.  Even now, if asked, I will confess that if you scratch me deeply enough you will find a Jesus Freak.  Not, I hasten to add, that I am not truly Orthodox, but that just as converted Jews confessed that their conversion to Christianity did not mean renouncing their Judaism but rather fulfilling it, so I also have found that conversion to Orthodoxy fulfilled all that I valued as a Jesus People.  Please allow me to explain, for it involves more than mere autobiography.
            I came to true and fervent faith in Christ through the Jesus People movement, converting to Christ in 1970 through a group led by Merv and Merla Watson in Toronto called “Catacombs”.  It began as a Christian club in a high school in which Merv taught music, and continued to grow, meeting in people’s homes and eventually in Bathurst Street United Church and then in St. Paul’s Anglican Church on Bloor Street.  At its height it had up to one thousand young people meeting there every Thursday evening to sing songs, pray, listen to a message, adore and worship the Lord.  Though not originally a church, it soon produced leaders who called themselves “elders” (if memory serves), identifiable by the little lapel badges they wore.  Their job was to speak for the group and help shepherd new people who needed teaching and guidance.  Every year they held a special “Maranatha festival”, which consisted of speakers, singing, and a more intense time of worship.  It culminated in a Eucharist, led by a local sympathetic (i.e. charismatic) Anglican priest.  Obviously I went to church somewhere on Sunday as well, but Catacombs provided the spiritual foundation for everything that came after. 
            I mention all of this not because my own autobiography could be of general interest, but because I think that the Jesus People Movement and my Catacombs experience have a significance beyond that of the merely historical.  Specifically, I think that these movements represented something fundamental about Christianity and, without knowing it, reproduced much of the experience of the early church and therefore of the earliest Orthodoxy.  Their fundamental characteristics represented the fundamental characteristics of Orthodoxy—characteristics that some of us Orthodox forget and need to be reminded of.  Oddly enough, the Jesus People can remind the Orthodox of who they really are.  For the Jesus People, like the Orthodox, are all about five things.
First of all, the Jesus People emphasized a living relationship with Jesus, insisting that one submit all of one’s life to Him as Lord and Saviour, and receiving a tangible experience of the Holy Spirit.  In particular they would say that, “Those who received baptism in infancy and lived a life unworthy of it, will suffer a condemnation greater than that of the unbaptized…You, O Saviour, have given repentance as a second purification and You decided that its aim would be the grace of the Spirit…”  The quote is not from a Jesus Freak, but from St. Symeon the New Theologian (Hymn 55), and he was insisting that faith must be truly experiential if it is be saving.  The Jesus People (though not grasping the sacramental context of this experience of the Spirit as well as they might have) would still have agreed that the essence of the faith was experiential, not merely doctrinal or ethnic.  It was about actually knowing and experiencing Jesus.   If one lacked an experience of Jesus, one could not really claim to be a Christian.
Secondly, the Jesus People approached Christian life and liturgical assembly (my phrase admittedly, not theirs) with an attitude of expectancy.  That is, they came together anticipating that Christ would reveal Himself to them, pouring out His Spirit in power and grace.  Here we may quote from the late first century Epistle of St. Clement, who praised those to whom he wrote, saying that “a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit was upon you all” (1 Clement 2:2).  St. Clement here expresses the common patristic understanding of worship as involving a spiritual outpouring of divine grace upon those who assembled, so that one should come to the liturgical assembly expecting to be drenched.  The Jesus People came to their worship with this attitude of expectation.  How much more should we Orthodox come with such expectation, who know that the Chalice awaits us there, full of Christ’s Body and Blood, and “the communion of the Holy Spirit”.  We approach the assembly with open and trembling hearts, trusting that even if we come to the assembly empty, we shall leave full.
Thirdly, the Jesus People expected to see the Holy Spirit manifested with power, believing as they did in a fully supernatural world, one complete with angels and demons.  They defined these manifestations largely in terms of such visual fireworks as speaking in tongues, healing, and prophecy.  We define them more in terms of sacramental transformation.  But even here we Orthodox do not exclude physical and miraculous healing from the transforming works of the Spirit.  True, we more easily connect such manifestations of the Holy Spirit with prayers to the saints and relics and the miraculous flowing of myrrh than they did.  But we, equally with the Jesus People, expect to encounter signs and wonders and healing in the Church, and we too confess that all such healing comes ultimately from Jesus, the Physician of our souls and bodies.  We, equally with the Jesus People, believe in the reality of the supernatural, in the reality of angelic aid and demonic danger.  Life in the Church is fundamentally life in the Spirit.  If you doubt this, go through the text of the Divine Liturgy with all its prayers and underline every reference to the Holy Spirit.  You will be doing lots of underlining.
Fourthly, the Jesus People concentrated upon worship and music.  In their day music involved guitars and overhead projectors (remember those?).  It was the 1960s, after all.  We Orthodox will pass on guitars, thank you very much, and retain the primordial preference for the unaccompanied human voice.  But both Orthodox and Jesus Freak agree that worship equals music, and that musical worship is paramount, trumping and taking precedence over the spoken word, whether that word be preached sermon or spoken prayer.  For us, everything offered in worship is musical.  (This means, may I add, that every single Orthodox choir director is underpaid.)  Given the fact that the Jesus People arose from a Protestant milieu in which the spoken word was paramount, such an emphasis upon music should not be taken for granted.  It did not arise solely from their culture, but from the Holy Spirit. 
Finally, the Jesus People discovered that grace needs to be preserved in institutional structures and ordered community if it is to be preserved at all.  My Catacombs group had no intention of becoming a church originally, but it still developed leaders (even calling them “elders”) because they discovered the need for accountability.  This was the experience of the first century apostolic Church as well:  it began with a message and an experience, but it quickly required an ordered community to preserve the experience from distortion, and the Church in Jerusalem soon enough had presbyters as well as apostles.  Not all the Jesus People were as fortunate as the Catacombs community; some refused such structures and fell into cultic heresy or simply dispersed, scattered to the four winds.  For me it was fascinating to see emerging before my eyes the same sort of structure as emerged in the first century, even if those creating it had little intention of imitating the first century—or even any awareness that they were doing so.  It revealed that the structures of the first century church were not arbitrary, but rooted in the necessary needs of a growing community. 
As my catechumen class would remind me, the Jesus People Movement has come and gone.  But like any movement that was  concerned to exalt Jesus as Lord and God, the Holy Spirit had His saving hand in it.  And that means, like any fruit that came ultimately from the apostles by the power of the Spirit, that fruit would remain (John 15:16).  At the end of the day, I am grateful to God to have been a Jesus Freak.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Altar Boys

In a previous blog I examined the issue of whether or not the Orthodox Church should introduce (or in some cases, continue the new practice) of having girls serve the altar as the female equivalent of altar boys.  As may be recalled, I answered negatively, citing the practical and non-theological reason that the introduction of the practice, at least in North America, would lead eventually and inevitably to the ordination of women to the diaconate and the presbyterate.   Here I would like to examine the question of service at the altar from a more historical and theological perspective.
In looking to the canonical material, one cannot find altar boys at all.  Instead one finds adult men called “subdeacons”, classed with other clergy, and therefore subject to canonical regulation.  Thus for example the fourth century Council of Laodicea, canon 24:  “No one of the priesthood, from presbyters to deacons, and so on in the ecclesiastical order to subdeacons, readers, singers, exorcists, door-keepers, or any of the class of the ascetics, ought to enter a tavern.”  The taverns in those days were not of course like the nice taverns and family pubs of today, but were more like brothels, at least in terms of reputation.  (The prohibition of clergy entering taverns is found also in “Apostolic Canon” 54, also dating from about the fourth century:  “If any of the clergy be found eating in a tavern, let him be excommunicated, unless he has been constrained by necessity, on a journey, to lodge in an inn.”)  Here the Laodicean canon 24 throws the canonical net pretty widely, and says that no one in any way visibly representing the Church should go into such a tavern.  The use of the term “priesthood” at the beginning of the canon is used generally, including as it does both presbyters and deacons; others such as subdeacons are referred to as those “in the ecclesiastical order”—i.e. those visibly connected with service in the church. 
The same Council of Laodicea prescribes for subdeacons again in canon 21:  “The subdeacons have no right to a place in the diaconicum, nor to touch the Lord’s Vessels.”  The “Lord’s Vessels” were the Eucharistic vessels used at the Liturgy, stored in the sacristy, and it appears that the “diaconicum” was the sacristy itself (and not, as some may have thought, the place where the deacons stood during the Liturgy).  In other words, some subdeacons were acting like deacons, entering the sacristy to get the Eucharistic Vessels and carrying them in the procession, and this canon wants to put an end to this subdiaconal usurpation of the deacon’s function.  We note the same subdiaconal uppity-ness rebuked in canon 25:  “A subdeacon must not give the Bread, nor bless the Cup”—i.e. administer the Eucharist to the people during the services as presbyters and deacons did.
We find other mentions of subdeacons in the canons.  The Council of Antioch in canon 10 allowed chorepiscopi (“country-bishops”, or bishops who served as assistants to their diocesan bishop) to ordain “ordain readers, subdeacons and exorcists”, but not presbyters or deacons, whose latter ordination was reserved to the diocesan bishop (canon 10).   The Quinisext Council in canon 13 allowed that men ordained as subdeacons, deacons, or presbyters, who were married at the time of their ordination, be allowed to continue to live with their wives even after ordination—unlike the western practice which insisted that such newly-ordained men cease from their wives after ordination.  The same canon did however stipulate that “they who assist at the divine altar should be absolutely continent when they are handling holy things”—i.e. abstain from sex prior to serving Liturgy.  The canon ends with a threat:  “If anyone shall have dared to deprive any of those who are in holy orders, presbyter or deacon or subdeacon, of cohabitation and intercourse with his lawful wife, let him be deposed.”
The common thread in all these canons is that subdeacons were part of the clergy, whether they were ordained with the same rite and solemnity as priests or deacons were, or merely blessed to perform their function with a ritual other than the laying on of hands at the altar.  Laodicea canon 24 cites them as belonging to “the ecclesiastical order”; Antioch canon 10 classes them along with readers and exorcists; Quinisext canon 13 classes them with deacons and presbyters, inasmuch as they all “assist at the divine altar” and therefore “are in holy orders”.   These subdeacons seem to be roughly equivalent to the “acolytes” of the western church, who were also one of the “minor orders”.  Regardless of the form of classification for them (“A minor order or not?  Set apart by ordination or mere blessing?”), subdeacons were clergy.
When did the function of ordained men, old enough for the canonical legislation to have assumed that they were married, get routinely transferred to young pre-pubescent boys?  I cannot find much material on the question; (scholars, feel free to weigh in).  But I note that when I recently attended Liturgy in a Coptic church the young altar boys vested and holding candles were referred to as “deacons”, and my Chalcedonian eyes could not see any adult obviously fulfilling a role similar to that of deacon in my own church.  Unless I was misinformed about the Coptic terminology, it would seem that we are witnessing an historical tendency for adult offices, having fallen into at least partial abeyance, to be informally filled by young boys.  If this is so, it would explain how young boys in the Orthodox church ended up fulfilling roles once performed by ordained adult men.
            Whatever the historical path from subdeacon to altar boy, one sees that the latter’s theological role is historically rooted in the subdiaconate, and that those fulfilling this role should be considered (to quote the Quinisext Council) as “assisting at the divine altar”.  Our understanding of the role of an altar boy must be governed the historical understanding of a subdeacon.   (I here leave unexamined the wisdom of the practice of allowing altar boys to serve as subdeacons.)  Obviously altar boys are not subject to the same canonical strictures as subdeacons once were, such as those pertaining to marriage.  But their liturgical role remains the same as theirs.
This all has relevance to the question of whether or not girls may fill that role.  It is not surprising, since the ministries of presbyter and deacon were restricted to men, to find that the early church also restricted the office of subdeacon to men in the way too.  There were deaconesses is some places, women who fulfilled a pastoral role, but never subdeaconesses, the liturgical female equivalent of subdeacons.   Subdeacons were always men, since the early church restricted the ministry of “assisting at the divine altar” to men.
I suggest that theologically this same restriction should apply to altar boys, so that if the ministry of subdeacon required men, then the ministry of young altar acolytes requires boys.  Otherwise we should acknowledge that the function of altar boy/ acolyte has nothing to do with the historic function of subdeacon/ acolyte, but is an entirely novel creation.  We can always invent new liturgical offices, if we like, but honesty would require us to at least acknowledge the novelty of what we are doing.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mind the Gap

Lately I was reading a very interesting essay on “The Hermeneutics of the Use of Early Liturgical Practice for Modern Liturgical Reform” by the German scholar Basilius J. Groen.  I enjoyed its many insights, but was particularly struck by one almost off-hand comment.   Dr. Groen was commenting on the difficulty of simply borrowing liturgical practices wholesale from the early church and applying them to our own day as if nothing had changed.  That is true enough, but what struck me was his choice of example.  He wrote, “Whether modern Roman Catholic liturgical renewal is consistent with the liturgical practice in the early church is a very difficult question.  As I said before, socio-cultural conditions almost two millennia ago were very different.  One should think only of the tendency to perceive demonic activity everywhere.  The most learned Greek church father, Gregory of Nazianzus, for example, was convinced that Christians including himself were attacked and tricked by demons almost all the time and that, therefore, a continuous warfare was required.”  He goes on to adduce as a further example the advice given by Pope Gregory that Great that people should make the sign of the Cross over lettuce before eating it, lest a demon sitting on one of its leaves should cause damage.  One can almost hear Dr. Groen snickering at the superstitious and primitive credulity of the ancients. 
            In this Dr. Groen is not alone, and I quote him not to single him out in particular, but because he offers such a fine example of the modern contempt for a belief in the demonic.  This belief he ascribes apparently to different “socio-cultural conditions”, which appears to be a polite way of saying that they were too primitive to know better.  If asked to defend the two Gregory’s no doubt he would charitably suggest that despite their gifts they were men of their time, subject to all the prejudices and illusions of their prevailing culture.
            Which may be true, but it nicely avoids the obvious retort that of course Dr. Groen is also a man of his time, subject to all the prejudices and illusions of his prevailing culture—a culture which denies the existence of the supernatural in general and the demonic in particular.  And let’s be clear upon what our secular culture bases its denial of the existence of the demonic—namely, upon mere dogmatic prejudice and untested ideology.  That is, everyone around us in the secular West says demons don’t exist and so, well, they don’t exist.  Evidence to the contrary, whether the testimony of Scripture, the witness of the Fathers and the Saints, or the all-but universal experience of pretty much every culture ever recorded, simply count for nothing.  We assume without proof that they were all primitive and gullible and that we are much smarter.  It is true that we have built better machines than those who came before us, and lots of them.  It is less clear that this technological superiority has any bearing upon our ability to know the truth about the supernatural world, especially since that world is not susceptible of being detected or measured by our machines.  And our history offers no other evidence that we are wiser than our ancestors.  If anything, the evidence suggests we are worse off.   Our last century, for example, has seen more genocide, atrocity, and bloodshed than previous centuries put together.   When today we are not using our machines to access pornography, send useless texts to our friends, or pick fights with strangers on Facebook, we often use our technology to kill one another.  Whatever can be said about the different “socio-cultural conditions” of our ancestors, it seems that as least they practised less genocide than we do.
            Here then is the great gap between the Church Fathers, such as St. Gregory Nazianzus, and that of our secular culture—they accepted without question that demons existed and that Christians had to fight against them, and our modern society rejects this absolutely.  Note:  we have not disproved it, and cannot offer the slightest bit of evidence that demons do not exist.  We simply regard the notion as too implausible to require refutation.  This gap is a very wide, deep, and important one, for it divides those confessing Christ into two very different groups.  Those accepting the threat of the demonic will have a much different form of spirituality than those who deny it, in the same sort of way as those who accept the threat from germs will have a much different form of hygiene than those who deny it.  And like those who deny the threat of germs and refuse to take precautions against possible damage, those who deny the threat from demons may also suffer damage.  Certainly if one looks around in our culture to find evidence of such damage—things like violence, addiction, and sexual chaos—one does not have far to look.
            This gap is all the more important because no one is talking about it.  Scholars write tons of stuff on almost every conceivable topic, and get into all sorts of heated debates with other scholars.  (The volume in which Dr. Groen’s essay was found also had essays outlining hot scholarly debates on the origin of the forty-day Lent and whether or not the Last Supper was a form of Jewish seder.)  But no one debates the existence of the demonic, even though it has immediate and practical repercussions for the faithful—far more repercussions in fact than whether or not our present pre-Paschal Lent began in Egypt as a forty-day fast after feast of Epiphany, or whether or not the Last Supper was a seder.  The issue is simply not an issue, and therefore the gap between those aligning themselves with Scripture and the Fathers and those rejecting their view is unbridgeable. 
            For me the perplexing thing about the gap is not that it exists—secularists will be secular, after all, and most people are too busy living life to spend much time questioning the underlying presuppositions of their culture.  For me the perplexing thing is how Christians could come to deny the existence of the demonic.  It is one thing to dismiss “the most learned Greek church father, Gregory of Nazianzus” (and with him, every other Church Father and saint in the Christian Church).  It is quite another to dismiss Jesus Christ.  He clearly believed in the existence of demons, and not only because He spent so much of His time performing exorcisms.  More than that, He described His entire ministry in terms of exorcism:  “Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow and the third day I finish My course” (Luke 13:32).  Was the Son of God merely a man of His time too, one imprisoned by the categories and assumptions of His socio-cultural conditions?  Never mind that St. Paul defined the Christian life as “not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of evil in the heavenlies” (Ephesians 6:12)—the view that such spiritual armies of evil were arrayed against us goes back ultimately to Christ Himself.  We may quibble about whether or not we should be concerned about every head of lettuce we eat.  But there should no doubt for those who claim to follow Christ that “continuous warfare” with the demons is indeed required.