The Second Sunday of the Triumph of the Cross
I will adore in your holy temple and confess your Name
Regarding your grace and your truth
And I, O Lord, hope in you.
As I worship you and confess that you are my Lord and God, the enemy fights against me, and I am battered by his attacks. And as I cast him away by the power of the cross, he awakens my thoughts against me and troubles me by means of them. When he entices my mind, and draws it away from you, he lays traps for me and ensnares me, and with them he binds me. And even when I run and take refuge in you, O Lord, he also runs and hinders me by the opposite path, and confuses me with his tricks. Therefore, an earthly being is unable to defeat a spirit without you. In you, O Lord, do I take refuge, that in you I may conquer and he be defeated. No one calls to you and is deprived of the aid of your grace: O Lord of all, glory to you!
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
Through the great suffering of the cross, you defeated death, O Christ our Life-Giver, and became the Resurrection and the Principle of the rising of the dead. You ascended in glory, and cherubim and seraphim extol you upon the seat of glory. So with the angels, we also glorify you, O Lord, and say: all that is in heaven and on earth blesses and adores you, O Christ our Savior!
A Malicious Enemy
The devil is a being without mercy; he is an enemy that cannot be bribed away, that is incapable of sympathy; even where other enemies may desist when they have what they want, he has no goal other than our destruction. We are often frustrated when, even during prayer, or perhaps especially during prayer, the evil one attacks us. “Is nothing holy to him?” we ask, “Can’t he leave us alone at least during prayer?” This is to expect too much of a creature who has given his will totally to evil. On the contrary, there is no better time for the devil to attack us than when we pray; there is no decision we can make that is more irritating to him, and so he lets loose all the hoards of hell to stop us from speaking to our Creator.
Our Basilica Hymn for the Third Sunday of Moses begins with a sad statement that is familiar to all of us who wish to dedicate part of our day to prayer:
As I worship you and confess that you are my Lord and God, the enemy fights against me, and I am battered by his attacks.
The Soldiers of Christ
St. Paul, in writing to Timothy, encourages him using military terminology: “Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:3). But the life of a soldier is not mainly in suffering; it is in fighting, as St. Paul writes later in the same letter: “I have fought the good fight.” (2 Timothy 4:7). This fight is not, however, against any other human beings; it is against the enemy described above. Again, St. Paul (a master of spiritual warfare) makes this clear: “For we are 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 wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12).
The technique for this battle against the demonic forces of creation is a complex one, the details of which are found throughout Scripture and the Tradition of the Church. But our enemy would not be a worthy one if he were easily vanquished, or if he gave up without a fight himself:
And as I cast him away by the power of the cross, he awakens my thoughts against me and troubles me by means of them. When he entices my mind, and draws it away from you, he lays traps for me and ensnares me, and with them he binds me. And even when I run and take refuge in you, O Lord, he also runs and hinders me by the opposite path, and confuses me with his tricks.
The Humbling Conclusion
No, the devil does not allow us to go without a fight to the end, and in the end we realize our weakness against so mighty an enemy. Our hymn treats this reality almost in terms of a syllogism, and makes an undeniable conclusion:
Therefore, an earthly being is unable to defeat a spirit without you.
But this is not a moment of discouragement; on the contrary, it is the very moment of salvation. The moment we realize our defeat, our utter powerlessness in the face of the darkness fighting against us, we can turn with all our hearts to the One who is alone called the Savior. We cannot save ourselves by any personal effort; it is Christ who must save us, it is he who is powerful enough to defeat the devil. And so our hope is great, because even after continuously losing to the devil, and, in some way, because of our losing, we put our hope in Christ rather than in ourselves, overturning the power of our enemy and using it against him:
In you, O Lord, do I take refuge, that in you I may conquer and he be defeated. No one calls to you and is deprived of the aid of your grace: O Lord of all, glory to you!