p/c St. Mary’s of Pine Bluff, WI.
There’s an English gentleman named Tom Holland (who I don’t think considers himself a Christian) who recently wrote a book called Dominion about what is unique about Christianity. He wrote about how Christianity conquered the West not through violence but through the enduring of the cross. One reason he did this is because he saw with his own eyes crucifixions done by ISIS several years ago. Holland realized the inverted power-structures that we still value in even the post-Christian West essentially come from early Christianity. Holland compared Medieval Christian monarchs to pre-Christian Roman monarchs in the introduction to his book:
“That the Son of God, born of a woman, and sentenced to the death of a slave, had perished unrecognised by his judges, was a reflection fit to give pause to even the haughtiest monarch. This awareness, enshrined as it was in the very heart of medieval Christianity, could not help but lodge in its consciousness a visceral and momentous suspicion: that God was closer to the weak than to the mighty, to the poor than to the rich. Any beggar, any criminal, might be Christ. ‘So the last will be first, and the first last.’ To the Roman aristocrats who, in the decades before the birth of Jesus, first began to colonise the Esquiline Hill with their marble fittings and their flowers beds, such a sentiment would have seemed grotesque. And yet it had come to pass. Nowhere bore more spectacular witness to this than Rome itself.—Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World (pp. 9-10).
I have only read the intro so far, but apparently that is the gist of his entire book, that even non-Churched people in the Western hemisphere value the broken and the weak only and exclusively because of Jesus Christ and Christianity.
Holland looks at this through ethical eyes, but at the supernatural and preternatural level, I have to ask: How did the God-man on the cross disarm Satan and all of hell specifically by the crucifixion? St. Thomas gives all the best reasons, but one tiny thing I contribute is this: I suspect that when Satan realized what was happening on the cross, he must have been devastated to see that God had never been holding anything back from him, even before the Incarnation. Christ crucified and poor with His hands out must not have showed only His love for humanity, but perhaps even His stance in Divinity to the angels even before the Fall: “I am holding nothing back from you. Everything I have is yours.”
And yet way back before time, Lucifer, seeing through time that the Immaculate Virgin Mary would be greater than him, rebelled. Ven. Mary of Agreda writes: “Lucifer, however, and his confederates, rose to a higher pitch of pride and boastful insolence. In disorderly fury he aspired to be himself the head of all the human race and of the angelic orders, and if there was to be a hypostatic union, he demanded that it be consummated in him.”—Mystical City of God, p. 139.
To me, that sounds like jealousy (when you want something another has) but we know from inerrant Scripture that it was actually envy (when you don’t want what another has for him or her to have it) that filled Lucifer’s intellect just before or just at his fall from grace. The Bible says: “Through envy of the devil came death into the world.”—Wis 2:24. (φθόνῳ δὲ διαβόλου θάνατος εἰσῆλθενεἰς τὸν κόσμον.)
Even the old Protestant Bible called Strongs defines the above word φθόνῳ (envy) as being “bitter at another’s success.” I did a word search for φθόνῳ (envy) in the New Testament, and I could only find one place in the entire New Testament where that word in Greek is used: “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another (ἀλλήλοις φθονοῦντες).”—Gal 5:26
If envy is the center of the intellect of Lucifer grasping (or brooding) at spiritual goods not destined for him, and if Christ in the cave as a newborn baby was grasping at nothing of riches or fame (but held onto only Mary and Joseph that cold night) then avoiding envy (material or spiritual) must be something key in the spiritual life, especially in this Christmas season. As I wrote in this recent Life Update, thanksgiving for specific things is probably the best medicine for that.
If it was “through envy of the devil came death into the world” and envy is “bitterness at another’s success” then St. Paul must be giving us the key to a holy Christmas season: “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”—Gal 5:26. In light of this for the traditional Catholic world today, I think this means stopping any glorying in the downfall or errors of other traditional Catholics. Yes, sometimes we must “expose the works of darkness”—Eph 5:11, especially those of doctrinal or moral predators. But in all corrections, we must remember that charity never “rejoices at wrongdoing.”—1 Cor 13:6.