Slaying Dragons

St George’s Day is a good day for slaying dragons. The Greek word drakon means serpent, and I have often wondered whether all the dragon-slaying and serpent-exiling saints of late antiquity and the early medieval period were, in fact, hagiographical manifestations of or identifications with our fear of evil.

It’s interesting that I lost many follows on Twitter yesterday when I wrote about the distinction between evil deeds and someone who is  intrinsically evil. It may be that some people prefer not to follow someone whose opinions they find eccentric or unpalatable, but I wouldn’t mind wagering that a few were disconcerted by what I said, even afraid of it — perhaps thinking I was playing down the seriousness of evil (though if you read what I wrote you will have seen that the opposite is true). Perhaps I sent a shiver down a few spines.

Why are we afraid of evil, even when we know that Christ has won the victory? I think myself that our fear, which is a salutary one provided we don’t allow it to overpower us, has much to do with our perception of evil as very clever — much cleverer than we are. The serpent in the Garden of Evil was very beautiful but also ‘the most subtle of all the beasts’. We are unsettled by the subtelty of others. We prefer (or say we prefer) plain speaking. The glamour of evil, the empty promises, the specious speech, wraps its obsidian coils around us; and we protest. Unfortunately, we forget the labyrinthine ways in which we excuse ourselves to ourselves. We may not cry out, ‘Evil, be thou my good,’ but we can be dangerously fond of the half-truth, the white lie and the shabby accommodations which seem to make life pleasanter for everyone — only they don’t.

Today, as we pray for England and all the other countries and people claiming St George as patron, let us also pray for ourselves: that we may be ready to put to death anything in us which is not straight or true. The dragons we need to slay may be much closer to home than Palmyra.


10 thoughts on “Slaying Dragons”

  1. Missed your tweet yesterday but wouldn’t have unfollowed anyway.

    Though provoking blog – sometimes though it can be too much to turn that shining bright light onto yourself . I can understand (very much) the fear that brings.

  2. I believe it comes down to hate the sin but love the sinner. It’s that simple, yet so difficult to do in the heat of the moment, when we’re in shock, hurting, afraid. There are those of refuse to accept the existence of evil as a being but on the other hand cannot explain the depths to which some are capable of sinking, atrocities carried out which seem superhuman in wickedness. There are those, too, who are taught and believe there is no sin, just bad choices, it’s all a slippery slope.

    As you say, Sister, we all cooperate by our own sinful behaviour, it’s a matter of degrees only. The remedy is a thorough examination of conscience, a return to God, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, nothing less frees us as Christ teaches.

    I believe Christ has won the ultimate victory for us over evil, but the battle is not over for those of us left on earth. We have to put on the battle dress as described in Ephesians, hold ourselves accountable and that means not indulging in revenge.

  3. There is fear that evil may overpower the good. I have faith that the ‘goods guys’ will in the end prevail, but I begin to feel in these times that the tide is turning. I can and do look inward but feel it hardly enough.

  4. There is also the problem I have …

    Too much shining that light inside can make you see the mouldy old bark instead of the budding green leaves and think who would ever want that piece of bark?

    Why should *insert higher power* ever bother with mouldy old me?

    Sorry – probably too much and straying from subject. Just a thought that’s increasingly occurring to me.

    • On the other hand, shining that light inward also reveals opportunities to grow and live in the Light, illuminates the path you are journeying on. As St. Paul wrote “faith hope and love but the greatest of these is love” – it’s a package deal. Blessings from another mouldy stump.

  5. This may be an aside, but on the topic of evil, one thing that has always stuck with from my( albiet non-academical) studies of Aquinas in his “On the Adorable Sacrament of the Altar” treatise..
    To quote:

    “…we must remember that there are two mystical bodies in the world, namely, the mystical Body of Christ and the mystical body of the devil or
    Antichrist, to one of which all men in the world be-
    1. The mystical Body of Christ is the Holy Church,
    His Spouse, pure and faithful. He is the head of this
    Church, and all the faithful without mortal sin are His
    members. But His members, as St. Paul tells us, are
    all who receive His Body worthily.

    2. On the other hand, the body of the devil is the
    whole assembly of the wicked men, who are, as it were,
    his adulterous nurse. He is their head, and all the
    wicked are his members. St. Gregory says, ‘ The body
    of the devil is all wicked men; and because they are
    hard in obstinacy, and frail in their lives, Job com-
    pares them to molten shields.’
    Jesus, by His own work, and by the work of
    His servants, is always seeking to cut men off from
    the body of the devil, and incorporate them in His
    own. So the devil by his own work, and by the work
    of his servants, is always seeking to draw away the
    members of Christ, and join them to the vile members
    of his harlot. St. Augustin, says, “They cannot at the
    same time be members of Christ and members of a
    harlot; nor can they be said to eat the Body of Christ
    spiritually, though they eat it sacramentally.” ‘ But by
    not eating the Body of Christ spiritually, and by living
    badly, they take the members of Christ and make
    them members of the devil, and so, as far as they can,
    they lessen our Lord’s Body.

  6. I think that evil (whatever you call it) is most successful when we fail to recognise it. Compromise/grey areas/complex isues all serve to allow us the option of ignoring it. Even worse is when it masquerades as good by hiding lies behind a portion of truth.
    People will find it uncomfortable to even acknowledge the existence of evil. Far more comforting to blame bad things on chance/psychology/DNA or “society”. This also gets an individual off the hook – blame something else.
    The beauty of the ibenedictine blog (for me) is that it provokes thought. If that scares people off, it is not a fault of the writer – in fact it might be seen as a sign that they have hit the nail on the head. Dragons may come in many guises.

    Sister, please keep on provoking thought and challenging us (as well as informing, amusing, supporting…)

  7. Thank you for all your comments (and encouragement: blogging nuns are only human, after all). Whenever events turn a spotlight on the beliefs by which we actually live, as distinct from the beliefs by which we think we live, there are bound to be difficulties and doubts. If we had no doubts/difficulties, we wouldn’t be human; and being human is the first prerequisite for being redeemed. There is hope for us all.

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