This year my re-entry into the noisy world was abrupt. I'm taking part in a conference on "end of life" issues and had to leave the retreat early. To go from complete silence to seeing old friends and meeting new ones, hearing stories discussing serious issues in the culture of death -- well...it's exhausting. I want to go back to the chapel and sit with the Lord and let the world go to hell in a handcart on its own without me.
But a retreat isn't just an escape from the world, it's a silent, prayerful respite in order to come back into the world and continue to fight under the standard of Christ. In fact, The Two Standards was the first meditation this morning and one of St. Ignatius' most famous. Father read the instructions - See Lucifer around Babylon, the city of confusion, seated on a high throne surrounded by fire and smoke. All the demons mill about the site shrieking and growling while they receive instructions to go out into the world of men enticing and seducing them to sin. On the other hand, Jesus stands on the plain around Jerusalem, the city of God, beautiful to behold inviting his followers to join him in winning the world for Himself. How could any soul looking at these two scenes choose the horrifying standard of Satan?
But of course, the devils hide their true natures under images of pleasure and enjoyment. They disguise the death and corruption underneath. No one ever chooses ugliness, the sinner always chooses what looks lovely and pleasurable. He only comes to recognize the illusion when the chimera of loveliness disappears like a mirage in the desert and only the ugliness remains.
This world is a continuous warfare and the angels are fully immersed in the battle. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us:
"It is an awesome thing to be loved or hated by an angel; one hardly less overpowering than the other. Nothing will arise to change that love or hate, there will be no belated discovery of goodness or evil, no error of judgment to be corrected, no rival to detract from the totality of love's embrace or hatred's spleen. The angel loves or hates instantaneously, with all the intensity of its unimpeded nature, irrevocable, with utter generosity or malice, in a roaring flame of consummation of its desire....Clearly, the fury of a devil far surpasses the anger of the loudest, most violent, most vicious of men....it will never be less consecrated to destruction than in its first moment. So too the love of an angel reduces the breathless wonders of our love's first moments to the echo of a whisper, to a light dimmer than a candle's light in the heart of the sun.Those who listen to and are seduced by the bad angels are in for a rude awakening. The devils hate them and want their utter destruction. Misery loves company, as they say, and the devils hold a diabolical grudge against man who can still achieve and enjoy what they cannot. We listen to them at our peril. Choosing the standard of Christ, on the other hand, puts us on the side of the good angels who love us so intensely they want nothing but to help us achieve the glory of the presence of God. We do well to call on the aid of our guardian angel.
Which standard are you fighting under? Which standard do you want to fight under? Believe me; it matters!