“The most powerful weapon to conquer the devil is humility. For, as he does not know at all how to employ it, neither does he know how to defend himself from it.”
-Saint Vincent de Paul
There was once a golden light, shining as the brightest star in the sky. This light was so brilliant no living creature could behold it except those who were closest to the Throne of God. This light was an angel, the angel of Light. He was created as the second most powerful being to God Himself, the greatest and highest of the angels. God created, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, 9 choirs of angels. They are: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, and angels. This angel, the Angel of light, was named was Lucifer, which means “morning star”. He was a Seraphim, the highest order of angels, of those who stand before the altar of God Himself.
Just as God allowed the faith of Adam and Eve to be tested, so He tested the Angels, His other magnificent creation. What was this test? We do not know for sure. The great angelic doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, speculates that the test of the angels involved a look into the future; the creation of man. God let the angels see that if man succumbed to temptation and fell into sin, that God would become man to redeem them. Tradition tells us that Lucifer did not pass this test. The greatest angelic creation of God, the brightest star in the sky, the “morning star”, said, “I will not serve Thee.”
In this moment, the fate of Creation hung in the balance. God, the all-powerful maker of the Universe, the God of goodness, light, and love, had just been blasphemed. We can imagine the stunned silence that followed this horrifying, breath-taking statement of the highest angel, “I will not serve Thee.” Then, a distant voice, young and strong, called out from among the angels, “The Lord rebuke thee!”
The voice came from the archangels, one of the lowest orders of the angelic hierarchy. An angel named Michael confronted Lucifer in His sin. Lucifer was a Seraphim. Michael was an Archangel. Angels do not have passions, but they can get angry according to the virtue of Justice. Anger is not necessarily a sin, as when Christ threw the money changers out of the temple. It is sinful when used rashly and imprudently, but not when used according to the virtue of justice. And thus, it is written that Heaven was divided, and a war broke out in Heaven. Now this heavenly war was not a war as humans know, with physical objects that cause injury and death. The war that waged in Heaven was an intellectual one.
Now, let us take a quick look at the difference between an angelic intellect and a human intellect. If intellects were buildings, an angelic intellect would be a 100 story steel sky-scraper, while the human intellect would be a house of playing cards. We cannot have any idea what the war in heaven was like because our intellects are so far inferior to those of angels.
We all know what happened next. Michael, the lowly Archangel, defeated Lucifer and his host of followers. Many angels, the bible tells us, followed Lucifer in his sin of pride; they repeated his words to their Creator, “I will not serve thee”. Since Lucifer and his hosts were defeated, the bad angels, or demons, fled from heaven. Their wills were conformed against God, and they could not be in Heaven any longer. Pride is a great vice. It caused the Angels to fall.
I have heard people ask the question, “Why don’t they just tell God they are sorry and come back into heaven?” This is actually a good question that deserves an answer. You see, in our human blindness we are always changing our minds about things because we have to learn. We have to study, go to school, read books, and remember things. The angels do not have to learn, they just know. Remember, skyscrapers vs. houses of playing-cards. The angels knew everything about their decision and all of its implications before they even made the decision! Lucifer and all the bad angels knew that they were going against God. They knew that they would be banished from Heaven, and they understood that they would suffer for the rest of eternity separated from God. Lucifer decided he would not serve God, and his will was set. The bad angels committed the worst sin possible; the sin of pride. When the bad angels were sent out of heaven, God called them devils, or demons. He called Lucifer Satan, and created for them a place of torment called hell.
On a side note, when we say that God “created” hell, He did not create hell out of vengeance for the devils turning against Him. God allowed a place to form where the devils could dwell for the rest of eternity, being separated from the Beatific Vision and yet still exist, which was what the devils wanted. Is God still present in hell? Absolutely. This is one of the chief torments hell, the pain of loss. But again, that is an entirely different topic.
Now humans can commit sins of pride too, and it is pride that eventually lands a human soul in hell just as it sent the devils there. However, before we discuss pride, we have to define it. According to the Baltimore Catechism, pride is “An excessive love of our own ability; so that we would rather sinfully disobey than humble ourselves.” What a blessing the Baltimore Catechism is! Parents, if you are not teaching your children the Baltimore Catechism, you will find it very hard to keep them Catholic when they get older. Our world is so rotten, if children are not brought up knowing their Catechism it is easy for them to lose their gift of faith. If you know your faith you cannot be anything but Catholic! Learn your Catechism, and you will learn how to become saints.
Back to the topic of pride. What was the sin of the angels? They loved themselves more than God! This was their chief sin. Therefore they deserved hell. What was the sin of Adam and Eve? How did the devil win them over? “When you eat of this fruit you shall not die! You shall become like God, knowing good from evil.” Can you see the parallel? Adam and Eve were willing to offend their loving Creator, so that they could serve themselves, not God. Pride is a powerful vice that caused the fall of man.
Fast-forward about 4000 years to Rome, in 33 A.D. Pontius Pilate is presenting before the Jewish people two condemned criminals; criminals that he had the power to release. One is the Son of God, Jesus; the other is a murderer, Barabbas. Pontius Pilate, pointing to Christ, says “I find no guilt with this man! Do you wish to release the King of the Jews?” the crowd of Jews chose Barabbas. It is interesting to notice the meaning of Bar-Abbas. In Hebrew this means “Son of the Father”. What does this mean? The devil is the ape of Christ, and always does things to mock Him. Who is Christ? The true Son of God the Father. Who is the devil? He is the son of the earth, the father of lies, and the roaring beast. The jews had a choice to make, and they made it; Bar-Abbas, a condemned murderer. It was pride that caused the Jews to choose Bar-Abbas; it was pride that crucified Our Lord.
So, how does this apply to us? Every time we commit a sin we say to God along with Lucifer “I shall not serve thee.” Every sin has pride at its roots, but the most hideous of all sins, those of sacrilege, blasphemy, presumption and despair, are sins of pride. One of the greatest sacrilegious sins that we can commit, believe it or not, is receiving the Eurcharist in mortal sin. Hear the words of Saint Paul. “Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord.” What does Saint Paul mean when we are “guilty of the body and blood of our Lord”? It is as if we are crucifying Christ again, in the very recesses of our hearts. Receiving our Lord's body, blood, soul and divinity in mortal sin is just as bad as walking up to the altar and spitting upon the tabernacle. If you are guilty of mortal sin, you must first go to sacramental confession. Disrespect and sacrilegious communions towards the holy Eucharist is one of the worst sins of our times, and there is no more direct way of telling Christ “I will not serve thee” than by receiving Him into your soul that is guilty of one of the sins that crucified Him.
Now let us talk about the opposite virtue, the virtue of humility. How do we learn humility? We learn by looking at the example of the saints. I began my essay by discussing the golden light, shining as the brightest star in the sky. This star fell from heaven down to earth when he told his Creator “I will not serve thee”. However, this star has been replaced. It has been replaced by a human being, a person, the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Blessed Virgin Mary is everything that Lucifer was, and has taken his place in Heaven by the right hand of God. Mary is God’s most magnificent creation. Why? Mary is God’s perfect creation because she possesses perfect humility. She never sinned. She was conceived without original sin, she followed God’s will entirely and fully without question, and it was through Mary’s yes that Christ came into the world. This is why Mary is seen crushing the head of the serpent Satan; Mary is what Lucifer was before he fell, because she was full of grace and entirely obedient to God.
Let us discuss what we have learned. We have learned that Pride was the cause of Lucifer’s fall from heaven into Hell. We have learned that Pride caused man to sin against God, and pride crucified Our Lord on the Cross. We learned that when we sin we choose Bar-Abbas, and that one of the worst sins of sacrilege is receiving communion in mortal sin. We have also learned that the Virgin Mary was the perfect example of humility, and thus replaced Lucifer as the greatest creation of God. Let us strive to increase within ourselves the virtue of humility by praying for an increase in this virtue. Earnestly meditate and strive to imitate the virtue of humility so perfectly shown to us by the most Blessed Virgin Mary and her cooperation with God’s will. Ask her for the graces necessary to grow in this virtue, so uncommon in our sad, hedonistic times. Finally, let us strive to respect the Holy Eucharist more, and to resolve from this moment on never to receive our Lord in mortal sin. For the Praise and glory of Christ and for the salvation of souls, Amen.