Written by Patricia Kasten
Thursday, 14 February 2013 11:49
Here we are, safe inside the church building. We aren't supposed to worry about temptations or the other workings of Satan here, right?
But what's the Gospel tell us? That Jesus, fresh from his baptism, goes out into the desert and — falls into the hands of Satan.
Jesus is experiencing what we all do — maybe even right now. Jesus was tired. He was hungry. And he was tempted. Not once, but three times.
When I was in high school, the building had four stories. Each day, I ran up and down the front staircase. On the second floor landing was a large, colorful statue of St. Michael running his spear into the devil. Many such statues can be found in our churches today. Or maybe St. Michael is in one of your stained glass windows.
Another statue I have, that my father gave me one Christmas, is of Our Lady of Grace. It shows Mary standing on a globe with outstretched hands and, beneath her foot, a snake.
Yes, it represents the snake from the Garden of Eden — the one who tempted Adam and Eve. The one that God promised would be crushed by the woman's son.
The devil is represented in church art in many ways. The responsorial psalm today reminds us of some of those images: snake, asp, serpent, dragon — even a lion. (But remember that lions have mixed symbolism; after all, Jesus is called "the lion of Judah.")
Look around you today and see if your church has any symbols of the evil one. These images serve to remind us that temptation is all around us, that we can trip up and fall anytime. If we're tired or hungry or alone or just plain cranky, we're more likely to fall into a snare. And that means we could sin.
However, Our Lady of Grace, St. Michael and the Gospel today all serve to remind us that, while temptation is rampant, God's grace also abounds. Even the devil knew that. After all, he was busy quoting Scriptures in an attempt to trip Jesus up.
As the Letter to the Romans reminds us, "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Eve fell. Mary didn't. And, through her son, Mary is able to crush the tempter underfoot. Jesus, as St. Michael's image is meant to remind us, will send his angels to aid us and to bear us up whenever we are tempted or have fallen. Just look around and see all the angel statues, pictures and stained glass. They were placed there to remind us of that promise of divine aid.
Kasten is an associate editor of The Compass and the author of "Linking Your Beads: The Rosary's History, Mysteries and Prayers."