Thursday, August 6, 2009

Helping James Swan Do Research. St. Cyril, the Church and Exorcism

I have been blogging over on Beggars All lately discussing some of the texts written by Saint Cyril of Jerusalem on the Church and Sacred Scripture. During the course of discussion James Swan readily admits that there are some things that the Saint believed that he does not. He points out that St Cyril believed in exorcising catechumens before they entered the Church. He tells me that he was not. (Which is no surprise) Then he arrogantly questions me if I had been exorcised before I came into the Church. He wrote, "I admit I didn't go through an exorcism before I entered my church. Did you? It seemed quite a standard practice for Cyril. Go ahead and read it in Cyril's writings for yourself." Of course, I responded that I had been exorcised. It is also standard practice for Catholics. He acts as if I, or other Catholic readers would be surprised to learn of such writings from the great Saint.

One thing is certainly clear, James Swan does not understand Catholicism or the Sacraments, otherwise he would never have made such a statement. This is why, although it can be beneficial for other readers who are seeking the truth, to write against false teachings such as these; conversing with someone like Swan for his benefit is not really worth my time. It is apparent that Mr. Swan has not done any real research on Catholicism. He has not genuinely examined the Catholic Church or its teachings. How else could someone not know about something that is so elementary pertaining to the Catholic faith and its Rite of Baptism? Lets look at what Mr. Swan wrote in context.

I wrote, "The fact is St Cyril did not believe what you believe." (Referring to the Church as being the sole teacher of all doctrine, which St Cyril wrote)
James replied,
"That's true. After reading through a chunk of Cyril recently, I admit I didn't go through an exorcism before I entered my church. Did you? It seemed quite a standard practice for Cyril. Go ahead and read it in Cyril's writings for yourself."

I have the Saint's writings for myself, and it is exactly what the Catholic church does and has done for the better part of 2000 years. But for Mr. Swan, it is a shock. Does the Catholic Church exorcise neophytes who enter into the Church? Of course she does, just like Saint Cyril did back in his day. Part of the Baptismal Rite consists of the person being exorcised. This is Catholicism 101. But not for the experts on Catholicism like James Swan, who oppose Catholicism with all of their will, yet do not even understand something this elementary. For him this is a monumental discovery. Let us look at the exorcism prayers of the Church that are used today.

Part of the Baptism in the Eastern Rite, which I am a part of, the following exorcism prayers are prayed upon the candidate before the actual baptism, both infants and adults.

Be rebuked and depart ... Be afraid, come forth, and depart from this His created image ... Depart to thy own Tartaros ..." "O Satan ... through us His unworthy servants command thee and all the power which worketh with thee to remove thyself from him who hath been sealed in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, our True God....

"Banish from him every evil and unclean spirits hidden and lurking in his heart, the spirit of error, the spirit of evil, the spirit of idolatry and all covetness ... May the Lord rebuke thee, O Satan..."

In the Latin Rite we also have the same type of exorcism prayers. For example at Christ the King in Sarasota, when a person is baptized, the following ritual is administered by the priest. I just witnessed a baptism done exactly like this a few months ago.

Part I: In the Narthex of the Church:
The Questioning, the Exsufflation, The Sign of the Cross, The Imposition of Hands, The Imposition of Salt

Part II: Admission into the Church Building:
Exorcism, The Sign of the Cross, The Imposition of Hands, The Admission into the Church, The Credo and Pater

Part III: In the Nave:
The Solemn Exorcism, The Ephphetha, The Renunciation of Satan, The Annointing

Part IV: At the Font:
The Profession of Faith, Baptism, The Annointing with Chrism, The White Linen Cloth, The Lighted Candle, The Last Words of Good Will

The text of the prayers for the exorcism are as follows,

Priest: I exorcise thee, unclean spirit, in the name of the Father + and of the Son, + and of the Holy + Spirit, that thou goest out and depart from this servant of God, N. For He commands Thee, accursed one, Who walked upon the sea, and stretched out His right hand to Peter about to sink. Therefore, accursed devil, acknowledge thy sentence, and give honor to the living and true God: give honor to Jesus Christ His Son, and to the Holy Spirit; and depart from this servant of God, N. because God and our Lord Jesus Christ hath vouchsafed to call him (her) to His holy grace and benediction and to the font of Baptism.

Now we look to Saint Cyril of Jerusalem and how he viewed baptism and exorcism. Once again it falls in line with Catholic teaching. James Swan claims he has read many of the writings of the Saint, yet he can't grasp the similarities between what the Catholic Church teaches and the Saint's teachings.

7. We may not receive Baptism twice or thrice; else it might be said, Though I have failed once, I shall set it right a second time: whereas if you fail once, the thing cannot be set right; for there is one Lord, and one faith, and one baptism : for only the heretics are re-baptized , because the former was no baptism.

9. Let your feet hasten to the catechisings; receive with earnestness the exorcisms : whether thou be breathed upon or exorcised, the act is to you salvation. Suppose you have gold unwrought and alloyed, mixed with various substances, copper, and tin, and iron, and lead: we seek to have the gold alone; can gold be purified from the foreign substances without fire? Even so without exorcisms the soul cannot be purified; and these exorcisms are divine, having been collected out of the divine Scriptures. Your face has been veiled , that your mind may henceforward be free, lest the eye by roving make the heart rove also. But when your eyes are veiled, your ears are not hindered from receiving the means of salvation. For in like manner as those who are skilled in the goldsmith's craft throw in their breath upon the fire through certain delicate instruments, and blowing up the gold which is hidden in the crucible stir the flame which surrounds it, and so find what they are seeking; even so when the exorcists inspire terror by the Spirit of God, and set the soul, as it were, on fire in the crucible of the body, the hostile demon flees away, and there abide salvation and the hope of eternal life, and the soul henceforth is cleansed from its sins and has salvation. Let us then, brethren, abide in hope, and surrender ourselves, and hope, in order that the God of all may see our purpose, and cleanse us from our sins, and impart to us good hopes of our estate, and grant us repentance that brings salvation. God has called, and His call is to you.

Procatechesis (Prologue)

So there we have it. Not only did Saint Cyril not believe in Sola Scriptura, but he also believed the same teaching on baptism and exorcism that the Catholic Church today believes. It is not too surprising since Saint Cyril was a member of the very same Catholic Church that gave him his exorcism prayers and baptismal Rite that gave us ours. Hopefully this helps Mr Swan and his understanding of the Baptismal Rite of Catholicism.


Jen D said...

As a Catholic, I am appalled when Protestant bloggers attack the Church without doing an appropriate amount of research into what the Church really teaches!!

Alex said...

I'm appalled at Protestants in general. :)

Brian Edward Miles said...


Thank you for all your hard work. I read through you exchange over at Beggars All. Your patience is truly admirable, and I am learning a lot from you. Your work builds up my faith. I've been praying for you. Especially for supernatural wisdom, patience, and charity. Thought of you this morning when I read this in St. Augustine's Confessions:

"I believe too that it was in Christ your Son, our Lord, in the Holy Scriptures, which are affirmed by the authority of your Catholic Church, that you had laid the path of man's salvation."

Book VII; ch VII

God Bless!

Matthew Bellisario said...

Thanks Brian for stopping by. I appreciate your kind words.