Today is the Feast of St. Michael and two of his archangel companions, Gabriel and Raphael. The scriptural appearances of these purely spiritual beings are characterized by the earth-shattering descent from another mysterious realm that effects a responding ascent from ours. The exercise of their status as messengers from the Divine mark pivotal turning points in salvation history, especially on display in the interplay between Gabriel and Mary that led to her beautiful fiat. Mary’s saving “yes,” prompted by Gabriel’s annunciation, allowed the Divine Word to become flesh in the great event of the Incarnation. Divinity and humanity collided, and this mysterious messenger known as Gabriel was the bridge between these two worlds.
Our recognition of the archangels as spirits who periodically break into our reality, who form the “stratia” of God-- a spiritual army whose heavenly power is exercised in an indescribable realm far beyond our own, implies the reality of their opponent. The prayer inspired by an other-worldly vision and uttered first by Pope Leo XIII takes seriously the ironic power of vacuity—the life-sucking, empty, and gruesome dimension of the obstinate denial to participate in goodness. Satan, our tradition holds, is the embodiment of this ruinous choice. However, the infectious, luring power of Satan’s choice lies in its ability to masquerade as something good; his conversion technique is successful to the degree to which it remains hidden and offers a false "desirable."
C.S. Lewis often alludes to the idea that if we ever truly saw evil —in its unabashed ugliness— we would be so completely reviled and repulsed that we would never choose it. Instead, however, the master of deceit convinces us, as he convinced Eve in that primeval garden, that his choice is the better, more desirable, even more beautiful one. He sneakily rides on God’s coattails, and our lukewarm desire to have our apple and eat it, too, allows the ugliness of evil to remain in costume… a harmless, anthropomorphic snake, a “red man with a pitchfork and goatlike horns,” a creeping, relativistic morality that allows the individual to reign supreme with his/her claim to the ultimate “knowledge of good and evil.”
Not so for Pope Leo XIII. Not so for St. Michael the Archangel and the heavenly host. They saw. They encountered. For them, the true face of evil was known and this awful face served as a catalyst for heroic mission.
Ms. Lee has much more and it's all worth your time, particularly her conclusion.
Wisdom will be found there.