The Catholic Thing
The Prince of this World Print E-mail
By James V. Schall, S. J.   
Monday, 08 March 2010

A student at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, New York, asked if I had a copy of Jacques Maritain’s Heroic Democracy, which I had cited in the Life of the Mind. But I no longer could find the text in my Maritain files.

While looking, however, I came across a booklet by Raïssa Maritain – Jacques’ wife – entitled The Prince of This World. It was “Printed & Published by St Dominic’s Press, Ditchling, Hassocks, Sussex,” in June, 1936. This essay was “Done into English by Gerald B. Phelan,” at the Pontifical Medieval Institute in Toronto. Though I have had this essay for years, I do not recall ever having read it.

Raïssa Maritain’s essay is scholarly. She was careful about what she said and explained her sources. Lucifer, she remarked, was not the most exalted of the angels, but rather Princeps of those lower three ranks of angels who were responsible for the cosmos. He was properly the “Prince of This World,” commissioned to work out its good in original creation, particularly of man in “the gaiety of love.” When he sinned, he rejected the position to which he was assigned. “Lucifer…never preformed the beneficent ministry for which he was destined.”

Raïssa Maritain says of Lucifer, in words on which we can well meditate: “Himself seduced by the fullness of his native gifts, he is the first of those who, until the end of time, will choose the finite present rather than the infinite to come. He preferred, and still prefers, hell to the alms of grace. Author of despair! Prince forever of illusory independence!”

That is a remarkable insight into the mind of Lucifer. It is not unlike Lucifer’s dealing with Michael the Archangel in Raymond Dennehy’s novel Soldier Boy. Lucifer, the bearer of light, prefers the “finite present” to the “infinite to come.” This preference is the modern mind, which, as Leo Strauss said, is based on a rejection of eternity.

Final happiness is not in this world. It can never be found there either by science or politics. Yet that is the only alternative of anyone who rejects a transcendent order that includes each human being within the end for which he is created, namely, to live the inner life of the Triune God in the grace granted to him.

Lucifer is a Principality, not an Archangel or Angel. He retains his intelligence even in his fall: “Principality beseems the nature of Satan. Having lost it, perpetual Pretender to all Empires that he is, he seeks without respite to regain it. It becomes him, also, to haunt this world: God allows it him, because it is good that every spirit should be tried.” God’s beneficence and justice do not cease because of Satan’s or man’s sin.

The key question of God to all creatures is: “Lovest thou Me?” With the sin of Adam, “the treacherous angel recovers in part. . .what he lost by his own sin. He re-conquers by a new title his dominion not indeed over the whole order of nature, but over sinful man and over material creation in so far as it is man’s domain and may serve sin.” Lucifer is now in charge of that world for which Christ, on His coming, will not pray.

Man has no debt to Lucifer, but he does have a debt to God. Lucifer was intended to be a friend of man, but became his seducer. Lucifer “makes one love the passing moment above eternity, uncertainty above truth. He persuades us that we can only love creatures by making Gods of them. He lulls us to sleep; he makes us dream (he interprets our dreams); he makes us work.” We all have some familiarity with these effects.

We are saved, however, by the Cross which, in effect, takes up and transforms all the effects of evil in the world onto the divine Son. “Christ did not take up the Cross for Himself alone, leaving us the peace of the world and the profits of His sacrifice. We are in Him and of Him – His very self – for we are His members.” Thus, we too atone.

Raïssa Maritain, citing Irenaeus, said that “when the Father, in His sovereign equity, decreed the work of our redemption, He still willed to act in justice to the Angel whom His justice punished. To the end that all justice might be accomplished, that it might abound, nay, super-abound.” Christ accepted the humiliations that Satan rejected.

“Did Lucifer know that the Word would become Flesh? Was this mystery laid before the faith of the Angels as it was before ours? We may surmise it. But he did not foresee that God would so completely violate His glory.” This “violation,” this Cross, is our redemption which we, too, need to see and accept.

James V. Schall, S.J., a professor at Georgetown University, is one of the most prolific Catholic writers in
America. His most recent book is The Mind That Is Catholic.

(c) 2010 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info at thecatholicthingdotorg

The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Rules for Commenting

The Catholic Thing welcomes comments, which should reflect a sense of brevity and a spirit of Christian civility, and which, as discretion indicates, we reserve the right to publish or not. And, please, do not include links to other websites; we simply haven't time to check them all.

Comments (8)Add Comment
written by Nick, March 09, 2010
The Church teaches that Lucifer was once an angel, who, out of envy, in pride, rejected God, in spite of his superhuman knowledge of God's own Goodness, whereby he chose Hell and is now a demon, a devil, an evil spirit, full of malice toward God and man, and though evil God permits him to tempt mankind so that out of temptation He can draw man's fidelity to God and increase man's share in His Beatitude. Satan has been defeated by Christ crucified and risen, so we shouldn't fear the Enemy at all.
written by Joseph, March 09, 2010
Interesting take, father. I'd recommend "Dialogues with the Devil" by Taylor Caldwell, which is an imaginary verbal duel between Michael and Lucifer. Although Michael "prevails" in the end, Lucifer comes off as a brilliant debater, and quite persuasive in making his main argument that Man is not worthy of God's love. When one looks around at so many people who are "unlovable," much less likable, Lucifer's points are almost, ALMOST, convincing.
City of God
written by Mr. M Savage, March 09, 2010
Ven. Mary of Agreda says that Rev. 12 is of events in the past: “And a great sign appeared in heaven”. After this St Michael “gave battle”. This last chapter expounds Genesis 1: “and he divided the light from the darkness”, the separation of the good and bad angels, says our writer (sun being day 4).

How many revolted? “the third part of the stars of heaven”. At the reformation, Europe was spilt 2:1 Catholics to Protestants – same still today!
written by Lee, March 09, 2010
Any idea where I might be able to locate a copy of this essay?
Reprint available??
written by G.R. Mead, March 09, 2010
Thank you for bringing this lovely little work to attention. It seems quite worthy of it.

It would be wonderful if her booklet could be reprinted, or if it is in print somewhere. Any leads?
The Devil still serves Go
written by Grandpa Tom, March 10, 2010
In The Dialogue Of Catherine of Siena, which is the mystical counterpart to Dante's Divine Comedy, God tell Catherine the Devil is His minister to torture the dammed, and in this life to temp us so that we may conquer, and not be conquered. God allowed Catherine a moment to see the Devil in His real form, a sight so painful the hearts of men cannot imagine it. Catherine said she would rather walk on a road of fire till the day of judgement rather than see him again. Trust in Jesus Christ
Senior Executive Service
written by Dennis, March 10, 2010
How disappointing to find out that Lucifer is only an SES 2 in the angelic civil service!
Whispers of Tolkien
written by Bill, March 10, 2010
Thank you! This reminds me of the stories in Tolkien's Silmarillion. He has angelic beings (Ainur) singing the visible world into being at the command of the One God. But one of these Ainur, named Melchor, disrupts the Song. When mountains are made he tears them down, when oceans are filled he empties them. He's the perennial party pooper! Melchor is a type of Lucifer, who can only twist and decay what was made good and holy. Powerful reflections! Thanks again!

Write comment
smaller | bigger

security code
Write the displayed characters


Other Articles By This Author