The Inside-Out Woman
CHAPTER 21: THE EXORCIST
Before the will of God had instilled in him his vocation, Father Chapas had witnessed an exorcism.
The ritual of demon expulsion filled him with gut-retching fear, wide-eyed awe, and, in the end, with a divine peace. Awe, for he believed as he had not until the experience that a power transcended man; that God truly existed. Fear, for he beheld first-hand evil incarnate; that it was an entity spawning entities; that these could infect and ruin the most pious; that faith often was insufficient to defeat demons. Peace, for he witnessed the grace, the love, the mightiness, the irresistibility, and the invincibility of God; that he, and all people, were of a true Father, and no one of faith, no one who believed was alone, could ever be an orphan; that the true Father would rescue him and everyone from the worst evil, if they, or another on their behalf, sought His intervention; that the devil and his legion of fiendish minions could not withstand the avenging sword of the true Father.
When God blessed him with his vocation, after the Church invested him with his duties, among them the authority to exorcise demons, he believed a day would come when his true Father would summon him to perform the ultimate ritual and save a soul. Thus, Father Chapas was prepared with his observed knowledge, his rehearsed knowledge, his honed dreams, and his studied knowledge of the Roman Ritual of Exorcism. What he had not expected was that demons would possess someone cherished by him, and that God would summon him to redeem her.
Before embarking on his divine covenant, Father Chapas contemplated, in accordance with the Ritual, contacting his bishop in Evansville and laying before the holy prelate the case for possession by an evil spirit. But time, he felt, was of the essence; and, besides, the modern Catholic Church, particularly the American and European branches, had long ago lost its appetite for the old practices; image in the eyes of a secularized public had assumed preeminence. No, it was best to spare the bishop the pain of dealing with a manifestation of evil beyond the holy’s sphere of appreciation and will to act.
Too, he considered enlisting the aid of an assistant in the battle against evil and lamented the departure of Mrs. Diddleman, a woman of faith and righteousness, an ideal stalwart against the lascivious bait of the devil. While the team of a priest and an assistant were ideal, as the devil was a wily enemy, a valiant priest could preside and triumph. But, in cases of possessed women, the Ritual prescribed an aid for obvious reasons. Father Chapas was intimate with temptation. The devil, he believed, sensed he was coming and already was lobbing bombs of temptation in his path. He had succumbed once. Now, though, he was aware, protected by his reinvigorated faith; he would not repeat his infidelity against his Father, who, in his heart and soul, Father Chapas believed had absolved him of his transgressions; his Father, all understanding and forgiving, saw he had committed them not entirely of his own volition, seized as he had been by Satan.
As his first step, he sought to purify his mind and soul and implore the strength of God. He dropped to his knees on the prie dieu with great trepidation. He set his elbows on the leather bolster. He cast his eyes down to the carpet, seeking the infernal scorched circle of sin and shame. It was gone, the carpet cleansed, and the vision reassured him that God had purified his soul. His head bowed in thanks and adoration, his Father inspired his understanding of his physical attraction to Maryam Brick. Simply put, a demon possessed her. She was not conscious of her situation as he had not been of his until he’d made his peace with the Maker. Through faith and the guidance of his Father, his heart and soul had detected the demon. Unfortunately, he responded inappropriately and sinfully. The demon had intuited his emerging comprehension of its presence and its plan to steal a child of the true Father. In retaliation, it had transformed every innocent act of Maryam’s into the worst sort of allurement: sexual attraction and the delusion that Maryam desired him and he her. The demon possessor had attacked Father Chapas’s weakness; that the priest wanted what he had never had; that he yearned to be needed physically; that he yearned as much, perhaps more, to express his gratitude and love by satisfying another physically, erotically, a relation he could not have with his God, who was his Father, the object of his love, and incorporeal.
He struck the bolster, for the agony of rehashing the seduction of the sin was like wallowing in the stench of it; it was like besmirching and spurning the forgiveness of his Father. He would not allow the devil to bribe him with the promise of carnal release again.
“Demonio,” he cried, “estás impotente. No tienes poder. Mi Padre me ha despertado y me ha liberado de ti.”
He raised his eyes and peered into the fury of the storm, into the flashes of lightning and the visible rain big as bullets; and through the fusillade he beheld the blackened skeleton of the tree. It fixed his gaze by resurrecting into a green tree; and more, its green pulsed as a beacon through the gray steel of the storm. It was God smiling on him, blessing his mission, and promising new life to him, the resurrection of his youthful spirit of faith, commitment, and obedience. It was God, all deserving of adulation, bestowing upon him divine praise for his contrition, his piety, and his humility before his Father; and, too, his sinfulness, his courage confronting it in the face of evil’s bold incarnation, bulwarks of his granted strength essential to fulfilling his holy destiny.
He rose from the prie dieu and went to his desk. He reached for the book of rites and prayers that would refresh his memory of the procedure and seal the fate of the demon, when a white light consumed the room and a jolt of thunder moved its very foundation. The book flew from his grasp and struck his head. He staggered from the blow, lurched in time to the vibration of the house, collapsed onto a knee, and hit his head on the desk chair. As the room receded, he heard a sinister, unearthly chortling.
He awoke in the great, familiar, but altered Altar del Perdón. Instead of the Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de Maria, it resided in an ethereal floating world of floor, clerestory, and altar. Marble, washed in sunlight diffused through and colored by stained glass suspended from nothing, warmed his bare feet. He followed the light to the windows and in a spectrum of vivid hues he saw the disciples and multitudes of saints depicted carnally, and the sights were not offensive to him; they pleased him and appeared proper to him, delights ordained by God. He lowered his eyes and observed himself. He stood naked in the house of splendid adoration and he felt not ashamed but titillated. He saw, too, that he was erect. He followed his carmine pointer, his sight drifting along the magnificent floor to steps, and, finally, to the foot of the altar behind which shimmered the devout artisans’ golden exaltation and glorification of God. Upon the consecrated table, the remembrance of the Son’s farewell and precedence to saving mankind, where Father Chapas and his fellow priests transubstantiated bread and wine into the Son every Sunday, naked as he, lying with legs apart, head raised, arms extended, beckoning, was Maryam. “Ven a mi”, she pleaded. “Ven, mi amor, te necesito, solo a ti. Tómame, Mario.” The scent of her and her enticing words rose from her as vapors. The vapors mingled and entwined and fused into a wispy rope. The rope undulated to him and looped around the tip of his engorged pulsing phallus, caressing and gently tugging him forward. He stepped haltingly, as if injured, as if terrified. He sensed a stirring in his heart and he commanded himself to stop, but he could not resist the rope and what it presaged. When he was close, from between her legs thrust the head and gaping maw of the viper and its extended forked tongue upon which balanced the fruit of damnation. But this time God did not forsake His creation, for in that instant of temptation, a shield of piety radiated from him. He commanded the viper, who offered the most detestable knowledge, lust, “¡Yo te expurgo!” It disappeared and with it ersatz Maryam, leaving the altar in golden brilliance. He spun to take in the whole cathedral and around him in the windows the disciples and saints engaged in their true holy acts.
He revived on his knees muttering thanks to God for delivering him. He reached for the book of rites, placed it on the desk, and went into the bathroom. He examined, cleaned, and bandaged his cut, and he washed his hands thoroughly so they would not soil the clothing and materials of expulsion. At his desk, he removed the kit he used for visits to the sick and administering Extreme Unction. Into it, he placed the rites book. He grabbed and put on his black raincoat from the closet, signed himself, and dashed out the door into the storm.
The wind and rain fought him every step of the short distance to the church. He entered through the rear into the sacristy. He removed his raincoat and slipped on a surplice. He selected a purple stole and draped it from his neck over the surplice. From his kit, he took the pyx and went into the sanctuary, drawn reverentially by the red votive to where the sacred species resided. He genuflected, opened the tabernacle, and removed a bowl containing the wafers. He placed four in the pyx, returned the bowel to the tabernacle, genuflected, and hurried back to the sacristy. He returned the pyx to the kit with the book, consecrated oil, crucifix, holy water, and sprinkler. He signed himself. He put on his raincoat and fitted the precious kit in a pocket. He opened the door, secured it shut behind him, and ran for his car, impervious to the wind and rain, focused on his divine assignment, armored for holy war.
COMING NEXT WEEK, MONDAY, JULY 13, 2015: CHAPTER 22: THE DEAD LETTER