Paul VI’s denunciation of the presence of the smoke of Satan in the Church is unforgettable. Still today, that discourse seems to be incredibly relevant.
What exactly did Pope Paul VI want to denounce with that statement? By “Satan,” Papa Montini (Pope Paul VI) meant to include all those priests or bishops who by misusing the liturgy or celebrating it badly don’t render worship to the Lord. They celebrate Holy Mass badly because of an incorrect interpretation or misunderstandings of the implementations of the Second Vatican Council, and of the patriarchal synodal documents, too. The pope spoke of the “smoke of Satan” because he maintained that those priests who turn Holy Mass into dry straw in the name of creativity or make it a personal performance, in reality were possessed of the vainglory and the pride of the Evil One. So, the smoke of Satan was nothing other than the mentality which aimed to distort the traditional and liturgical canons of the Eucharistic ceremony.
The pope compared the liturgical chaos, even if in a veiled way, actually to something hellish.
The pope condemned a priest’s craving to be in the limelight and the delirium of almighty power that they were following the Council at the liturgical level. Mass is a sacred ceremony, he often repeated, everything must be prepared and studied adequately, respecting the canons, no one is “dominus” [lord] of the Mass. Sadly, in many priests after Vatican II, and even more so today, not many understand the wisdom of his cautions that the phenomenon to be an attack of the Devil.
The pontiff described this as the “smoke of satan entering through a crack into God’s sanctuary.”
That’s one very good reason for all of us to be familiar with our liturgies, to understand the meanings and symbols in our worship, and when we do not understand something, to ask the right questions!