Monsignor Pruitt truly did encounter a supernatural being in the desert. One with incredible powers to raise the dead and open mankind’s eyes to wonders of the universe. And that winged-creature might very well have been an angel as he said. But Midnight Mass made clear it was no angel of God. What then did the elderly priest encounter in that buried ruin?
The very book the priest put his faith in, the Bible, points to the other side of Catholicism’s eternal battle between good and evil. Because that demon of darkness who brought death to Crockett Island was a perverted version of God’s angels. And it gave the Father the very same offer the Devil tempted Jesus with in that very same desert. But unlike Pruitt’s savior, the Monsignor accepted Satan’s false promises. And in doing so he left himself both blind to the truth and to his God.
(Note: Cited Bible passages list the abbreviated name of the individual book. Then the chapter number. And finally the verse number. Example: Genesis 1:1 is the first book, passage, and verse of the Hebrew Bible, which Catholics like Monsignor Pruitt call the Old Testament.)
The Bible’s Angels vs. Pruitt’s “Angel”
As Father Paul said, angels terrify everyone they meet in the Bible. (Often with good reason.) It’s why each winged-messenger of God assures frightened people not to fear them. Like the angel—bathed in light as all messengers of the Lord are in the Bible—who spoke to the shepherds in the field about the coming of Christ in Luke 2:10. The angel said, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” (A passage made famous by Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas.)
Angels are not above physically interacting with mankind though. Another famous Bible passage comes from Genesis 32, when Jacob wrestles with an angel. (Though other interpretations say he wrestled not with an angel but with God.) Jacob will not let the angel go during their struggle, not until it blesses him. The angel then displaces Jacob’s hip during the fight. The injury serves as a lifelong reminder to Jacob of the battle. A battle that ends with Jacob earning the blessing. This encounter, though physically painful, is a spiritual boon to Jacob. He “saw God face to face.” Yet still walked away with his life.
Like the Bible’s angels, Midnight Mass‘ winged creature terrified the confused Monsignor at first. He also wrestled with the beast. Though unlike Jacob Pruitt was no match for him. And his injury was not a displaced hip. It was far more sinister and painful. The monster ate his neck and drank his blood.
It was only when the Monsignor called out “angel” that the creature stopped. He did not find a meal in Pruitt. But a disciple. One who viewed him as holy and good. It was then the creature fed his blood to Pruitt. The elderly priest’s blessing was not one of the spirit like Jacob’s. It was one of the flesh. As his old body became young again, as it once was during the peak of his life.
The beast Pruitt met inside that lost church buried in the sand was like an angel in many ways. Yet each of them wrong and twisted, a distorted version of God’s messengers Pruitt had read about in his holy book. A truth he should have recognized the moment he woke up with his faculties fully restored. When the sunlight lifted the darkness from his eyes, Monsignor Pruitt should have seen his “angel” for what it really was. For the Bible and God he committed his life had already warned him about what this creature really was.
Darkness and the Angels Cast Out of Heaven
“Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”
The book of Revelation, from which Midnight Mass‘ final episode takes its name, foretells not just about the Apocalypse and Final Judgement, but about the events that ultimately will lead to it. That includes the story from Revelation 12, when the angel Lucifer waged war against God and lost. Also known as Morning Star (Luke 10:18 “And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.'”), God cast Satan and the angels who fought with him out of Heaven.
To the Devil, whose many names includes Antichrist and Father of Lies, God gave “the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. (Revelation 9:1). Satan’s brethren who also rebelled against God shared similar fates. Jude 1:6 says other angels, whether Lucifer’s followers or those who crossed God in their own way, also earned banishment from light. As well as imprisonment. “And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day-.” Their punishments exactly mirror that of Pruitt’s false angel. It too sat entombed in darkness.
The light of God would never harm any messenger of God. And certainly not an angel of Heaven. They would not burn when they stood in the Sun which brings life. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 14 even Lucifer knows this, and uses it against man to deceive. “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”
Catholics like Father Pruitt believe only those unwelcome in God’s warmth, like the former angels banished by the Lord, might be locked in an abandoned church “under gloomy darkness.” But not forever, which is why a followed of the church should always be alert to the presence of evil. The rest of Revelation 12 should have served as a dire warning for the Monsignor.
“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!'”
Even God cannot protect man from Satan forever. Revelation 20 says God “bound [Lucifer] for a thousand years” into the pit “and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended.” But Satan’s imprisonment is not permanent. After that thousand years Satan “must be released for a little while.” And when the Devil’s free he will lead men astray. Including old men close to death who lose their way—and their faith—in a storm.
The answer to whether Pruitt freed a fallen angel or the most infamous among them, Satan, is like itself a Bible passage: open to interpretation. Possibly—likely intentionally—truly unknowable. But the offer this creature Pruitt fell prey to is akin to the one Satan tested Jesus with in the desert.
The Devil Tempts Jesus After 40 Days
Moses ascended to Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights (Exodus 24:18) without food or drink. When he returned to his people he brought with him God’s Ten Commandments. Jesus too had his own 40 day test. He entered the Judaean Desert east of Jerusalem with nothing but his faith to sustain him. It’s these 40 days that make up Lent, the time period in the Catholic Church preceding Easter week. It’s no coincidence Midnight Mass‘ story also coincides with Catholicism’s most holy time, which ends with the great promise of the Church: resurrection and eternal life in God’s kingdom.
At the end of the 40 days in the desert Satan appeared to Christ. Matthew 4 says Satan tempted Jesus with three offers. First to change stones to bread so he could eat. “Man shall not live by bread alone,” Jesus replied. “But by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Then Satan told Christ to toss himself from the top of the holy city, so God’s angels could catch Jesus and save him. Christ refused once more. Saying, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
Finally Satan offered Jesus domain over all of the physical world:
“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’
Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'”
Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.”
Long before a confused old priest wandered into that desert, the ruler of darkness, the Antichrist, tempted Jesus. Where Jesus refused those offers to test or disown god, Monsignor Pruitt accepted them. His “angel” did not renew his spirit. Instead it renewed Pruitt’s physical body. That beast gave Pruitt something the priest had always believed was a gift only Jesus and the Lord could bestow on him: everlasting life. And the beast did it in a way that the Monsignor should have known was an empty promise. Because it went against the most sacred of Catholic sacraments.
Transubstantiation and the Body of Christ
When Roman Catholics take Communion, they do not believe they are merely eating a wafer that represents the body of Christ. Nor are they drinking wine that symbolizes the blood of Jesus. They believe they are literally consuming the body and blood of Christ. Those earthly items become Jesus’ literal flesh and blood through a spiritual (not physical) process known as Transubstantation. This idea is among Catholicism’s most sacred. (And most controversial, as former ordained priest Martin Luther rejected it outright. Not all Christians believe they are eating the literal body of Christ. Some believe his presence is already within the bread and wine they drink.)
You won’t find the word transubstantiation in the Bible. But you will find Jesus talking about the importance of the ideas behind the Church’s doctrine. From John 5:25-29:
“So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. …’
Before Jesus the Bible is clear about drinking blood. “You shall eat no blood whatever, whether of fowl or of animal, in any of your dwelling places,” says Leviticus 7:26. But through Christ’s flesh and blood you will find your place in the Kingdom of Heaven. His and his alone. Not through the blood of anyone else. You can not find eternal life by drinking the blood of your fellow brothers and sisters on Earth. Nor of any angel.
The moment Monsignor Pruitt woke up and realized what had happened, that he drank the blood of another, he should have immediately recognized the great sin he committed. He should have remembered, as Philippians 3:2 warns, to “look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.” Because as it says in Ephesians 5, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.”
We know why Monsignor Pruitt allowed himself to be led astray though. It was not everlasting life or even the glory of God he saw. Nor was it the Kingdom of Heaven or rebirth that he hoped to bring to Crockett Island. It was something far more selfish. Something far more human. He violated his own God’s will to have a second chance at the life he did not lead during his allotted time on Earth.
That small island, having embraced darkness, sin, and Satan, burned like Sodom and Gomorrah. And its people returned to the dust from which they came, as Genesis 3 promises we all will. (And Catholic’s remember on Ash Wednesday, also seen on the series). But not all its inhabitants turned their backs on God.
Ed and Annie Flynn, like their son Riley before them, realized you do not have to give into your hunger. You do not have to act like beasts and harm each other. For unlike Monsignor Pruitt and so many in his flock of wolves, they remembered the teachings of their faith. They remembered what it says in John 6:35, when Jesus said to his disciples, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
The Light of the World and His Promise
Monsignor Pruitt’s life of faith and study prepared him to recognize the true nature of being he met in that hidden cave. And deep down he always did know what it was. The story he told God and himself was obviously a lie. He compared his journey in the desert to that of the Apostle Paul, whom Jesus converted. Born as Saul and serving a persecutor of Christian, he was walking the road to Damascus when Jesus spoke to him. So much light greeted Saul when Jesus spoke the light blinded Saul for three days. With the scales only lifting from his eyes when he become the Lord’s messenger. Saul then changed his name to Paul and began spreading his message.
Pruitt equated his own experiences on that road with that of Paul’s. He even called himself “Father Paul” when he returned home in secret. But the differences between Pruitt’s story and Paul’s are opposites. The light of Christ did not blind Pruitt. Darkness bathed him in evil and sin, a perversion of the teachings he held so dear. He simply chose to remain blind to the truth because he wanted something he was never meant to have. (Which God might have tried to remin d him of when a sudden burst of light blinded him during his confession where he told the story.) Pruitt was not the only one though.
Bev Keane, a false prophet without the love in her heart Christ says you must have for all your fellow sinners, used the Bible as a weapon. Like Pruitt after he killed Joe Collie, she found the passages she needed to justify her wrongdoing. But if she, or any of the misled, had truly followed the teachings of her church, she might have stopped the Apocalypse of Crocket Island.
She might have reminded the priest of John 4:1. It says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Or Peter 5:8, which states, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Or any of them could have remembered the message of Christianity’s savior and his promise of life eternal in his Father’s Kingdom. It’s a life of spiritual rebirth in Heaven. Not one of cheating the death that awaits us all here on Earth. And Jesus promises his followers his Father’s kingdom is, like himself, one of light.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” —John 8:12
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”—John 14:6
Did Monsignor Pruitt bring Satan to his home? Did he not see the Antichrist before him? Not because he did not see him, but that he blinded himself to a truth he did not want to see? And is that why he fall prey to the same temptations Jesus refused in that desert long ago?
Whether that was Lucifer or another fallen angel who tempted him we’ll never know for sure. Just like we’ll never know if that monster managed to escape the sunrise to hide among the darkness again. But not knopwing for sure is only fitting for a show about a man of faith and his church that lost its way. Not knowing God’s plan is obviously one of the few things Monsignor Pruitt got right.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike, and also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.