The Three Archangels
Marco d' Oggiono
Some Basic Facts and Clarifications about the Angels - By: Msgr. Charles Pope
Jesus affirms the truth that we have guardian angels: See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father (Mat 18:10). On the Feast of the Guardian Angels, we consider the beautiful truth that God assigns each of us an angel to have special care for us; it is a sign of His very specific love for each of us as an individual. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has much to say on angels. Here are just a few verses:
The whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of angels … In her liturgy, the Church joins with the angels to adore the thrice-holy God … From infancy to death human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.” Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God (CCC #s 334-336 selectae).
All this said, it is important to recall that to some extent we have sentimentalized the role of the angels in current times, and have drifted from the biblical testimony regarding them. I would like to propose a few corrective ideas to balance the sentimental notions we may have. I do not say that sentiment is wrong, just that it needs to be balanced by the deep respect we ought to have for the angels.
1. Angels have no bodies- They are not human and never have been human. Human beings never become angels or “earn wings.” Angels are persons, but persons of pure spirit. Hence they have no designation as either male or female. Since we have to envision them somehow, though, it is not wrong that we portray them with masculine or feminine qualities. But it is important to remember that they transcend any such distinction.
2. Angels are vast in number- The prophet Daniel was granted a vision of Heaven and said of God, gloriously enthroned, A stream of fire issued and came forth from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him (Dan 7:10). A hundred million angels! Of course these were only the angels Daniel could see, and it is really just another way of saying that their number is vast, beyond counting.
3. Angels are ranked hierarchically - The term “choir” of angels denotes not a musical group, but rather a rank. Tradition gleans, from both Scripture and custom, nine ranks (or choirs) of angels in three groups of three ranks each: Seraphim, cherubim, and thrones remain closest to God and serve primarily in Heaven itself (and among them the seraphim are closest to God’s throne (Is 6:1-7)). Dominions, virtues, and powers exert various governing powers; they organize the angels and the cosmos (to include nature) and they hold the power of the evil one in check. And finally principalities, archangels, and angels are those most directly involved with humanity; they also act as intermediaries between us, God, and Heaven.
4. Biblically, angels are not the rather fluffy, charming creatures that modern portraits often depict - In the Bible, angels are depicted as awesome and powerful agents of God. Many times the appearance of an angel struck fear in the one who saw him (cf Judg 6:22; Lk 1:11; Lk 1:29; Lk 2:9; Acts 10:3; Rev. 22:8).
Angels are often described in the Bible in warlike terms: they are called a host (the biblical word for army), they wage war on behalf of God and His people (e.g. Ex 14:19; Ex 33:2; Nm 22:23; Ps 35:5; Is 37:36; Rev 12:7).
While they are said to have wings (e.g. Ex 25:20; 1 Kings 6:24; inter al), recall that they do not have physical bodies so the wings are an image or symbol of their swiftness.
They are also mentioned at times as being like fire (Ex. 3:2; Rev 10:1).
And what about those cute little “cherubs” we have in our art, those cute, baby-faced angels with wings and no body? Well, read about the real cherubim in Ezekiel 10. They are fearsome, awesome creatures, powerful and swift servants of God and more than capable of putting God’s enemies to flight.
And this is my main point: angels are not the sentimental, syrupy, cute creatures we have often recast them to be. They are awesome, wonderful, powerful servants of God. They are His messengers and they manifest His glory. They bear forth the power and majesty of God and are to be respected immensely. They are surely also our helpers and, by God’s command, act on our behalf.
5. What then is our proper reaction to the great gift of the angels and in particular to our guardian angel? Sentimental thought may have its place, but what God especially commands of us toward our angel is obedience. Read what God said in the Book of Exodus:
Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared. Give heed to him and hearken to his voice, do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him (Ex 23:21).
So our fundamental task is to hear and heed the voice of our angel. How, you might ask do we hear the voice of our guardian angel? I would suggest to you that we most clearly hear the voice of our angel in our conscience. Deep down, we hear God’s voice; we know what is true and what is false. In terms of basic right and wrong, we know what we are doing. I am convinced that our conscience interacts with our guardian angel. Now be careful: we like to try to rationalize what we do, to explain away our bad behavior, to make excuses. But in the end, deep down inside, we know whether what we are doing is right or wrong. I am sure it is our angel who testifies to the truth and informs our conscience.
God’s command is clear: listen to and heed this voice. Respect this angel whom God has given to you, not so much with sentimental odes, but with sober obedience.
6. Finally, and perhaps controversially, as I have noted on this blog before, though we often think of angels in “choirs” singing, there is no scriptural verse that I have ever read that actually describes them as singing. Even in the classic Christmas scene in which we depict angels singing “Glory to God in the Highest,” the text actually says that they SAY it, not that they sing it (cf Luke 2:14, in which the verb used is λεγόντων (legouton) = saying). If you can find a Scripture text that describes the angels as singing, please share it. But I’ve looked for years and can’t find a single one. It’s not a big point, and I am aware that some get almost annoyed by my mentioning this, since it seems almost instinctive to us that angels DO sing! My point here is simply to report the silence (not denial) of Scripture on this common notion. Perhaps singing is a special gift given only to the human person. http://blog.adw.org/2014/10/some-basic-facts-and-clarifications-about-the-angels/
Pope: Listen to Your Guardian Angel
VATICAN CITY -- In his homily for the feast of the Guardian Angels, Pope Francis told those gathered for daily Mass on Oct. 2 to be like children who pay attention to their “traveling companions.”
The doctrine of the angels, the Holy Father stressed, is not imaginary, but “reality.” He cited what Jesus said: “I send an angel before you to protect you, to accompany you along the path, so that you do not make mistakes.”
According to the Tradition of the Church, each of us has a guardian angel who protects us and helps make us aware of things, the Pope said at the Santa Marta residence. Oftentimes, we have the feeling that “I should do this; this is not right; be careful.” This, he said, “is the voice of” our guardian angel
Our guardian angels will “carry us” throughout our entire lives. For this reason, he said, we should “listen to his voice; don't rebel against it.”
“No one walks alone, and none of us can think that he is alone,” the Pope said, because “this companion” is always with us.
Not listening to our guardian angel's advice, the Pope said, is like telling him to go away. “It is dangerous to chase away our traveling companion,” he said. “The Holy Spirit advises me. The angel advises me; this is why we need him.”
Turning to the readings of the day, Pope Francis noted how there are two images presented: the angel and the child.
God has given us angels to protect us, the Pope said. “If one of us were to believe he could walk along [alone], he would make many mistakes,” the Pope said. Such a person would succumb to “that most ugly mistake, which is pride,” focusing on one's own greatness and “self-sufficiency”.
Recalling the Gospel scene in which “the disciples argued over who among them was the greatest,” the Pope describe this “internal dispute” as “careerism.”
In contrast to the “careerist” mentality, Jesus teaches the disciples to have the attitude of children: “docility, the need for guidance, the need for help.”
Those whose attitude is more like that of a child are “closer to contemplation of the Father.”
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis put forward the following question: “How is my relationship with my guardian angel? Do I listen to him? Do I wish him good morning? Do I say: 'Protect me during sleep?' Do I speak with him? Do I ask his advice? He is at my side.
Angels & The Spiritual Life - by: Kathleen Beckman
God assigns us Guardian Angels as a most excellent provision to secure us in the covenant of His love, and to aid our fallen nature in overcoming self, the world and the devil. God knows we need such help! The Catechism quotes St. Basil about the Guardian Angels, “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life (336).” The same section continues, “From its beginning until death human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.” St. Thomas Aquinas states, “The angels work together for the benefit of us all.”
The Angels and the Spiritual Life
Throughout the whole course of life, the assistance of the angels given to the soul continues, and according to Origen, “not even sins can suppress it. They can only sadden the angel of the soul (Origen, Hom. In Luc, 35).” Since Origen teaches that we can “sadden the angel of the soul,” it seems proper that we can also gladden the angel of the soul by loving God and choosing to live according to His law of love.
Most Catholics are well aware that angels protect the soul from the ongoing attacks of the fallen angels, demonic spirits. Also, God has assigned a Guardian Angel to help us in His process of sanctifying the soul to become more Godlike. The universal call to holiness is a call to transfiguration or in the words of St. John the Baptist, “He must increase and I must decrease (John 3:30).” Angels help the soul to progress in the spiritual life.
We can consider a teaching that has its source in the Gospel itself, the spiritual life appears as an imitation of the life of the angels and a participation in their life. According to Jean Danielou, S.J., “…it reintroduces the soul into the angelic creation. But the fact remains that the ascension of the soul leads it even higher than the angels. The Christian mystery is the exaltation of humanity above the sphere of the angels. This mystery, which is true first of all of Christ Himself, is true of the whole human nature which He leads along with Him as a retinue.” Danielou quotes Hilary, “The angels, then, appear first of all as aiding the soul in its spiritual ascension. It is through the ministry of the angels that we have received the opportunity to ascend to the things on high; they are lever-bars, sent for the service of the those who are to receive the heritage of salvation, to raise them to the heights of virtue.”
Here’s a practical example of how I experienced my guardian angel’s help in my interior life. One day in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, I experienced the prompting of my guardian angel to consider how I could grow closer to God by asking the Lord for the grace of greater contrition for my sins. My angel seemed to remind me of how the saints exemplified great contrition for their sins even to the point of tears. I began to realize that I was confessing my sins every two weeks in the same way that I did when I first experienced the Sacrament of Reconciliation—long ago! I believe my guardian angel prompted me to desire to go deeper in the Sacrament of Reconciliation—to the root of the same sin pattern, and into deeper contrition for having offended God’s law of love. I believe my guardian angel helped me to grow in the area of fear of the Lord. Psalm 110:11 states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To Him belongs eternal praise.” Fear of the Lord is the awareness that we are in His presence that is holy and just and that we are accountable to God for our motives, thoughts, actions and words. Fear of the Lord is a desire to live in harmony with the Lord’s righteousness and to honor Him in everything. I believe that my guardian angel aided me to grow in awareness of what offends God and what gives Him honor, and to experience much deeper contrition for sin, even to the point of tears. How cleansing those tears!
Growing in the virtue of fear of the Lord is one way to grow in the love of God that “casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).” Fear of everything but God is one of the most effective tactics of the demonic world. The demons aim to mock God by stunting the growth of the spiritual life of His people, to the point that the trajectory of the soul is not upward toward heaven but downward toward hell. My guardian angel helped me to understand this. Late in my life, and spiritual journey did I realize how very efficacious it is to have a real spiritual friendship and deep devotion to my good guardian angel! Now, I offer prayers of gratitude to God for my guardian angel often, and my angelic helper has become extremely tangible to my soul.
In his wonderful book, The Angels and Their Mission, Danielou helps us to understand the important role of the angels for our interior life, “…The soul is associated with the angels in its progress toward God not only in being assisted by them but also in that the spiritual life assimilates it to the life of the angels. This theme can be found already in the Gospel, where it is said that the “elect will be like angels of God in heaven (Matt.22: 30).” The perfect life is an anticipation of this final eschatological transformation. The spiritual life re-introduces the soul into heavenly familiarity with the angels.”
The soul is allied to the angels through its detachment from the life of sense. Our five senses can be portals of light or darkness, and that is why, in the Church’s ministry of healing, deliverance and exorcism, guarding the senses (what we see, hear, taste, touch and smell) is extremely important. Our spiritual life in this world should be in conformity with that which will follow, so that living in the flesh and finding ourselves upon the battlefield of this world, we ought not to live according to the flesh and join forces with this world, but we should already begin to conform with the life we hope for after that of this world. Therefore, Danielou writes, “That is why the Bride of Christ (Church) exhorts the soul to turn toward the powers of heaven, in imitation of their detachment, to attain the purity of the angels. This is the whole of the doctrine. Men are destined to participate after death in the life of the angels; the spiritual life makes them anticipate this condition.”
Prayer & Devotion to My Guardian Angel
Angel of God’s light, whom God sends as a companion for me on earth, protect me from the snares of the devil, and help me to walk always as a child of God, my Creator.
Angel of God’s truth, whose perfect knowledge serves what is true, protect me from deceits and temptations. Help me to know the truth, and always to live the truth.
Angel of God’s love, who praises Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, who sacrificed His life for love us, sustain me as I learn the ways of Divine love, of sacrificial generosity, of meekness and lowliness of heart.
Thank you, my heavenly friend, for your watchful care. At the moment of my death, please bring me to heaven, where the one true God, Who is Light, Truth and Love, lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.