A Better Me #4: The Angels

     It is quite an adventure to live in a world that God has created which will never cease to challenge our intellects, our wills, our senses, and our hearts!  To read about the structure and the working of the body, the functioning of our intelligence, the marvelous reality of nature, the  existence of space and planets, the millions, and even billions of years that have passed for all this to have occurred and developed.  Amazing!

      And yet all of this is only part of our world, and not even much of it at all. We can perceive with our senses so much of reality but, through faith and God’s revelation to us, we can “transcend” in our knowledge and wisdom and come to an understanding of the angelic creation.  

In the Fourth Lateran Council and in the First Vatican Council, the Magisterium of the Church defined as a truth of faith that God ”created both orders of creatures in the same way out of nothing, the spiritual or angelical world and the corporal or visible universe.” (DS 800, 3002)

Angels are spiritual, non-corporeal beings who are servants and messengers of God.  Jesus told us that they “always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 18:10). Christ is the center of the angelic world, and they are his angels.  There is a solidarity among all creatures that comes from their being ordered by the Creator to give Him glory.

      They can appear in human form, or otherwise, by divine permission.  But they are not humans.  The world of the angels is very close to us.  But we cannot see them.  They are not somewhere far away.  Our world is filled with them.

     The invisible world that we cannot see is filled with billions of angels who are pure spirits and thus have nothing material.  They have intellects that are different from ours.  We humans rely on our senses to provide sense knowledge which we then use to abstract concepts, and then to unite these concepts through our reason in order to make discoveries and judgments about reality.  But because of our material nature we must go step by step in our understanding.   The angels on the other hand have an intellect that is free of sensual images and rational steps.  God puts the idea directly into the angel’s intellect, for example charity.  The angel then takes and extends that object (charity)  immediately to all of its possible consequences, expressions, relationships, etc.  It does not have to progress in rationality as we need to do.  It instantly knows the entire being of the object (for example charity) that is presented to it.  

      The angel also has a free will that is fixed to an object in an entire and immovable way. The angel does not deliberate and and it does not need time to act and implement a decision.  This is why when the angels had their “test” from God, some failed and became evil immediately by the one bad decision that they made.  The “yes” or “no” to God was made once by each angel, and the decision of each became immediately fixed and unchangeable in its intellect. He is either confirmed in good or obstinate in evil by the one response.  

     This persistence in evil led the devil to tempt Adam and Eve.  The devil “has sinned from the beginning” and Jesus called him “a liar and the father of lies.” (1 Jo 3:8; Jo 8:44). He and his fellow angel devils have a hatred for God and His Kingdom.  Their actions are permitted by God, and the consequences can be grave.  But we believe that, with strength and gentleness, God guides all of human history, and “we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.” (Rom. 8:28)

     On the other hand the good angels surround Christ and serve him to accomplish his saving mission.  St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that “the angels work together for the benefit of us all.” (STH I, 114, ad 30)  The angels are spiritual, subsistent forms, independent of matter. Each angel is his own species, unlike human nature which is participated in by all men. Because of their spiritual nature, they give greater glory to God.

     There is a constant reference to the angels in Sacred Scripture and in the Tradition of the Church.  Their existence is convenient for the perfection of the universe.  Sacred Scripture refers to them from the first moments of the history of salvation: “… and at the east of the garden of Eden He (God) placed the Cherubim.”  Some have proper names indicating their specific mission, such as the Archangels St Michael (“Who is like God?”), St Gabriel (“Strength of God”), and St Raphael (“Medicine of God”).  St Raphael accompanied the young Tobias in his journey to look for a wife, and, after the whole family adventure ended, he revealed his identity: “I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One” (Tob 12:15). St Gabriel revealed his name to Zechariah after he prophesied the birth of John the Baptist: “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news” (Lk 1:19). St Gabriel was also sent to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, to announce her future divine maternity (d Lk 1:26). St Michael was the head of the heavenly army in the battle against the evil spirits (cf Rev 12:7).  An angel consoled our Lord in his agony in the garden of Gethsemane (cf Lk 22:43). Angels announced the Resurrection of the Lord to the holy women (cf Mt 2&2-7).  The naturalness with which the early Christians dealt with their guardian angels is reflected in Rhode’s comment to the people when St Peter was freed from prison by an angel and he knocked at the door of the house.  She heard his voice and ran and told the Christians who were praying in the house that Peter was at the gate.  They replied, “It is his angel!” (Acts 12:12-16)

     My final thought to bring to your mind and prayer is the reality of the guardian angels.  Jesus often spoke about the angels.  When he warned not to scandalize children he proclaimed: “Their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt. 18:10)

     Each one of us has a guardian angel, and the angel is given the responsibility by God to help us in every way while we are on our earthly journey.  What an amazing reality of faith this is!  To realize that you have an angel with you in each moment.  It is no exaggeration to state that your angel helps you in many, perhaps thousands, of things each day! Even if we are not close to our angel, we will still have times in our lives in which we avoid a disaster, and wonder how the situation had not turned out badly.  Thank your angel!

      Our guardian angel is a person, although an angelic person not human.  Persons make and live in relationships.  Think of how your guardian angel can do this with you, (and also with the guardian angel of each person you know). One thing for sure that was expressed by St. John Bosco can help us in our efforts to get to know him. “Our Guardian angel’s desire to help us is much greater than our desire to be helped by him.” (Huber, p. 68)

     Your guardian angel can communicate with you in many ways. Angels cannot directly influence our minds or our wills.  Only God can enter into this level.  But both the good and bad angels can indirectly influence our imagination, memory and senses.   They can use images that promote feeling and sensations within us, and in this way they can influence our behavior.  Just think of the influence of means of communication by films, tapes, radio, television, magazines, newspapers, etc. and how they can affect our actions and thoughts!

     Through a spiritual contact one can unite oneself closely with one’s angel.  Talk to him, ask for his help, thank him.  It can be similar to what can happen when you come in contact with a very virtuous person.  If we come close to a saint, even if we do not converse with him or her, we feel happy and experience a kind of encouragement toward virtue, toward goodness, toward holiness. 

     There are also guardian angels for countries, religious organizations, cities, etc. We can develop a habit of praying to the guardian angels of our loved ones, friends, acquaintances and of all persons.

    So there you have it: an introduction to the angels.  Let us take advantage of their presence and intimacy with us.  Learn how to talk with them.  Learn how to be sensitive to their communication. We will write more about them as the year goes on.  But don’t wait.  

     In August we celebrated the feast of the Assumption of Blessed Mary, body and soul, into heaven.  Then a week later in August we celebrated the feast day of the Queenship of Mary.  She has been crowned by the Blessed Trinity as Queen of Heaven and Earth.  She is also Queen of the Angels, and she loves to help us get closer to them in the little details, the loving details of our daily lives.

Yours in Christ,
Fr. John

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