The one great omission in these reflections is upon the subject of celestial or angelic saints. Given their nature it is difficult to put forth angels as exemplars for human behavior and hopes. I suppose the topic of pure spirits would deserve a series of reflections all its own. What would make me hesitate to do so is because our teachings about angels are both sparse in content and highly speculative.
The word “angel” means messenger and the chief of these in the Gospel is Gabriel at the annunciation of Mary (see Luke 1:27-38). It is also part of Christian lore that Gabriel will blow his horn at the second coming of Christ when we will experience the consummation of the world and the final judgment. Another angel with which we are familiar is the Archangel Michael. We often invoke his intercession after Mass: “Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.” He is understood as the chief commander of the angels and the defender of heaven against Satan (see Revelation 12). The Archangel Raphael appears in the book of Tobit. As in other cases where angelic beings appear as men, Raphael takes on human guise and accompanies Tobias on his travels and conquers the demon Asmodeus. Notice how he announces himself: “I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand and serve before the Glory of the Lord. Do not fear; peace be with you! Bless God now and forever. As for me, when I was with you, I was not acting out of any favor on my part, but by God’s will. So bless God every day; give praise with song” (Tobit 12:15, 17-18). While it is steeped in conjecture, angels are ranked from highest to lowest: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels and Angels.
I suppose if we ever encounter alien life in the universe, and despite optimistic scientific pundits this remains dubious, we as Catholics will be ready as we are already familiar with non-terrestrial beings— the angels. They are situated between us and God in the hierarchy of being. God is a the infinite and omnipotent Spirit. Angelic creatures are also pure spirits. Whenever they have appeared to humanity, no matter whether as men or as Ezekiel’s entity with wheels, wings and way too many eyes, they do so as phantasms. Angels do not possess actual physical bodies of any sort. They are spiritual creatures of intellect and will. Not composed of matter, they do not have spatial dimensions and they properly exist outside of time. They live in the “eternal now.” Never born, the angels are created all at once. Angels are self actualizing. What that means is that unlike men and women who share a common human nature, each angel is as a species unto itself.
There is a moment of testing in the mysterious duration experienced by angels where they are permitted to freely accept or to reject the “Greatest Good” which is almighty God. It is said that Satan, ranked as a Seraphim, breaks with God and takes with him a third of heaven. These fallen angels are sometimes called devils or demons and they are the enemies of God. They tempt and hate humanity. His fall is terrible as the chief occupation of the seraphim is described in Isaiah 6:1-8 where as six-winged beings they fly around the divine throne praising God with cries of “Holy, Holy, Holy.” At Mass with the preface we join in their song of exaltation.
The angels of God are invoked for protection and intercession. We believe that the Lord has given us guardian angels both over individuals and over whole peoples or nations. They are invisible friends. What they share with human saints is that they love us.
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