“The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary…”
“Holy Michael, Archangel…”
“Angel of God, my guardian dear…”
Talk of angels surrounds us in our personal devotions. The Angelus speaks of the annunciation by the Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the prayers after Low Mass invoke the powerful protection of the mighty Archangel Michael. And hopefully we remember through the day the presence of our Guardian angel as well.
In fact, it is not just talk of angels which surrounds us, but the angels themselves. So, what are they? Well, to begin with they are creatures created by God. They are not the souls of people who have died, nor are they gods, or deities, or malevolent pixies or sprites. The angels are parts of God’s creation, and they share the common purpose of all creation, namely to worship and adore the One who made them. Like us, however, they may be given jobs or tasks to do. Thus it was that Gabriel (whose name means ‘the power of God’) came to Our Lady, and the Michael (meaning ‘who is like God?’) stands at the doors of Eden, of Paradise, with a flaming sword, and is destined to be in a battle with Satan until the end of time. Perhaps the Fallen Angel, Satan, will the subject of another article. By tradition there are seven Archangels, though we only know the names of three, the other named being Raphael in the book of Tobit – the healing of God. The orders, or choirs of angels, from the closest to God outwards, are Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Archangels, Principalities, and Angels. This ordering is part of our tradition, not an article of faith. The existence of angels, however, is, as it is attested to in Sacred Scripture.
As in Church it is always the people who stand up and do ‘important’ things who get the glory (their reward will be not be great in heaven as they have had theirs here on earth – yikes!) but the real backbone of the Church, without whom it would not run so smoothly, are the people who clean, and do the laundry, and make sure the sacristy is stocked. It is the same with the angels. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, important and flashy, get all the attention; Seraphim and Cherubim, mysterious and mystical, have our fascination; but the real work, in my humble opinion, is done by the most lowly. And these lowly angels, those most intimately involved with us, are our Guardian Angels.
At the moment that you were conceived in your mother’s womb, God assigned an angel to be with you. Your Guardian Angel is always there in every moment of your life. They prompt us, they open our eyes to the possibilities in front of us, and help us to see the good that we can do, and the evil that we should avoid. They are the comforting presence when our hearts are breaking, and the stiffening of our resolve when we are fearful and afraid. They are the voice of reason in moments of temptation, and the voice of calm in panic and distress. And as we lie alone and Death whispers to our heart his sweet secrets, which stills our breath, then it is our Guardian Angel who eases our soul from this mortal frame and leads it to the judgement throne of God.
These are the Angels of God who we should look up to and admire, for they have been with us throughout all of our life.
There are little angel shaped badges that you can get on pieces of card. They are called ‘an angel in my pocket’, and are quite popular. Of course, the cynical me thinks that these things are the result of a complete loss of faith of the people in our society – when we no longer believe in God, then we believe in anything, in lucky charms and talismans. And the theological me thinks that it is errant nonsense to reduce these awesome creatures of God to a little bit of metal, and God help you if you did ever have an angel in your pocket – your pocket would explode at the very least! But the feeble and frail me, the human me, thinks that anything which reminds us of our Guardian Angel is a good thing and something that they, our angels, could use in our everyday life.