A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Images of angels

The most common images of angels in today’s culture are blank-faced glimmering things with wings atop Christmas trees or cherubs from Renaissance paintings (that seem to resemble the Greek god Eros).

The angels we celebrate today are very different.

Today’s readings present us with images of angels in their multitudes: thousands upon thousands ministering to God as well as ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

Today’s feast presents us with very special images of angels, far removed from the frilly conceptions of popular culture, a close-up view of the grand images in today’s readings.

I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels,
which present the prayers of the saints,
and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One.

Tobit 12:15

And the angel answering said unto him,
I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God;
and am sent to speak unto thee,
and to shew thee these glad tidings.

Luke 1:19

And there was war in heaven:
Michael and his angels fought against the dragon;
and the dragon fought and his angels,
And prevailed not;

neither was their place found any more in heaven.
And the great dragon was cast out,
that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan,
which deceiveth the whole world:
he was cast out into the earth,

and his angels were cast out with him.
And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven,
Now is come salvation, and strength,
and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ:
for the accuser of our brethren is cast down,
which accused them before our God day and night.
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb,
and by the word of their testimony;
and they loved not their lives unto the death.
Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them.
Revelation 12:7-12a

These angels are no Christmas ornaments or valentine cartoons: these are beings of great power and majesty.

Some Christians today prefer not to speak of angels, either dismissing them as vestiges of primitive anthropomorphic religion or boasting of a more “direct” relationship with God.

To be sure, God grants us a direct relationship with Him through His Spirit working within us, but God always chooses to work also in a most special way in and through others: through the prophets, through the writers of Scripture, through the Apostles, through ministers, through each other, and most perfectly through the humanity of Christ.

As God works in and through these tangible beings, so too God works through creatures that we may not always see. That is the way God worked in the days of Scripture. That is the way God works now.

The Feast of the Archangels is a reminder that God’s work is being done even if we cannot see anyone doing it (which does not absolve us from our obligations to do God's work).

There are angels; there are archangels: creatures of majesty and power who we cannot see but who are accomplishing the will of God, just as we strive to do. We may not see them, but they are there and, God willing, we will one day see them and rejoice with them in glory.