Are they not all ministering spirits sent to serve,
for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?
– Hebrews 1:14
Angels are indeed among us. We know they were ordained by God to serve Him and to protect mankind. But how much do we know of them? The Church celebrates two upcoming Feasts that honor the angels – the Feasts of the Archangels on September 29 and Guardian Angels on October 2. Over the course of two blogs, we will ponder some of the critical information regarding the angels to help us to better appreciate and acknowledge their presence with us.
Who are the Angels?
The Merriam-Webster definition of angel is “a spiritual being serving as a divine messenger and intermediary and often as a special protector of an individual or nation.” The word angel comes from the Greek word angelos which means “messenger.” But let us take it a step further and look to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
From the Catechism, we can learn that “St. Augustine says: “‘Angel’ is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is ‘spirit’; if you seek the name of their office, it is ‘angel’: from what they are, ‘spirit’, from what they do, ‘angel.’” With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God. Because they “always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” they are the “mighty ones who do His word, hearkening to the voice of His word”.” (CCC 329)
This clarifies that who they are is spirits and what they do is angel. It’s okay if you need to read that quote a few times to comprehend its depth of meaning and complexity. Reflecting on spiritual beings takes time and graces from God because beyond the material world it is harder to comprehend than the tangible material world.
When did the angels come into being?
Angels have been around since Creation. Tradition and Scripture tells us that they were created before man since, in the beginning Satan, the evil fallen angel in the form of a snake was present to tempt Eve which led to the fall of mankind. The creation and fall of angels therefore must be prior to the creation of man.
How do the angels serve God and man?
To give the short summary of their service, we look again to the Catechism – “throughout the history of salvation, announcing this salvation from afar or near and serving the accomplishment of the divine plan: they closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot; saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham’s hand; communicated the law by their ministry; led the People of God; announced births and callings; and assisted the prophets, just to cite a few examples. Finally, the angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Precursor and that of Jesus Himself.” (CCC 332) However we know that their service continues throughout the Early Church to the present day. They remain ever faithful to God and minister to us.
How did the Evil One and the other fallen angels come to be?
Lucifer (also called the Evil One, Satan or the Devil) is the leader of the fallen angels and was once a good angel created by God in full goodness. There was a sin spoken of in Scripture that involved a free choice of these good angels to reject God for all eternity. It is the sin of pride that the Devil felt he was superior and that he deserved more than the other angels and man. Therefore, the Evil One rejected all of God’s goodness and the happiness of Heaven for all eternity.
“It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite Divine Mercy, that makes the angels’ sin unforgivable.” (CCC 393) This tells us clearly that their fall was not a mistake by God but a deliberate choice of these Angels to reject God. Their rejection is forever and cannot be undone or forgiven as it was an ultimate, final decision that they made to reject God and His graces. With this choice, Lucifer led other angels to follow in his rejection and now roams the world seeking to lead men into the same sin of rejecting God.
Who are the Archangels?
In Scripture we can read about three specific Archangels, Sts. Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel, whose important role of being prodigious messengers accorded them the title Archangel.
St. Michael, whose name means, “one who is like God,” led the army of angels who cast Satan and the rebellious angels into hell; at the end of time, he will wield the sword of justice to separate the righteous from the evil (Cf. Revelation 12:7-0). St. Gabriel, whose name means “strength of God,” announced to Mary that she had been chosen as the Mother of the Savior (cf. Luke 1:26-38). St. Raphael, whose name means “remedy of God,” cured the blind man Tobit (cf. Tobit 5). (What are Angels?)
Each Archangel has a very specific and important role to accomplish for God. Let us focus in on St. Michael for his critical role in defending us from Satan and evil.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, Pope Leo XIII (d. 1903) had a prophetic vision of the coming century of sorrow and war. In this vision, God gave Satan the choice of one century in which to do his worst work. The devil chose this century. So moved was the Holy Father from this vision that he composed the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. (What are Angels?)
“Saint Michael 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,
cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”
For many years, this prayer was recited at the end of Mass. About a year ago, our Holy Father at one of his Wednesday audiences made the strong suggestion that the recitation of the prayer be instituted at Mass once again given the great evils we see present in our world– the sins of abortion, euthanasia, terrorism, genocide, and the like. (What are Angels?)
St. Michael has power over evil and fights against the Evil One who wants to ensnare us in sin. The St. Michael the Archangel prayer is also often said at the end of a Rosary. Consider offering this prayer more often so that we can seek St. Michael’s protection.
Let us rely on the protection and message of angels that God so faithfully provides for us. Let us recall the important and faithful role that angels play in God’s plan.
Archangels Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel, pray for us!
All holy angels of God, pray for us!
Merriam-Webster quote retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/angel
What are Angels? quote retrieved from https://catholicstraightanswers.com/what-are-angels/
Author: Laura Stephens