Have you been one of those who’ve been fascinated by angels? Many have, whether they’ve been into religion or not. You may recall the popular TV series Touched by an Angel, starring Della Reese, Roma Downey, Toby Keith that ran from 1994- 2003.
The Feast of the Archangel
Michael, Gabriel and Raphael
Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Angels have a very big role in the Bible and in our history. Angels have been declared a part of our dogmatic Catholic tradition;. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in Paragraph 328:
The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls “angels” is a truth of faith.
The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition. For Jews, it’s impossible to not believe in the literal beings known as angels because the Old Testament makes numerous references to them. For them, it’s an article of faith that cannot be ignored if you want to be a sincere and devout Jew. Witness the angel that led Israel’s camp and protected them from Pharaoh.
The same is especially true of Christians. In addition to what is given to us in the Old Testament, almost every book of the New Testament shows us that the angels are a real and active force in our lives. And in the life of Jesus as man and his eternal existence as God has numerous encounters with the angels, you cannot believe in Jesus as Christ without encountering angels.
So what are angels? The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in Paragraphs 329-330:
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”. (329)
As purely spiritual creatures, angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness. (330)
Christian doctrine thus teaches that the angels are spiritual beings who were created by God to serve him. Some say they can appear in human form and interact with us, but those bodies are only temporary illusions and pass away when their interaction with certain humans ends. As purely spiritual beings, angels thus do not have DNA and those bodies may feel tangible but are not part of the angelic nature and thus vanish after the encounter because they have no use for physical bodies as we do. (Think of Tobias’ encounter with Rafael). But as created beings, they exist within time as we do and do not know the future unless God reveals it to them.
What is the purpose of the angels?
The purpose of all of the angels is to serve, and praise God, worship, and pray to God. In the process of serving God, they also protect us, pray for us, inspire us, encourage us, and guide us during our journey on Earth. Some early Christian traditions indicate that even after our death, the angels continue to guide us in our journey to our final place, whether it is to Heaven or to Hell. It is speculative that those who have to go through the final state of purification on the way to Heaven known as Purgatory might also have their guardian angels (Psalm 91:9-12; Matthew 18:1-4,10) with them during their time of purification of sin.
And yes, everyone has a guardian angel. As Paragraph 336 of the Catechism tells us:
“From it’s beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life. Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.”
Our Guardian Angels love us and do everything within God’s Will to protect us from harm. Sometimes though we reject God’s protection, and by consequence theirs, when we reject God, we have to deal with the consequences of our sins when we do not repent.
Angels also pray for us. We see in Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8 that the angels continue to sing and pray to God, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts!” We also see in Tobit 12:12 and Revelation 5:8 and 8:3 that along with the Saints who are in Heaven, the angels serve as intercessors for us in prayer to God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:10 not to despise or bring harm to children, “for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.”
Cf. Catholic 365.com for the above information.
St. Gregory the Great notes that angels do not have names unless and until they are given a mission from God to announce a message. There are untold millions of angels in heaven, all created as pure spirits, in continual praise and adoration of our God. Our faith tradition teaches us that God assigns to each of us a “guardian angel” to protect and guide us in our daily effort to grown in wisdom and grace. Scripture also makes clear that at great events of salvation history, God sends an “archangel” to proclaim a message.
The three Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are three of the seven archangels named in Sacred Scripture and all three have important roles in the history of salvation.
Saint Michael is the “Prince of the Heavenly Host,” the leader of all the angels. His name is Hebrew for “Who is like God?” and was the battle cry of the good angels against Lucifer and his followers when they rebelled against God. He is mentioned four times in the Bible, in Daniel 10 and 12, in the letter of Jude, and in Revelation.
Michael, whose forces cast down Lucifer and the evil spirits into Hell, is invoked for protection against Satan and all evil. Pope Leo XIII, in 1899, having had a prophetic vision of the evil that would be inflicted upon the Church and the world in the 20th century, instituted a prayer asking for Saint Michael’s protection to be said at the end of every Mass. (I’ll include that prayer at the bottom of this blog, though it was suppressed with the Vatican II changes in the liturgy.)
Christian tradition recognizes four offices of Saint Michael: (i) to fight against Satan (ii) to rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death. (iii) to be the champion of God’s people, (iv) to call away from earth and bring men’s souls to judgment.
Gabriel is, he who stand before God.” (Luke 1, 19)
Saint Gabriel, whose name means “God’s strength,” is mentioned four times in the Bible. Most significant are Gabriel’s two mentions in the New Testament: to announce the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zacharias, and at Incarnation of the Word when he announces to Mary that she will be the Mother of the Most High and again appeared to Joseph in a dream and guided them on their way to Egypt to flee from Herod’s clutches.
Christian tradition suggests that it is he who appeared to the shepherds, and also that it was he who “strengthened” Jesus during his agony in the garden of Gethsemane.
“I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord” (Tob 12:15)
Saint Raphael, whose name means “God has healed” because of his healing of Tobias’ blindness in the Book of Tobit. Tobit is the only book in which he is mentioned. His office is generally accepted by tradition to be that of healing and acts of mercy.
Raphael is also identified with the angel in John 5:1-4 who descended upon the pond and bestowed healing powers upon it so that the first to enter it after it moved would be healed of whatever infirmity he was suffering.
And let’s not forget our unnamed guardian angels. I’ve dubbed my own guardian angel Claretia— after the famous guardian angel Clarence—in the old movie with Jimmy Stewart it’s a Wonderful Life. All I know is she’s gotten me out of a helluva a lot of scrapes—near car accidents and falls and all. That’s what guardian angels do for us, ya know. They just watch over us Their Feast Day for our guardian angels is October 2nd. Do you remember the prayer your mother taught you? (I don’t know whether young parents still teach their children this little prayer or not.) But you can teach it to them now.
Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom God’s love commits me here;
ever this day be at my side; to light, to guard, to rule, to guide. Amen
And here’s Psalm 91 that speaks of the protection of the angels . . . .
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
I have always recommended this psalm to people who were experiencing any kind of trauma, for them to pray often. It reflects what soldiers on the battlefield have often known: bullets whizzing by them and not harming them. Their angel protecting them!
And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
And here’s the old prayer to St. Michael.
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.