The Psalmist sang: “In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord” (Ps. 138). When God created heaven and earth he also created corporeal and spiritual beings. “The glory of God is reflected in his angels (preface). The Christian faith teaches about the real existence of heavenly courts of hundreds of angels in the spiritual world. They are spirit and have names. God assigned them work to do in heaven and on earth. In Christianity we ask many questions about these angels and the role they play in our faith and in the life of the Church.
What are angels?
Another appellation for angels in Christianity is “the glorious ones” (2 Pet. 2:10; Jude 8-9). Angels are sons of God or spiritual beings of the spiritual world (as opposed to “Sons of Darkness” or the fallen and rebellious angels) which are spoken of in both the Old and New Testament of the Holy Bible (Job. 38:7; Acts. 7:53). But the Son, Jesus, is superior to them and they pay him homage (Heb. 1:5-8). Human beings are very close in nature to angels and are called upon to become angels to others. St. Paul considered himself as an angel to the Galatians (Gal. 4:4). Often we hear somebody remark: “You are an angel!” when we receive a sweet, timely and surprising help or deliverance from someone to save us in a desperate situation. If Christians love one another and become an angel to somebody who needs us, the angels will envy us. Love is above the eloquence of angels (1 Pet. 1:12. This gives us some light and clue regarding who the angels are and what their mission is. As a matter of fact, angels do not have human bodies though they may disguise themselves like humans as in Genesis 18:2 when they were entertained by Abraham and they promised his family a child. ‘Angels’ denote the function of these spiritual beings. In the N.T (Mt. 18:10) the angels “always behold the face of the Father who is in heaven”, and in Ps. 103:20 they are “the mighty ones who do God’s word, hearkening to the voice of his word.
The following are some biblical references about the angels in Christianity, who are spiritual creatures, who “have intelligence and will” (St. Augustine). They are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in power and perfection all visible creatures.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 328, 330). Is. 17:27 refers to God who watches over the ‘hosts of highest heaven’. (Dan. 4:10; 7:10-14; Jb. 1:6; 2:1; Ps. 89:6; Ps. 103:20-21; Ps. 8:6; Tb. 3:17; 12:15-20; Dan. 8:15-16; 9:21-27; Lk. 15:10; Mt. 25:31).
Two Groups and nine choirs of Angels
There are nine choirs of angels: Seraphin, Cherubin, the Thrones, the Dominious, the Powers, the Principalities, the Heavenly Virtues, Arch angels and Princes. These choirs of angels form two groups:
- Holy Angels – those greater in light and power than men (2 Pet. 2:11) standing in the presence of God and are God’s messengers.
- Fallen Angels – those who have sinned (2 Pet. 2:4) and who are like wild animals 2 Pet. 2:12; Gen. 6:1-4. They are the fallen angels (Jude 6-7). They can disguise themselves as men (Gen. 19:1-11). For example, those that came to the city of Sodom.
There are seven archangels mentioned by Dionysius, the Book of Tobit and the Book of Revelation. Three of these have not been named but may probably be Raquel, Jophiel and Chamuel. But four are given names: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael (and Uriel?). The feast of archangels falls on October 2. The first biblical reference to guardian angel sent by God to guard his people is in Tob. 3:17 and 12:17-20. The archangel Raphael (which means God heals) reveals himself as: “I am Raphael one of seven archangels who enter in the presence of God and serve (12:15). He grants safety to Tobiah on his travels. He also delivers Sarah from the wicked torments of the demon and makes her a good and happy wife. Raphael cures Tobias from the blindness which afflicted him.
Michael (“Who is like the Lord?”) is a warrior against evil, “captain of the heavenly host” (Revelation 12:7-9), and protector of Israel (Daniel 12:1) and the Church. Gabriel (“God is mighty”) is a messenger who announces the Messiah’s coming and the births of John the Baptist and Jesus (Luke 1): (Daniel 9).
Mission and Role of Angels
Their mission is to serve God in his presence day and night. They are also at the beck and call of God to be sent as his divine messengers to help human beings who are to obtain salvation (Heb. 1:14). They helped Elijah (1 kgs. 19:4-8) Lot, Abraham Gen. 22:7), Hagar and her child, Ishmael (Gen. 21:17) Tobit and the child Jesus in his infancy (Lk. 1:26-38; Mt. 2:13-20). The whole Church joins with the angels and the saints to adore the thrice-holy God (Lk. 2:14; Is. 6:13). They carry the prayers, cries for help and daily offerings of the children of men to present them to God (Rev. 8:34) so that they may become acceptable. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “from infancy to death human life is surrounded by the watchful care and intercession of the angels (CCC #336; Mt. 18:10; Zech. 1:12; Ps. 34:7). Each believer has an angel who is protecting him in sleep, who leads and protects him/her daily to eternal life (St. Basil). God sends them to minister to human beings to heal us, to comfort us, to deliver us from the power of Satan (Tob. 12:12; Job. 33:23; Zech. 12:12; Dan. 3:49-50). In the end the angels carry the souls of the faithful into Paradise to behold the face of God for ever. Each day you may wish to invoke the help of an angel through making a simple prayer: “Angel, i need your help”, or for example in the prayer below to the Archangel Michael, defender in battle. Angels are not to be worshipped but to be invoked for help because they are close to us even without being aware of it.
Angel of God, my guardian dear,
To you God has entrusted my care.
Ever this day be at my side
To light and guide,
To rule and guard. AMEN.