The Angels

Angels were present
at each significant moment in the life of Christ.
They are our companions and our guardians.

On the ceilings of baroque churches there is an abundance of plump cherubim with golden wings. In two, or often three, dimensions they escort Christ, the Virgin or the saints, or else are positioned around the edges of the clouds. But are these angels anything more than just pious decoration? For many of our contemporaries, they are a pleasantly imagistic expression of inaccessible perfection, or simply of an escape into unreality. They are the inhabitants of some imaginary "seventh heaven".

But the liturgy, as well as Holy Scripture, talks constantly of angels and makes them into discreet, yet efficient, participants in the story of salvation, messengers of God and mankind's companions. In Greek, the word angel literally means "ambassador" or "messenger". Angels are the witnesses of God's tender attentions to us. As such, they are our guardian angels.

In the Gospels, angels are always present at the key moments of the mystery of Jesus Christ. The Annunciation is probably the best-known scene in which an angel plays a part. [Lk. 1:26-38] At Christ's birth, "a great throng of the hosts of heaven" greets him by singing God's praises. [Lk. 2:13] After the temptation in the wilderness, angels "looked after him" [Mk. 1:13] and, at the moment of the agony in Gethsemane, "an angel ... coming from heaven" comforted him. [Lk. 22:43] On Easter morning, two angels announce the news that Jesus has risen to the holy women [Mt. 28:2-7], and when Jesus ascends to heaven, they are once more there to reassure the apostles that he will return [Acts 1:10-11].

Following the example of Christ's life, the entirety of the liturgy is accompanied by angels, who are the perfect singers of God's glory. The "Glory to God" of festive days is sung in unison with the angelic choir at Bethlehem. During the mass, in Catholic churches, worshippers are asked to join our voices to their song of praise by chanting "Holy, Holy, Holy." [Is. 6:3; Rev. 4:8] The angels are part of that "invisible world" which is mentioned in the first article of the Credo.

Thus we approach "Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem where the millions of angels have gathered for the festival." (Heb. 12:22). We must love the angels, sing praises with them [Ps. 138:1] and pray with them. They are faithful, efficient friends who allow us to understand, that the essential is invisible to our eyes.

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