WE have just celebrated the feast of the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael (September 29). That of the Holy Guardian Angels is on October 2. It’s good that we pause and focus our attention to a very important part of our spiritual reality that we often take granted. Angels exist. They are real. We need to say this now since angels, if they are ever referred to nowadays, are often considered as mere figments of our imagination that at best can be used as literary and sentimental devices.
Obviously, faith is needed to believe in angels. They are creatures whose presence goes beyond what our senses can perceive. They can however assume sensible forms as mentioned several times in the Bible. But essentially, they are pure spirits. In this regard, it might be good to cite that episode when Christ met Nathanael for the first time. (Jn 1,47-51) It’s a concrete example of Christ mentioning angels, thereby confirming the existence of angels not only by the highest authority we can have, but the very source of authority himself. When the faith of Nathanael was stirred when Christ told him something mysterious, Christ told him: “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? Amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” Besides, testimonies of saints and many other men and women through the ages are abundant regarding their encounters withangels, as well as demons. Angels exist. They are real. It’s good to be aware of this reality and conform ourselves to it accordingly.
As spirit, angels are pure intelligence and will. That’s what we have in common in them. That’s why we are also spiritual in nature, except that ours is fused together with our materiality. As pure spirits, angels are not subject to space and time as we are. Their knowing, willing and loving, which are the spiritual operations, are done in an instantaneous and intuitive way. And the God that they know, will and love is held in a definitive way.
In our case, our knowing, willing and loving go through stages. There is some kind of processing, of sensing and apprehending, then judging, then reasoning and concluding. Though angels are angels and men are men, two different creatures that should not be compared unfairly, there is also good reason that we should try to be angelic, in the sense that, like angels, what we know, will and love should be done and held in an intuitive, definitive and conclusive way as much as possible. Thus, some saints are described as angelic because their thinking and loving approximate the way angels know and love. They only had God in their mind, heart and intentions, and in their senses, words and deeds. Everything else was always referred to God.
Obviously, the difference we have with the angels has to be maintained, in the sense that our knowing and loving which have God as the primary object, the beginning and end, should be incarnated, materialized and translated into deeds, and not just kept in the spiritual level, in the world of ideas and intentions. In other words, we have to strengthen what we have in common with the angels, but doing them in accordance to our nature which is a blend between the spiritual and the material. In this regard, we have to sharpen our intellectual, willing and loving powers, seeing to it that they are firmly grounded on God and clearly oriented toward him. We have to be wary of our tendency to be entangled with the material dimension of our life to the point of making the material, temporal and worldly as the leadingprinciple of our life.
But we also have to make sure that just as we have to strengthen what we have in common with the angels, we also have to strengthen what makes us different from them. We have to consider our materiality and temporality as important as our spirituality.
We as man are a union of body and soul, constituted both materially and spiritually. While we make a distinction between the two, in our life they are meant to be together. While there is a temporary separation of the two at our death, there will be a reunification at the end of time with the resurrection of the body. We have to foster a great devotion to the holy angels, making that devotion a source of many practical resolutions, freed from sheer sentimentalism.