CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Angels
The meaning of the term in the Bible, the offices of the angels, the names assigned to the angels, the distinction between good and evil spirits, the divisions of the angelic choirs, the question of angelic appearances, and the development of the scriptural idea of angels. The spiritual nature of the angels is manifested very clearly in the account which Zacharias gives of the revelations bestowed upon him by the ministry of an angel. The Bible represents the angels not only as our guardians, but also as actually interceding for us. The foregoing passages, especially those relating to the angels who have charge of various districts, enable us to understand the practically unanimous view of the Fathers that it is the angels who put into execution God’s law regarding the physical world. Though the angels who appear in the earlier works of the Old Testament are strangely impersonal and are overshadowed by the importance of the message they bring or the work they do, there are not wanting hints regarding the existence of certain ranks in the heavenly army.
We have a hint of such excesses in the Book of Enoch, wherein, as already stated, the angels play a quite disproportionate part. Similarly Josephus tells us that the Essenes had to take a vow to preserve the names of the angels. These seven Angels of the Churches are generally regarded as being the Bishops occupying these sees. If we now join these two lists together we have five Orders, and adding Angels and Archangels, Cherubim and Seraphim, we find nine Orders of Angels. In some of these passages, it is true, the angels may be regarded as avengers of God’s justice without therefore being evil spirits.
According to Sayce, the engrafting of Semitic beliefs on the earliest Sumerian religion of Babylonia is marked by the entrance of angels or sukallin in their theosophy. That the Persian domination and the Babylonian captivity exerted a large influence upon the Hebrew conception of the angels is acknowledged in the Talmud of Jerusalem, Rosch Haschanna, 56, where it is said that the names of the angels were introduced from Babylon.
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Holy Scripture contains numerous examples that witness to the existence of angels and their manifestations in relation to the fulfillment of particular missions. The well-known example of Mary’s Annunciation involved an angel sent by God to announce that the moment had arrived for the fulfillment of the coming of God’s Son: He would be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of Mary as man. Angels were also the witnesses and heralds of Jesus’ Resurrection. With Sacred Scripture as its foundation, the Church affirms the existence of angels and puts into light their mission in relation to collective salvation in history as well as individual salvation. Holiness as the fruit of grace and love, is shared by the angels.
It is not shared by all for in the beginning there was a rebellion, and those unfaithful to God and his project of salvation were excluded. Without manipulating Scripture, we can say that participation in God’s holiness can be understood in relation to the redemptive holiness which springs forth from Christ, by means of and in sight of which the angels were created. Such participation was held in a specific way by the angels. This dynamic refers not only to the Ecclesial Community as such, but also individual Church members. As part of the historical and ecclesiological profile it must also be mentioned that angels journey together with the Church in her mission of salvation and at the same time travel side-by-side with her members; all human beings have their own guardian angel to guard, protect and enlighten them.
In her liturgy, the Church prays to the angels for herself and others, calling upon their protection and intercession: it is sufficient to follow the liturgy of the Mass to be convinced. The same Church makes the special prayer to the guardian angel available to the faithful and to all who wish to recite it.
– 8-1 Our Guardian Angels
In the same way as the Angels were especially Israel’s guardians in guiding them out of Egypt, it may be that the Angels minister in a guardian capacity to us especially in leading us out of the world to baptism. The Angels in the court of Heaven are watching us, almost with baited breath. Moses being gathered to his people by an Angel may also refer to his spirit/Angel returning to where the guardian Angels of his ancestors were. If the RV is correct, we have a picture here of our Angels thanking God in advance for the salvation which He has prepared for us their charges. Similarly the great Angel of the Exodus appears to have been Moses’ personal guardian because Moses and the Angel were working for the same ends.
So we see the great fear our guardian Angel has that we will return to Egypt, and therefore He gives us trials which will prevent this, although at the time we feel like Israel that the trials are actually enough to make us want to return to the world. There appear to be guardian Angels not only for individuals but also for groups of believers- e. g. Israel, or an ecclesia. The stars of the ecclesias in Rev. 1:20 are defined as the Angels of the ecclesias.
The seven lamps are the seven spirits / Angels of God before His throne- yet they are clearly representative of the 7 ecclesias on earth of which Revelation has earlier spoken. The apparent rebuke of the Angels is because they are so closely associated with their charges. Israel came to rely on God’s command to the Angels to provide manna for their life. Because of the great importance of Angels or a specific Angel in our lives, many of God’s people seem to have conceived of God in terms of an Angel.