What are Angels ?
(Latin: angelus; Greek: aggelos; from the Hebrew
going" or "one sent"; messenger)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly affirms,
existence of the spiritual non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture calls 'angels' is a
truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of tradition"
(No. 328). An angel is a pure spirit, that is, an angel has no matter, no body. Each
angel is a person, and has a mind and a will like ours, but angels are of a nature higher
than ours. They are often sent by God for certain duties on this earth, in fact, the word
angel means "one who is sent" or "messenger."
The oldest references to angels in the Old Testament might leave us wondering if angels
are separate beings--or does the phrase "messenger of God"
merely means God? (cf. Judges, chapter 6). But in the later part of the Old Testament and
in the New Testament it becomes entirely clear that they are distinct creatures. We see
this by many references to them in Scripture, e.g., Psalms 148:2; 103: 20-21; Matthew
22:30; Luke 1:26; 2 Peter 2:4; Revelation/Apocalypse 5:11.
The angels were not created in heaven, that is, with the vision of God. If they had had
would have been impossible. But God gave the angels some sort of command -- we do not know
what -- and some obeyed, some did not. Those who disobeyed were fixed in
our intelligence is limited by the material part of our intellect, the brain in our heads.
For a material brain is much less powerful than the spiritual intelligence our souls have.
This means that we seldom see things as fully as possible at once. But an angel has no
such limit, and hence sees everything as fully as possible at once. So he cannot go back
on his decision, and say: "I see it differently now; I wish I had not done
devils, still keep the
great powers natural to a pure spirit. So they can do things that seem like miracles to
The good angels are sent to guide and protect us. They too have great powers. Each of
us has a guardian angel. This is implied in Scripture and is found in the constant
Tradition of the Church. After Peter was delivered from prison by angel, the disciples
said in astonishment: "It was his angel" (Acts 12:15).
Our guardian angels are able to put good thoughts into our minds, and to protect us.
Psalm 91:11 says: "He will command His angels about you, to guard you in all
your ways." In time of temptation they can give us both light and strength.
They never stop praying for us, and they present our prayers before God.
Clearly, it is only good sense to venerate our guardian angel, to cultivate their
friendship, to thank them, to ask their help. So God said in Exodus 23:20-21: "Behold,
I am sending an angel ahead of you, to guard you and bring you to the place I have
prepared. Listen to his voice, and do not rebel against him, for my name is in Him, and he
will not forgive."
Because of their disobedience, the wicked angels were condemned to eternal punishment.
Saint Peter, using poetic language, says: "When the angels sinned, God did
not spare them, but consigned them to the
pit of hell to be kept for the judgment"
(2 Peter 2:4).
As we said, the will of the
devil is fixed in
tries to seduce people, to harm them spiritually, and even to bring them to hell.
wants to lead us from the faithful service of God. First Peter 5:8-9 advises: "Be
calm and watch, for your
devil goes about seeking whom
he may devour. Resist
him, strong in faith, knowing that your brothers all over the world have the same trial."
God permits the
to do this as a result of His decision to create spiritual beings, having free will. To
thwart that regularly would be to contradict His own natural laws. He does draw
temptation gives us the opportunity to show our faith and to trust in Him; it give us the
chance to grow in virtue by the struggle. And He has given us a powerful counterforce in
our Guardian Angels, and the Blessed Mother, and ordinary Saints.
What types of Angels are there?
We know on authority of Scripture that there are nine orders of angels:
That there are Angels and Archangels, nearly every page of the Bible tells
us; and the books of the Prophets talk of Cherubim and Seraphim. Saint Paul, too, writing
to the Ephesians enumerates four orders when he says: 'above all Principality, and
Power, and Virtue, and Domination', and again, writing to the Colossians he says:'whether
Thrones, or Dominations, or Principalities, or Powers'. 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.
Angels and the Church Today
Two days of the year are set aside every year by the Church to honor
angels. September 29th honors the archangels, Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael; and
October 2nd honors our Guardian Angels. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are the angels of
time. They are the Angels of the final time of the purification and the great tribulation.
To them is entrusted a special task during the period of the trial and the great
chastisement. To them befalls the task of saving the people of God, of gathering from
every part of the earth those who are being called to form part of the little remnant
which will remain faithful, in the safe refuge of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Above all,
they are the Angels who reveal the final events described in the sealed Book.
||Saint Michael is an archangel and the leader of the angels who remained
faithful to God. At their head he overcame
Lucifer and the
bad angels and cast
them out of
heaven. "And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels
fought with the
dragon." Saint John speaks of the great conflict at the end
of time, which reflects also the battle in heaven at the beginning of time. Many times
Michael has aided those who were faithful to God; he will again come to the aid of the
Tradition gives to Michael four offices:
- To fight against Satan.
- To rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at
the hour of death.
- To be the champion of God's people the Jews in the Old Law; the Christians in the New
Testament; (therefore he was the patron of the Church).
- To call away from the earth and bring men's souls to judgement. Michael is often
depicted with a scale of justice to weigh men's souls.
For a children's story relating Saint Michael and "The Battle for Heaven"
press the hover button below:
||Gabriel is an archangel whose name means "the Power of
God". He appeared to the prophet Daniel (Daniel 8:16; 9:21), to the priest Zachary to
announce the forthcoming birth of Saint John the Baptist (Luke 1:11, 19), and to the
Blessed Virgin Mary to announce the birth of Our Savior (Luke 1:26 - 38). Gabriel is
mentioned only twice in the New Testament, but it is not unreasonable to suppose with
Christian tradition that it is he who appeared to Saint Joseph and to the shepherds; and
also that it was he who "strengthened" Our Lord in the garden.
is regarded by the Jews as the angel of judgement, while Michael is called the angel of
mercy. Thus they attribute to Gabriel the destruction of Sodom, though they also regard
him as the angel who buried Moses, and as the one deputed to mark the figure
on the foreheads of the elect.
Saint Raphael is the archangel which appears
disguised in human form as the traveling companion of the younger Tobias, calling himself
the son of the great Ananias". The story of the adventurous journey during
which the protective influence of the angel is shown "in the desert of upper
Egypt", from the demon who had previously slain seven husbands of Sara,
daughter of Raguel, (Tob. 5:11). After the return and the healing of the elder Tobias,
Azarias makes himself known as "the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who
stand before the Lord".
Of these seven archangels, only three, Gabriel, Michael and Raphael are
mentioned in the canonical Scriptures. The others, according to the Jewish Book of Enoch
are Uriel, Raguel, Sariel, and Jerahmeel, while from other apocryphal sources we get the
variant names Izidkiel, Hanael, and Kepharel instead of the last three in the other list.
Note that all the names and variant names of the archangels end with the letters "el".
"El" is another name for God, as are "Yahweh",
"I am" and "Jehovah".
||That every individual soul has a guardian angel has never been defined by
the Church, and is, consequently, not an article of faith; but it is the mind of the
Church, as Saint Jerome expressed it: "how great the dignity of the soul,
since each one has from birth an angel commissioned to guard it".
belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity. In the Bible this
doctrine is clearly discernible and its development is well marked. In Genesis, angels not
only act as the executors of God's wrath against the cities of the plain, but they also
deliver Lot from danger. In Exodus, an angel is the appointed leader of the host of
Israel, and God says to Moses: "my angel shall go before thee".
It is clear that the Old Testament conceived of God's angels as His ministers who carried
out His behests. In the New Testament the doctrine is stated with greater precision.
Angels are everywhere as intermediaries between God and man. Christ set a seal upon the
Old Testament teaching when He said: "See that you despise not one of these
little ones, for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my
Father who is is heaven". A twofold aspect of the doctrine is here put
before us: even little children have guardian angels, and these same angels lose not the
vision of God by the fact that they have a mission to fulfil on earth. Saint Thomas
Aquinas teaches that only the lowest order of angels are sent to men, and consequently
they alone are our guardians. Our guardian angels can act upon our senses and upon our
imaginations, however not upon our wills. Finally, they are not separated from us after
death, but remain with us in heaven, not, however, to help us attain salvation, but to
enlighten us through the angelic ministry.