The highest Choirs of Angels who dwell closest to the Throne of God are the Seraphim, the Cherubim and the Thrones. All these holy angels are pure spirits of contemplation. Their holiness is so intense that the human mind is incapable of comprehending their levels of adoration and participation in the Divinity.
It was during Isaiah’s vision, that we are made aware of the Seraphim angels. Isaiah goes on to describe these attendants or guardians in detail as they appeared in his vision, around the heavenly throne in a double choir and the volume of their chorus, while locked in an eternal song of praise, glory and majesty for the Lord of Heaven. Isaiah also states that the foundation of the temple was shaken by the extreme vocal power of the Seraphim, as they relentlessly sang “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts: All the earth is filled with his glory.” In this vision, mankind gets a glimpse of what the Seraphim looks like, with Isaiah describing them. “When I looked, I saw God resting upon his mighty throne, high and exalted. His long white flowing robes filled the entire sanctuary.
And hovering above the Lord, were the Seraphim angels. Each of these beings had six wings, and with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with the remaining two they flew” (Isaiah 6:2). In this Old Testament passage, Isaiah is clearly referring to the great Temple of Jerusalem, which is also called the First Temple, or Solomon’s Temple, which was built around the time of 960 BC.
Only God can say in what order of importance the angels take. The Seraphim are included in the ranks of the company of angels, in the Celestial Hierarchy spoken of in Hebrews 12:22. Their number is considerable. The title of Seraphim is applied to those angels assigned to God’s altar and they are connected with the holiness of God. These beings also served as agents of purification for Isaiah as he began his prophetic ministry, they relate to sacrifice and cleansing and are associated with fire. They are sometimes referred to as “burning fires of love”. The Hebrew word for Seraphim means a burning that is poisonous (serpent); a seraph or symbol creature (from their copper colour); fiery serpent. One placed a hot coal against Isaiah’s lips with the words, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for” (Isaiah 6:7). Similar to the other types of holy angels, the Seraphim are totally obedient to God.
We should often perform acts of love, and ask Jesus, the King of love through Mary, the Mother of holy love, never to let the sacred fire be extinguished in our souls.
The Seraphim’s love and holiness is so great that it fills all creation in and through God. The intense love of the Seraphim protects the whole cosmos. It spills over and guards the entire world as it pours down through the lower eight Choirs of Angels. Each Seraphim reflects God in a special way, as do all angels. And yet, the Seraphim are angels of the purest and deepest created level of adoration.
All the angels honour Our Blessed Mother as their Queen. The first hierarchy of angels is so high and divinely intimate that no other creature other than Our Lady and St Michael the Archangel has access to these angels directly. Our Blessed Mother The Queen of Angels has direct access to God through Jesus without the use of any angels. St Michael obtained his place through his great victory over the rebellious angels. Those who are able to pray fervently to the level of a burning fire of love for God have their prayer transported by Seraphic angelic communication. Our Blessed Mother sends the Seraphim to gather our prayers and transport them into her holy Immaculate Heart, where her prayer requests are communicated directly to God, through her Son Jesus Christ.
Those who are entrusted by God with extraordinary unique missions for the world may be accompanied by angels of the Seraphic Choir, such as St Faustina. Before the outbreak of World War II St Faustina was accompanied by an invisible Seraphim because of her mission to spread the Divine Mercy Devotion. St Faustina was travelling through Poland with the Seraphim on a train and as she gazed out of the window, she became aware of angels who were poised above each church the train passed.
No evil or harm can penetrate the Seraphim’s coat of amour; they protect the mystery of those who love and do the Will of God. Jesus said to St Faustina, “Speak to the world about My mercy, after it will come the Day of Justice. You will prepare the world for My final coming. Tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice, is near.”
We should only worship God, not the angels. We may ask angels for help, protection, and guidance. They are delighted when we call on them for assistance (Colossians 2:18).
In Catholic theology, the cherubim are the second highest rank in the angelic hierarchy, below the Seraphim.
The cherubim are one of the company of angels spoken of in Hebrews 12:22 which have an indefinite number. It is important to know the classification of angels to better understand the organization of God.
Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica (I.108) followed the Hierarchia (6.7) in dividing the angels into three hierarchies each of which contains three orders, based on their proximity to God, corresponding to the nine orders of angels recognized by St. Gregory.
- Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones;
- Dominations, Virtues, and Powers;
- Principalities, Archangels, and Angels.
The word cherub (cherubim is the Hebrew masculine plural) is a word borrowed from the Assyrian kirubu, from karâbu, it means “to be near”, like a personal servant or bodyguard. It was commonly used of those heavenly spirits, who closely surrounded the Majesty of God and paid Him intimate service. It came to mean as much as “Angelic Spirit”.
The cherub have an intimate knowledge of God and continually worship and praise Him. They are first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 3:24, “After He drove the man out, He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” Prior to his rebellion, Satan was a cherub (Ezekiel 28:12-15). The tabernacle and temple along with their articles contained many representations of cherubim (Exodus 25:17-22; 26:1, 31; 36:8; 1 Kings 6:23-35; 7:29-36; 8:6-7; 1 Chronicles 28:18;2 Chronicles 3:7-14; 2 Chronicles 3:10-13; 5:7-8; Hebrews 9:5).
We read in chapters 1 and 10 of the book of Ezekiel describe the Cherub (Ezekiel1:5). Each are said to have four faces: that of a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle. Also, that they possess the torso and hands of a man, the feet of a calf and have four wings. Two wings extended upward and meet above the Cherub and in doing so hold up the throne of God. The other two wings are extended down and actually cover the Cherub’s body. Their whole body, and their backs, and their hands, and their wings, are full of eyes round about. (Ezekiel 10:1-22).
Ezekiel’s vision of God’s glory described as the appearance of a sapphire stone and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man high above it. This is the likeness of the glory of the Lord. “The dazzling light of the Lord’s presence rose up from the creatures and moved to the entrance of the Temple.Then the cloud filled the Temple, and the courtyard was blazing with the light. The noise made by the creatues’ wings was heard even in the outer courtyard. It sounded like the voice of Almighty God”. (Ezekiel 10:1-22).
The cherubim became the power by which the Lord God’s chariots or throne was able to fly. (Ezekiel 1:14-28).
Ezekiel witnessed the departure of the Lord’s glory from the temple. The glory went up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the temple. The glory of the Lord departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim. The cherubim lifted up their wings, and mounted up from the earth in the sight of Ezekiel. (Ezekiel 10:2-19).
Cherubs and Cherubim are most frequently referred to in the Bible to designate sculptured, engraved, and embroidered figures used in the furniture and ornamentation of the Jewish Sanctuary. The imagery of Revelation 4:6-9 also seems to be describing cherubim.
The cherubim serve the purpose of magnifying the holiness and power of God. This is one of their main responsibilities throughout the Bible. In addition to singing God’s praises, they also serve as a visible reminder of the majesty and glory of God and His abiding presence with His people.
In Genesis, two Cherubim were placed by God at the entrance of paradise. Also in 1 Kings 6:23 , and 2 Chronicles 3:11, Solomon placed in the Holy of Holies two huge Cherubim of olive-wood overlaid with gold. “They stood on their feet and their faces were towards the house”, which probably means they faced the Holy Place or the Entrance.
Cherubim were embroidered on the Veil of the Tabernacle, separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. “With blue and purple and scarlet and fine twined linen” they were made. How many such cherubim were embroidered on the Paroket, or Veil, we do not know. It is often supposed that as this veil screened the Holy Holies, two large-sized figures to represent guardian spirits or keepers were depicted. Exod, xxvi, 31,
We are warned in (Colossians 2:18) not to worship angels. Let no man defraud your reward by delighting in false humility and worshiping of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.
In the Book of Revelations and after which John saw and heard all that he was permitted, he fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which had shown him all those things. The angel told him NOT to bow down because he was a fellow servant, and a brother of the prophets, instead he should worship the Lord God. (Revelation 22:8-9).
Humble peaceful carriers of the throne of God.
St Thomas Aquinas divides the angels into three hierarchies each of which contains three orders. Their proximity to God serves as the basis of this division. In the first hierarchy he places the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones. The Thrones are a class of celestial beings mentioned by Paul of Tarsus. (Colossians 1:16) These heavenly creatures are directly connected to the throne of God. They are holy living symbols of God’s justice and embody God’s supreme authority. According to the New Testament, these high angels are among those Orders in Christ’s service. This position makes them some of the most powerful angels in service to the Lord. According to St Thomas, the Thrones have the task of pondering the disposition of divine judgments.
Thrones are one of the ranks of the company of angels spoken of in Hebrews 12:22 which have an indefinite number. St Gregory, expresses it: angelus est nomen officii that of attendants upon God’s throne in that court of heaven of which Daniel has left us a vivid picture: “I behold till thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days sat: His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like clean wool: His throne like flames of fire: the wheels of it like a burning fire. A swift stream of fire issued forth from before Him: thousands of thousands ministered to Him, and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before Him: the judgment sat and the books were opened. (Daniel 7:9-10; cf. also Psalm 96:7; Psalm 102:20; Isaiah 6).
In the New Testament, Thrones are high ranking angels and are under the direct control of Jesus Christ Himself. Thrones also appear within the Book of Revelation (chapter 11, verse 16), where it states that twenty four elders, all of whom are firmly seated high and exalted on their thrones before the Lord, all fell on their faces at once and worshiped God. In the Old Testament (Ezekiel I) they are described as having four faces and four wings.
These angels are always in the presence of God and are the angels of pure humility, peace and submission. Being intensely humble, an attribute that allows them to dispense justice with perfect objectivity and without fear of pride or ambition. Thrones represent Divine Majesty, are living symbols of the Divine Justice of the Lord and His authority; they are called Thrones and have as one of their symbols the throne. They are the closest of all angels to spiritual perfection and emanate the light of God with mirror-like goodness.
Thrones also act as angels who are friends of all the planets; they reside in the area of the cosmos where material form begins to take shape. They are associated with the power of judgment and act as counsellors to the angels in the realm below them, to help aid them in their duties.
Ezekiel claimed they looked like wheels with eyes. The wheels are said to belong to the throne of God, it is these angelic spirits who will drive forward God’s chariot. In Daniel 7:9 they are the carriers of the throne of God, thus the name. They are depicted to be great wheels covered in eyes. The eyes represent the all-knowing and all-seeing wisdom of God. The Thrones are again mentioned in Revelation 11:16.
Pray to these pure humble angelic spirits and ask the Thrones for peace in our own heart, soul, our families and the whole of mankind.
Dominations, Lords, and Lordships
The “Dominions” (Latin dominatio, plural dominationes, also translated from the Greek term kyriotites as “Lordships”) are presented as the hierarchy of celestial beings “Lordships” in the De Coelesti Hierarchia. The name Dominions is derived from St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. These angels are also known as the Lords and it is through them that God’s majesty is revealed.
Powers, Virtues and Dominations are known as the “angels of creation” because they concern themselves with the ordering of the universe and a plurality of causes Dominations are angels of leadership and hold the highest place among the angels of the second hierarchy.
They resemble the principalities in this, they not only hold the highest place in the lowest hierarchy, but have precedence over angels and archangels, with authority to direct and regulate them, making known the commands of God. Their names reflect the mystery which surrounds their nature and their functions. Their job is to assign duties and missions to the angels of the lower spheres and to maintain the cosmic order. They are occupied by their concern for the interests of God and with any functions having for their end the government of the world or of the human race; they exercise a high control over the ministry of the lower angels directing them in the discharge of their offices to do the will of God.
Bless the Lord, all ye his angels: you that are mighty in strength, and execute his word, hearkening to the voice of his behests. Bless the Lord, all ye his hosts: you ministers of his that do his will. (Psalms 102:20-21)
Dominions also teach us that only those who serve God are fit to rule others. Obedience is a necessary qualification; we must learn to obey before we can rule others. For in Him [that is, in Christ] were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and in him. (Colossians 1:16).
Dominions are believed to look like divinely beautiful humans with a pair of feathered wings, much like the common representation of angels, but they may be distinguished from other groups by wielding orbs of light fastened to the heads of their scepters or on the pommel of their swords.
Before we were formed in the womb and held in the palm of His hand God knew us and named us. Raising Him up from the dead, and setting him on his right hand in the heavenly places, above all principality, and power, and virtue, and dominion, and every name that is named not onlyin this world, but also in that which is to come.
Being supreme angels over all the lower choirs of angels, they have a great zeal for the Divine glory that distinguishes them. Dominions also serve as channels of mercy and are ever ready to fly to the ends of the world to execute God’s orders. The Chaplet of St Michael is a wonderful way to honour this great Archangel along with the Dominions and the other eight Choirs of Angels:
By the intercession of St Michael and the celestial Choir of Dominations may the Lord give us grace to govern our senses and overcome any unruly passions. Amen.
St Michael promised that whoever would practice this devotion in his honour would have, when approaching Holy Communion, an escort of nine angels chosen from each of the nine Choirs. In addition, for those who would recite the Chaplet daily, he promised his continual assistance and that of all the holy angels during life.
Dominions are mentioned many times in the Bible and they show us they truly are leaders and messengers of the Lord. These angels stand before God, eager to catch the sound of His voice, and at the least expression of His will, they hasten to fulfil it. Let us be likeangels: to do good and serve God.
The virtues represent unshaken fortitude in the cause of God.
The second order of angels is composed of the Choirs of the Dominations, Powers and Virtues. This order of angels is charged with governing and ordering the laws of the created universe.
“Virtues” or “Strongholds” lie beyond the (Thrones/ Wheels). Their primary duty is to supervise the movements of the heavenly bodies in order to ensure that the cosmos remains in order. In Ephesians 1:21, which is also translated as “virtue”. They are presented as the celestial Choir “virtues”, in the Summa Theologica. Virtues represent unshaken fortitude in the cause of God.
Virtues are associated with grace and bestow blessings from the heavens. Known as the Spirits of Motion and control of the elements, they are sometimes referred to as “the shining ones.” All of nature is subject to their control, the seasons, stars, moon; even the sun is subject to their command. Virtues are the instruments through which God works his miracles.
The name of the holy virtues signifies a powerful, brave and determined attitude welling forth into all their Godlike strength; not being weak and feeble for any reception of the divine illuminations granted to it; working towards in fullness of power to become one with God; never falling away from the Divine Life through its own weakness, but moving towards a higher level despite oppositions to the source of virtue. This deep rooted courage is the characteristic of all who work miracles in God’s name.
Virtue is used in the Word of God to describe the miraculous power within Jesus Christ… “And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases; and they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed. And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all” (Lu 6:17-19 AV).
Virtues provide courage, grace, valour, heroic deeds and we may go to them and ask for aid in the struggle for good against evil. We should invoke them in unforeseen accidents and in sickness.
Virtues have the task of dispensing the graces of God, which make difficult things easy. If we are to do great things for God, we should ask them for help often. We are warned not to get caught worshiping or serving the sun, moon, stars, or the host of heavens (angels), which the LORD GOD has not commanded (Deuteronomy 17:3-5; Deuteronomy 4:19). We must worship only God.
The Church has always invoked and paid a religious honour to the holy angels. St Thomas Aquinas believed that the angels were not equal in power and intellect. Indeed, based on the readings of St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians and to the Ephesians (Eph 1:21 and Col 1:16). The “Powers” (lat. potestas (f), pl. potestates), or “Authorities”, from the Greek exousies (Ephesians 3:10) appear to collaborate in power and authority with the Principalities (Rulers).
The Powers are the angelic representatives of all lawful authority, ecclesiastical and civil. They are from the second order of angels composed of the Choirs of the Dominations, Powers and Virtues. The Dominations, which is the choir of angels at the pre-eminence of the order of angels, are given the duty of appointing tasks which are to be done by the Virtues and Powers.
Powers are warrior angels against evil spirits defending the cosmos and humans. They are known as potentates. These spirits hold one of the most dangerous tasks and are responsible for maintaining the order between heaven and earth. They are the major line of defence and battle during heavenly warfare. Powers maintain order around planet earth and protect it from being overthrown by Satan and oversee the distribution of power among humankind, hence their name.
The Choir of Powers direct the lower choirs on how to order creation (Mark 13:25) – “and the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.” The Powers are also tasked with guarding the celestial byways between the two realms. They are the bearers of conscience and the keepers of history and as created warrior angels they are completely loyal to God.
Their power is of a more intensive character than that of the Virtues, and the Devil must give way before them. Paul used the term rule and authority in Ephesians 1:21, and rulers and authorities in Ephesians 3:10. However, he may have been referring to the rulers and authorities of humanity, instead of referring to angels. According to the writings of some early Fathers the Powers guard the priests more carefully in their ministries. Priests under the protection of the Powers have great influence over souls, and their work is very fruitful. Powers are assigned to priests who are confessors of very devout souls. These angels lead the priests to a better self knowledge and instil in them a desire for perfection.
Purity of intention is the virtue ascribed to Principalities. In their high functions they never seek but honor the interest of God alone.
In the thirteenth century, Roman Catholic teaching on angels was formally defined. Angels were taught to be incorporeal substances that were pure spirit, essentially immortal and in possession of intellect and free will. The definitive teaching was pronounced by the Fourth Lateran Council (1215).
The lower hierarchy and the closest to mankind is composed of Principalities, Archangels and Angels. Principalities have been assigned the care and rule over the universe, they are the guardians of all earthly kingdoms; watching over nations, provinces, dioceses, religious communities, and, to avert them from the effects of divine wrath. Therefore, every kingdom and every person on earth has its own guardian angel.
Principalities teach people to honour their rulers and influence the hearts of rulers to use their power worthily for the glory of God and the good of their subjects; guiding events under God’s direction for the benefit of a country or district committed to their care.
All these holy angelic ranks live one common life, helping one another in the sacred and joyous process of attaining greater and greater knowledge of God, of becoming more and more like Him.
The disciple of the great Apostle Paul, Saint Dionysius the Areopagite, to whom the Lord revealed the entire angelic world, writes: “The heavenly hierarchy is established in such a way that the lesser spiritual beings receive enlightenment from the higher ones, and represent for each other a ladder of ascension to supreme perfection.”
Only the Lord God can say what the orders of importance the angels take. The Seraphim, Cherubim and Archangels are identified in the Bible with such detail that we can reliably know some of their characteristics and duties, and be assured of their responsibilities and rankings in Heaven.
Thrones, Dominions, Principalities and Powers are identified as ranks of angels according to Colossians (1:16- 17)… “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether [they be] thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
With this interpretation, the ranks of Thrones, Dominions, Principalities and Powers for some of the angels in heaven can be established with general attributes assigned. If we examine and compare the same governments established by God on earth, then we can easily imagine the unseen government of angels to have the same characteristics as the known.
Romans adds, “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
Christ has been set at the right hand of God and given authority to reign over all Principalities and Powers, both in the spirit realm and in the earthly realm.
When we accept Jesus Christ as the Lord and saviour of our life, we are seated with Him, far above every Principality and Power in the spirit realm. We are told to beware lest any man spoil us through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. Jesus Christ dwells in all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. We are complete in Christ, and Jesus Christ is the head of all Principality and Powers (Colossians 2:8-10).
We ought to pray to the angel who guards our country as well as to its Patron Saint. Principalities are appointed to transmit to the archangels and angels the orders of God. Purity of intention is the virtue ascribed to Principalities, because in their high functions they never seek but the honour and interest of God alone. Let us imitate the Principalities and pray to them for purity of intention.
Archangels are generally taken to mean ‘chief or leading angel’ (Jude 9; 1 Thes 4:16), they are the most frequently mentioned throughout the Bible.
The Archangels have a unique role as God’s messenger to the people at critical times in history and salvation (Tb 12:6, 15; Jn 5:4; Rv 12:7-9), for example, as in the Annunciation and the Apocalypse. God chose one of the lowest groups of angels to hold the greatest honors, such as announcing the birth of Christ to Mary, of leading his army into battle against Satan.
There are only three named archangels. All other angelic names are either pious legends or come from extra-biblical books. The Catholic Church only names Gabriel, Michael and Raphael. Their feast day is celebrated throughout the Church on September 29th.
The reason why the Church gives more emphasis to these three archangels originates from the Council of Rome of 745. Pope St Zachary intended to clarify the Church’s teaching on the subject of angels and curb a tendency by some toward angel worship, also condemning the obsession with angelic intervention and angelolatry, but also reaffirming the approval of the practice of the reverence of angels. The synod struck a number of ‘angels’ names from the list of those eligible for veneration in the Church of Rome, some of which are usually given as Adimus, Inias (Iniaes), Raguel, Sabaoc (Sabaoth), Simiel, Tubuas (Tubuael) and Uriel.
Only the reverence of the archangels mentioned in the recognized Catholic Biblical canon, Michael Gabriel and Raphael, remained licit. However, St Uriel and others slowly crept back into popular devotion in many places. This restriction did not affect the Eastern and Oriental Churches, who continued to honour the other four out of the seven Archangels. St Michael has been invoked as patron and protector by the Church from the time of the Apostles. The Eastern Rite and many others place him over all the angels, as Prince of the Seraphim. He is described as the ‘chief of princes’ and as the leader of the forces of heaven in their triumph over Satan and his followers.
The name Michael in Hebrew means ‘Who is like God’ and was the battle cry of the good angels against Lucifer and his followers when they rebelled against God. He is mentioned four or five times in the Bible; in Daniel 10 and 12, in the letter of Jude, Revelation and in Enoch. His will is focused, immovable and entirely driven toward accomplishing goodness; he is the protector of souls, and wields his powerful sword against the poisonous and vindictive aspirations of he who is known as a liar from the beginning.
Christian tradition recognizes four offices of Saint Michael: (1) to fight against Satan; (2) to rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death; (3) to be the champion of God’s people; and (4) to call away from earth and bring people’s souls to judgment.
In the book of Enoch (9:1; 10:15; 20:5; 24:4-10; 40:8; 53:6; 58; 66:14- 15; 70:11-16) and a work discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls entitled ‘War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness’ (also known as ‘The War Scroll’), written around 50 BC and the 1st century AD, may also count as amongst the earliest mentions that we have of his name. Saint Michael is the ‘Prince of the Heavenly Host’, the leader of all the angels.
St Michael, whose forces cast down Lucifer and the evil spirits into Hell, is invoked for protection against Satan and all evil. Pope Leo XIII, in 1899, having had a prophetic vision of the evil that would be inflicted upon the Church and the world in the 20th century, instituted a prayer asking for Saint Michael’s protection to be said at the end of every Mass. During a visit to the Sanctuary of St Michael the Archangel, Pope John Paul II said, “The battle against the Devil … is the principal task of St Michael the archangel.” Scripture relates such a truth: “Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. Although the dragon and his angels fought back, they were overpowered and lost their place in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent known as the Devil or Satan, the seducer of the whole world, was driven out; he was hurled down to earth and his minions with him” (Rev 12:7-9).
St Michael the Archangel said to the three children at Fatima, “Fear not. I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me.” Then he prostrated himself, and repeated three times: “My God; I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love Thee! I beg Thee forgiveness for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love Thee!” This prayer of St Michael shows the serious nature of this committed warrior who strives after peace with all his being. God in his love for us has given us a magnificent protector.
St Gabriel means ‘God is my strength’ and he is mentioned four times in the Bible. “I am Gabriel, who stand before God” (Lk 1, 19). The angel Gabriel first appeared in the Old Testament in the prophesies of Daniel, he announced the prophecy of 70 weeks (Dn 9:21-27). One other early occurrence we have of Gabriel also comes from Daniel (8:15-17). Enoch also mentions him (9:1-2; 10:13; 20:7; 40:9).
Most significant are St Gabriel’s two mentions in the New Testament: to announce the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zacharias, and at the Incarnation of the Word in the womb of Mary. He was sent from God to Nazareth, “to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, … and the virgin’s name was Mary”.
Moreover, coming to her, he said, “Hail, favoured one! The Lord is with you” (Lk 1:27-28). Christian tradition suggests that it is he who appeared to St Joseph and to the shepherds, and also that it was he who ‘strengthened’ Jesus during his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Pope St Gregory the Great wrote: “He [Gabriel] came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man m. 34, 8-9). St Gabriel is the angel of the power of God, the Incarnation and of consolation in Christian tradition. Gabriel is ever the angel of mercy while Michael is rather the angel of judgment.
Raphael means ‘God is my health’. “I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord” (Tob 12:15). St Raphael’s name also means ‘God has healed’ because of his healing of Tobias’ blindness in the Book of Tobit. Tobit is the only book in which he is mentioned. His office is therefore known for healing and acts of mercy. St Raphael is also identified with the angels in John 5:1-4, who descended upon the pond and bestowed healing powers upon it so that the first to enter it after it moved would be healed of whatever infirmity he was suffering.
God in His wondrous mercy is so good in giving us such three vigilant and magnificent archangels. We should call very often on Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael to help us and intercede for us before the throne of God.
Pray daily to St Gabriel for consolation, to St Raphael for healing and to St Michael for protection against the snares and wickedness of the Devil.
The existence of angels is a dogma of faith, and the existence of guardian angels is clear from Holy Scripture and tradition.
St Thomas (Summa Theologica I:108), following St Denis (De Coelesti Hierarchia, vi, vii), divides the angels into three hierarchies each of which contains three orders.
Their proximity to the Supreme Being serves as the basis of this division. In the first hierarchy he places the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones; in the second, the Dominations, Virtues and Powers; in the third, the Principalities, Archangels and Angels. The only scriptural names furnished of individual angels are Raphael, Michael and Gabriel – names which signify their respective attributes.
Guardian angels, according to Thomas Aquinas, are from the lowest rank of angels. St Thomas affirmed that every man receives a guardian angel in his Summa Theologica (First Part, Question 113) and he provides irrefutable arguments why this must be so. It was the common teaching in his time and no doctor ever questioned it since the thirteenth century.
The Scriptures give us no indication of the precise time of the creation of angels; their existence is assumed at the earliest times. The belief in guardian angels has been taught implicitly in Scripture, in both the Old and New Testament. Besides personal guardian angels, all of Israel was thought to have a guardian angel, as is seen in Exodus 23:20-23. Your guardian angel is yours alone.
Early letters by St Ambrose: “We should pray to the angels who are given to us as guardians” (De Viduis, ix). 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 St Jerome expressed it: “The dignity of a soul is so great, that each has a guardian angel from its birth” (Comm. in Matt., xviii, lib. II).
The New Testament quotes this passage, and tells us that mankind – including the Lord Jesus Himself – was made a little lower than the angels, ‘for the suffering of death’ (Hebrews 2:9). Angels do not die, but men and women do. Even Jesus, the Son of God, was a mortal man, but has now received the glory and honour which was His due when, as He said after His resurrection, “all power is given unto Me in Heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18).
Jesus tells us that children have their own guardian angels, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in Heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 18:10). This verse seems to indicate that children have an angel ready to help anytime there is a need for one.
The Bible gives us many references on the guardian angels, for example, Gen. 19:11: “And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness”; 1 Kings 19:5: “An angel touched him, and said unto him, ‘Arise and eat’”; Ps. 91:11: “He will give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone”; Dan. 3:28: “Who hath sent an angel and delivered his servants that trusted in him”; Dan. 6:22: “My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not hurt me”; Acts 5:19; “But an angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them out, and said,” etc.; Acts 12;11: “And when Peter was come to himself, he said, ‘Now I know of a truth, that the Lord hath sent forth his angel and delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.’” Note in particular, that angels are sent forth to minister to them that shall inherit salvation (Heb. 1:14) also that Michael is the patron angel of Israel (Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1).
In Matt. 28:5-7; “And the angel answered and said unto the women, ‘Fear not ye; for I know that ye seek Jesus, who hath been crucified. He is not here; for he is risen, even as he said “Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples, He is risen from the dead; and lo, He goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see Him; lo, I have told you’”; Acts 8:26: “But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, ‘arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza’”; Acts 27:23,24: “For there stood by me this night an angel of the God whose I am, whom also I serve, saying, ‘Fear not, Paul; thou must stand before Caesar: and lo, God hath granted thee all them that sail with thee.’”
In Hebrews it says that believers have a guardian angel. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14). Also Scripture reminds us that we do not always know when we have seen an angel because of this other passage, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” (Hebrews 13:2).
The conversion of a sinner gives great joy to their guardian angel and indeed to all the angels. Our guardian angel encourages us to thank God for the many humiliations we receive daily, however it is most difficult if we have pride.
Guardian angels can help to serve as guides in this world. It is much easier, however, if we cooperate with the guardian angel. We often struggle in our sin, only to be further trapped. We should take advantage of all that God provides for us and call on our guardian angel and St Michael the Archangel oft en throughout the day for help and assistance. These guardian angels do not lose any of the joy they have in beatitude.
Guardian angels are spirits, and they have no sense of emotion. Even if their trust is lost they rejoice in the justice of God. They feel no sorrow and certainly no shame for the final fall of their charge. No guardian angel ‘fails’, they all do a good job. When the last guardian angel is sent by God, that will be to protect the last man created by God.
We can learn from the saints many of whom had wonderful relationships with their guardian angels. Padre Pio had an especially tender love and devotion for his guardian angel. From the time that he was five years old, he was able to see and converse with his guardian angel. In his childlike simplicity, he assumed that everyone had the same experience. Enjoying an intimate friendship with his guardian angel, Padre Pio referred to him as the “companion of my childhood.” The loving relationship continued throughout Padre Pio’s life.
For Padre Pio, his angel was his support, his protector, his teacher, his brother, and his friend. At times, Padre Pio’s guardian angel acted as his secretary as well as his heavenly “postman” carrying messages to his spiritual children. Padre Pio’s guardian angel awakened him in the morning, and together they would join in prayer and praise to God. Padre Pio wrote to Father Agostino: “Again at night when I close my eyes, the veil is lifted and I see Paradise open up before me; and gladdened by this vision I sleep with a smile of sweet beatitude on my lips and a perfectly tranquil countenance, waiting for the little companion of my childhood to come to waken me, so that we may sing together the morning praises to the Beloved of our hearts” (Ltrs)
The Feast of the Guardian Angels is a Catholic festival celebrated annually on the 2nd October. Paul V was the first Pope, in 1608, to authorise a feast day in honour of guardian angels. Pope Clement X changed the date to 2nd October and Pope Leo XIII, in 1883, upgraded the date to a double major feast.
In an address to American pilgrims on 3rd October 1958, Pope Pius XII spoke eloquently of the holy angels and said, “The angels are glorious, pure and splendid. They have been given to us as companions along the way of life. They have the task of watching over you all, so that you do not stray away from Christ, your Lord.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI used his Sunday Angelus address to remind Christians to call upon their guardian angel for help throughout life. “Dear friends, the Lord is always near and active in human history, and follows us with the unique presence of His angels, that today the Church venerates as ‘Guardian,’ in other words those who minister God’s care for every man,” the former Pope told pilgrims gathered in Rome’s St Peter’s Square, 2nd October 2011. Our guardian angel will always be delighted for us to call on him oft en for help, assistance and protection in all circumstances.
Articles in magazine prepared by Noreen Bavister, England
- Cherubim at entrance to Garden of Eden, Genesis 3:24
- Appear to Abraham, Genesis 18:1-33
- Saved Lot and his family, Genesis 19:1-22
- Intervened with Isaac, Genesis 22:11-18
- Heavenly vision of Jacob’s Ladder, Genesis 28:12
- Accompanied Israel through the desert, Exodus 23:20; Numbers 20:16
Aided the prophets
- Isaiah 6:2-7
- Ezekiel 1:4-28
- Daniel 7:9-10
- Zechariah 1:9-19
New Testament references – Appearances in connection with the birth of Christ
- Matthew 1:20
- Luke 1:26-38
- Paul, Acts 27:23
- Peter, Acts 12:7-11
- Cornelius, Acts 10:3-6
- Sadducees not believing in angels, Acts 23:8
- Twelve legions of angels, Matthew 26:53
Mentioned by name:
- Raphael, Tobit 12:15
- Michael, Daniel 10:13; Revelation 12:7
- Gabriel, Daniel 8:16; Luke 1:19
The fall of the angels
- Deuteronomy 32:17
- 2 Peter 2:4
- Jude 1:6
- Revelation 12:7-9