How well do we know our ANGELS?
July 17, 2015
July 13 marks the Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel, the leader of the heavenly hosts of angels. The Prologue from Ochrid reminds us that we can find him in many "appearances and marvels through the whole history of the salvation of mankind." In the Old Testament, Gabriel appears to Daniel, proclaiming to the "greatly beloved" prophet, "I have now come to give you wisdom and understanding" (Daniel 9:22-23). He imparts to Daniel a vision of both future tribulations and the coming of an "anointed one." It is clear from this encounter that angels sometimes appear in human form, for Daniel refers to his visitor as "the man Gabriel." They also sometimes fly; Daniel says that Gabriel "came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice." The first chapter of the Gospel of Luke tells of two other appearances of Gabriel, both directly related to Our Lord. First the angel visits the aged priest Zechariah to tell him that he and his wife Elizabeth will not only no longer be childless, but shall have a son who "will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God." To this wonderful news, the old man gives what is definitely the wrong response: "How shall I know this?" We can imagine the archangel turning his powerful gaze on Zechariah as he says, "I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news." Zechariah is temporarily rendered unable to speak because of his disbelief. In the next verses, when Gabriel tells Mary she will bear the Son of the Most High, she is surprised, and questions him, but unlike Zechariah she believes and accepts his great news.
Thrones, Cherubims & Seraphims – those closest to God
The Seraphim (means flaming) are aflame with love for God and kindle others to such love. They are closest to God as the prophet Isaiah saw, saying: "And the seraphim stood around Him, each having six wings" (Isaiah 6:2). They are fire-like, "For our God is a consuming fire." (Heb 12:29); "His throne was a flame of fire" (Dan 7: 9), "Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire" (Ps 103:4). After the seraphim, are the many-eyed Cherubim (means Great understanding) who are radiant with the knowledge of the mysteries of God and the depths of His Wisdom. Through the cherubim wisdom is sent down to others and spiritual enlightenment is given to see of God and gain knowledge of Him. Next are the Thrones. On them God intellectually resides. Residing on them in an incomprehensible manner, God makes His righteous judgment, according to the word of David: "Thou hast sat upon a throne, O Thou that judgest righteousness." (Ps 9:4). They serve His justice, glorifying it and pouring out the power of justice onto the thrones of earthly judges, helping kings and masters to bring forthright judgment.
Dominions, Virtues & Powers
The Dominions dominate the rest of the angels. They send down power for prudent governing and wise management to authorities on the earth set up by God. Further they teach how to control the senses, how to subdue dissolute desires and passions, how to enslave the flesh to the spirit, and how to rule over one's will and be above all temptations. The Virtues work miracles and send down the grace of miracle-working to those worthy of such grace, so they may work miracles. They help people laboring and those overburdened by troubles and they bear the infirmities of the weak. They also strengthen every man in patience. The Powers have power over the devil, to restrain the demons, to repulse the temptations brought upon people by them. They help those wrestling with passions and vices to cast out evil thoughts.
Angels, Archangels & Principalities – closest to Man
The Principalities direct the lower angels. They are entrusted with the management of the universe and the keeping of all the kingdoms and princedoms, of lands and all peoples, races and nations. They raise worthy people to various honorable offices and direct them so that they take power for the sake of spreading and augmenting of God's holy glory, and for the sake of the benefit of their neighbors. The Archangels are the heralds of good news. They reveal prophecies, knowledge, and understanding of God's will which they receive from the higher orders of angels and announce to the lower order. They strengthen people in faith, enlightening their mind with the light of knowledge of the holy Gospel and revealing the mysteries of devout faith. The Angels are the lowest of all the orders and the closest to man. They announce the lesser mysteries and intentions of God and teach people to live virtuously and righteously before God. They are appointed to guard each of us who believe. All of the heavenly orders are also called by the common name "angels". Although they have different names according to their situation and grace given by God (as seraphim, cherubim, thrones and the rest of the orders), yet all in general are called angels, because the word "angel" is not a denomination of essence, but of service, as it is written: "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister"(Heb 1:14). But their service is different and not identical: each order has its own service.
Holy Eucharist Parish Bulletin, July 12, 2015