On September 29 as well as on October 2 we celebrate two liturgical feasts which are linked with angels. In fact, in the September feast we celebrate the feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael whereas in the October feast we commemorate the memorial of the Guardian Angles.Already this fact alone powerfully reminds us that angels are important. They form part of the heavenly reality. In the Eucharistic liturgy angels are present. This is so since the Mass is, theologically speaking, a sacramental participation in the heaven’s liturgy. The very presence of the angels paves the way for the Eucharist to be part and parcel with heaven itself. The angels encircle the Eucharist and unveil to us its holy character. The important Early Church Father who also served as the Archbishop of Constantinople in late fourth till the beginning of the fifth century, St. John Chrysostom (347-407), said: “The angels surround the priest. The whole sanctuary and the space before the altar is filled with the heavenly Powers come to honor Him who is present upon the altar.” And somewhere else this eminent Church Father wrote: “Think now of what kind of choir you are going to enter. Although vested with a body, you have been judged worthy to join the Powers of heaven in singing the praises of Him who is Lord of all.” “Behold the royal table. The angels serve at it. The Lord Himself is present.”
Do angels care about us? Are we really in their consideration? Yes! And how! On the Lord’s explicit command they lead us towards salvation. In the book of Exodus we encounter this important text that shows us so: Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared. Give heed to him and hearken to his voice, do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him. But if you hearken attentively to his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. When my angel goes before you, and brings you in to the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Per’izzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jeb’usites, and I blot them out (Exod 23:20-23). Hence, obedience to an angel is tantamount to obedience to God himself.
The Bible keeps teaching solidly on the care angels deliver to us. In Psalm 91 we find two beautiful lines which recall to us of this foundational fact. For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone (Ps 91:11-12). Such a teaching was strenghtened by what the Catholic Church instructs on the angels in their relationship to us. In number 336 the Cathecism of the Catholic Church says: From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life. Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.
When one delves deeper into the reflection of the Fathers of the Church one clearly notices that angels not simply safeguard and comfort us but also lead us to repent. Angels admonish and discipline us too. Furthermore, the Church Fathers commonly affirm that angels support us to pray and offer our prayers to God.
Origen (184 – c. 253) encourages us: “We must say that every human soul is under the direction of an angel who is like a father.” St. Basil the Great (330-379), holds: “An angel is put in charge of every believer, provided we do not drive him out by sin. He guards our soul like an army.” Eusebius (d.379) teaches: “Fearing, lest sinful mankind should be without government and without guidance, like herds of cattle, God gave us protectors and superintendents, the holy angels in the form of captains and shepherds. His First-Born Son is set above all these.” St. Hilary (310-367) states: “In the warfare we carry on, to remain strong against the evil powers, the angels are our helpers.” St. Athanasius (328-373) observes: “In opposition to the turmoil into which demons throw the soul, the vision of the angels works softly and peaceably, awakening joy and exultation.”
The Shepherd of Hermas, a Christian literary work of the late first half of the second century, says: “We are not at first chastised by the Father of the family Himself, but by the angels whom he has sent as masters over us, with the office of chastising and correcting each one of us.” Again, Origen says: “If there are good thoughts in our heart, let there be no doubt that the angel of the Lord is speaking to us. But if evil things come into our heart, let there be no doubt that an angel of the evil one is speaking to us.” Finally, St. John Chrysostom says that among the faithful, those who hold higher offices in the Church are the object of special protection: “The virtues of heaven are always with those who are charged with such offices.”
From this brief study we can easily detect that the importance of the angels in our lives lies in the function they play such as being our guardians, protectors, superintendents, overseers, assistants, shepherds, hersdmen, and instructors.
Your personal guardian angel has all these functions infused in Him by God to help you. Why don’t you put yourself in his loving protection by showing him reverence, obedience and joyful gratitude? Why not start your day by invoking him to come to your assistance by this simple and powerful prayer?
Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom His love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap