When you hear the word “angels” you may immediately think those cherub winged babies. Maybe you picture large winged humans dresses in white, watching over you from above.
While these are beautiful images of these mystical creatures, God created angels for a much larger mission.
Father John Horgan sets out to explain the mystery of angels in His Angels at Our Side: Understanding Their Power in Our Souls and the World. He writes about how God created them to help carry out the mission of Jesus, and shows us how we can use these messengers from God to help guide us our our earthly journey.
Here are seven incredible facts about these heavenly hosts:
1. If they could, angels would envy us
We may envy the angels and their closeness to God. But many mystics, saints and spiritual authors have said if the angels could envy they would envy us.
Why? “They would envy us because we have a likeness to Christ, the Son of God, that they do not have. We can be like Him in His sufferings; we can bear our crosses in union with the Cross of Jesus,” writes Father Horgan. “But there is something even grander about the human experience the angels would envy if they were capable of such a vice: the ability to receive Holy Communion – to be united to Jesus in His Eucharist Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.”
2. Angels were part of the first day of creation
From Genesis to Revelation, angels are mentioned is Sacred Scripture more than 230 times. They’re always accomplishing the mission God sent them on.
Saint Augustine suggested that the angels were created during the first day during the creation of the “Heavens” or “light”, which is distinctly different from “earth” and the creation of man.
3. There are nine groupings of angels
Grouped in threes (like the Trinity), each group of angles does threefold work: adoring the Lord, doing the Lord’s will and mediating communications between Him and us. Here’s how the nine groups of angels break down:
Seraphim are the closest to God and literally on fire with the love of God. Even their name means “burning ones”!
The name ‘Cherubim’ means “all knowing one”. “They constantly contemplate the wisdom and the love of God in His relationship with mankind,” Father Horgan explained. They were also the first adorers of the first covenant.
Thrones are “raised up to form the seat of God’s authority and mercy.” A literal seat of God.
Dominions control the government of the universe and coordinate the ministries of all the angels who deal with creation.
Virtues “have an innate, raw power over the physical universe,” writes Father Horgan.
Powers are thought to “introduce man to the higher mysteries while repressing the attacks of the hostile powers of Hell.”
Princes and Principalities are the guardians of all nations.
There are thought to be seven archangels (one for each day of creation and seven sacraments). They have a special place in God’s plan. They are leaders and have authority in the heavenly realm.
Finally, the choir of angels are “beloved because the Lord places them at our sides to watch over us and to care for us. They defend us against harm and temptation. They warn us of impending evil and inspire us to remain faithful to God in prayer.”
4. All angels had a trial of faith
Although not written in Sacred Scripture, the early Fathers of the Church, and many theologians believe that all of the angels were also given a choice to follow God faithfully (free will).
God revealed to them that Christ would become man, “a nature lower than angels, that would mean they would have to adore God in a form lowlier than their own.” God gave them a choice to cooperate with His plan or to reject it.
Angels were only given one chance to make this choice and sadly, because the angels know the whole truth, there is no redemption for them if they choose to reject God. We on the other hand have the opportunity for redemption through Reconciliation because of Christ.
5. Lucifer’s fall was because of his pride
Lucifer’s name literally means “light bearer of God”. But he rejected God’s plan and turned his gaze inward on his own beauty.
We find Saint John’s vision of this battle written in Revelation. With the sweep of his tail, Lucifer cast a third of the angels to earth. Archangel Michael stepped up and led the epic fight between good and evil. This battle ultimately ended with the devil and everyone who follows him falling into the fiery lake for all eternity.
6. Angels don’t look like they do in paintings
Angels are “pure spirits” meaning they do not have a physical body or shape. They are not limited by physical bodies like we are.
Angels don’t have the five sense we do, and they are not winged humans. They have been described by those who have seen them as “light, power and majesty.”
7. You can grow closer to God through the angels
We can use the nature of angels to grow closer to God. Father Horgan writes about habits that respect the truth by recognizing God’s sovereignty. He encourages readers to regularly offer sacrifices through a constant awareness of the presence of God.
Another way we can deepen our relationship with God is to offer our work, challenges, and crises to Him. We also should use the example of prayer that the angels give us, singing constantly, “Holy, holy, holy.”
His Angels at Our Side: Understanding their power in our souls and the world by Father John Horgan clearly and beautifully describes these heavenly hosts and shows us their role throughout Salvation History including the future final battle against the devil himself.
Today, ask the angels to guide you, pray for you, and to protect you from all evil.