Years ago, my Grandmother, who was my Mother’s mother, told me that she learned as a young child that the Holy Angels are “created spirits.” Her assertion reminded me that she, who was born in 1897 and had been taught well by her parents, the Priests and the Sisters, knew the distinction between God as “The Uncreated Spirit” and the Angels who had been created in time.
Such truths today are probably not widely known by Catholics of any age, never mind children. How we need to pray and fast for a fresh start!
The existence of those created spirits, the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition.” (328)
In a passage that has become famous, the great Saint Augustine wrote: “‘Angel’ is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is ‘spirit’; if you seek the name of their office, it is ‘angel’: from what they are, ‘spirit’, from what they do, ‘angel.’” (329)
The Angels possess an intellect and a will as we do. Yet, their intellects have not been darkened and their wills have not been weakened by Original Sin as have ours.
The same Catechism reminds us:
Christ is the center of the angelic world. They are His angels: ‘When the Son of man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him . . .’ They belong to Him because they were created through and for Him: ‘for in Him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him.’ They belong to Him still more because He has made them messengers of His saving plan: ‘Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?’ (331)
And the Holy Angels have adored and served God with fidelity. They continue in this vein.
From the Incarnation to the Ascension, the life of the Word Incarnate is surrounded by the adoration and service of angels. When God ‘brings the firstborn into the world, he says: ‘Let all God’s angels worship Him.’’ Their song of praise at the birth of Christ has not ceased resounding in the Church’s praise: ‘Glory to God in the highest!’ They protect Jesus in His infancy, serve Him in the desert, strengthen Him in His agony in the garden, when He could have been saved by them from the hands of His enemies as Israel had been. Again, it is the angels who ‘evangelize’ by proclaiming the Good News of Christ’s Incarnation and Resurrection. They will be present at Christ’s return, which they will announce, to serve at His judgment. (333)
Each of us benefits from the presence and assistance of our Guardian Angel, whose mission is, according to the “Prayer to the Guardian Angel,” “to light, to guard, to rule and guide.” Again, the Catechism:
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. (336)
We are obliged to recognize that there are other angels, who are not holy, who do all they can to tempt us and lead us to Hell. These are the demons who are under the exacting, ungentle and hateful tyranny of Satan. We rebuff their constant and maniacal efforts by sincere recourse to Our Lord, Our Lady, Saint Joseph and all the Angels and Saints as well as by the worthy and frequent reception of the Holy Sacraments of the Church.
As we read and hear Sacred Scripture during these Seasons of Advent and Christmas and note the continuous intervention of the Holy Angels, we can only marvel at who the Angels are and what they do. These “created spirits” proclaimed the Lordship of Our Lord Jesus Christ while they protected Him, Our Lady and Saint Joseph. And we know from faith and experience that their benevolent and timely help remains with us and overshadows us twenty centuries later.