OUR SAVIOR OFTEN compared heaven to a kingdom. And indeed it is more majestic than any kingdom that could be conceived; and in such a kingdom, wherein dwells the King of kings, there must surely be a most glorious court. If earthly monarchs can impress the eye with the majesty of their assemblage, as we know they once did (a sorry thing to have let the Masons obliterate them), what must be the palatial splendor of the Creator Himself? As Saint Paul said, “Eye hath not seen nor ear heard . . .”. And what nobility of person must there be in those who stand before Him to administer His Will! What a multitude of courtiers to befit such a King, and what awe the courtiers themselves must incite in the hearts of the saints!
“Thousands of thousands ministered to Him”, wrote the prophet Daniel, “and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before Him.” (Daniel 7, 10) In other words, the number is countless-in the billions. Tremendous joy and holy eagerness swells the heavenly court as these holy spirits serve their Majesty, rendering Him honor, and ever ready to perform all His Wills.
The Nine Choirs
God’s invisible creation is composed of nine choirs or groups of angels*. The nine categories of angels are called choirs because they are always singing the praises of their bountiful Creator and Savior. Savior? Yes, indeed. The good angels were saved as much as we will be if we persevere in our faith. What were they saved from? They were saved from a finite natural destiny. You see, heaven is a supernatural state; it is a sheer gift on the part of a Loving God. A creature can in no way merit to be with God and live His Life. It is infinitely beyond any created nature to aspire to such a Union. What God has to do is to elevate us to a supernatural life; He has to equip us with His own grace in order to enable us to actually see Him. Without that supernatural grace having lifted angels and men up to a Divine capacity, a creature would be instantly annihilated if ever it were to be in the unveiled Presence of God’s Infinite Beauty.
In reward for their fidelity, God owed (so to speak) the good angels a happy immortality in a paradisal state, but He did not owe them a share in His Divine Life. Therefore it is true to say that even the good angels were saved, not by way of being redeemed from sin-for the blessed spirits had no ransom that needed to be paid-but by way of being saved from an eternity without the Vision of God. And though Our Lord Jesus Christ was not their Redeemer, He was their Savior; and it was in view of the shedding of His Precious Blood that they have the joy of the Beatific Vision, Mary for their Queen, and the Lord Jesus for their King.
The nine choirs are grouped into three hierarchies or orders. The orders are determined by the three main angelic operations by which each of them distinguishes itself: the contemplative, the governmental, and the ministerial. The choirs are further differentiated within each hierarchy by way of their more specific role in the three angelic operations. Moreover, the more prolific heaven-dwelling “angelogians” have debated the idea of whether or not each individual angel could be considered a species in itself. The argument in favor of this opinion was developed by Saint Thomas Aquinas whom the Church honors with the title of Angelic Doctor. For our purposes, rather than trying to explain the philosophic reasoning behind the great Dominican’s position, the following analogy will serve: an angel differs from another angel, not as a rose differs from a rose, but as a rose differs from a lily. Each angel of whatever choir is thoroughly unique.
The better way of proceeding in our study is from the bottom up, from those spirits who are closer to us to those who are the farthest away; though, as you will discover, more will be said of the higher choirs than of the lower.
The nine choirs are all named in Holy Scripture. They are not given in one precise list, as are the names of the twelve apostles, but they are to be found scattered about the Bible, mainly in the epistles of Saint Paul. This one sacred writer mentions eight of the nine choirs, leaving to Isaias the prophet the solitary honor of being the only inspired author to speak of the highest of the angels, the seraphim. The cherubim are the most often referred to in Scripture; we find them mentioned seventy-five times in the Old Testament, figuring prominently in the Books of Genesis, Exodus, Kings, the Psalms, and Ezechiel. However, they are only mentioned once in the New Testament. That childlike convert of Saint Paul, Saint Denis of Areopagus, wrote prolifically about the angels. He gives us the following list of the nine choirs. It is seconded by Saint Gregory the Great and has come to be a standard enumeration accepted by the whole Church. They are, from the highest to the lowest:
Scripture doesn’t follow a strict rule in designating the proper choir every time it speaks of angels. For instance, you will find any member of any choir referred to simply as an angel or archangel, a liberty in which all sacred writers indulge. Saint Jude, in his epistle, refers to Saint Michael as archangel; Saint Luke calls Gabriel simply an angel; yet both are believed to be of the seven seraphim who stand before the throne of God. In attempting to explain the interplay of the angelic choirs and orders let’s make it a point to be very childlike and not too sophisticated. It is love, more than scholarly accuracy, that the angels wish to elicit from men.
The first hierarchy is the ministerial, simply so-called. Though all the heavenly spirits are on the outlook for our welfare, those of the first hierarchy play a more direct role in our affairs. “Are they not all ministering spirits,” Saint Paul writes to the more angel-conscious Hebrews, “sent to minister to them who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?” (Heb. 1:14)
The Guardian Angels
The lowest choir in the first order are the Angels. The word angel means “announcer” or “messenger.” It is a function common to all the nine choirs, but what is common to all is here appropriated specifically to the lowest of the angelic hosts. From this first choir are chosen the guardian angels of men. And it was of these blessed spirits that Our Lord spoke, when concerning the little children He said, “. . . for their angels see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 18:10)
The guardian angels have a very singular purpose in our regard: every benevolent act performed for us by them is directed towards our eternal salvation. If, as Saint Paul assures us, “God will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4), then this is the one desire of our invisible bodyguards. How many times were you in danger of death at a time when, considering your state of soul, you would perhaps have preferred not to die and, unexplainably, you found yourself rescued? Do not take these merciful “close call” deliverances for granted. They are the interferences of your guardian angel.
Since God gives sufficient grace for all men to be saved, and desires all men to be saved by His salvific truth, He has provided for every man, believer and non-believer, a helper, an angel to guide him. So precious is every soul in the eyes of its Creator that each person is given a personal guardian angel, who has never been, nor ever will be, the guardian angel of another man. What an honor we have received, and so gratuitously, to be ministered to by these superior beings! Imagine the billions upon billions of angels there must be if – after seven thousand years of babies being born into the world – God has not yet run out of enough members of just the first choir to supply one for every man. When the Creator does “run out” of guardian angels so too, perhaps, will time have come to its end. For no matter how many guardian angels there are, their numbers have a limit.
How do we know that we have guardian angels? First, the Bible clearly teaches and demonstrates it; second, every Catholic of every age has believed it; and third, Pope Innocent III in the Council of Lateran (1215), by defining ex cathedra that God did create from the beginning both the “spiritual and corporeal creature, namely the angelic and the mundane…”, it is to be taken as a certain doctrine that some of these spirits are appointed as guardians. The Psalm, quoted by the chief fallen angel (even the Devil can quote Scripture), when he tempted Christ in the desert, though held to be primarily Messianic, is not limited to the Savior alone: For he hath given his angels charge over thee, that they keep thee in all thy ways. In their hands they shall bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone. (Ps. 90:11-12) Tradition, and even the flavor of the words themselves, insists on a more general application. Again the Psalmist says the angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear him. (Ps. 33:8)
Moreover, the entire book of Exodus is replete with examples of angelic protection. Had not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob promised the same to Moses, Behold I will send my angel, who shall go before thee in thy journey… take notice of him and hear his voice . . . (Ex. 23:20-2 1)? If the angels were so active in guarding the Israelites of old, are we surprised to find them manifesting their patronage in the New Testament in the Church of Christ, which is the fulfillment of the Old Testament figures?
As their name denotes, the guardian angels’ chief occupation is to guard. Ever this day; we pray-and night-be at my side to light, to guard, to rule and guide. The angels can enlighten our intellect, guard body and soul from any danger, and rule our wills by guiding them always towards the highest good. There are times, however, when to try our loyalty and strength, our angel may hide for a time and allow the demons to tempt us, which they would never attempt to do if our powerful guardians were to encompass us about with full force. If we fall, no doubt our angel looks upon us severely, but in his indignation, he remembers our frailty and does not abandon us. He is always there, ever faithful to his charge, anxiously awaiting opportunities to arouse us to proper repentance. So true and marvelous is this, that even the worst of scoundrels will never be abandoned by his angel. As long as the sinner has a breath of life his angel will work for his conversion. But when that last breath is drawn, woe to the sinner at enmity with God who falls into the hands of his angel. For him, his angel guardian becomes an angel of divine vengeance.
Although an angel has not the power, reserved to God alone, of penetrating into the inner sanctuary of our heart, he can observe those thoughts that come to the surface of our minds. These thoughts, if they are evil, either come from the world, the flesh, or the devil directly. Our guardian angels can protect us against enemies number one and number three above; however; they cannot interfere with man’s own willful desires arising from the flesh. And though the angels can bring to our minds good thoughts, they cannot force them upon unwilling hearts. If a person desires to entertain evil thoughts, an angel is powerless to help him. So, if demons can afflict us with evil thoughts, then a fortiori, the angels, who are more powerful, can provide our minds with good thoughts if we seek such. Nor are the guardian angels incapable of protecting us or even ridding us of temptations (near occasions) that come our way from the outside world.
It is an extremely generous gift from Our Heavenly Father to bestow upon us such a helper who can actually work upon our minds, inspiring, enlightening, and instructing us in all good.
And yet this gift is so little appreciated or utilized.
Another role of our guardian angels is more priestly. No, they cannot say Mass, only men can do that; but they can take the Victim from the altar, uniting to Him all the prayers of the faithful in attendance, and carry Him to the Most High. This is exactly what takes place in every Mass. The whole Church is filled with angelic adorers. Your guardian angel carries your part of that sacrifice to heaven together with Jesus-and, even more-he adores his Lord and yours in your body every time you receive Jesus in Holy Communion. It is in receiving Communion that we are made greater than the angels.
The mediatorial role of the holy angels, though different in the Old Testament than in the New, is demonstrated abundantly in the Bible. One of the sources is no less a person than the Archangel Raphael himself who informed holy Tobias that, When thou didst pray with tears, and didst bury the dead… I offered thy prayer to the Lord. ( Tob.12:12) Also, the Book of the Apocalypse many times mystically represents to us the same reality.
Then, for our good, the guardian angels are sometimes obliged to correct us by way of chastisements. These can be delivered by way of pangs of conscience or by a direct physical or mental affliction. Nabuchadonosor, who so persecuted the Jews in Babylon, was temporarily struck with insanity as a punishment for his sins-instead of dining at table in his palace, he roamed the fields like a wild beast and ate grass.
Sometimes, where crimes were of such magnitude as to cry to heaven for vengeance, the punishments of the good angels were unto death, as in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah or the slaying of the one hundred and eighty-five thousand soldiers of Sennacherib.
Such chastisements are not always reserved for guardian angels. At times, God can execute His wrath by way of allowing free vent to the wicked spirits, as we see from the Apocalyptic revelations. These prophecies are being fulfilled before our eyes by the demons fomenting modern wars and genocides through their agents in the antichristian conspiracy.
Another subject for wonder is that God can allow the demons to physically afflict His saints, as we see in the case of holy Job, and with Sara, the wife of Tobias the Younger, whose first seven husbands were all slain by a demon. It is also a common phenomenon with the saints of our time. The physical suffering that such holy men as the Cure d’Ars or Padre Pio have endured at the hands of devils is called diabolic obsession. If the devils were to actually enter into someone’s body and control his very muscles and tongue it is called diabolic possession. However, though exceptions have been recorded, almost every case of physical diabolic possession has occurred with people who have asked for it in one way or another.
At the final hour of combat, our guardian angels are especially solicitous for their clients. Here, at this most solemn moment, they work with tremendous vigor to prepare those who are in grace for the encounter to come and to inspire contrition into the hearts of sinners. Those death-bed conversions, which we have all heard about and which so amaze us, must surely be partially due to the prayers of guardian angels.
Then, after our soul takes its flight and we appear before the Judgement Seat of Our Lord Jesus Christ, our angel will be right by our side to plead in our defense. Like conquerers, they will escort us triumphantly to heaven, or what is more likely for most, they will conduct us to that temporary place of purgation where our souls will be thoroughly cleansed and made ready to see God. Nor will the guardian angels forget us in Purgatory. They will not fail to visit us there and console us, and it is they who will come to tell us when the awaited hour of our deliverance shall be at hand.
Tremendous respect, reverence, devotion, and confidence is due to our guardian angels. They have never sinned; moreover, though they are so noble, they are happy to condescend to be our ministers; and they never cease to praise God face to face. This respect, furthermore, should reflect upon all men, even great sinners, if not for any other reason than for the sake of their angels. Many saints made it a practice to salute the guardian angels of all those whom they daily came in contact with, whether in the confessional or in the marketplace, addressing congregations or students. It was a common practice of all missionaries to salute the guardian angels of the cities, towns, and nations into which they entered, asking for their help at all times.
The benefits to be derived from a serious devotion to the guardian angels are tremendous, but three stand out above all. First, by walking with angels, we will learn to better walk with God; second, we will acquire a better spirit of obedience by following their example, for the lower choirs respond instantly to any commands they receive from the higher; last, and most important of all, by praying to the angels, we shall more easily conquer the beast in us, and develop that virtue, called by theologians “angeli c”-holy purity.
Not only are there guardian angels assigned to watch over men, but they are also put in charge of the safety of the animal and plant world upon which men depend, not to mention the care they have over the inanimate world: the air, water, fire, and earth, the movement of the planets, the sun, moon, and stars. The entire universe has been put under their guardianship. I can almost hear the enlightened critics, in a pretended sigh of pity for this Dark Aged dupe, protest with an air of horrid self-complacency, “But, my poor fellow, there are physical laws of gravity and motion that account for the order we see in the universe; what have angels to do with it”? My answer, based on my Catholic faith, should be, “Everything”!
What fools men are to think that just because they can observe a force that always acts the same, therefore their measurement of the force explains the force itself. God made gravity. He, the Creator, made the laws of energy. And men haven’t the faintest idea what such realities as gravity and energy really are. All we know about gravity is that bodies fall at the same rate of speed if no outside force intervenes. But they have no idea of just what that force actually is.
Angels do know what gravity is, and they are the ones who control it. Of course, there are laws of physics-but, who are the intelligences coordinating and maintaining these laws in such a way that our little planet maintains its perfect place for intelligent life in a universe exploding with immeasurable energy?
Extreme gratitude is owed to these spirits of the first choir. For on their careful benevolence depends our physical as well as our spiritual well being, our seasons, our weather, our food supply, and all the necessities of our life.
Archangels and Principalities
The second choir on the ladder going up is the Archangels. The prefix arch denotes merely a superior rank. They are the chiefs of the guardian angels. In fact, in the sense of superior rank, this title archangel is sometimes used to identify angels of the higher choirs, but it cannot be used in speaking of the first choir. It is believed that the archangels are assigned to guard more prominent persons, such as bishops, pastors, and even higher civic rulers. And whereas the angels look after individual men, the archangels are more watchful over the public at large.
The highest place in the ministering hierarchy belongs to the Principalities. This choir, exercising a more authoritative role over the lower ministering angels, reveals the wisdom of God’s plan to them by instructing them as to their respective responsibilities. Moreover, they are a kind of bridge connecting the ministerial order with the more knowledgeable hierarchy above them. The Principalities stand watch over kingdoms, countries, states, and provinces. They are appointed directly to guard and guide the Pope and the more influential bishops. They are mentioned in the Book of Daniel, where the Prince of the Persians and the Prince of the Greeks are introduced to the prophet in his visions. (Dan.10:13) Not too long ago another Principality, the Angel of Portugal, made an appearance to three little children to prepare them for the coming of Our Lady and her Fatima message for the world.
The Book of Daniel is particularly relevant for our study. In it there is a great deal about Saint Michael who, the prophet was informed, would play a leading role in rallying the holy people in the turbulent latter days. Our great celestial hero of the angelic battle is described in this prophetic book as the guardian angel of the Jews of old, and Daniel’s own personal guardian. The prophet refers to him as Michael, one of the chief Princes … (Dan 10, 13). Some think that from this verse it must be argued that Michael is of the choir of Principalities. However, most of the saints take the word Prince, as used by Daniel, to mean “leader.” The Principalities then, are the overseers or managers, if you will, of all the multitude of lower spirits who are ministering to men.
Powers, Virtues, and Dominions
Leaping across an angelic crevice, we enter another realm-the realm of the governing spirits. This is the middle hierarchy, the order of the strategists, whose plan of action is always in conformity with the knowledge they have obtained from their superiors above. What a splendid system of progressive harmony!-all working for the glory of God! These spirits of the middle realm are the spokesmen for the Divine King. They speak with awesome authority. The demons tremble at their voice.
However, the demons are not totally subdued by the good angels, although they could be; in fact, they could be chained in hell with no freedom to tempt men (as indeed one day they will be) if God did so will it. Rather, in the Divine Plan, we are the prize in a great struggle, good angels vs. bad, each side free yet limited in power, and the Omniscient Creator of this freedom allows the conflict so that from it He can draw the greatest possible good. The prize must be purified by the familiar process of refining through the fire of tribulation. Remember the admonition of Christ: the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by storm. What good is a reward if there be no struggle? There is no victory without it. Nor glory.
Once you have a free will you have something tremendous in existence. Such a marvel could have been brought forth only by an Omnipotent God-a creature that can actually say “No” to its Creator. You’ve probably heard this riddle: If God is All-Powerful, could He have created a rock too heavy for Himself to lift? Now you can have a ready reply- “Yes, He could, and did, in creating the free wills of angels and men.”
The angels can help us get to heaven, but they can’t drag us there. The Powers, the first choir we meet in our ascent up the middle hierarchy, have two things to contend with in their responsibility as strategists: first, man’s free will, which, due to original sin, is so prone to evil; and second, the permitted and proportioned interference in man’s spiritual life by the demons.
Our Lord called Satan a “murderer” as well as a “liar”. His lie was his sword. With it, he slew Adam and the whole human race. The demons are no different from their father Lucifer. Were it not for the fact that we are protected by God at every moment from physical assault by the wicked spirits, they would have snatched us from this life in our sins and dragged us to hell. Even though one mortal sin deserves everlasting punishment, our Merciful Father in heaven does not allow the wicked spirits power over the lives of men except for some rare occasions, such as in the case of the children of Job or the husbands of Sara. It is thanks to the Powers that the demons are restrained from harming men as they would like.
The Powers are also the protectors of the Church and state, against the evil machinations of the secret societies. Were it not for these blessed spirits, the anti-Christian schemes of Masonry would have succeeded a long time ago. For sure, it was due to their interference that the Church received for its Pope, in 1903, Saint Pius X, instead of the Freemason Cardinal Rompolla, who just missed being elected. How sorrowfully aware we are today, looking back almost three-quarters of a century since the death of the saintly Pontiff in 1914, upon witnessing how the modernist infiltrators have wormed their way into the highest ecclesiastical offices. Even without the proof of masonic infiltration, which is out in the open now, any true Catholic could have surmised it, what with the despoliation of the traditional Mass and the suppression of the Church’s foundational dogma, Outside the Church there is no salvation. Hadn’t Rousseau written into the Social Contract, the Bible of the Masons, that the salvation dogma had to be destroyed? You will find it stated there in black and white.
Some may say, surveying the situation today in the Church and the world, that the Powers are not doing a very good job. That may be true, looking at things from this dark side of the fence; but remember, we have need of them, not they of us. Their help is proportionate to our holy desires. If men deserved it, the Powers would have thwarted all the schemes of the satanic “insiders” before they were hatched. But, due to our mediocrity and sinfulness, we have been left to our own desserts.
How many holy men do you think it would take to rouse the Powers back to our defense? The Cure d’Ars was once informed by the devil that if there were three more men like him, his diabolic empire would have come to an end. Perhaps we are ignoring the call. No, we don’t have to go on a potato eating diet and scourge ourselves the way he did, but when we are fighting against “the spirits of wickedness in the high places,” our weapons had better be sharpened by some degree of holiness. Otherwise our volleys will be ludicrous to the demons.
Next in our ascent in the governing order are the Virtues. Their name means “strength.” They are anxious to make us strong against our infernal enemies and their human henchmen. They are more powerful than any sinister force visible or invisible, any army, or any weapon of mass destruction. They are to be invoked especially in times of great trials or disasters within ourselves, our families, our nation, or between nations.
These awesome spirits are packed with unearthly “energy” as their name implies. They are eager to be up and about helping men. In the Plan of God they are the ones employed for the performing of miracles or mighty works. They gave Sampson great strength of body and Saint Cecilia great strength of soul. They performed the wonders for the Israelites in the desert. The guardian angels of the earth are dependent upon the commands from the Virtues, who are the chief angels in charge of all physical forces. The Virtues literally move the universe. They can move us right into heaven if we make them our friends and give them no cause for shame.
One step higher, and we arrive at the summit of the middle hierarchy of governing intelligences. We are in company with the Dominations. They have so much “power” and “virtue” that they truly “dominate.” They are the overseers of the work of the two lower choirs who are directly subordinate to them. In fact, that is the essence of their activity: they are commanders, commanders with an enormous zeal for seeing the Divine Will perfectly executed. Not even a General Patton could match the least of them for performance. The Dominations specialize in rallying the troops.
Have you ever been inflamed with a holy zeal after reading the life of a saint? Well, the Dominations are like a holy book, revealing the majestic Beauty of the Divine Will. They reflect like a mirror the absolute authority of their Master. They are in charge of all the angels in the five choirs below them and though their commands are delivered through the medium of the Virtues, they are responsible for the harmonious fulfillment of all activity outside of God. When in confusion or doubt, invoke the Dominations.
Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim
When we pass the final angelic bridge and enter into the sublime order of the highest of God’s blessed: that of the Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim, we are at a loss for words in describing their activity. These highest choirs are the mountaintops of God’s glorious intelligent creation. They are far above all other angels. They are engaged with but one thing-being occupied with and by God. They are the closest to God of all His creatures. (We are, of course, speaking here of the natural order in creation; by grace, Our Lady is above all angels.) Of all the angelic hosts, they are the most God-like, the purest, the most penetrating, the most beautiful. They are the privileged ones who fill the court of the heavenly King and wait on His Will directly. It is not their lot to be involved with the affairs of the world below. For this reason we cannot distinguish their activity by any relation to us, as we did the other choirs. We must look at them in their relation to God, and in this way we can attempt to shed some light on what differentiates these three most exalted choirs.
Of course, whatever we say of the Thrones is also attributable, though in an even more exalted sense, to the Cherubim and Seraphim. But these two loftier choirs are lifted so much higher by the profound depths of their knowledge and love so as to make them veritable finite reflections of God. A “throne” denotes a resting place. And in the highest order we have supreme rest, supreme peace, supreme contemplation. They are in a most marvelous way the cathedra of God, the place where He “sits,” where His “feet” rest. They manifest the Presence of God, for they are in the forecourt of His sanctuary.
Though it cannot be under-stressed that by grace God dwells in the souls of all the just, nevertheless, with our race and even with the angels of the lower choirs, there is not a perfect peace, so long as the fullness of salvation has not yet been accomplished. Men, although temples of God by grace in this mortal life, are always at war; while even those who have died and won the crown, still experience a longing both for their glorified bodies and the final salvation of their compatriots. And the ministering angels themselves are under a certain burden, longing with ardor for the day when the universe will be re-created and their guardian services no longer necessary, salvation at last consummated for all the elect, and their war with the demons terminated.
There is nothing of this in the highest order. They are in sheer contemplation. They convey to the lower choirs the secrets of the perfect harmony and purpose of the Infinite Wisdom of God in His Creation. Through the lower choirs, the higher ones confer upon men of good will peace and
an eager submission to the Law of God and His Revelations. Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will. For peace in our souls, and in our world, and in our family, we should invoke the Thrones.
There is a veil separating the Cherubim and Seraphim from even the Thrones. As was said before, all the blessed see God as He is, and this Beatific Vision is the cause of their eternal joy. Note, the distinctions here made are those existing in the hierarchy of God’s creatures, as they are in their respective natures. The Cherubim and Seraphim are the most sublime in the world of divine knowers and divine lovers. It is because they know so much that they love so much. The word “cherub” means “fulness of knowledge.” How full? Well, about as full as a created finite intellect could be. God, who alone knows all things, can communicate a tremendous amount of knowledge if He so desired. And He has desired to do so with the Cherubim. For this reason the prophetic oracle or mercy seat that Moses was instructed to build in the desert was placed upon two golden figures of Cherubim.
When God spoke to His servant Moses from this “chair” atop the holy tabernacle, He did so by way of these brilliant angelic intelligences. The oracle or mercy seat was placed by Moses directly above the Ark of the Covenant. This Ark was a prefigure of our Catholic tabernacle, by the Old Testament it was the holiest thing in the world, the closest thing they could come to by way of a Real Presence. The oracle or mercy seat was also a prophetic figure of the chair of Peter. Truth was proclaimed by way of these two mouthpieces of God, truth that men were not free to question if they wished to be saved; in the first, the seat of the oracle, truth was communicated by the dispensation of angels; in the second, the papacy, truth echoes from heaven to earth by the definitions and pronouncements of the Vicar of the Divine Savior. The same people today who are so scandalized that the Catholic Church claims the note of infallibility, would have rejected the claim by Moses as well.
No other choir is so often cited in scripture as are the Cherubim. In the Book of Genesis, after Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Paradise, it is written that God placed Cherubim with flaming swords to guard the entrance, thus barring any approach to that land and the Tree of Life therein. We meet them again in the Book of Ezechiel, where they appeared to the prophet full of eyes, symbolizing their great knowledge. David raves about them in the Psalms, and Solomon, his son, reconstructing the ancient design of the Ark, built two more huge golden Cherubim with outstretched wings, upon which he posited the holy Ark in the magnificent temple of Jerusalem.
But not all was glorious in the history of the Cherubim; Lucifer, the leader of the rebellious hosts, was of their rank. Satan fell by pride-and that would seem to be inconsistent with the dignity of the supreme choir of Seraphs, who are the angels of love.
Though love cannot exist without knowledge, knowledge can exist without love. Since pride is of the intellect, most likely Lucifer, who was of this extremely intelligent choir, fell on account of his glorying in his own gifts. I will be like the Most High, he boasted. Pride is contrary to selfless love. Furthermore, we find in the prophet Ezechiel a passage that would seem to clearly support our position. With a holy anger over the crimes of the wicked King of Tyre, Ezechiel, in comparing him to Satan, calls him a Cherub: Thou art a cherub stretched out. (Ezechiel 28:14)
We should implore the inspiration of the Cherubim to show us the perfect Will of God in allowing all this confusion to continue to afflict the Church today, so great a chastisement on a faithless and perverse generation. Then, we should pray with confidence that the Church be soon rescued from these diabolic snares.
Finally we come to the pinnacle of God’s creation, the seraphic world. Excepting Our Blessed Lady and the Human Nature of her Divine Son, there is nothing in all creation so perfect and close to God as are these magnificent spirits. They absorb more than the Cherubim, so much the more are they filled with love for their Eternal Benefactor.
Saint Paul writes that Charity is the bond of perfection . When faith and hope pass away to vision, the charity of God remains forever. There is no greater act to be performed. These exalted beings, who came into existence by the Will of Infinite Love, are the most perfect created representations of that Divine Ardor. Their name means “ardor” or, what is even a better definition, “to consume with fire”. Fire purifies, and love is like a fire to the soul. When one loves purely, one seeks to conform oneself to the desire of the beloved; one seeks to rid oneself of all that displeases him, even to become one with the beloved. That is why we speak of love as a bond, a unifying force, achieved by a mutual giving of self. In the Inner Life of God that unifying force is a Person, the Third of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Ghost.
Seraphim are sometimes depicted as on fire. The fire symbolizes that they have nothing to be purified from, the fire in them is therefore non-consuming. They themselves are a fire, capable of igniting the world with a pure love of God. Yet, their fire is as a mere flame in comparison with the fire of love that burns within the heart of their Queen. Mary’s love is far greater than that of all the Seraphim put together.
When Isaias was lifted up to heaven to the very throne of God, it was the blessed Seraphim that he saw crying out, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, all the earth is full of His glory. What was it that the holy angels saw in God that caused them to pronounce such inflaming words? What is that thrice-repeated holiness that the angels adored, shared in, and were so profoundly moved by? How deep must these sublime intelligences penetrate into the Mystery Of God: Holy, holy, holy is all they were heard to say. Then, suddenly, one of them descended like a flash and touches the mouth of Isaias with a burning coal taken from the divine censer on heaven’s altar. Our tongues must be pure, and our hearts-for what proceedeth from the mouth cometh from the heart-if we are to preach the word of God.
In addition to the angels, the Church has conferred the seraphic title on some of the great saints who exhibited an extraordinary love for God. Francis of Assisi is known as the seraphic saint and his entire order bears the same appellation on their holy founder’s account. Saint Bonaventure, his disciple, is called the seraphic doctor. One day while Saint Francis was praying alone on a mountain, a seraph appeared to him in the sky, having hands and feet transpierced with nails. The angel assured the saint, whose heart was moved with pity at the sight, that the vision was only symbolic, as angels can feel no pain. Suddenly, rays of light beamed from the five wounds of the seraph and marked the poor and humble Francis with the visible and painful wounds of Christ.
Then how can we pass by Saint Mary Magdalene, of whom Our Lord said, Many sins are forgiven her because she hath loved much. So seraphic was the ardor of her love that she spent the last thirty years of her life as a hermit in uninterrupted contemplation of her Spouse in a cave in Southern France. If we wish, like the penitent Magdalene, to thoroughly cleanse our souls from sin, if we want to be pure, if we want to love God and taste His Love in this life, pray to the seraphim that they might penetrate us with holy desires and give us a touch of that love for God that so burns within them without consuming them.
The Seven Before the Throne
Among the seraphim, as we approach the very Persons of the Trinity, there is found an intimate circle of even more glorious personages, seven in number. These are those blessed spirits who are privileged to stand before the throne of God. Three of the seven are known to us by name. In fact, though all the angels as persons have names, only these three have been revealed: Raphael, which means “medicine of God”, Gabriel, which means “strength of God”, and Michael, which means “who is like unto God!”
The angel Raphael revealed himself as one of the privileged inner circle when he made known the fact to the family of Tobias: I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven who stand before the throne. Gabriel, the angel of the Annunciation, identifies himself also as another of the septenary honor guard when, in appearing to Zachary, the father of John the Baptist, he announced himself as Gabriel, who stand before the Lord. And certainly, Saint Michael the Archangel must be counted among those seven. For, as already noted, a seraph can be called an archangel if one takes the prefix “arch” in its more generic meaning of chief.
No other angel has played such a prominent role either in the history of the spirits themselves or of men. When Saint Jude in his epistle (chap. 1:9) refers to Saint Michael as the Archangel, he does so in keeping with the Jewish tradition of honoring this particular heavenly hero as the chief of all angels. Scripturally, this is supported abundantly, but no Biblical argument is more clinching than the fact that we never find either Saint Gabriel or Saint Raphael referred to in such a way by any other sacred writer. Saint Michael is to the other angels what an archbishop is to other bishops; only he, Michael, is one of his kind. If tradition has added the title of “archangel” to Saints Gabriel and Raphael, it is again to emphasize their preeminence. It is not to place them in the rank of the second choir of Archangels, simply so-called. If we knew the names of the other four angels before the throne of the Most High, they, too, would be designated “archangels.” The opinion of the Church, nevertheless, is virtually unanimous in placing Saint Michael, not only among the privileged seven, but as the Prince even of the highest septenary circle.
In speaking to the prophet Daniel, Saint Gabriel reveals his tremendous respect and admiration for his co-seraph Michael, whom he calls the “Prince” of the Jewish people. And the true children of Zion, the Catholic Church of the New Testament, doubles the honor, calling him “Prince of the heavenly hosts” and “Protector of the Universal Church.”
For the Mass of the feast of Saint Michael, the Church has assigned the epistle from the passage in the book of the Apocalypse where Saint John greets the churches in the name of the “seven spirits who are before his throne.” (Apoc. 1:1-5) If holy Mother the Church had any doubts that Saint Michael was one of the seven spirits before the Most High’s throne, then surely she would have refrained from applying to our hero this passage.
A question arises from the fact that, since Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael are seraphim, how is it that they took such an active part in the affairs of men?-for the seraphim are strictly the angels of contemplation. The answer is simple: in extraordinary cases there are exceptions to the general rule.
Tobias was renowned for sublime charity, the likes of which the world has never seen; in this he, more than any other Old Testament figure, resembled the Christ to come. It was fitting, therefore, that he be visited by the highest of the angelic lovers. This story is meant to impress men with the value of good works in the sight of God and His angels.
In the case of Gabriel, his mission was far more important than that of his brother Raphael; for this seraph was to announce the very Incarnation of God to His mother-to-be. So marvelous an event ought to require the most noble and honorable of heralds.
With Saint Michael, his appearance on the world scene is more frequent and therefore a little more difficult to justify. As Commander-in-Chief of all the heavenly hosts, he usually exercises his power through the ministry of the lower angels under his command. The situations that called for his direct guardianship were always very grave. This is not to say that upon occasion any one of the seraphim could not perform a special service and deal directly with us mortals if God willed it, as He did in the case of the unknown seraph who transpierced Saint Francis. Saint Michael himself acted as a personal guardian angel for the holy “man of desires,” Daniel the prophet. The great archangel also is the chief guardian angel of the Church militant, both in the Old Testament in its anticipatory stage, and in the New Testament in its actual stage.
But there is an even greater reason why Saint Michael and his seraphic companions are so often found down below among men. Remember it was Saint Michael who not only drove out the bad angels, but who also led the good angels in bowing in adoration before the revealed mystery of the Incarnation. The effect this tremendous revelation of Divine Love had on the angels of love, the seraphim, was far more moving than we shall ever realize in this life. They were in awe. The eagerness they felt burning within them of imitating their Lord in His descent could scarcely be controlled. And though they could not follow the Son of God so far as to adopt man’s nature, they could still come into our world, and contribute their helping hand to accomplish the saving plans of God. It is hardly surprising then to find the most zealous of the spirits of God, Saint Michael the Archangel, so often mingling his exalted spirit in a sphere far below his station.
Mention of the seven spirits before the throne occurs most often in the Book of Apocalypse:
Grace be to you and peace from him that is, and that was, and that is to come, and from the seven spirits that are before his face. (Apoc. 1, 4); and again in the same book, the sacred author Saint John writes, I saw seven angels standing in the presence of God. (Apoc. 8, 2)
These seven blessed spirits are also in a special way the guardians of the seven sacraments. They have a jealous interest in defending the Holy Mass. The august Sacrifice is the most efficacious means of rendering adoration to God, and the seven holy angels before the throne are the supreme adorers. That is why in the holy liturgy of the Mass, before we enter into the sacred canon, our ears are first attuned to the ringing of bells and the recitation of the seraphic hymn of praise: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of Thy Glory. . . These are the very words Isaias the prophet heard chanted by the seraphim before God’s throne. At the Birth of Christ all the lower choirs sang their Gloria in excelsis, and so, at that part of the Mass where this first hymn of praise is sung, we will find the guardian angels taking their places in preparation for the Sacrifice. But, when the Sanctus is sounded, we enter into greater and holier mysteries still. At this point of the Supreme Worship the seraphim gather closer around the altar to repeat their thrice holy praise, after which there is a loving silence as the priest pronounces the greatest words that a creature can utter: Hoc est Corpus Meum.
The seven spirits are not pleased with what has been done to the Mass by the Masonic conspirators who have infiltrated our holy Church. But they allowed this outrage because they saw clearly that the shepherds and sheep alike did not have the faith that went with the traditional liturgy. Again, it was a punishment, especially for those who think one can be saved without believing in and partaking of this Sacrifice. When the Faith is restored, so shall be the traditional liturgy. Lex orandi est lex credendi ! (The law of praying is the law of believing!)
May the salutation of Saint John the Apostle, which he gave to his spiritual children nearly nineteen hundred years ago, ring in our ears today, and in our hearts, as we think of and praise the Most High’s septenary honor guard, Grace be unto you and peace from the Eternal God and from the seven spirits which are before his face.
And from all the billions of spirits that are before His face let there be peace and grace upon our earth.
* We are taking the word “invisible” to mean imperceptive to any of the five senses-in this sense “air” would not be invisible because it is perceptible to touch.