Before the dawn of the material creation there was a lot of immaterial (though hardly in the sense of unimportant) and awesome activity going on. At one point it developed into warfare. A spirit war, if you can imagine it. The swords wielded by the good side, under the captainship of Saint Michael, were devastating in power. More potent than anything nuclear physicists can come up with, the arms of the good angels struck at the enemy, a multitude of proud spirits, who could not be harmed by any bombs. With a force that shook the walls of the angelic paradise, the phalanx of Saint Michael and his troops pressed forward and in a split second’s time cast forth the bad angels with Lucifer, their head, into the fiery pits of hell that Almighty God had prepared for them.
It must have been quite a spectacle: the Prince of the heavenly hosts making the higher courts resound with his battle cry, “Who is like unto God!” in a flashing and overpowering rebuke to the proud protest of Lucifer “I will not serve!” Billions and billions of angels were engaged in the brief but momentous conflict that saw one third of them cast forth as a just punishment for their terrible refusal to obey a command of the Most High God. “And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan… and his angels were thrown down with him.” (Apoc. 12, 9) And again the same Scripture says, “And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth…” (Apoc. 12,14).
Our Lord and Savior Himself, as the Eternal Son of God, referred to this stupendous event when, in encouraging His seventy-two, demon-expelling disciples, He said, “I saw Satan like lightning fall from heaven.” (Luke 8, 10) Like lightning? Yes, Satan, whose name as an angel was Lucifer, that is, “light-bearer”, was striking in his glory. Some theologians maintain that he was the highest in the choir of the cherubim. So, his fall was tremendous. “I will ascend into heaven”, was the boast of the rebel angel, “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God,-I will be like the Most High.” (Isaias 14: 13-14) Proud Lucifer! He did not want to be greater than God, only equal to Him! Then a shout was heard from a higher angel, greater in talent and certainly greater in love, a shout that gave its mighty seraphic bellower his name, for Michael in Hebrew is an exclamation “Who is like unto God!” The Prince’s name was then, and is now, a compelling rebuke to all the proud spirits, be they demons or men.
We have here a magnificent scenario. Better to have been dropped off in the middle of the excitement before hearing an explanation of the how, when, where, and why, of it all. The basic event of the angelic war is no fairy-tale, it is fact. It has always been believed and taught. There are angels, untold billions of them. They did do battle for the glory of God against rebels of their own stock. No blood was shed, for angels have no blood; but sanctifying grace was shed, and trampled underfoot by the sin of one third of those angels. They were condemned to hell. Their crime? Pride in the first degree. Here is how it all began.
“In the beginning God created heaven and earth.” Many saints have understood “heaven” here to include the angels. Moses, the inspired writer, did not mention them in the story of creation by name. It is certain, nonetheless, that they were created before men. What glory came to be when God brought them forth, all at once, in a silent display of awesome power. They were not, and, then, they were; and they would never die. And they praised the God Who created them.
In many ways they resemble our father Adam, and, again, in many ways they do not. In both cases they just found themselves, “presto,” existing, fully conscious, utterly intelligent, and instantly aware of the fact that they were created by a Personal God. Talk about an experience! Another similarity: neither Adam and Eve nor the angels had parents, and in both cases, for obvious reasons. God was their common Father. Indeed, that made our first parents and the angels brothers in the highest sense of the word, children of but One Father. Then, too, they shared that common endowment, though in varying degrees, of having been created in the image and likeness of God. That is, they had intelligence, the faculty of knowledge; and they had a will, the faculty of desiring and loving. In Adam, intelligence was far inferior to the angels’ and acquired by a different means, though at the same time we must know that his mind was far superior to even the very best of his children, who have all on his account suffered a big drop in IQ potential after the Fall. And the same distinction is to be made for the will also.
The greatest thing that Adam shared with the angels was the gift of sanctifying grace, which made him, as truly as they, a child of God rather than just His creature. This was a sheer gift on God’s part, an expression of His overabundant Love. Adam and the angels were heirs to the kingdom of God-not yet possessors. For, not even the angels were created in the Beatific Vision. Our first parents and their spiritual neighbors, who most likely had familiarized themselves with their earth-dwelling cousins, were perfectly happy, glorying in their gifts and thanking their Divine Benefactor, while reflecting in their holiness and innocence the face of their Creator. But this paradisal state was not meant by God to be forever. He had even greater plans for His creatures.
And this brings us to their final point of similarity-both Adam and the angels had to pass a simple test before they could enter into God’s Glory and see their Creator face to face. For, as yet, even the angels were living by faith, having seen only the exterior effects of God, not His very Being. That had to be merited by the help of His grace. We are well aware of the test of Adam and Eve. What was the test of the angels?
It would seem from the protest of Lucifer, the infamous Non serviam (I will not serve), that the test of fidelity given to the spirits was one of humility. There would seem to be no question of adoration due to their Creator, for all were intelligent enough to know that there was a God to Whom they owed reverence. There were no atheists among the angels. Stupidity was impossible to their nature. God, in His Omnipotence, they should and would adore, but not-and here was the rock of contradiction by which their goats were separated from their sheep-a God in His helplessness, a God lying in a manger, a God-man,-that, they would never do!
The wonderful mystery of the Incarnation was revealed by God to his angels and they were commanded to adore God in a nature inferior to their own. Moreover, they were commanded to receive as their Queen a little girl of the race of men. This was too much for the proud. And the dragon’s tail drew one third of these shining spirits of light and made them into demons of darkness. But, the loyal angels, by far the majority, amidst profound acclamations of joy from the stunning wonder of it all, bowed down their faces before the Divine Child of an age to come and His Immaculate Mother, and they were instantly transported over the threshold into the wedding chamber of Beatific bliss.
Opposition From the New Age
For some the existence of angels presents a problem. It is too indicative of a faith that is not supposed to be seen or expressed. It just doesn’t fit in polite society’s cozy world of what is or what isn’t acceptable. “Polite” society today is a humanistic society. A belief in a type of god the humanists have fabricated, a god who is rather far away and impersonal (some kind of supreme being-as they say) is all right. Just don’t insist on a Father, Son, and Holy Ghost Deity. That smacks too much of Christianity. And it is hardly a hidden fact any more that Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is not a welcome figure in today’s polite society. If you don’t believe it, just go into any marketplace and listen to the way His Holy Name is abused; then very openly bless yourself and say, “Blessed be the Holy Name of Jesus!” Just watch, your friends will turn the other way, as if they don’t know you, and you will find yourself alone, a lonely soldier.
The belief in angels is another one of those “extremisms” that is just too much. Why can’t angels be tolerated? Because to accept them means to accept revelation, the Bible and tradition, as factual truth, for how else (short of a vision) would our minds acquire a knowledge of them?
Of course, the loss of faith that hit this unfortunate generation didn’t just leave its victims (principally the young) suspended in mid-air. Great numbers have fallen easy prey to the bad angels, or demons, whose existence they once denied. Now they no longer deny it. They have had too much firsthand experience with satanic things (rock music, occult books, drugs) to ever again doubt the “other” reality. The trouble is that the demons have corrupted so many willing minds, through their evil human agents, that now many of the liberated believe that the devil is necessary for the balance of the universe. A new Manichaeanism is on the rise. That proud creature, the devil, has found ears itchy enough to swallow the idea that he is the other half of God! “It is so easy to be evil and so hard to be good,” the weak and faithless reason; “perhaps we should jump on the bandwagon and join the winning team.” And so many do, in one form or another, join the “winning” team, turning their back on the God of Love to embrace the lying and empty delights of the beast of hell who wants nothing more than to kill men. And if his victims do not repent, they will die eternally, and justly, in the fires of hell.
Yes, many doubters now believe. Karl Marx, a Jew, supposedly was an atheist-strange inconsistency for a man who used to prefix to his signature in special letters written to certain fellow conspirators, “Sincerely, Your Brother in Satan”. Are we naive enough to believe that the world conspirators of our day, the descendants of the inner club that financed Marx and the Bolsheviks, are so stupid as to be atheists? They are not atheists. They are satanists, who have sold themselves to the devil so that they might rule the world. However, their reign is quickly approaching its end. That is why we see such turmoil around us. It is a diabolic turmoil. The forces of hell are disturbed. They know they are running out of time. Someone very powerful is approaching, very meekly, very humbly, yet “terrible as an army set in array”; she is the Woman come to crush the serpent’s head.
In the Creed at Sunday Mass we proclaim: “I believe in One God, Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and in visible”. By the “invisible” creation, the fathers of the Nicene Council, who gave us this Creed, meant the angels. And lest we forget our kinship with our immaterial neighbors, is not a part of ourselves included in that invisible creation? Do we not have an invisible soul that will exist for a time, spiritually active, yet detached from our body? Other than God Himself, the angels, and human souls, there are no other invisible intelligences in creation.
There is one pure Spirit who is Infinite; there are untold billions of sheer created spirits who are not infinite; and there are lesser billions of spiritual souls who are dwelling in a truly amazing substantial composite with flesh and bones. And, in the order of intelligence, that is all the universe contains or, in the case of God, is contained by.
I am sorry to disagree with “His Holiness” Mr. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who claims to be in tune with another higher reality he calls “the unified field of pure intelligence”. If “intelligent” it must be personal, though Mr. Yogi doesn’t speculate on that. Angels are persons. They can say “I” the same as we. If the Maharishi is in touch with a higher intelligence then you can guess who it is, since it must be a who (intelligences cannot be whats). The devil? Yes, that’s right. You see, “His Holiness” (or some supporter with a ton of money) put a full, two-page advertisement in no less a place than Newsweek magazine in its December 19th, 1983 issue. (This advertisement also appeared again later in many major newspapers around the globe.) Obviously, transcendentalism is viewed favorably by the major media moguls. According to the ad, by following the Maharishi you can get in touch with this “unified field of pure intelligence” (no kidding!); and only in this way can peace come to our beleaguered planet. In other words, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is not the answer to the world’s problems. Rather, all we need do is get back in touch with the “unified field.” Will people believe it? I’m sure a lot will. Everyone who is informed knows that the illuminist program, as outlined by international freemasonry, is to enslave the world under a one-world government. And a one-world religion, whose reigning guru is under their thumb, would go very nicely with the plan. In fact their little “Mecca” is already built in Geneva. Mr. Yogi boasts that 1984 will be his year, “The Year of the Unified-Field Based Civilization”. How Orwellian! [Editor’s Note: As of today, November 2007, it seems that the Maharishi is still living, at 100 years of age, in the Netherlands. Then, again, so is David Rockefeller, at age 102. Both will meet their Maker.]
The point of this digression is to stress as forcefully as possible that difficult times are ahead, times packed with opportunities for great sanctity, times in which we are going to need assistance from our cousins in the spirit, the angels. Saint Paul says in his epistle to the Hebrews that all the angels are ministers to us. They are at our beckon call, anxious to serve. Now is the time to get familiar with them. Now we can begin, once and for all, to live with them in the world of grace as true children of God. Thus, we can make up by our compunction for all the times we have been the cause of their embarrassment before the face of God. Their help is not a benefit; it is a necessity.
In speaking of the blessed spirits we can only do so analogously, that is, by way of comparison with something we understand, namely ourselves. We can’t summon one of them up for an interview, much as we would like to. Isn’t it too bad Saint Frances of Rome, who used to see her guardian angel all the time and who read her prayerbook at night by his light, didn’t ask her friend some questions and write down the answers? So many other saints, Saint Gemma Galgani for one, saw and spoke to angels too, but their heavenly visitors never left much by way of a de angelis treatise behind!
The Angelic Mind
When we say that an angel is intelligent we know what that means by comparing this attribute to our own intelligence. You see the handicap. Poor men, especially after original sin, how dull we are! What a labor, though at times a delightful one, just to get a little speck of useful information upstairs. We humans are unable to arrive at conclusions except by way of a process called reasoning, that is, proceeding from premises to conclusions, from things known to things unknown. In logic the process is termed the syllogism. Our minds move from self-evident truths, (that require no demonstration), to less evident truths, to totally non-evident truths, such as the Pythagorean Theorem.
Not so with the angels. They know things instantaneously by just applying their minds to them. An angel sees the conclusions in the premises at the same time it sees the premise. When it understands a principle, the angelic mind perceives all the necessary corollaries or deductible truths that proceed from that principle. For example: An angel knows, just by the concept of a triangle, that the sum of all its angels must be 180 degrees. At a mere glance, angels see effects in causes and causes in effects.
Necessarily then, due to our lower understanding, our knowledge of the angels is far from exhaustive. We can only scratch the surface of the invisible world. However what little we can garner is a delight.
An angel’s knowledge is only that-an angel’s knowledge. It has a limit. Only God knows everything. Angels are not curious. They would have no interest in who is playing in this year’s World Series, but they have a lot of interest in the individual players, for men even as famous as Karl Yastremski were created for greater things than baseball.
How much do angels know? It varies according to which of the nine choirs they are in and what their specific duties are. The higher choirs know more than the lower. It is a common opinion of the fathers, brilliantly defended by Saint Thomas Aquinas, that when it comes to natural knowledge (that is, as distinguished from the supernatural knowledge), that although all the angels share in the Beatific Vision of God, the lower choirs are enlightened by the higher choirs.
Among the choirs themselves knowledge may differ according to administration. For instance, among the guardian angels of the lower choirs, the angels of weather may know more about the secrets of nature than the angels assigned to watch over persons. But, even the guardian angels of men know far more about the weather than all the meteorologists of all time put together.
What of the Vision of God? Can a lower angel be higher in heaven and enjoy a greater understanding of God than, let’s say, a seraph? The answer is No. True, all the angels are before God, rendering Him eternal praise and glory. They all see Him as He is without any veil of separation even though they may be busy with activity outside of God. They are never deprived of God’s presence and sight. Their joy is continual and full to the brim. The lower angels are not missing out on the fun of the seraphim since they are not capable of experiencing all that a seraph can experience, nor do they desire to be made so capable. They are perfectly content with their “portion”, if you will, of God. (Portion from the receiver’s point of view-not of the Good received- for God is not portionable .) An illustration: an eight-ounce glass filled with water is as full as a twelve-ounce glass filled with water. One glass can receive more water than the other because its capacity is greater. So it is with the angels. They are all capable of receiving different fullnesses of joy, though each is full to the brim. In the beauty of God’s spiritual world all angels were not created equal. Why not? Because God so willed it.
With men the situation is different. All men do not receive the same amount of graces, though each receives a more than abundant amount to be saved. God foresees that certain ones will cooperate more with His graces, so they get more. And, as we shall see in heaven, some saints will be lifted up above many choirs of angels, perhaps even higher than the seraphim. We know Our Lady is exalted above all; she is heaven’s Queen. Certainly Saint Joseph is reigning with her as the head of the Holy Family. Can we doubt that Saint Mary Magdalene, the Apostles, and Saint Francis are also above the seraphim? Truly, this exaltation of man is a marvel that all the angelic choirs rejoice in with incessant exclamations of wonder.
The great African doctor, Saint Augustine, in his commentary on the Book of Psalms, sees in the inspired scriptural phrase “evening knowledge” the natural mode of angelic understanding, while in the phrase “morning knowledge” the saint sees the infinitely greater knowledge that they have in the Beatific Vision, where they contemplate Truth without any intermediary medium, face to face.
Angels do not know things by way of sense images because they are immaterial and have no eyes nor sense organs of any kind. Therefore a book would do an angel no good. Arbitrary language is useless to him. He doesn’t need words at all, just concepts in the mind. What an angel registers in his intellect are not words but ideas and concepts. And such concepts do not come to his mind by way of sense images for the same reason we noted above. How do they come to him? That is a mystery. The best we can do is to say that they are innate in him from his very creation and when an angel desires to know something, this innate “image,” though not a sense image, is called forth by the will from the intellect and there it is. An angel then “knows” the desirable truth. The spirit mind would have no need of searching a computer bank for information. It has its own built-in computer. The concept bank of an angel need only be engaged by its will. Instantly the concept will come to mind.
We now have at least a clue as to how angels communicate with each other. In this, they have a far greater advantage than men. If I wish to get my ideas across to someone, I can only do so by way of signs of some sort, whether written in letters, spoken in sounds, or gestures. Here is how an angel does it: since an angel is not everywhere, he must move himself to where the other angel is with whom he wishes to communicate. That is hardly a problem for a being that can move faster than the speed of light. That is about all the labor that is involved, for once the angel is in the presence of the desired subject, all he need do is activate his will, and the concept brought to his mind can be seen intellectually (remember, angels, being immaterial, have no eyes) by the other angel. The angel must desire his concepts or ideas to be made known to another spirit before the other can know them. Therefore an angel can have secrets. His mind is not an open book. It is a closed book that can only be opened from the inside.
The angels also have the knowledge that comes from contemplating the Word of God in the Divine Essence. This is appropriately called “morning knowledge,” for its light is like the bright sun compared to the evening twilight of natural knowledge. Here the knowledge is infinitely above their natural capacity; it is totally supernatural. While they bask in the Divine Light, all things are seen by the minds of the blessed spirits as they actually exist in the All-Knowing Mind of their Creator. And the higher in the angelic hierarchy, the greater is their “morning knowledge”.
Hesiod, the Greek poet, although a pagan, wrote these astounding words about the invisible powers:
Upon the thickly-peopled earth,
In ever ceaseless flow,
Full thrice ten thousand deathless beings
Pass lightly to and fro.
Keepers of mortal men unseen,
In airy vesture dight,
Their good and evil deeds they scan,
Stern champions of the right.
What other conclusions can we draw from this amazing piece of verse, and from so many similar expressions of angelic awareness found in other writings of pagan philosophers, except to say that such a knowledge must have been a preserved remnant of that primitive revelation made known to our first parents Adam and Eve, and passed on to the entire human race through our second father Noah and his sons?
Too, there would have been a gap in the order of God’s creation if there were no pure spirits, perfect in their own natures, yet not infinite, a finite reflection, if you will, of God, and capable of knowing and loving Him. Could it be even conceivable-to argue by way of a posteriori reverse logic, not conclusive but thought-provoking- that the Omnipotent God was not capable of creating a nature greater than man’s? Moreover, reason insists that there should be (arguing apologetically from the fact as already known) intermediate beings between God and men that are not subject to matter as we are. The existence of such immaterial creatures enhances the beauty of God’s universe as it portrays in its hierarchical variety the Wisdom of the Maker.
The pagans used to refer to the angels as “intelligences” as if that described them fully. Of course it doesn’t. Knowledge without its complement, love, wouldn’t be worth the knowing. What good would it be to know the good and yet be incapable of desiring it? For desire is the moving of the heart towards a something that, when possessed, will be loved. And certainly if we of an inferior race can love, then who can deny it of the angels?
The Angelic Will
By nature, the angelic will is immeasurably more intense than our own, and as the mind of the angel is perfect in its own limited capacity, so is his will. Even before the Fall, the mind and will of Adam, though far more keen than after it, were not perfect because of their restrictive dependence on matter. How weak our will has become after original sin we are all too well aware. Even our first parents, with all their moral integrity, with their flesh perfectly submissive to their spirit, still preferred the taste of an apple to the taste of heaven.
An angel has a will unaffected by passion. Angels, even the fallen ones, are incapable of the human kinds of sins of weakness: angels don’t get angry and irrational; they don’t commit impurities, though the demons, in their jealousy and hatred for men, love to see us so degrade ourselves; nor do they have to worry about gluttony, or sloth.
But, worse sins, those of the spirit, they can or could have committed. Some did, some didn’t. Those who didn’t are forever fixed in grace and cannot now sin, as they are with God. An angel could become proud, much prouder than any egocentric that has blessed our planet with his honorable presence. Angels could be jealous, vain, cruel, and murderous (to men physically and spiritually, to each other spiritually), and angels could lie… as our mother Eve sadly discovered. All the evil that a man could commit, were he to exclude those directly related to the flesh, could also be committed by an angel. (We are speaking here of an angel as an angel, prescinding from his state in glory where, as said before, he cannot sin.)
But there is one big difference, and here lies a very important point-if we are going for a minute to think that God was unfair in sentencing the wicked spirits with no second chance-we must realize that the will of an angel is so strong and perfect in its nature, that once that will consents to obey God or disobey, it moves completely and totally toward the path desired without any hesitation. Our Lord could not pray for the angels, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” There are not “two laws,” the flesh and the spirit, fighting in their members, for they have no “members” An angel after choosing rebellion could never say (and it is a poor excuse for a man to use), “I didn’t mean to do it.” Their wills never move half-heartedly or “under the influence”-unless that “influence” be their own pride. They move freely and wholeheartedly toward their ultimate end, be it God or themselves.
When, with thundering swiftness, the just condemnation of God fell upon the demons, their wills were instantly and irrevocably fixed in hatred of their Judge. Theologically speaking, it is not proper to the nature of a free will to be fixed, since by nature it is free; however, in the case of the fallen angels (and in the case of all the damned) the finality of the Divine sentence made it so.
So, there you have it; two-thirds of the angels passed the test; one-third failed. With men the statistics are far more devastating; the vast majority of men go to their graves putting themselves before God. “The way to heaven is narrow,” Our Lord said, “and how few there are who find it.”
Souls and Spirits
It would be good here to make a distinction between the words “soul” and “spirit.” They are not the same thing. Angels are spirits but they are not souls. A soul is a principle of life in a material thing. Therefore, even plants and animals have souls. But their souls are not rational; they cannot do any function other than material ones; consequently, their souls cannot be immortal, because their existence depends on the matter they inform. Our human souls are spiritual, but they are not spirits. The angelic spirit could never be of one substance with a body. It may use a body to make itself visible, but it cannot be a principle of life for that body. The body assumed by the Angel Raphael in the story of Tobias was no more alive than the pen my hand is using to write this article. Life is an intrinsic self-movement, but in the case of angels using bodies, there is no intrinsic self-movement; the movement is from an alien outside mover who happens to be activating his moving from the inside. You might say that the body used by the Angel Raphael was a very human looking robot – operated not by electronics but by “angelonics.”
In summary, though a man’s soul can be referred to as a spirit, since it is not material, an angel’s spirit cannot be called its soul because the soul is a principle of life in a material thing.
Having raised the subject of the soul, we can use it to illustrate the type of presence an angel has in space and time. As the great philosophers express it: the soul is present in the body wholly in the whole and wholly in the parts. Though the soul is present in every part of the body, the most noble part of our bodies is the eyes. In grammar school the sisters taught us that the eyes were the “windows of the soul.” So, in the functioning of the eye, the faculty of sight, the soul of man manifests one of its more sublime powers. But our soul is also fully present in our toes, although the toes are hardly as noble as the eyes. We can conclude then that the operation of the soul is more angel-like in the eye than in the toe, but the human soul cannot be said to be more present above man’s shoulders than below.
An angel’s presence in space is similar, although more difficult to understand, because an angel has no body. If an angel is virtually present by act in one room, for example, the angel is wholly in the whole room and wholly in each part. And if an angel is virtually present in this certain room it simply is not present in any other room. That doesn’t mean that an angel could not be present in a whole house. If an angel is actively present in a whole house, then that angel is wholly in the whole house and wholly in the different parts. Where, you may ask, is this leading us? How big an area can an angel occupy? Only God knows the answer to that; but we do know that there is a limit to how much of an area an angel can occupy or-to phrase the point more correctly-that can be occupied by the angel. An angel, of course, cannot be present everywhere.
An angel is present by way of its operations. You cannot circumscribe an angel, since it has no body. Being immaterial, an angel has no height nor, for that matter, any shape of any kind. If the angel is in a room, the room does not contain the angel but the angel contains the room. It could move a table in a room or it could move everything in the room at once. But, as there is a limit to how much of an area an angel can operate in, so there is a limit as to how much activity an angel can do. God assigns the powers and the duties of the angels in their governing of the inanimate creation. Right this minute there are guardian angels, billions of them, moving the stars, the moon, the sun, the wind, indeed they move anything that is changing, even the sprouting and dying of plants and leaves. Angels are always active; they have no need of sleep, so wherever they are operating, even if it be only in contemplation of God in heaven, then there is where they are to be found.
How then can an angel be present on earth if he is always supposed to be in heaven? It wouldn’t be too inaccurate to say that the angels take heaven with them wherever they go. Since God is everywhere, there is no place an angel could be sent where he would be outside of God’s presence and sight. Even while they are moving the farthest galaxies, the angels are forever adoring God “face to face” at all times. Our Lord Himself assures us of this truth when, concerning the little children, He said, “their angels always see the face of My Father.” (Matt. 18:10) Indeed Jesus too, as Man, even while He walked the earth, even while He hung on the Cross, was always gazing upon the face of His heavenly Father.
If an angel can be present in space, then naturally, he can be present in time also, for there is no space outside of time. But an angel’s relation to time is different from our own.
Men are subject to time; we are temporal and mortal creatures, who will one day die. Only by death will we be freed from time. Angels are not subject to time, but they co-exist with it, and their activity can be measured by it. Before God created the material universe, there was no way of measuring duration. For that reason, we cannot even speculate as to how long the angels existed before the world came to be. There were no hours or days to measure their duration by. It was only after God created the material universe that angels could be at all related to or measured by time. We can say now that angels have been in existence since the time of Adam, for seven thousand years. Or we can say that the Angel Gabriel spent ten minutes speaking with Our Lady.
The angels are living in Eternity and so they can see everything in the Mind of the Eternal Now-for there is no past nor future with God. Angels, however, are not eternal, themselves; they had a beginning. But they are immortal and can never be destroyed. We call the duration of such beings aeveternal.
Time is for a creation that had a beginning and can be destroyed (all matter, including our bodies).
Aeveternity is for those substances that have had a beginning and cannot be destroyed (angels, and the souls of men).
Eternity is the attribute applied to God’s existence, who had no beginning, will have no end, and who is Immutably Perfect.
The spiritness of an angel is very appropriately represented by its wings. Hardly has there ever been an artist who put one of these celestial beings on canvas without the essential dovelike addendum. In the Old Testament, in the building of the Ark of the Covenant, God commanded that Cherubim with outstretched wings be fashioned above the holy tabernacle. Moreover, we know that many times throughout history the angels have appeared equipped with their customary wings. It was in such guise that the seraph came to Saint Francis and the Cherubim appeared to the prophet Ezechiel.
When it comes to angels, wings are taken for granted. They express very beautifully that angelic virtue of detachment. With the flapping of wings a bird shall lift itself off the ground, and with the breaking of the strings of inordinate attachments, the soul finds gravity not so unyielding. The wings of the soul are prayer and penance.
Wings also wonderfully portray those angelic qualities natural to a sheer spirit, agility and subtlety. Nothing can hinder an angel in its movement. True, he must move locally, passing the intermediary points in order to arrive at a given place. He cannot just think New York and be there, although there are theologians who would argue that he can. Even though angels are spirits, they must, when performing in space, take whatever bee-line will get them to their destination. But, what a way to travel! Faster than light? Yes, faster than light. Light is a material thing, yet it can move at 186,000 miles per second. Is an immaterial being going to be outdone in speed?
Of course an angel has no need of wings to fly. The wings are depicted in angelophanies or artwork for our benefit, to teach us something of their agility. Immaterial beings, they move through space with no hindrance whatsoever. Neither the wind, nor walls, nor even meteor showers can stop them. Even light cannot penetrate the opaque, but the angels have no problem passing through the thickest substances. They could go right through the earth to get from north to south, if they wanted to, just as easily as going from star to star. [Note: In our attempts to imagine this kind of “travel” we have the obstacle of our own imagination, which can only visualize in material imagery. Our knowledge of angelic movement (if it is to be correct -although beyond a full understanding) must be completely abstract.] This quality of sheer penetrability is what we call subtlety. It, along with the accompanying agility, will also be a quality of our glorified bodies after our resurrections. Imagine that! Not only will spirits be passing through walls, but so will material human bodies. The day is coming when we too will be like Our Lord who, after His Resurrection, passed through closed doors and flew imperceptibly, like the angels, faster than light.
Mention should also be made of the angelic clarity. Wherever they appear, the angels are blindingly luminous-unless, in order not to utterly dazzle us, they had to tone down, if not totally extinguish, the brightness of their glory. They lit up the entire night sky for the shepherds at Bethlehem!
This light, which comes from within them, is only an infinitesimal reflection of the Light of their Creator, who is the Author of light.
How can an immaterial thing be refulgent you may ask? That is one of those many mysteries that will be unveiled for us on the day of our entrance into the eternal world of light, where even our sun will appear to us as the darkest night. If light reveals what is, as indeed it does (unless there is too much of it for our weak eyes to take), then can you imagine the light that must shine forth from the One Who is?
The Need for Contemplation
We have touched in this article upon the angels as angels. Two other complementary articles are in this issue: one deals with the inner world of the angels themselves, and treats of the differentiation among the nine choirs; the other accompanies the angels in their interferences in the history of man’s salvation, as we find them so wonderfully handed down to us in the Old and New Testament Scriptures.
Hopefully, our frail “microscopes” have not done the angels too much injustice. However, microscopes is not the right word. It would be better to call our instrument of study a “telescope”. Microscopes are for examination; telescopes are more for contemplation.
Men go through their lives acquiring knowledge of all sorts of things. With some, the fascination is science – in itself a noble and certainly worthwhile pursuit. Imbalance emerges when the “brilliant” man knows so much about the “little world” of neutrons and electrons, and at the same time knows nothing, and cares to know nothing, about the “bigger” realities of the vast universe as moved under the provident designs of a personal and a loving God. As far as I know, electrons have never been known to elicit any influence on a man’s conscience. But a purposive universe going “somewhere” just might arouse some sentiments of “religion”. Some people think they can hide from God under a lens or behind a test tube. You don’t get to know God by shrinking the mind, but by expanding the mind so as to see the big picture. That’s why the naked eye can take in the whole canopy of the sky above and the stars at night. Atoms are for study and discovery, in order to be utilized for what should be a particular temporal good; the stars are for contemplation, they point to the eternal realities and to God.
Many other men pursue the techniques of finance. They build their whole world around the acquirement of money. Nothing interests them, not their children (if they have any), nor their wife’s headache, nor their friends or relatives. Sleep has a hard time conquering their ever-active intellects that are rolling over the next business deal through the late hours of the night. Not even the explosion of an atom bomb could give them a pause.
On and on it goes. Most people today are experts, literally experts, at two things: sports and the weather. One can almost hear the world conspirators, in laying out their plan for enslaving the masses, saying, “We must keep them occupied with secondary things while we weave our nets; keep them on the clock and entertain them off the clock, keep them drinking, watching television, playing games and fretting over bills we have inspired them to amass. We must not let them think about reality.” That is the basic game plan of Satan and the demons. “We must not let them think about reality.”
 Marx and Satan , Pastor Richard Wurmbrandt. The author was imprisoned and tortured by the Communists in Romania for fourteen years in the mid-twentieth century. His well-known book Tortured for Christ details his sufferings.