Did God place angels in charge of anything?
By Sean Martin
The angels have a unique role in salvation history. The Fathers of the Church taught that God placed angels in charge of the elements of the universe, all corporeal things.
St. Irenaeus and others taught that the angels were commended by God to all of the nations and their role was primarily spiritual protection and assistance, and also temporal assistance. They were to lead the nations to all truth and toward God for their salvation, but the nations’ sin exhibited their abandonment to God’s calling to salvation.
The angels protected Israel from their enemies and aided in Divine Revelation by making known the law to the Israelites. “The whole economy of the Old Covenant was communicated to the Jews through the medium of the angels” (Jean Danielou S.J., The Angels and Their Mission 5).
The role of the angels in the Old Covenant was provisional. Ultimately, it was to prepare the way for the coming of Christ. After the Incarnation, the role of the angels changed from preparing for Christ to ministering to Him. In the New Covenant, the angels’ role is to honor and serve Jesus Christ and to Him help accomplish His work of redemption.
The angels mediated the knowledge of Christ’s coming to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. They announced the Good News of Christ’s presence in the world. Jesus came to gather the scattered nations into the one Universal Catholic Church. The angels praised God for sending Jesus into the world to bring about the salvation of all the nations. Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven exalted human nature. The angels were present to witness Christ’s ascension and to share in His joy. St. Chrysostom said that the angels “want to see the unheard-of spectacle of man appearing in heaven. That is why the angels are constantly showing themselves: when He is born, when He dies, when He rises into heaven” (Danielou 35).
The angels are given the duty to watch over the Church. They desire unity with man that was lost due to sin. “Since that time the angels were in waiting, hoping for the unity of the heavenly liturgy to be restored” (Danielou 48). The angels rejoice in the salvation and restoration of humanity. They hope for the new heavens and the new earth in which man is created anew in Christ. The angels’ role is to prepare the way of the Lord.
The angels protect the Church in all things, including the Sacraments. They take an active role in the sacramental preparation of Baptism. They prepare the catechumenate and take part in the actual Baptism. “St. Chrysostom teaches that ‘the deacon invited the catechumens to pray to the angel of peace’” (Danielou 58). The angels experience great joy after a person is baptized. “The radiance of the newly baptized awes the angels” (Danielou 61). The angels are present at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. They surround the priest in the sanctuary during the Consecration of the Eucharist. St. Chrysostom stated “the whole sanctuary and the space before the altar is filled with the heavenly Powers come to honor Him who is present upon the altar” (Danielou 62).
God communicates spiritual gifts through the hierarchical order of the angels. The angels’ roles in the mystical life are to purify, illuminate, and unify. After a person’s death, the angels are responsible for examining the merits of the person or lack thereof, leading, and permitting the soul’s entry into Heaven.
The angels will sing a great hymn of praise when God reunites the angels and humanity. They wait with great anticipation the great marriage of Christ and the Church. They desire that all things are brought to perfection in grace. As the great Father of the Church, Methodius, prayed “O dearly beloved, they burn to see the day of your marriage-all the angels you have called from heaven, O King. They will come, O Word, and they will carry with them mighty gifts, in their spotless robes” (Danielou 114).
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