Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/537

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477

ANGEL


477


ANGEL


judgment sat and the books were opened" (Dan., vii, 9. 10; cf. also Ps., xivi, 7; oii,20; Is., vi, etc.). This function of the angehc host is expressed by the word "assistance" (Job, i, 6; ii, 1), and our Lord refers to it as their perjxjtual occupation (Matt., xviii, 10). More than once we are told of seven angels whose siwcial function it is thus to "stand before (iod's throne" (Tob., xii, 15; Apoo., viii, 2-5). The same thouglit may be intended by "the angel of His presence" (Is., Ixiii,9), an expression which also occurs in the pseuilo-cpigraphical "Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs ".

But these glimiKses of life beyond the veil are only occasional. The angels of the Bible generally a|>- pear in the rule of God's messengers to mankind. They are His instruments by whom He conununi- cates His will to men, and in Jacob's vision they are depicted as ascending and de.scending the ladder which stretches from earth to heaven while the Eternal Father gazes upon the waiulcror below. It was an angel who foimd Agar in the wilderness (Gen., -xvi); angels drew Lot out of Sodom; an angel announces to Gideon that he is to save his people; an angel foretells the birth of Samson (Judges, xiii), and the angel Gabriel instructs Daniel (Dan., viii, 16), though he is not called an angel in either of these pas.sagps, but "the man Gabriel" (ix, 21). The .same licavenly spirit announced the birth of St. John the Baptist and the Incarnation of the lledeemer, while tradition ascribes to him both the mes.sage to the shepherds (Luke, ii, 9), and the most glorious mi.ssion of all, that of strengthening the King of Angels in His Agony (Luke, xxii, 43). The spiritual nature of the angels is manifested very clearly in the accoimt which Zacharias gives of the revelations bestowed upon him by the ministry of an angel. The prophet depicts the angel as speak- ing "in him". He seems to imply that he was con- scious of an interior voice which was not that of God but of His me.s.senger. The Massoretic text, the Septuagint. an<l the Vulgate all jigree in thus describmg the commimications made by the angel to the prophet. It is a pity that the "Revised Version" should, in apparent defiance of the above- named texts, obscure this trait by persistently giving the rendering: "the angel that talked with me" instead of "within me " (cf. Zach., i, 9, 13, 14; ii, 3; iv, 5; v, 10). Such apijeaninces of angels generally last only so long as the deliverj' of their message re<iuircs, but frequently their mission is prolonged, and they are represented as the constituted guardians of the nation at some particular crisis, e. g. during the Exodus (Exod., xiv, 19; Baruch, vi, 6). Similarly it is the common view of the Fathers that by "the prince of the Kingdom of the Persians" (Dan., x, 13; X, 21) we are to understand the angel to whom was entrusted the spiritual care of that kingdom, and we may perhaps see in the "man of Macedonia" who apix-ared to St. Paul at Troas, the guardian angel of that countrj' (Acts, xvi, 9). The Septuagint (Dciit., xxxii, 8), has preser\'ed for vis a fragment of information on this head, though it is difficult to gauge its exact meaning: "When the Most High divided the nations, when He scattered the children of .\<lani. He established the bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God". How large a part the ministry of angels played, not merely in Hebrew theology but in the religious ideas of other nations lus well, appears from the expression "like to an angel of God'. It is three times u.sed of David (II K., xiv, 17, 20; xix, 27). and once by Achis of Geth (I K.,xxlx,9). It is even applied by Esther to A.ssuerus (Esther, xv. IG), and St. Stephen's face is said to have looked "like the face of an angel" as he stood before the Sanhedrin (.\cts. vi, 15).

Throughout the Bible we find it repeatedly im- plied that each individual soul has its tutelary angel.


Thus Abraliam, when sending his steward to seek a wife for Isaac, says: "He will send His angel Ijofore thee" (Gen., xxiv, 7). The words of the nine- tieth Psalm which the devil quoted to our Lord (.Matt., iv, (i) are well known, and Judith accounts for her heroic deed by saying: "As the Lord liveth, His angel hath lx.-cn my keeper" (xiii, 20). These passages and many like them (Gen., xvi, 6-32; Osee, xii, 4; III K.,xix, 5; Acts, xii, 7; Ps., xxxiii, 8), though they will not of themselves demonstrate the doctrine that every individual has his appointed guardian angel, receive their complement in our Saviour's words: "See that you despi.se not one of these little ones; for I say to you that their angels in Heaven always see the face of My Father Who is in Heaven" (Matt., xviii, 10), words which illus- trate the remark of St. Augustine: "What lies hidden in the Old Testament, is made manifest in the New". Indeed, the book of Tobias seems in- tended to teach this truth more than any other, and St. Jerome in his commentary on the above words of our Lord says: "The dignity of a soul is so great, that each has a guardian angel from its birth." The general doctrine that the angels are our ap- pointed guardians is considered to be a point of faith [cf. Mazzella, De Deo Creante (Rome, 1S.S0), 447-474J, but that each individual member of the human race has his own individual guardian angel is not of faith; the view has, however, such strong support from the Doctors of the Church that it would te rash to deny it (cf. St. Jerome, suj/ra). Peter the Lombard (Sentences, lib. II, dist. xi) was inclined to think that one angel had charge of several individual human beings. St. Bernard's beautiful homilies (xi-xiv) on the ninetieth Psalm breathe the spirit of the Church without however deciding the question. The Bible represents the angels not only as our guardians, but also as actually interced- ing for us. The angel Raphael (Tob., xii, 12) says: "1 offered thy jiraycr to the Lord" [cf. Job, v, 1 (Septuagint), and x.xxiii, 23 (Vulgate): Apoc, viii, 4]. The Catliolic cult of the angels is thus thoroughly scriptural. Perhaps the earliest explicit declaration of it is to be found in St. .Ambrose's words: "We should pray to the angels who are given to us as guardians" (De Viduis, ix); (cf. St. Aug., Contra Faustum, xx, 21). An undue cult of angels was reprobated by St. Paul (Col., ii, 18), and that such a tendency long remained in the same district is evi- denced by Can. 35 of the Synod of Laodicea (Hefele, Historv of the Councils, ii, 317).

As Divi.NE Age.vts Govkrn-ixg the World. — The foregoing passages, especially those relating to the angels who have charge of various districts, enable us to understand the practically unanimous view of the Fathers that it is the angels who put into execution God's laws regarding the physical world. The Semitic Mief in genii and in spirits which cause good or evil is well known, and traces of it are to be found in the Bible. Thus the pesti- lence which devastated Israel for David's sin in numbering the people is attributed to an angel whom David is said to have actually seen (II K., x.xiv, 1.5-17, and more explicitly, I Par., xxi, 14-18). Even the wind rustling in the tree-tops was regarded as an angel (II K.,v, 23, 24; I Par., xiv, 14, 15). This is more explicitly stated with regard to the pool of Probatica (John, v, 1-4), though there is some doubt about the textj in that pas.sage the disturbance of the water is said to be due to the periodic visits of an angel. The Semites clearly felt that all the orderly harmony of the universe, as well as interruiv tions of that harmony, were due to God as their originator, but were carried out by His ministers. This view is strongly marked in the "Book of Jubi- lees" where the heavenly host of good and evil angels is ever interfering in the material universe