|Feasts of the Archangels, 29 September, and
Guardian Angels, 2 October
The existence of angels and the
reality of their mission are truths of faith, even if they may not be as
important as other truths, such as the divinity of Christ or the virginal
motherhood of Mary. Nor is there any reason to neglect or ignore angels in
We cannot forget that certain Gospel texts
acknowledge the value of the presence of angels in our life and highlight
their cooperation with the work of salvation for humanity's benefit.
After affirming the eternal origin of the Word in the
prologue of his Gospel, St John has recorded for us the words of Jesus
that serve as an introduction to the narrative of his public life and draw
attention to the role of angels: "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see
heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son
of Man" (Jn 1:51).
His reference to angels is typical for it occurs in a
declaration that seeks to instill appreciation for the mystery of the
Incarnation. Mention of this mystery might prompt some to think that the
existence of angels had lost much of its value. Angels and archangels are
messengers who serve as intermediaries between God and human beings.
Yet the mystery that unites divinity and humanity in
the person of Christ seems to exclude the need for recourse to
intermediaries between the divine and human worlds. The Son of Man is as
perfect in his humanity as in his divinity, and the union of both natures
in a single person seems to render any other mediation for a
rapprochement between God and man superfluous.
Nonetheless, in this explanation of his earthly
mission Jesus desired to insist on the role of angels. He makes it plain
that it is a matter of true revelation: "amen, amen", which has been
translated as: "truly, truly".
uses the verb "to see": "you will see", to indicate that witnesses
of his earthly life will be able to grasp directly the truth of his
affirmation; all are invited to see with their own eyes heaven opening and
the movement of angels, ascending and descending, who will establish a
continuous exchange between heaven and earth based on the mysterious
figure of the Son of Man.
This son of man, according to the representation of
him that Daniel gives us (7:13-14), seems to have a divine personality and
is described in the company of angels.
A heaven-and-earth exchange
The importance of the Gospel affirmation is clarified
in the light of Jacob's dream in Genesis of "a ladder set up on the earth,
and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were
ascending and descending on it!" (Gn 28:12ff.).
When Jacob awoke from his dream he recognized the
divine presence in the place where the ladder had been set up: "Surely the
Lord is in this place: and I did not know it". He was afraid and said,
"How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and
this is the gate of heaven" (7:16, 17).
The movement of angels on the ladder, therefore, is
linked to the manifestation of the divine presence on earth.
In the Gospels, this manifestation is no longer seen
veiled in a dream but is conveyed through the development of a human life.
Jesus fulfils in himself what Jacob's ladder had symbolized: the Son of
Man stands on the earth as One whose head touches heaven. The angels going
up and down enable us to understand the continuous exchange between heaven
and earth that is fulfilled in the mystery of the Incarnation.
By virtue of this mystery, not only are angels
neither excluded nor rendered useless, but they contribute to its
fulfillment. They witness that the whole world of angels serves to unite
heaven and earth, and this union is expressed in the coming of Christ.