Guardian Angels a Reason for Gratitude
By Pietro Barbini
ROME, 2 OCT. 2012 (ZENIT)
The liturgical memorial of the guardian angels has been celebrated on Oct. 2 since 1670, a date fixed by Pope Clement X. Devotion to the angels is an ancient tradition which the Church inherited from Judaism.
In fact, the angels are a constant presence in the history of salvation. It is through them that God works and sends messages to the people of Israel. We see this in Jacob’s dream, regarding the ladder on which the angels ascended and descended and when Jacob himself fought against an angel, being wounded in the hip. It was also an angel who stopped the hand of Abraham, who was about to sacrifice his son.
In the Book of Exodus we read that in crossing the Red Sea an angel protected the Israelites from the Egyptians; the same angel then led them in the desert. Then, angels were sent by the Lord to save Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael shut in a burning furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar.
The coming of the Savior himself was announced to the people of Israel by an angel, which tradition associates with the Archangel Gabriel.
The archangels, are subdivided into majors (Michael, Gabriel, Raphael), heading the creative hierarchies, and minors (Uriel, Schaltiel. Jehudiel, Barchiel), also called “Rulers of the Earth,” those that govern the four elements (fire, air, water, earth).
This tradition, maintained for some centuries, originated in the revelation by the archangel Raphael to Tobias, who introduced himself to the prophet as “one of the Seven Angels who are always ready to enter in the presence of the majesty of the Lord.”
Towards the second half of the 17th century, after numerous disputes, the names were removed from the Missals, because the Archangel Raphael did not reveal any other name outside his own. Despite this, the existence of angels is considered a dogma of faith by the Catholic Church, manifested explicitly in the Nicean-Constantinopolitan symbol, “I believe in one God, Almighty Father, Creator of Heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.”
Talk of the creation of the angels is in both the Old and the New Testament. In the course of history angels were the object of numerous theological considerations by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, theologians and exegetes, among whom are Hilary of Poitiers, Jerome, Augustine, Cassian, Bonaventure, Abbot Bernard, Cyril of Jerusalem and Thomas Aquinas.
In the catechism of Saint Pius X the angels are immortal and spiritual beings, with an intelligence and will superior to ours. They live in a state of everlasting blessedness, their main purpose being adoration of God around his throne, by whom they are illuminated.
They are also called “princes of the Heavenly court” and “ambassadors of the will of God.”
Pseudo-Dionysius, called the Areopagite, in his De celesti hierarchia, says that the angels are distributed in three hierarchies, each one of which is divided into three choirs which in turn are distinguished among themselves by tasks, colors, wings and other distinctive signs.
In this subdivision are also the Guardian Angels (whom, it is said, are commanded by the Archangel Raphael), mentioned explicitly in Psalm 90, who have the task of guiding and protecting the person entrusted to them. Every Christian has a Guardian Angel, who watches over him in the course of his whole earthly life, from birth to death.
A Guardian Angel also has the task to offer our prayers to God, to support and defend us from the devil’s attacks, who tries in every way to do us harm and “soil” our soul to prevent our attaining eternal life.
This is the reason why many popes, above all John XXIII, revealed their profound devotion to their Guardian Angel, suggesting, as Benedict XVI has also said, that we express our gratitude for the service our angels render us and that we should invoke him every day, with the “Angelus Dei,” prayer, asking that he illumine our way, to be able to discern the will of God in the events of life and to combat the snares of the devil.