A Celestial Hierarchy

Author: Pat Bartos


Pat Bartos

Though the Church has never issued an official declaration on the celestial hierarchy of angels, by tradition it is seen as a highly structured environment.

Angels are ranked into nine choirs, or categories, and divided into three hierarchies: seraphim, cherubim and thrones; dominations, virtues and powers; principalities, archangels and angels.

The highest orders are noted for their zeal and ceaseless contemplation of God Those in the second hierarchy are associated with the care of human affairs, and the lowest ranks are charged with announcing God's will.

Reigning at the top of this spectrum, existing in the realm closest to God, are the seraphim, characterized by their fiery love, which is said to reflect onto the lesser ranks of angels.

Cherubim are associated with intellect. They share a deep insight into God's secrets and understand the requirements of salvation.

Thrones symbolize submission and peace, and they help people to abide by God's will. By tradition, God rests on them and imparts His Spirit, which they pass on to lesser angels and to mankind.

The second hierarchy is led by the dominations, who rule over lesser angels to carry out commands of God and make known God's authority.

Virtues fulfill this work and, through them, God oversees the seasons and visible heavens.

The powers, by tradition, are the favorite of mortals, assigned to fight evil spirits and defeat their plans.

Principalities rule over the lowest hierarchy, guarding countries and charged with making announcements to mankind. They govern souls and bodies.

Archangels by tradition guard great persons and, under St. Michael, they protect the Church.

Angels form the lowest rank. They include guardian angels and stand ready to follow where God sends them.

This article was taken from the March-April 1996 issue of "Catholic Heritage". To subscribe write Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750-9957 or call 1-800-348-2440.