You should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangel. (Pope St. Gregory the Great).
Dearly beloved in Christ Jesus, with faith, hope and trust in the divine providence, I welcome you to the month of September. I pray most fervently that God almighty will be with us all and meet us all at the point of our various needs through Christ our Lord.
A theologian once opined that many persons channel a lot of energy researching on demons, devils, and occultism, but very little energy is spent on talking about angels. So I have thought it wise that we reflect a little about Angels and particularly Archangels.
The Being and the Ministry of the Angels
The term Angel is derived from the Greek word Angelosand the Hebrew malak which means a messenger. Angelos and malak therefore indicate beings acting decisively according to the plan of God in the universe. This name is given to them by God because of their function of serving God and with his permission, the human race to be saved: For all these spirits are only servants, and God sends them to help those who shall be saved (Heb. 1:14).
The Old Testament presents the origin of Angels as part of the divine hierarchy. “Praise him all his Angels; praise him all his heavenly hosts. Let them praise the name of the Lord at whose command they were made” (Psalm 148:2 and 5). Angels too were joyful witnesses to God’s creation of the world. “While the morning stars sang together and the Sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7 see also Jdg 5:20; Rev 1:20 for an understanding of the context of stars). St. Augustine describes Angels as Ministers and Messengers of God who are immortally blessed in the enjoyment of his unchangeable truth. Thomas Aquinas articulates the idea of Angels and their existence principally for their assimilation to God; they come out from God and return to God.
The book of Tobit gives a clearer definition of the works of Angels; “I am Raphael, one of the seven holy Angels who present the prayers of the Holy People and who stand before the glory of God” (Tobit 12:15). The author of the Letter to the Hebrews says: God sends the Angels like wind, and makes his servants flames of fire (Heb. 1:7). Another example of the work of Angels is seen in Psalm 91:11 “for he will command his Angels to guard you in all your ways.” It was the Angel who rescued Peter from prison as recorded in Acts 12. In these passages, there is a description of the work of the Angels which include the service of God and humanity.
We celebrate in this month of September, three archangels who are so called, because they serve a higher function than the other angels. Their names are somehow descriptive of what they are to do in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. All three names have as their suffixEl, being the shorter form of the Hebrew name for God. Thus the name Michael means ‘who is like God’ and in various passages wields God’s power. Gabriel is the messenger or speaking power of God and Raphael is the healing or protecting power of God.
Gabriel is the most well-known named angel to appear in Scripture. Each time He is mentioned, we see him as a messenger to impart wisdom or a special announcement from God. In the book of Daniel, Gabriel appeared in the Old Testament to the prophet Daniel in order to explain some visions God gave Daniel about the end times (Daniel8:15–27; 9:20–27). In the New Testament, he appears to Zachariah in the temple to herald the birth of John the Baptist; he also approaches the Blessed Virgin Mary with the announcement of the birth of Christ and later on, Joseph receives guidance in a couple of visits from Gabriel.
The second angel the Bible calls by name is Michael, who functions very differently from the angel Gabriel. Michael ranks first among the Archangels.When Michael appears in the Bible, it is usually in a battle of some type (that explains the prayer addressed to him…Defend us in the hour of battle). He battled with the fallen angels (those who sinned against God and became demons) and Satan on behalf of God and His people. Michael appears several times in the book of Daniel as a warrior (see Daniel 10:21 and 12:1). In one instance, the angel Gabriel describes Michael as fighting against the demonic “prince of the Persian kingdom,” enabling Gabriel to reach Daniel and explain the visions to him (Daniel 10:13).Michael is also seen in the Book of Revelation, when he battles the great dragon during the end times (Revelation 12:7-9). The fact that Michael is leading an army of angels against Satan himself testifies to Michael’s high rank and power.
The third ArchangelRaphaelhas long been regarded as the angel of healing. His name may be derived from the Hebrew word Rophe, which means “medicine doctor”; orRapach, which means “God heals the soul.”He is thought to be one of the three angels who visited the patriarch Abraham and his wife, Sarah, to help with their conception (Gen 18:2); as well as the angel who accompanied Tobias on his journey (Tobit 11 and 12).
It is very evident that the description of the Archangels is largely connected with their functions which they perform in the service of the most high God. In all they do, God comes first and only him do they seek to please.
Lessons from thearchangels
Dear friends in Christ, it is normal to think that because Archangels are pure spirits, to learn from them may prove very difficult. On the contrary,the Archangels from their respectiveservices are teaching us to always seek to do the will of God first and above all.
Archangel Michael has dedicated himself for thousands of years to the safety and security of humans. He depicts God’s care and protection over us with might and power. He teaches us very aptly, the virtue of justice. As Christians, we must indulge the virtuous course to defend the helpless, to defend the truth, to stand against every vice that terminates human life abruptly (abortion, Euthanasia) to stand against corrupt practices of every kind in our places of work. No doubt the world would tag us with callous and unfriendly appellations such as ‘Holier than thou’, yet we should remember and remind them by our attitude that Scriptures is clear on the message to always please God first above all else (Matt 6:33).
I once saw a caption “be sure to taste your word before you say them out”. Archangel Gabriel is responsible for the dissemination of good news. Scripture says, ‘how lovely on the mountain are the feet of him who brings good news’ (Is 52:7). What do we utter most of the times we speak? How do the words we speak tell the true picture of events and not change the facts by way of lies? The words of our mouth should not ignite peoples rage, rather they should be soothing. St Paul addresses this matter when he said ‘do not use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them’ (Eph4:29)
A lot of persons in our world today need healing (physical and spiritual) and companionship. The Archangel Raphael brings us in touch with the God who wants to heal us and wishes us to use the same spiritual help and healing to heal our fellow brothers and sisters. It is a very common thing that when times get tough for our friends, we sometimes want to turn our back at them but through being their companions in tough times could be a great respite and healing to them all. Look at the Church’s corporal and spiritual works of mercy,ringing daily and loudly the message that we need to be there for others when they need us, since this can bring about a great healing that the world truly needs.
There is a mandate that already is bestowed on every one of us. We are charged therefore as humans, like the Archangels, to be at the service of God by serving our brothers and sisters. We remember Thomas’ exposition about the angels and his thought of assimilation to God. All our dealings and ingenuity ipso facto of being a creature of the Lord, should redound to his glory. As much as we bring this service to ‘the least of these little ones’we bring it to him. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ continue to abide with us all. Amen
† Alfred Adewale Martins
Archbishop of Lagos
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