We don’t often preach about angels or even speak of them, unless showing a group of visitors around the Abbey. Even devout and learned Catholics today think of angels as part of Christian mythology, something too primitive or mediaeval for our modern world. That’s strange when you consider the popularity of Harry Potter and the fact that magic and witchcraft are now such lucrative para-religious enterprises. Then there’s the fast changing world of cyberspace where everything lives on clouds, even our archives.
I always remember, when I was a student in Greece 45 years’ ago, having a conversation with a group of monks
on Mount Athos, where there were no roads or cars, no lavatories or washing facilities and certainly no electricity or telephones. They told me that telephones were the invention of Satan and that the messages were carried to and fro along the wires by devils. Today all the monasteries on the Holy Mountain have computers and websites and the monks, laptops and mobile phones. Now that there are no wires, would it be angels that make it all work?
St Paul says that the angels are “all ministering spirits, sent out in the divine service for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.” The prayers and preface of today’s Mass take up that theme. The angels, who worship before God’s throne, are also his messengers and servants. Not only do they worship God, but they also help us to praise him by the holiness of our lives. In heaven they lead the Laus Perennis of which our Opus Dei is but the reflection here on earth.
St Bernard writes, “Let nobody think this incredible, given that the creator and King of angels himself came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life for many. It would seem strange to reject the idea of the angels’ service, when he whom they serve in heaven himself leads the way in serving us.”
There’s hardly a page of the Scriptures in which the angels of God are not present. If anything, it is the angels who give cohesion to the Bible, binding the History of Salvation together. They are the ones who constantly reveal God’s will to Man. In the Old Testament they are the messengers of his truth for patriarchs, prophets and kings alike while in the New Testament they are the prime movers in the Gospel narrative, the Acts of the Apostles and the Book of Revelation.
Can you imagine the Annunciation without the angel Gabriel or think of the Nativity without the angels? Indeed, it is they who have taught us to pray, “Hail Mary, full of grace,” and to sing, “Gloria in excelsis Deo.” Think of the forty days in the wilderness and the angels who ministered to Jesus in his temptations. Think of Gethsemane and the Angel of the Passion. Think of the empty tomb and the message of the Easter Angel, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” And what would we have made of the Ascension had the Angel not told the disciples, “Men of Galilee, why stand there looking at the sky? He will come again just as you have seen him go to heaven.” Look at the Gospel come to life in the lives of ordinary men, how Peter, Paul and others were guided by angels in their mission, set free from prison and protected as they fearlessly set about preaching the Gospel
Finally, what would we make of the history of the world, our own lives, and of this present moment without that powerful chapter in the Apocalypse where the archangel Michael does battle with Satan?
Nothing we do changes the past. Everything we do changes the future. Today, more than ever, the world needs the guidance and protection of St Michael and the Holy Angels. Today, more than ever, Christians need to believe in them and pray to them. “Holy Michael Archangel, defend us in the day of battle.”
May Christ, the King of Angels, who chose to conquer evil through humility and death with death, grant peace and unity to the Church, the world and the whole of creation through the ministry of the Holy Angels. Amen.AA