ANGELIC OVERVIEW: "Angels are spirits", proclaimed St. Augustine! St. Thomas Aquinas believed that angels were pure spirit, having no matter or mass, and taking up no space; but Thomas believed angels could assume bodies at will. The purpose of angels is the same as mankind: to love and serve the Lord. However, being that angels are not material beings, and possibly from a different dimension, they can serve the Lord in many different ways.
Angels have far greater will and intellect than we have. Whereas mankind must sift through and experiment with natural laws, angels can grasp all natural laws with a single thought. Eventually we find that angels cannot work miracles per se, but they can perform many special effects that appear miraculous, such as protecting Daniel from the lions in Daniel 6. When angels appear to man, they usually appear with wings, but the wings are not the method of loco- motion.
The angels seem to slip in and out of the fourth dimension; thus travel is more or less instantaneous. If you have access to a Catholic Bible (it MUST be Catholic), check out Daniel ch. 14, to read how the prophet Habakkuk was instantly carried, via angel, from Judea to Babylon, a distance of 600 miles. The primary general duty of angels is as messengers of God. (The word "angel" means messenger in Greek.) But angels can do God's chores, such as busting Peter out of jail in Acts 5, or destroying Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. But some angels obey only the devil, and those angels are known as "demons", as is Satan himself.
Satan had been an angel, but decided to do his own thing. Angels can see all aspects of a situation instantly, since they are so very wise. Angels, and the dimensions they live in, were apparently created before our visible world and universe. (The Bible tells us in Genesis ch. 1-2 that mankind was created (or evolved) last.) The number of angels are countless. One reason they are count- less is that the Bible holds that each person who is or has lived, in the universe, has a guardian angel (Matthew 18: 10).
Additionally, some people who have died may have been transformed into lower angels. Many people witness "small miracles", and attribute them to God, when, in fact, angels may likely author the event. Speaking of miracles, some people believe that the reason more asteroids don't hit and damage planets is because each planet also has a guardian angel. In this school of thought, we owe our very existence to angels guiding our destiny. There are MANY stories of loved ones appearing after they have died, and helping the loved ones. Poss- i bly the loved one never did appear; possibly the loved ones physical appearance was taken over by an angel.
The Bible tells us to respect strangers, as they may actually be disguised angels, as in Genesis 19, Hebrews 13: 2, and Tobit chapters 4-12 (in Catholic Bibles). They also intercede for us before God, such as was proposed in Job 33: 23, and Psalms 80: 1-2. ANGELIC ORGANIZATION: There are three hierarchies of angels: the Supreme Hierarchy, the Middle Hier- archy, and the Lower Hierarchy. Within earch hierarchy, there are three choirs (or ranks), of angels, making a total of nine choirs. The choirs within the hierarchies differ because of angelic form, rather than matter or quantity within the choir.
The Supreme Hierarchy is always in God's inner circle, meditating on Him. The Middle Hierarchy keeps the universe running according to God's physical laws. The lower hierarchy carries out particular tasks. SUPREME HIERARCHY: The Seraphim (Singular, Seraph) is the first choir of the Supreme hierarchy. The name means "the burning ones", or "ardor".
They sit at God's throne, or a little above it, and unceasingly sing praise to Him, and bear light and love to lessor angels. The Seraphim are completely ruled by divine love, for there is nothing more important than love according to 1 Corinthians 13: 13. Isaiah 6: 2 tells us the Seraphim have three sets of wings, one set to cover the face out of reverence, one set to cover the feet out of modesty and respect, and one set to fly with. (But as I previously wrote, they don't actually use their wings to fly.) The Cherubim (singular, Cherub) is the second choir of the Supreme Hierarchy. The Cherubim sit beside God's throne, and act as throne bearers, keeping unwanted entities away. (This is illustrated in Catholic Bibles, in Ecclesiasticus ch.
49.) They have a great insight of God's secrets, and the workings of the universe. Exodus ch. 25 also tell us that the Cherubim guard churches and tombs. Ezekiel ch. 10 tell us the Cherubim have four faces, four wings, and four hands. Whereas the Seraphim are angels of love, the Cherubim are angels of wisdom, and provide wisdom to the lower angels.
Satan was most probably a Cherub before he fell and became the Devil; thus, only God and the Seraphim can overcome the Devil. A Cherub probably also closed the Garden of Eden. Beelzebul may also be a Cherub, since he is next in rank to Satan. Beelzebul's name is peppered throughout the gospels.
The Thrones are the lowest choir of the highest hierarchy. Their main characteristics are submission and peace. Since they are of the highest order of angels, they have the exalted dignity and glory of being closer to God than most of the other angels. This being the case, the divine mysteries are also brought to them before most of the other angels. The purpose of the thrones is to convey God's spirit to the lessor angels.
A very detailed description of them appears in Ezekiel Ch. 1. See also Colossians 1: 16. MIDDLE HIERARCHY: The highest order of the middle hierarchy are the Dominations (sometimes called Dominions). They rule over the angelic orders charged with the execution of God's commands, and maintenance of God's authority. The Dominations enjoy a certain unbounded elevation to the supernatural, and are immune to discord and tyranny.
They are true Lords, not turning themselves towards vain shadows, but wholly giving themselves to God. See Colossians 1: 16, Ephesians 1: 21, and 1 Peter 3: 22 (in some versions). The second order are the Sovereign- ties (often called the Virtues or Rulers). Their primary duty is to carry out the orders of the Dominations; therefore, they have wide powers in heaven and the physical universe, although many of their orders are carried out (in turn) by the lessor angels. The Sovereign's strength is in its courage to give all of its energies to God's will. The Sovereign Angel demonstrates virtue flowing forth to those angels of lesser rank, thereby filling those lesser angels with virtue.
See Ephesians 1: 21, 1 Corinthians 15: 24, and Colossians 1: 16 (some versions). The lowest order of the middle hierarchy are the Powers. A Power Angel seemingly has great reception and regulation of intellectual and supernatural power. It can lead, beneficially, angels of lower rank to God. Provided the Power angel is a "loyalist" to God, his duties would be to fight evil spirits. There is evidence that many of the Power angels decided to follow Satan, and are no longer holy.
LOWER HIERARCHY: The highest order of the lowest angels are the Princip- alities. (Some newer Bibles refer to them as Authorities.) They are augustly in their authoritative ways. Unlike the other orders of angels, the Principalities are made in the likeness of God, as is also true of mankind; therefore, a Principality has the closest appearance to mankind. One of their purposes is to be leaders to the two lower choirs of angels.
The other purpose is to help mankind through the protection of the earthly nations, and the ultimate destinies of our souls. If you ever meet a Principality angel, find out whos side it is on. It is believed that this choir is the primary source of Satan's disciples; it is believed that the Principalities that jumped ship for Satan are what is discussed in Jude 1: 6. Another warning about them comes in Ephesians 6: 12.
But take heart: most of the Principalities are loyalists, as in any other angelic choir. See also Colossians 1: 16, Ephesians 1: 21, and 1 Peter 3: 22 (in some versions). The middle order are the Arch- angels. The Archangels are the best known of all the angels, if for no other reason than they materialize on earth more often. As the name implies, the Archangels are to provide guidance, and are leaders of the angels in the next choir down. They also seem to entrusted with the more important missions of mankind, and are the guardian angels of important personages such as religious and political leaders.
They protect and defend the church, probably receiving their orders from the Cherubim and Power angels. We even have some specific names in this choir. Arch- angel Michael first appears in Daniel 10: 13, and again in 10: 21 and 12: 1. Michael's primary duty seems to be in fighting Satan, although he cannot win because Satan and his cohorts outrank him; so Michael must continually seek help from God and the Seraphim in his fight. Even so, Michael is usually called upon to lead souls to heaven, as well as being invoked during ex or- c isms. The name Michael means "Who is as God", and that is his war cry as he attacks Satan and his cohorts.
Archangel Michael is the guardian angel of the Israelites. Archangel Gabriel is first mentioned in Daniel 8: 16, and 9: 21, 26. Practically all of his appearances are connected with the coming of the Messiah, but he also announced the conception of John the Baptist (Luke 1: 19, 26) His conver- stations in Luke also show Gabriel's wisdom, tact, and adroitness. He was most probably the angel who rounded up the three wise men, and got them to come to Bethlehem (Luke 2: 9). Then Gabriel saved the Holy Family (Matthew 2: 13.
It is also believed Gabriel was the angel mentioned in Luke 22: 43, and Matthew 28: 2. Just imagine: of all the countless beings that God created, Gabriel got the honor of doing all the above things; additionally, tradition has it that Gabriel will have the honor of calling the dead to life, on judgement day, according to 1 Thess- alon ians 4: 16. It goes to show that even though Archangel Gabriel belongs to a relatively low order of angels, God still chose him to be one of the greatest angels that was ever created. And then there is Archangel Raphael. His story is extensive, if you would give credence to the Catholic Bible, check out Tobit, starting with the third chapter. Folklore also has it that Michael was the one that busted Peter from Jail, which I mentioned in the second paragraph; likewise, folklore has it that Michael and Gabriel appeared together to the prophet Muhammad.
The lowest of the angelic realm is simply called "Angels", and truly are messengers of God. That is because their primary duty is to be more in direct contact with visible and earthly things. They are also known as "Guardian Angels". They protect us when the Lord wills it, such as in Psalms 91: 11-13. I also mentioned in the fifth paragraph that they act as intercessor ies to God. Some people also believe that if you say a prayer to your guardian angel, asking a reconcilliation with another person, your Guardian Angel will intercede to the other person's Guardian Angel, thereby improving your chances at the reconcilliation.
There are many tales of people narrowly escaping death, and many people believe that Guardian Angels are responsible for those favors, rather than God himself (see fourth paragraph). That is because in the many Bible references I indicated, the passages say that angels were SENT to do a specific task, rather than God effecting the task himself. These angels are not disheartened that they are of the lowest rank, because they know that to serve God in ANY capacity is a great honor. They are referenced in 1 Peter 3: 22.
Once again: the nine choirs of angels, in descending order, are the Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Domin- ations, Sovereigns, Powers, Princip- alities, Archangels, and Angels. In compiling this, I have used several different Bibles, but where I indicate a Catholic Bible, I used the Jerusalem Bible. Most of you probably know that the Catholic Bible has books and passages which do not appear in Protestant Bibles. Many may question the authenticity of these passages in the Catholic Bible, but I decided to use them as the Catholic Church is the ONLY Christian church which seriously attempts to explain about angels, and why they were created, and how they fit in the angelic realm of things. My book source was primarily "Beyond Space", written by Father Pascal Parents in 1957.
I also used "St. Michael and the Angels", put out by the Marion Publications. They are privately published books, so you won't find them at book stores or the library. If you'd like the books, you can order them from Tan Books P.O. Box 424, Rockford, IL 61105. I also used "A Book of Angels" written by Sophie Burnham in 1990, and "Do you have a Guardian Angel" written by John Runner in 1985.
If you have any questions, just send me E-Mail.