Angels and Devils
And another angel came, and stood before the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer of the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar, which is before the throne of God. And the smoke of the incense of the prayers of the saints ascended up before God from the hand of the angel. Apocalypse 8:3-4
For he hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways. Psalm 90:11
And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels . . . And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan . . . Apocalypse 12:7-9
For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. Ephesians 6:12
The Blessed Virgin Mary crushes the head of the serpent, Satan, through the power of her Immaculate Conception.
Our Lady is pictured crushing the head of the serpent, Satan, on the front of the Miraculous Medal. The design for the Miraculous Medal was given to St. Catherine Labouré by the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1830. Although this famous medal was originally titled the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, the numerous miracles associated with it led to the popular title of the Miraculous Medal. The prayer which Our Lady wanted included on the Medal (shown here in French) indicates her victory over the devil from the first moment of her Conception: O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
In this work I have endeavored to give information regarding the most frequently asked questions about angels and devils, and perhaps at the same time to give unbelievers a little something to think about regarding the existence of angelic helpers and devilish tormentors. To prove the various points, I have relied on the very best of references: Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition, the teachings of the Church, the writings of Popes and Doctors of the Church, the opinions and visions of saints as well as the writings of esteemed theologians. Why another book about angels? The subject is so vast and interesting, it seems unlikely that it can be adequately explored in any one volume. Each writer attempts to present a different perspective of the subject. Perhaps we each hope to present various facets that might not have been explored enough by others. Whatever the case, I have attempted, as have many others, to explore the subject in a trustworthy, instructive, interesting and helpful manner. While it is a worthwhile occupation to read and learn about our angelic companions who are with us now and will remain with us in Heaven, it was not my intention to dwell in a lengthy fashion on the devil. Concerning this, C. S. Lewis, author of The Screwtape Letters, wrote: There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. In trying to avoid an unhealthy interest in the devils, I have nevertheless felt it necessary to discuss their origins, what they are like, what they can do, and to warn about some of the wiles they use to entrap unsuspecting souls in our day. This knowledge is necessary, since we must know something of this mortal enemy before we can present a defense. It is my prayer that the reader will find some merit in this work and that all will successfully combat against the devil and grow ever closer to their own angel guardians.
- Joan Carroll Cruz
The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls angels is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of tradition. Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 328
1. What Are Angels?
St. Augustine (354-430) instructs us that the word angel is the name of their office, not of their nature. Their nature is known as spirit. The word angel, as translated from the Greek, means one going, one sent or messenger. St. Augustine adds that the spirits called angels were never, in any sense, at any time, partakers of darkness, but from the moment of their creation, they were made beings of light. They were not merely created in order to exist and to live, but they were also illumined, so that they might live in wisdom and happiness. According to St. Bernard (1090-1153) in his De Consideratione, angels are mighty, glorious, blessed, distinct personalities, of graduated rank, occupying the order given them from the beginning, perfect of their kind . . . endowed with immortality, passionless . . . being of pure mind, benignant affections, religious and devout; of unblemished morality; inseparably one in heart and mind, blessed with unbroken peace, Gods edifice dedicated to the divine praises and service. All this we ascertain by reading, and hold by faith. According to Fr. Pascal P. Parente, Even though not yet an article of faith, it is Catholic doctrine that the Angels are pure spirits, incorporeal substances, free and independent from any material body . . .
As to their form, we accept the descriptions of Scripture and Tradition and the revelations of the Saints which reveal that when they appear on earth, angels have a form similar to that of men, but of an ethereal, spiritual nature. At least that is how they appear in various apparitions in both the Old and New Testaments and in the apparitions of saints.
St. John Damascene (c. 675-c. 749), a Doctor of the Church, writes: An angel is an intellectual substance, endowed with liberty, perpetually active, without a body, serving God, having the form and the limits of whose substance only its Creator knows. We believe that each angel is a distinct being, an individual, having distinct features (as we will learn from the revelations of the Saints), who has his own place in a hierarchy and who has an intellect far superior to human intellect. This is manifest in their many apparitions. Agreeing is St. Thomas Aquinas, who maintains that the Angels differ from each other specifically.
2. How Do We Know that Angels Exist?
The answer can be briefly summarized in this manner: we know that angels exist from the teaching of the Church, which is based both on Sacred Scripturethe Old and the New Testamentsand on Tradition, from the unanimous teachings of the Saints and Doctors of the Church, and from the innumerable well-authenticated accounts of apparitions. That the Angels were created was defined by the Fourth Lateran Council (1215). The decree Firmiter against the Albigensian heresy declared both the fact that they were created and that men were created after them. Given free will and a high intelligence at their creation, they are often called the sons of God.
In the Bible, angels are represented as a large gathering of spiritual beings intermediate between God and men. Angels are the servants and messengers of God, doing all as God pleases, serving the accomplishment of the divine plan. As St. Paul cites in his letter to the Hebrews: Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them, who shall receive the inheritance of salvation? (Heb. 1:14). In addition, there are angels who minister not only to man, but principally to God Himself. In the book of Daniel, the Prophet tells of a vision of angels: . . . thousands of thousands ministered to him, and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before him. (Dan. 7:10). Our Lord Himself reveals the following: See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 18:10).
The first great wealth of information regarding angels is given us in both
the Old and New Testaments, as well as through the teachings of Holy Mother
Church. Tradition has handed down from the earliest days important truths regarding
them, while numerous Doctors of the Church have enlightened us on this doctrine.
But probably the greatest wealth of information has been given us by the saints
who have been privileged to view them and sometimes to communicate with them
in wonderful visions that have been recorded for our edification. Before we
consider these wonderful visions we will first
consider the testimony about the Angels as given in the Old Testament.
3. Angels in the Old Testament
Of the forty-six books of the Old Testament, angels are mentioned in thirty-one. In these books we learn about the activities of the Angels as they are directed by God. They adore, rebuke, reprove, comfort, instruct, chastise, prophesy, destroy, protect, assist, guard, interpret, advise, announce births, locate the lost and deliver messages of God; they also intercede and pray for us, they afflict, punish and even kill. We are reminded of the following well-known activities of angels: When Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden for their sin, God placed before the paradise of pleasure cherubims, and a flaming sword, turning every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. (Gen. 3:24). Three angels visited Abraham, and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the door of his tent, and adored down to the ground. After eating the meal that was prepared for them, they prophesied that Abrahams wife Sara, even though well advanced in years, would nevertheless bear a son. (Gen. 18:2-14). The prophecy was fulfilled when Sara gave birth to a son whom Abraham named Isaac. We learn later that Sara had a servant girl who ran away from her stern mistress, but the angel of the Lord having found her, by a fountain of water in the wilderness . . . said to her: Return to thy mistress, and humble thyself under her hand. (Gen. 16:7-9).
Yet another intervention of an angel took place when Abraham was about to slay his son for a holocaust, as instructed by God. While the knife was poised to strike, . . . an angel of the Lord from heaven called to him, saying: Abraham, Abraham . . . Lay not thy hand upon the boy, neither do thou anything to him . . . (Gen. 22:11-12). After Abraham, we learn that Lot and his wife, while entertaining two angels in their home, were warned by them about the destruction of Sodom: And when it was morning, the angels pressed him, saying: Arise, take thy wife, and the two daughters which thou hast: lest thou also perish in the wickedness of the city . . . And they brought him forth and set him without the city: and there they spoke to him, saying: Save thy life: look not back, neither stay thou in all the country about: but save thyself in the mountain, lest thou be also consumed . . . And his wife looking behind her, was turned into a statue of salt. (Gen. 19:15-17, 26).
When Moses was learning from God the laws that would be observed by the people, God assured him, Behold I will send my angel, who shall go before thee, and keep thee in thy journey, and bring thee into the place that I have prepared . . . If thou wilt hear his voice, and do all that I speak, I will be an enemy to thy enemies and will afflict them that afflict thee. And my angel shall go before thee . . . (Ex. 23:20, 22-23). When Josue was in a field of the city of Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and saw a man holding a drawn sword. After the man answered that he was not an enemy but prince of the host of the Lord, Josue recognized him as an angel and fell on his face to the ground. The angel then said, Loose thy shoes from off thy feet: for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Josue did as was commanded him. (Jos. 5:13-16). The Lord then announced that Josue could lay claim to the city of Jericho. (Jos. 6:2).
We read in 4 Kings (2 Kings) that Ezechias prayed for Gods help against his enemy, the Assyrians: And it came to pass that night, that an angel of the Lord came, and slew in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and eighty-five thousand. (4 Kgs. 19:35). The prophet Elias went one days journey into the desert and slept under a juniper tree. He was later awakened by an angel, who said to him, Arise and eat. Elias looked, and behold there was at his head a hearth cake, and a vessel of water: and he ate and drank, and he fell asleep again. For a second time the angel touched him and said, Arise, eat: for thou hast yet a great way to go. And Elias arose, ate and drank, and walked in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights, unto the mount of God, Horeb. (1 Kgs. 19:4-8).
When Nabuchodonosor had Sidrach, Misach and Abdenago cast into the burning furnace for not adoring a golden statue, they walked unharmed among the flames; the angel of the Lord drove the flame of the fire out of the furnace, and made the midst of the furnace like the blowing of a wind bringing dew, and the fire touched them not at all, nor troubled them, nor did them any harm. The three young men sang the praises of God and prayed, O ye angels of the Lord, bless the Lord: praise and exalt him above all forever. (Dan. 3:49-50, 58).
In the book of Zacharias we are told about a vision in which the prophet saw four chariots driven by angels. The horses, grisled and strong, were black, white and red. An angel, who was his companion during the vision, informed Zacharias that they were the four winds of the heaven, which go forth to stand before the Lord of all the earth. (Zach. 6:1-5). The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that angels closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot; saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abrahams hand; communicated the law by their ministry; led the People of God; announced births and callings; and assisted the prophets, just to cite a few examples. Finally, the Angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Precursor and that of Jesus himself.
4. Angels in the New Testament
In the entire New Testament, including the four Gospels, the Epistles and The Apocalypse, the words angel or angels are mentioned more than 158 times. From the Incarnation to the Ascension, we know that Our Lord was surrounded by the adoration and the service of angels. Thinkest thou that I cannot ask my Father, and He will give me presently more than twelve legions of angels? (Matt. 26:53). Before His birth they advised Joseph to accept Mary as his wife; they warned him to take Mary and the Child to Egypt and announced when it was safe to return. At Our Lords birth they announced the good news to the shepherds; they served Him in the desert and in the Garden of Olives; they were present at His Resurrection. For an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and coming, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. (Matt. 28:2). Angels will also be indispensable at the Lords Second Coming because Jesus tells us: For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then will he render to every man according to his works. (Matt. 16:27). The harvest is the end of the world. And the reapers are the angels. (Matt. 13:39). So shall it be at the end of the world. The angels shall go out, and shall separate the wicked from among the just. (Matt. 13:49).
Angels continued to perform their services for the benefit of the Church and the Apostles, as noted in the Acts of the Apostles. An angel awakened Philip and instructed him: Arise, go toward the south, to the way that goeth down from Jerusalem into Gaza. Philip went immediately and met the eunuch of Ethiopia, who was reading the prophet Isaias. After explaining the book to him, Philip baptized the eunuch, and the eunuch went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:26-39). We learn of an angels visitation in the fifth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, when the Apostles were cast into the common prison by the high priest. But that very night an angel opened the doors of the prison and, leading them out, said: Go, and standing speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. (Acts 5:20). The next morning, when the high priest and the council had gathered, they gave orders for the Apostles to be brought to them for questioning. But when the ministers came to the prison, they found the cell empty. They reported: The prison indeed we found shut with all diligence, and the keepers standing before the doors; but opening it, we found no man within. (Acts 5:23). The Apostles were later found in the temple preaching. The devout Cornelius, a centurion and a Gentile, was visited by an angel who instructed him to send his servants to invite St. Peter to his home. When Peter arrived, Cornelius told him, Four days ago unto this hour, I was praying in my house, at the ninth hour, and behold a man stood before me in white apparel and said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thy alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. (Acts 10:30). Peter preached to him and those in the house and baptized themthe first Gentiles to be admitted into the Church. Next we find St. Peter again in prison, this time at the hands of King Herod. Perhaps the King had heard of his miraculous escape from prison when the high priest had him apprehended. This time the King took extra precautions that the Apostle would not escape and delivered him to four files of soldiers to be kept. (Acts 12:4). But one night while Peter slept between two soldiers, bound with two chains and with jailers before the door, an angel appeared in a great light. While the soldiers were in a mysterious slumber, the chains miraculously fell from the Apostle. Peter was told to dress, to put on his sandals and to follow the angelic apparition. And passing through the first and the second ward, they came to the iron gate that leadeth to the city, which of itself opened to them. And going out, they passed on through one street: and immediately the angel departed from him. (Acts 12:10).
The Apostle Paul also had an experience when he was aboard a ship, which was
being mightily tossed with the tempest. (Acts 27:18). After many
days, St. Paul spoke to the passengers and crew: Now I exhort you to be
of good cheer. For there shall be no loss of any mans life among you,
but only of the ship. For an angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, stood
by me this night saying: Fear not, Paul, thou must be brought before Caesar;
and behold God hath given thee all of them that sail with thee.
(Acts 27:22-24). After some days of difficulty the ship was run aground, and
the stern was broken with the violence of the sea. (Acts 27:41).
Just as the angel had predicted, all the two hundred threescore and sixteen
souls were saved and only the ship was lost. (Acts 27:37-44). Angels are
repeatedly mentioned in The Apocalypse written by St. John while at Patmos.
In the Saints vision of things yet to come, we find the Angels adoring
and ministering before the throne: And I beheld, and I heard the voice
of many angels round about the throne . . . (Apoc. 5:11). And all
the angels stood round about the throne, and the ancients, and the four living
creatures; and they fell down before the throne upon their faces, and adored
God. (Apoc. 7:11). In the events yet to come we also find angels dispensing
Gods justice: And I saw another angel ascending from the rising
of the sun having the sign of the living God; and he cried with a loud voice
to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth. (Apoc. 7:2).
And the four angels were loosed, who were prepared for an hour, and a
day, and a month, and a year: for to kill the third part of men. (Apoc.
9:15). And I saw another sign in heaven, great and wonderful: seven angels
having the seven last plagues. For in them is filled up the wrath of God.
(Apoc. 15:1). And I heard a great voice out of the temple, saying to the
seven angels: Go, and pour out the seven vials of the wrath of God upon the
earth. (Apoc. 16:1). We learn too that angels are assigned to guard various
places, especially in the New Jerusalem: And it had a wall great and high,
having twelve gates, and in the gates twelve angels . . . (Apoc. 21:12).
And finally, in the book of The Apocalypse, angels are mentioned in 13 of the
5. What the Church Teaches about Angels
The Church continues to benefit from angelic services, since angels are recognized in her prayers and rubrics. In the funeral liturgy we pray, May the Angels lead you into Paradise. The words of Gabriel are given in the Hail Mary, and the announcement is repeated in the Angelus, which the Church recites at 6 a.m., noon and 6 p.m. The Angels are appealed to for prayer at the beginning of Holy Mass in the words: And I ask Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God. The Confiteor in the Traditional Roman Rite of the Mass invokes Holy Michael the Archangel. The Preface of Holy Mass also appeals to all the choirs of Angels in Heaven to join with us in praising God. And after the Consecration, we pray: Almighty God, we pray that Your angel may take this sacrifice to Your altar in Heaven . . . The Church has traditionally designated September 29 as the Feast of (the Dedication of the church of) St. Michael the Archangel. This feast has now been expanded to include St. Gabriel and St. Raphael also. In the traditional Roman calendar, May 8 commemorated The Apparition of St. Michael the Archangel at Monte Gargano in Apulia, Italy, in 492. The guardian angels are remembered on October 2. Besides these remembrances, there are also other prayers in which the Church mentions angels. In addition, there are novenas, chaplets, litanies, beloved hymns and prayers of the Saints. In an address given by Pope John Paul II on July 9, 1986, the Holy Father stated regarding angels: All of the Churchs tradition is unanimous in affirming that they do exist. One would have to alter Sacred Scripture itself if one wished to eliminate this teaching . . . At certain points in salvation history, angels have had a fundamental role to play in the unfolding of human events.
In the same year, on July 23, the Holy Father further instructed: The Angels are purely spiritual beings, created by God and given intelligence and free will. Through an immediate intuition of the truth, their intelligence grasps its object in a way that is much more complete than is possible for man . . . The world of the pure spirits is divided into good angels and bad ones. And this division has happened precisely as a result of their freedom to choose. God was present to their intelligence and free will as the Supreme Good. He also wished to give them, through grace, a share in the mystery of His divinity. The good angels have chosen God. But the others . . . have turned against God and the revelation of His grace. Their decision was inspired by a false sense of self-sufficiency, and it emerges as hatred and rebellion against God. It is traditional Catholic teaching (though not a defined dogma) that each individual is given a guardian angel, who will accompany, guard and teach him throughout his life. After death this angel will accompany the soul to its judgment, visit it if it is detained in Purgatory, and accompany it to the glory of Heaven. (See #64-76.)
6. When Were the Angels Created?
St. Jerome, St. John Damascene, the Greek Fathers and many Doctors of the Church hold that the creation of the Angels took place previously to that of the corporeal world. Other theologians and Catholic writers believe that the Angels were created at the same time the world was created, although before the creation of man. This latter point was upheld by the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, which stated: God, by His almighty power, created together in the beginning of time both creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal, namely the angelic and the earthly, and afterwards the human, as it were an intermediate
creature, composed of body and spirit. (D 428). Despite the opinions of those previously mentioned, the issue is still being debated among theologians and writers of religious material as to exactly when the Angels were createdbefore the heavens, the stars? But the common opinion of theologians is that the Angels and the material world were created at the same time. St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) writes on this subject: God alone, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, is from eternity. Catholic Faith holds this without doubt, and everything to the contrary must be rejected as heretical. For God so produced creatures that He made them from nothing, that is, after there had been nothing.6 From this we know that there was a time when angels did not exist and that they were created in the beginning of time and before man was created. Exactly when they were created, whether before the earth and the skies, is known to God alone.
7. Before the Angelic Battle in Heaven, Were All the Angels Admitted to
the Full Vision of God?
It is the belief of many theologians and Doctors of the Church that the Angels were all created in the state of grace in a heaven, but one separated from the Heaven of the Holy Trinity. The Angels had to give proof of their fidelity to God before being admitted to His presence. It was at this time that the bad angels rebelled. Had they seen the majesty and magnificence of God the full impact of the Beatific Visionthey would never have entertained thoughts of being equal to or superior to God, nor would they have dared to be rebellious. After the fall of the angelswho then became devilsthe good, faithful angels were admitted to the Heaven of the Holy Trinity, where they were permitted to gaze on the unveiled beauty of God. All of the above, as mentioned, is the belief of many theologians, and was also that of St. Thomas Aquinas, a Doctor of the Church. The Saint writes that the faithful angels, since their entrance into the Heaven of the Trinity, could not and cannot now sin or rebel because they now see God in His essence, which he also calls the union of beatitude.
8. Has the Number of Angels Increased Since Their Creation?
It is the universal Catholic belief that after the battle in which the defeated angels were transformed into devils, the number of angels has remained the same. Their number was complete from that time to this.
Taken from Angels and Devils by TAN Books & Publishers, Inc.
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