Angels are an interesting subject. We don’t really know a lot about them and we don’t, at least knowingly, seem to bump into them in our everyday life. They are strange and other. Maybe, that’s part of their rationale. Angels are quite an interesting phenomena for our times, because they simply cannot be empirically, or scientifically, proved. This week I have asked a fair few people ‘do you believe in angels,’ and I have been surprised to discover that many people, rationally minded people, do indeed believe in angels.
Angels have of course been the subject of films and music – think Dan Brown, Robbie Williams and Abba – so there is undoubtedly something intriguing about them. I particularly like how Abba describe the angelic rationale:
‘I have a dream, a fantasy, to help me through reality, and my destination makes it worth the while, pushing through the darkness still another mile. I believe in angels, something good in everything I see, I believe in angels.’
Angels for Abba exist to accompany us through reality, occasionally, grim reality, helping us to keep in mind that we have a final destination. A destination that will be defined by goodness.
Angels, I think, help us to keep hold of the notion of goodness even when things seem dark. Angels are light bearers. The collect that I read just a few minutes ago stresses the role of angels in ‘helping and defending us on earth.’ I suspect that many of us will at least have had a sense such an unexplainable angelic presence; a force or power that keeps us going. It is this sense that I suspect allows rationale human beings to say, yes ‘I believe in angels.’
The ‘first Christian theologian’ Origen was convinced that angels were real spiritual beings and, that our destiny is to become one with the angels, as members of ‘the communion of saints.’ Liturgically we celebrate our destiny through the words in the Eucharistic Prayer where we proclaim that in our earthly communion we are joined by the ‘angels, archangels and all the company of heaven.’
There is a saying, isn’t there, that such and such a person maybe ‘so heavenly good that they are of no earthly use.’ Well, I suspect that the angelic role is to ensure that we are of earthly use, whilst continually holding before us the notion that heaven is to become our spiritual home. The gospel reading concludes with the words ‘very truly I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man,’ Jesus in other words.
The use of the metaphor Son of Man is used to depict Jesus in his fleshiness and humanity. Angels, although they are ‘other world’ beings exist to help us become more fully human, so we can be of earthly use, as ‘this world beings’ They do this by defending us and shining light into, through and beyond the darkness for us. I don’t think it is possible to logically and empirically prove that strange phenomenon called angels exist but I do think it is credible based on experience to testify to the angelic presence. So like Robbie Williams, Abba, and the theologian Origen I too believe in Angels.
One final thought: when we share in the Eucharist today lets seek to do so in the belief that we truly are sharing in our earthly communion alongside the ‘Angels, Archangels and All the Company of Heaven.’ Amen.
Rev. Andrew Lightbown