In both Old and New Testaments we have many examples of angels. Once Adam and Eve were banished from Paradise an angel, a Cherubim, was placed with a flaming sword, turned to guard the entrance into Paradise. Abraham, when sending his servant to Nahor, encouraged him by saying that the Lord will send Him an angel to watch over him. Jacob saw angels, both in his sleep and while awake. We read int he Psalms: “Praise him all ye angels, praise Him…” (Ps. 90:11). The prophet Isaiah saw Seraphim surrounding the throne of God; the prophet Ezekiel saw angels in his vision of the house of God.
Of course, in the New Testament there would be no gospels if it wasn’t for angels. Gospel, of course, means ‘good news’. The gospels begin with the account of the Archangel Gabriel who bears the good news to Mary, saying, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women.” The good news that she will bear a son, whose name will be Jesus, and He will be the Savior of the world.”
Christ Himself spoke about angels in His ministry, saying, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father…” Thereby implying that all Christians have their own guardian angels. Here we do not mean that God, in His imperfection, needs angels to help Him, rather its our human weakness which requires their service.
Whether we know it or not, we confess the existence of angels each and every Sunday as we recite the Creed: “I believe in One God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible…” The Holy Fathers of the Christian Church understood the word “heaven” in the first words of the book of Genesis (In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth…) as being not the physical, which was formed later, but the invisible heaven, or the dwelling-place of the powers on high, and they expressed the idea that God created the angels way before He created the visible world.
The name angel means messenger and as we have seen in the biblical references to angels that’s what they have been throughout the history of the salvation of the human race. By their nature, angels are active spirits which have intelligence, will and knowledge. We know that angels have free will and can do anything they wish, just as humans, since according to Church Tradition, the devil was first an angel who wanted more power than he had. When he didn’t get it he rebelled and led the invisible heaven to live in the nether regions.
Although Angels surpass man by their spiritual powers, they are still created beings and bear in themselves the seal of limitations. The Scriptures depict angels as sometimes ascending to heaven, or at other times descending from heaven, but never being both in heaven and on earth.
It is on this day that our Church commemorates the holy Archangel Gabriel who is also commemorated on March 26th. This is the day after the feast day of the Annunciation, when the Archangel appeared to the Virgin Mary bearing the good news that she will bear a son. It is believed that he is commemorated on the day after the Annunciation because of the appearance that he made to a monk on the Holy Mountain in Greece in the year 982. It was during this appearance that the angel, with his finger, wrote the hymn to the Mother of God, the hymn familiar to all of us: “It is meet…”.
Linked with this are the other appearances that he made. For instance, it was the Archangel Gabriel who appeared to Mose when he was keeping Jethro’s flock, and revealed to him how God had created the world and the rest that Moses wrote down in his book of Genesis, which has always been puzzling to people how could Moses, the author of Genesis, possibly know how God created the world.
But Moses knew about the creation, St. Anna knew that she would have a daughter whose name would be Mary and Mary knew that she would bear a son named Jesus – by the revelation of God through His messneger the Archangel Gabriel.
Although we don’t have angels appear to us and some of this might sound strange to us we do, and Christ confirms, have Guardian Angels. Each and every Christian soul receives an angel to guard him when the Christian is born again of the spirit, meaning when they are baptized. At that moment we receive our angel. We should also pray to our guardian angel on a daily basis because their only mission in this life is to look after us.
As one monastic told a layperson visiting the monastery who wanted to know fof the importance of angels, the monk tells him: “My child, try so long as you are living in this world, to keep company with the Angels and go where the angels are found on this earth; then sooner or later you will fall and will keep company with the demons and start going to places where the demons dwell. But it is spiritual law, that whomever you keep company in this world, they will lead you to the other world as well. So, whatever you do, try to be with the Angels.” Amen.