Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hark the Herald, Angels Sing

December 20

The daily Advent reflection pamphlet tells the stories of Sampson and John the Baptist, two men whose lives were heralded to their parents by angels, were given a mission but but who both, ultimately, had violent deaths (Sampson in the temple of the Philistines, John by beheading).

Are angels still with us? What message from God have they brought? What mission is God asking of me through them and how will I use my gifts for that mission?

There is a culture of angel worship today that seems to supplant a direct relationship with God. Do we feel that we are not worthy of talking directly to God? Do we feel that angels are less demanding of us than God? (Ignorance is bliss?)

Angels in Hebrew & Christian Scripture

The word "angel", from the Greek angelos, etymologically means "one who is sent" or a "messenger."

I thought there were lots of kinds of angels but the Scriptures themselves are actually pretty sparse on them. We picture angels in flowing gowns but the Scripturally they are pretty strong.

Seraphim is translated as "fiery ones" with six wings that, as strong as they were, two pair were needed to cover their feet and eyes to protect them from the Presence of God. The other two were for flying - no time for harps, here. They would have lit up the stable/cave area and their attraction more like a searchlight and rock concert than chamber music.

Cherubim are guards and protectors so their depiction as helpless babies doesn't match up. They guarded the Tree of Life, with a flaming sword, and the Ark of the Covenant. Think of Indiana Jones as a Cherubim taking human form.

Turns out Archangels are not found in Hebrew Scriptures, only the New Testament which deemed Michael & Gabriel to be archangels, posthumously.

The responsibilities of the hierarchal choirs, powers, principalities, dominations, thrones are not biblically based but come from tradition. Considering the hierarchal nature of the many formal Christian denominations, & the desire to formalize dogma, since the 3rd century probably not all that surprising; it's fun to consider this hierarchy but I take it with a grain of salt.

Angels in Islam

Faith in the unseen world created by Allah is a required element of faith in Islam. Among the creatures of the unseen are angels. Some of the angels we think of specifically are given by name and responsibilities in the Koran, beliefs passed down through Abraham to Ismael. Angels, in Islam, are considered to be made from light but can take on a variety of forms and are all considered to be good because they serve Allah and they have no free free will to do otherwise. It is considered blasphemous to make images of angels in Islam:
  • Jibreel (Gabriel) - in charge of communicating Allah's words to His prophets
  • Israfeel (Raphael) - in charge of blowing the trumpet to mark the Day of Judgment 
  • Mikail (Michael) - in charge of rainfall and sustenance 
  • Munkar and Nakeer - after death, these angels will question souls in the grave about their faith and deeds 
  • Malak Am-Maut (Angel of Death) - in charge of taking possession of souls after death 
  • Malik - guardian of hell 
  • Ridwan - guardian of heaven 

The Koran doesn't consider Iblis aka Shaytan (Satan) to be an angel but a disobedient jinn (demon); jinn have free will to disobey.

Where Humans Fear to Tread

Through my 12 years of Catholic schooling I learned much about angels, most of which is found in this compendium by Fr. Hardon which religion geeks like myself will appreciate if it is up your alley; you know who you are.

Personally I like shortcuts, so am content to bypass the angels and usually go straight to the Creator/Mother, Son and Spirit/Sophia for my spiritual sustenance . I am action driven though so do like the idea of an angel blowing a trumpet loudly in my ear and telling me to get off my bum and feed the hungry or welcome the stranger ....but sometimes, especially at Christmas, my softer side enjoys the of choirs of angels welcoming a little child.

Blessings of the Season to All.


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