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An Awareness of Angels

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An Awareness of Angels

On my kitchen window stand the guardian angels.  They are window-transfer copies of beautiful mosaics from St John’s Church in Warminster (and you can see them for yourself here).

St Michael is thrusting his spear into (Satan, represented as) a dragon, but from the amount of effort he seems to be exerting, you’d think – if you couldn’t see below his knees – that he was absent-mindedly hoeing his veg patch.

As I washed the dishes and wondered about this, I thought that perhaps the constraints of the narrow frame made the artist portray St Michael in this pose.  Then again, perhaps it was to make him comparable with the serenity of Gabriel et al that he was made to seem so placid… then, amongst the pots and pans, it came to me – perhaps that’s how much effort it takes for an angel to carry out a task that would leave us exhausted at best. The angels of God are especially prevalent in our Lenten liturgy.

On the first Sunday of Lent, the devil tempts Jesus by reminding him of the angels whom God had commanded ‘to keep you in all your ways.  They shall bear you upon their hands lest you strike your foot against a stone…’  Both Matthew and Mark (though not Luke, admittedly) tell of the angels who ministered to Jesus during his 40 days in the wilderness.  This Sunday we’ll hear of an angel appearing to Moses, then next Sunday, just immediately before we hear of the prodigal son, Jesus declares, ‘I tell you, there is joy among the angels of God over one sinner who repents’. Then, of course, in Gethsemene, ‘there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him’.

From the annunciation through the nativity, the wilderness, Jesus’ public ministry, to the cross, the resurrection and ascension, there are angels flitting in and out of the story of Jesus’ life… and so too do they surround us from day to day.  I wonder though, if our guardian angels weren’t such generous spirits, how many might comment on a job-satisfaction survey that they were over-worked and under-valued? St Jerome wrote of our guardian angels, ‘So valuable to heaven is the dignity of the human soul that every member of the human race has a guardian angel from the moment the person begins to be’.  Although our guardian angels are widely credited for protecting us from physical harm, I should think that they spend most of their efforts guarding our souls from peril.

We know that the closer we draw to God, the more jealous the Tempter becomes.  At this stage in Lent, then, we should not be surprised to find him particularly busy.  Perhaps our initial enthusiasm has worn off a bit, but we’re not far enough in to see any progress and we still have a long way to go.  Remember the image of St Michael.  When we look ahead and foresee a day of battle, St Michael sees a walk in the park. Angels of God, defend us on this day of battle!

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