Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Angels in the Architecture

"Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?"--Hebrews

"Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light."--2nd Corinthians

While perusing the new calendars at a book store the other day I noticed many different versions in an "angel" theme. Most seemed to be of the maudlin or romantic variety, some culled from the works of the great masters of art. But it got me to thinking about the nature of angels, and their place in spiritual practice. I remember reading somewhere that a great majority of people who were polled on the subject professed to a belief in angels. Certainly anyone raised in the Christian faith, as I was, has been so steeped in the presence of angels in Bible stories that a belief in them is in some ways less challenging than a belief in God himself.

I can certainly see why Yahweh would choose the form of an angel to address mortal men, as He seems to have when approaching Abram. There is no doubt that their appearance is majestic in some way, exuding an awesomeness that makes them typically tell whoever they appear to to "fear not!" Even to Moses, the closest man God ever had to having what you might call a "pal" , the most he got to personally see while still in his mortal incarnation was the majestic backside of the Creator, lest he be overcome by the awe of seeing any more.

The angels that approached Lot also seemed to be aspects of Yahweh. It seems clear that in the Old Testament much of the activity of angels was as God's helpers, and as things progressed they became Man's helpers.

This all smacks of the kind of "parlor game theology" that I have previously eschewed but stay with me. I know it can be theorized that EVERYTHING is an aspect of the ONE, and this is probably true to a degree, but other than as tools to help us understand the enormity of an almighty Lord , I don't see the necessity, spiritually speaking, of all this angel hoopla. I am not saying necessarily that I do not believe in them myself, if I do have a guardian angel than I am glad to have as many friends as I can, but to me , it is like over emphasizing middle management when you can have the ear of the CEO whenever you want it.

There are all kinds of layers and layers of angel lore, different names and powers, etc. , mostly created by the Catholic faith. And on the flipside, there are lots of detailed descriptions of demons and devils , too. This all seems to be an effort to restore the colorful demi-gods to a place in Christian belief that had been dumped back in the days when Moses and Joshua were ordered to wipe out anyone who had household gods or worshipped in high places. So why bring them back? Probably for the same reason that Mary was elevated to an intercessory position, restoring , at least partially, the Goddess of old back into what was a decidedly strict Semetic patriarchy. The colorful characters were familiar to the "pagan" masses that were being indoctrinated into the Faith, and it made for a more seamless union.

And that is all very well and good if that is your thing. But does it help us any to worry or think about any of this? As I see it , our world is populated by many spirits, both incarnate and disincarnate; but the only two that I need to truly invest in are my Creator's and my own. Certainly I hope to help guide my children and anyone who cares into a good direction, but then it is up to them.

Still, they do make for some very lovely works of art...

1 comment:

Brer said...

Angels seem to me to be a phenomenon to be included with things like the sea or the sun or the heavens; awesome revelations of the Creator, things that if concentrated on too much could lead to idolatry (another thing angels always seem to say is "Get up. Don't bow to me.") They are in the last analysis creations such as we are, and do not seem to have the special relation we have with God.

In fact, it seems to me that if we are "organs" in the Body of Christ, angels are the nerve inmpulses flashing to and from the Center to us.

Angels are not necessary in our special relationship with God, and Jesus in his time on earth seems to have eschewed the use of them. They appear at his birth and near his death, in their role as messengers ('angeloi') and comforters. Even their interactions with the physical world (rolling away stones, opening prisons) can be seen not only as helpful acts but as communications. They are letters to and from God, as it were. Useful and graceful means, perhaps, but not as important as the sender and reciever.