Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS AND IS AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ. ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
A PRAYER TO THE HOLY ANGEL WHO HAS BEEN SENT BY GOD TO PROTECT AND GUARD US
O holy Angel, attendant of my wretched soul and of my afflicted life, forsake me not, a sinner, neither depart from me for my incontinency. Give no place to the evil demon, to subdue me with the oppression of this mortal body; but take me by my wretched and outstretched hand, and lead me in the way of salvation. Yes, O holy Angel of God, the guardian and protector of my hapless soul and body, forgive me all things whatsoever wherewith I have troubled you, all the days of my life, and if I have sinned anything this day. Shelter me in this present night, and keep me from every affront of the enemy, lest I anger God by any sin; and intercede with the Lord in my behalf, that He might strengthen me in the fear of Him, and make me a worthy servant of His Goodness. Amen.
On September 20th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, and Teachers of Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Efstathios the Great Martyr, Theopisti, his wife and their two sons Agapius and Theopistos who were burned in a bull; Saint Efstathios of Thessaloniki; Saint Hilarion, the New Martyr of Crete; holy Father Hypatius the Bishop and Andrew the Presbyter; holy Confessors Saint Martin, Bishop of Rome, Saint Maximus the Confessor, and his disciples: named Anastasius, Theodore and Efprepius; holy Artemidorus and Thalus; Saint John of Egypt, great among the Confessors, and the Forty holy Martyrs with him; our righteous and God-bearing Father Sir John, who shone forth on the Isle of Crete; Saint Michael of Chernigov and his Boyar Theodore, the Wonder-workers, who were martyred by the Tartars in the year 1244; our righteous Father Oleg, Great Prince of Bryansk.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Ephesians 6:10-17
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 21:12-19
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"There are two forms of the life according to God, blessed Christians: the first is for one to desist from vice, and the second is for one to practice virtue; the first is for one not the cause scandal to his brother, and the second is for one to assist in the correction and salvation of his brother". [Saint Nicodemos the Hagiorite]
THE CREATION OF THE HOLY ANGELS
By Rev. Father Michael Pomazansky [source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology]
In the symbol of Faith (The Creed) we read, "I believe in one God...Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible." The invisible, angelic world was created by God, and created before the visible world. "When the stars were made, all my angles praised me with a loud voice," said the Lord to Job (Job 38:7, Septuagint (Orthodox Old Testament). The holy Apostle Paul writes: "By Him were all things created that are in Heaven, and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers" (Col. 1:16). The Fathers of the Church understand the word "Heaven" in the words of the book of Genesis ("in the beginning God created the Heaven and the earth") as being not the physical Heaven, 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 long before He created the visible world. (St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Gregory the Great, St. Anastasius of Sinai), and that at the creation of the visible world the Angels already stood before the face of the Creator and served Him. Saint Gregory the Theologian reflects on this: "Since for the goodness of God it was not sufficient to be occupied only with the contemplation of Himself, but it was needful that good should extend further and further, so that the number of those who have received grace might be as many as possible (because this is characteristic of the highest goodness)--therefore, God devised first of all the Angelic Heavenly powers: and the thought became deed, which was fulfilled by the Word (Logos), and perfected by the Spirit…and inasmuch as the first creatures were pleasing to Him. He devised another world, material and visible, the orderly composition of Heaven and earth, and that which is between them." Saint John Damascene also follows the thought of Saint Gregory the Theologian.
THE NATURE OF HOLY ANGELS
By their nature, Angels are active spirits which have intelligence, will, and knowledge. They serve God, fulfill His providential will, and glorify Him. They are fleshless spirits and, in so far as they belong to the invisible world, they cannot be seen by our bodily eyes. The angels, instructs Saint John Damascene, "do not appear exactly as they are to the just and to them that God wills them to appear to. On the contrary, they appear under such a different form as can be seen by those who behold them." In the account of the book of Tobit, the Angel who accompanied Tobit and his son told them of himself: "All these days I merely appeared to you and did not eat or drink, but you were seeing a vision" (Tobit 12:19).
"Now," as Saint John Damascene expresses it, "compared with us, the Angel is said to be incorporeal and immaterial, although in comparison with God, Who alone is incomparable, everything proves to be gross and material--for only the divinity is truly immaterial and incorporeal".
THE DEGREE OF ANGELIC PERFECTION
The Angels are most perfect spirits. They surpass man by their spiritual power, they also, as created beings, bear in themselves the seal of limitation. Being fleshless, they are less dependent than men on space and place, and so-to-speak, pass through vast spaces with extreme rapidity, appearing wherever it is required for them to act. However, one cannot say that they exist entirely independent of space and place, nor that they are everywhere present. The Sacred Scripture depicts Angels sometimes descending from heaven to the earth, sometimes ascending from earth to Heaven, and thus one must suppose that they cannot be both on earth and in Heaven at the same time. Saint John Damascene teaches: "the Angels are circumscribed, because when they are in Heaven they are not on earth, and when they are sent to earth by God they do not remain in Heaven".
Immortality is an attribute of Angels, as is clearly testified by the Holy Scriptures, which teach that they cannot die (St. Luke 20:36). However, their immortality is not a divine immortality, that is, something self-existing and unconditional, rather, it depends, just as does the immorality of human souls, entirely upon the will and mercy of God.
As fleshless spirits, the Angels are capable of inward "self-development" of the highest degree. Their minds are more elevated than the human mind; according to the explanation of the holy Apostle Peter, in their might and power they surpass all earthly governments and authorities (II Peter 2:10-11). The nature of an Angel is higher than the nature of man, he remarks that man is "a little lower than the Angels" (Psalm 8:5).
However, the exalted attributes of Angels have their limits. Holy Scripture indicates that they do not know the depths of the essence of God, which is known to the spirit of God only ("The things of God knoweth no man, but the spirit of God" I Cor. 2:11). They do not know the future, which is also known to God alone: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in Heaven" (St. Mark 13:32). Likewise, they do not understand completely the mystery of redemption, although they wish to penetrate it ("which things the Angels desire to look into" I Peter 1:12). And they do not even know all human thoughts (III Kings 8:39). Finally, they cannot of themselves, without the will of God, perform miracles: "Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel, Who alone doeth wonders" (Psalm 71:19).
THE NUMBER AND RANKS OF ANGELS
Sacred Scripture presents the Angelic world as extraordinarily large. When the Prophet Daniel saw the Ancient of Days in a vision, it was revealed to his gaze that "thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him" (Daniel 7:10). "A multitude of the Heavenly host" praised the coming to earth of the Son of God (St. Luke 2:13).
"Reckon", says Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, "how many are the Roman nation; reckon how many the barbarian tribes now living, and how many have died within the last hundred years; reckon how many nations have been buried during the last thousand years; reckon all from Adam to this day. Great indeed is the multitude, but yet it is little, but for the angels are many more. They are ninety and nine sheep, but mankind is the single one (St. Matthew 18:12)--For according to the extent of universal space, must reckon the number of its inhabitants. The whole earth is but as a point in the midst of the one heaven, and yet contains so great a multitude; what a multitude must the heaven which encircles it contain? And must not the heaven of heavens contain unimaginable numbers? And it is written, thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him; not that the multitude is only so great, but because the Prophet could not express more than these" (Saint Cyril of Jerusalem).
With such a multitude of Angels it is natural to suppose that in the world of Angels, just as in the material world, there are various degrees of perfection; and therefore various stages, or "hierarchical degrees," of the heavenly powers. Thus, the word of God calls some of them "Angels" and others "Archangels" (I Thess. 4:16; St. Jude, v. 9).
The Orthodox Church, guided by the views of the ancient writers of the Church and the Church Fathers, and in particular by the work, "The Heavenly Hierarchy" which bears the name of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite, divides the Angelic world into nine choirs or ranks, and these nine into three hierarchies, with three ranks in each. In the first hierarchy are those who are closer to God: the Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim. In the second, middle hierarchy, are the Authorities, Dominions and Powers. In the third, closer to us, are the Angels, Archangels and Principalities (The Orthodox Confession).
We find this enumeration of the nine choirs of Angels in the Apostolic Constitutions (The "Apostolic Constitutions" are a 4th century collection of texts on Christian doctrine, worship, and discipline which give much information on the life of the early Church [though not necessarily of the time of the Apostles]. While given respect as an ancient Christian text, this collection, owing to some un-Orthodox additions made to it at different times, has not had the authority in the Church which is enjoyed by other early texts. It should be distinguished from the "Apostolic Canans," which were accepted by the Quinisext Council (692 AD) as authoritative for the Church). In Sts. Ignatius the God-bearer, Saint Gregory the Theologian, and Saint John Chrysostom later, in Sts. Gregory the Dialogist, Saint John Damascene, and others. Here are the words of Saint Gregory the Dialogist on this subject: "We accept nine ranks of Angels, because from this testimony of the Word of God we know about Angels, Archangels, Powers, Authorities, Principalities, Dominions, Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim. Thus, concerning the existence of Angels and Archangels, almost every page of Sacred Scripture testifies; of the Cherubim and Seraphim as is well known, the prophetic books speak often; the Apostle Paul enumerates four other ranks in his Epistle to the Ephesians, saying that God (the Father) placed His Son "far above all Principality, and Authority, and Power and Dominion" (Ephesians 1:21). And in his Epistle to the Colossians he writes: "By Him were all things created, that are in Heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether Thrones, or Dominions, or Principalities, or Powers" (Col. 1:16). And so, when we join Thrones to these four of which he speaks to the Ephesians, that is, Principalities, Authorities, Powers and Dominions, we have five separate ranks; and when we join to them the Angels, Archangels, Cherubim, and Seraphim, it is clear that there are nine ranks of Angels.
In general, the ancient shepherds considered the doctrine of the celestial hierarchy a mystical one. "How many ranks of heavenly beings there are," reflects Saint Dionysius in the "Heavenly Hierarchy," "of what sort they are, and in what way the mysteries of their sacred order are performed is known precisely only to God, Who is the Cause of their hierarchy. Likewise, they themselves know their own powers, light, and order beyond this world. But we can speak of this only to the degree that God has revealed this to us through the heavenly powers themselves, as ones who know themselves". Similarly, Blessed Augustine reflects, "That there are Thrones, Dominions, Principalities, and Authorities in the heavenly mansions, I believe unwaveringly, and that they are distinct one from the other, I hold without doubt; but of what sort they are, and in precisely what way they are distinguished among themselves, I do not know."
In Sacred Scripture, some of the higher Angels are given their own names. There are two such names in the canonical books: "Michael" (which means "who is like God?" Dan. 10:13; 12:1; Jude, v.9; Apoc. 12:7-8) and "Gabriel" ("Man of God"; Dan. 8:16, 9:21; St. Luke 1:19,26). Three Angels are mentioned by name in the non-canonical books: "Raphael" ("The Help of God"; Tobit 3:17, 12:12-15); "Uriel" ("Fire of God"; III Esdras 4:1, 5:20); "Salathiel," ("Prayer to God", III Esdras 5:16). Apart from this, pious tradition ascribes names to two other Angels: Jegudiel ("Praise of God') and "Barachiel" ("Blessing of God"); these names are not to be found in the Holy Scriptures. Moreover, in the second book of Esdras there is mention of yet another, "Jeremiel" ("the Height of God," III Esdras 4:36); but judging from the context of this passage, this name is the same as "Uriel."
Thus, names have been given to seven of the highest Angels, corresponding to the words of the Apostle John the Theologian in the Apocalypse: "Grace be unto you, and peace from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven spirits which are before His throne" (Apoc. 1:4).
[to be continued: Next, "The Ministry of the Holy Angels]
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God