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Angels – God’s E.T’s

2009 September 14
by Gordon Reid


It is a fact little noticed by friend and foe alike, that the Christian Faith believes very strongly in beings from outer space. And, as we know from much Science Fiction, outer space does not necessarily  mean just places a long way off, but can also refer to a quite different mode of existence in  parallel universes. That is roughly what the New Testament means when it says the angels were sent from heaven.

Of course I know that there are Christians who do not  believe that the angels of the biblical records actually exist. They say they are metaphors, or the product of a primitive mentality. No self-respecting nineteenth century  man could possibly believe in them. Well, maybe that’s because the self-respecting nineteenth century man was constrained and confined by a pretty primitive mentality  himself. His was an age when “superstition” was being fought and where the bright beams of the Enlightenment  were putting to flight a lot of fanciful nonsense. Why, even the Biblical scholars were discovering that the text of the Bible was very suspect, that it was mostly written by the Early Church to justify the new religion, mainly invented by Paul of Tarsus.

How dated that all sounds at the beginning of the twenty-first century. As our knowledge of the Universe has expanded, we have in all fields learned a little humility. The study of the vastness of space has been paralleled by the study of the infinitely small “particles” or “waves” that make up all matter. Quantum physics has undermined our belief that if you can’t see or touch something, it doesn’t exist. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle even shows it is impossible to describe something by referring to its position or its movement. It seems things can be in two places at the same time.

So back to the Holy Angels, whom we shall soon be celebrating in the Church’s Year, with the Feast of St Michael and All Angels on September 29 and the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels on October 4. Clearly the Church believes that we are honouring and asking the help of real beings who are not human. She is proclaiming that the accounts of angels in the Scriptures are genuine and believable. And the angels are not just at the edges of the Gospel narrative: they are right there in the centre – announcing the birth of Christ to the shepherds, strengthening Jesus in the wilderness, at the Sepulchre after the Resurrection, in the prison with Peter, telling him to bind on his sandals, and all over the Revelation of St John the Divine, battling the devil.

I am sure that the angels are just the first of a multitude of non-human races we shall encounter in God’s great universe, whether in this life or the next. Alice Meynell, the Roman Catholic poet, has given us a glimpse of the glory that shall be revealed in her poem “Christ in the Universe”. Here it is:

With this ambiguous earth

His dealings have been told us. These abide:

The signal to a maid, the human birth,

The lesson, and the young Man crucified

But not a star of all

The innumerable host of stars has heard

How he administered this terrestrial ball.

Our race have kept their Lord’s entrusted Word.

Of his earth-visiting feet

None knows the secret, cherished, perilous,

The terrible, shamefast, frightened, whispered, sweet,

Heart-shattering secret of His way with us.

No planet knows that this

Our wayside planet, carrying land and wave,

Love and life multiplied, and pain and bliss,

Bears, as chief treasure, one forsaken grave.

Nor, in our little day,

May His devices with the heavens be guessed,

His pilgrimage to thread the Milky Way,

Or His bestowals there be manifest.

But in the eternities,

Doubtless we shall compare together, hear

A million alien Gospels. in what guise

He trod the Pleiades, the Lyre, the Bear.

O be prepared, my soul!

To read the inconceivable, to scan

The million forms of God those stars unroll

When, in our turn, we show to them a Man.

Now that sounds an afterlife a heck of a lot more exciting and fulfilling and interesting than harps and clouds and crowns!

4 Responses leave one →
  1. September 14, 2009

    Great! Many thanks for this, Father.

    I also love Fr. Austin Farrer’s line about angels:

    “The puzzle isn’t why God created angels, but why he ever created anything else.”

  2. September 14, 2009

    I knew Austin Farrer well when I was up at Oxford, and learned a great deal from him. Thanks for reminding me about this comment.

  3. Stephen permalink
    September 15, 2009

    Almost two decades ago, I was making my way down South 13th Street for a meeting I had scheduled with Father Broadley at St Luke and the Epiphany Church. I should mention at this point that I have a mild case of cerebral palsy which makes me a bit gimpy. At any rate, I didn’t step quite high enough for my foot to clear one of the curbs and down i went! Before i could think about it one way or another, a very nice man and lady each garbbed one of my arms and got me back on my feet in nothing flat! This was no small accomplishment, because i am a rather corpulent fellow. It is worth noting that I did not see these two people on the street at all before I fell, and they seemed to disappear just as quickly after they’d done their errand of mercy. It may sound strange, but I have often wondered if they were angels. I know this one anecdote wouldn’t prove the existence of angels to a non-believer, and I’m not positive myself. They may very well have just been very good people who did a merciful thing. But for my part, I will always believe in the angels, especially our Guardian Angels, and Father, many thanks for writing about them so eloquently!

    • Tom permalink
      September 17, 2009

      It is rather selfish and ignorant of man to think that our Heavenly Father and Creator only made one creation. God knows that humanity is a fragile creation and in need of some type of help. With foresight He made Angels not only to do His work on earth and carry out assignments but to help us as we encounter difficulties and the threat of evil. Who else is equipped to help us as we face the legions of Satan and continue to be loyal to our Father? Angels of course!

      To those who say that Angels are not real is as if saying that God cares not for His people or their safety. Angels are just as necessary as mankind, in fact we co-exist to serve God in Heaven and on earth. Everyone should have a longing to witness the songs of praise that the Angels sing in glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

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