The Supernatural in the Angelic World
Supernatural Vocation of the Angels
I. Holy Scripture hints that all the angels were called to the vision of God, when it represents the good angels as actually seeing His Face, and only excludes the fallen ones of from that privilege. Such is also the common tradition embodied in the opinion that man was called to fill the places left vacant by the fallen angels. At any rate, the supernatural vocation of man affords the strongest presumption for a similar vocation of the angels. The fact that many of them did fall supposes that they had to go through a trial, and to merit salvation. Like man, they were unable to attain supernatural life without the aid of actual and habitual grace.
Grace Granted to the Angels
(1.) It is morally certain that all the angels once possessed sanctifying grace. Holy Scripture alludes to this fact, while patristic tradition is unanimous about it. The Fathers generally apply to the angels the texts Ezech. xxviii. and Isai. xiv. 12, which, however, taken literally, only refer to the kings of Tyre and Babylon. A better, though by no means a cogent proof is afforded by John viii. 44, combined with Jude i. 6: “The devil stood not in the truth” “the angels who kept not their principality.” Truth, in the language of the New Testament, means truth founded on grace and justice; and principality implies a dignity so high that we can hardly conceive it to have been unadorned with grace.
The tradition of the Fathers is unanimous that the angels also received grace in the moment of their creation. Theologians generally admit that the diversity of rank among the angels is an indication of diversity of grace received, because, on account of his unimpaired free will, every angel attained at once all the perfection possible to him. It may further be supposed that God created the angels with an amount of natural perfection proportionate to the measure of grace predestined to each of them, and also that the measure of grace given to the angels surpasses that given to men. Yet it is quite possible that some human beings attain to a higher degree of perfection than angels. That the Queen of Angels did so is taught expressly by the Church.
Grace was necessarily accompanied by the virtue of Faith and the knowledge of the supernatural order, culminating in the clear vision of God; because, without these. supernatural life in the state of probation is impossible. Most probably the knowledge of the supernatural order included a knowledge of the Trinity, and of the future Incarnation of the Logos, as these dogmas are so intimately connected with the order of grace.
Merit of the Angels
(2.) The meritorious acts performed by the angels in consequence of the grace received, consisted in the free fulfilling of the supernatural law of God, or in the full subjection to God as the Author of grace and glory. The angels who persevered must have performed at least this one act of submission. But as regards the circumstances of this act, we have only more or less probable opinions. E.g., it may be that a special law of probation, analogous to that given to Adam, was given to the angels, and that it consisted in a restriction of their natural exaltedness above human nature, just as the commandment given to man consisted in a restriction of his dominion over visible nature.
Angels and Beatific Vision
(3.) From the words of Christ, “Their angels in heaven always see the Face of My Father Who is in heaven” (Matt. xviii. 10), we learn that, unlike the Patriarchs, the angels were admitted to the immediate vision of God as soon as they merited it. There is no reason why there should have been any interval.
Relations of the Angels to Mankind
II. The angels hold the first rank in the order of grace as well as in the order of nature. They actually possess the supernatural perfection to which man is but tending, and are therefore his model in the service and praise of God.
(1.) As the first-born of creation, they are called to cooperate in the Divine government of the world, and especially in carrying out the supernatural order in mankind. The nature of their cooperation results from the fellowship of all rational creatures, by reason of which they are one city of the saints, one temple of God, offering to God by Charity one great sacrifice. Men are fellow-citizens of the angels, or, rather, members of the same family of which God is the Father, and in which the perfect members are the born protectors and helpers of the yet imperfect members. St . Paul expresses this idea when he calls the heavenly Jerusalem “our mother” (Gal. iv. 26). Man requires the protection of the good angels, not only because of his natural weakness, but also in order to resist the onslaught of the fallen angels, the princes and powers of darkness.
(2.) It is an article of faith that the angels are “ministering spirits, sent to minister for those who shall receive the inheritance of salvation” (Heb. i. 14). As Divine ambassadors and messengers they minister to man, not indeed as servants of man, but as servants of God. Theymact as guardians, guides, pedagogues, tutors, pastors, set over their weaker brethren by the common Father: “ He hath given His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways” (Ps. xc. 11). At times they also execute the decrees of Divine justice, e.g. Gen. iii. 24; Exod. xxii., 27.; 1 Paral. xxi. 16.
From many indications in Holy Writ, and from constant tradition, the guardianship of man is divided among the angels according to a fixed order, so that different spheres of action are assigned to different angels. Thus different nations and greater corporations, especially the several parts of the Church of God, are committed to the permanent charge of particular angels. The guardian angels of the Jews, Persians, and Greeks are mentioned Dan. x. 13, 20, 21, and xii. I: “ Now I will return to fight against the prince of the Persians. When I went forth, there appeared the prince of the Greeks coming, and none is my helper in all these things but Michael your prince” (Dan. x. 20, 21). The title of prince given to the guardian angel implies a permanent office among the same people. The proof that the care of individual men is entrusted to angels is found in Matt, xviii. 10: “Take heed that you despise not one of these little ones; for I say to you that their angels in heaven always see the face of My Father Who is in heaven.” The first Christians testified to this doctrine when they thought it was not St. Peter but “his angel” who stood in their presence (Acts xii. 6 ; Psalm xxxiii. 8, and Heb. i. 14). The doctrine that “every one of the faithful is guarded by one or more angels,” although not exactly a matter of faith, is yet theologically certain, and to deny it would be rash. It is simply a consequence of the fellowship which Baptism establishes between man and angels. It is less certain, but still highly probable, that even the unbaptized are under the special custody of angels, on account of their supernatural vocation.
The common belief that each individual has his own guardian angel, or that there are as many guardian angels as men, is not so certain as the more general doctrine that all men are guarded by angels. It is quite possible for one angel to guard and protect several individuals
Office of the Guardian Angels
(a). The functions of the guardian angels have chiefly to do with the eternal salvation of their charges, but, like Divine Providence and neighbourly love, they extend also to assistance in matters temporal. In matters spiritual the guardian angels behave towards us as tender and conscientious parents towards their children. They protect us against our invisible enemies, either by preventing the attack or by helping us to resist. They pray for us, and offer our prayers and good works to God.
Lastly, they conduct the souls to the judgment seat of God, and introduce them into eternal glory (Luke xvi. 22). The communication of the dead with the living, e.g. apparitions and death-warnings, are probably the work of guardian angels, as may also be the bilocation related of several saints.
Worship Due to the Guardian Angels
(b). The position of the angels with regard to man entitles them to a worship consisting of love, respect, and reverence. Our fellowship with the family of God requires mutual love between the members; the excellent dignity of the angels demands grateful and submissive homage, but neither adoration nor slavish submission (Apoc. xxii 8, 9).
Source: Wilhelm, Joseph and Thomas B. Scannell. A Manual of Catholic Theology: Based on Scheeben’s “Dogmatik”, Volume 1. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Lt., 1906.