Angels appear in both the Old and New Testaments, and before that in ancient Egyptian, Assyrian, and Babylonian religion. The angels have always interacted with human beings, their younger brothers, their differences being just a matter of evolution.
Angels then began to reveal themselves gradually to human beings at God’s command. We find the names of various angels recorded in the Bible. At the same time angels revealed themselves privately to certain people. For example, the angels revealed a great deal about themselves to Saint Dionysius the Areopagite. It is through him that we know there are nine ranks or “choirs” of superhuman beings: Angels, Archangels, Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers, Cherubim, and Seraphim. We call upon them in every celebration of Mass.
In the Gospel of Saint Matthew, the Lord Jesus says to the disciples: “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10). So let us consider the subject of angels, but before considering what angels are, we should consider the nature of individual entities in general.
Every individual being within the entire range of relative existence has existed from eternity as part of the greater Being of God. None of us has ever had a beginning, nor will we ever have an end. Although we derive our being from God, and can even be said to be “gods,” we are not the one-and-only God, just as a wave is not the ocean even though it draws its entire existence from the ocean. Co-eternal with and within God, the individual souls are points of conscious light within the limitless ocean of His Light.
Although perfect, the individual beings are finite. To develop (or evolve to) the capacity to share in the infinity of God, the souls have come out from God and begun the process of evolving through higher and higher forms, learning in each form to experience a more expanded degree of consciousness than was experienced in the previous form. As the souls move upward in the scale of evolution they take on more complex and refined forms according to the level of relative existence in which they find themselves. (A very full exposition of this is to be found in Robe of Light.)
Angels are beings in the next stage of evolution beyond the human status. Having perfected themselves within the range of human potential, they are now growing and evolving as angels with the purpose of eventually passing into the archangelic levels and evolving even from there upward. But for now angels must occupy our attention.
Angels, unlike us, are not bound by time or space. This means that they can be in many places at once, wherever they are needed. That is why saints who are approaching the angelic level of evolution, such as the Capuchin stigmatist Padre Pio, often have the same power. (Actually, saints are those who have ascended to the status of angels, but remain as intercessors for us that are still human.)
There are infinite gradations of angels, just as there are numberless types of human beings, but their common conscious purpose is to love and serve God. All that they do is done within the framework of this supreme purpose. Their happiness is not in what they do, but in why they do it: the love of God.
Of course it can be said that angels have an ego, for without an ego it is impossible to identify with and experience the forms through which we must evolve. But their ego is the purified ego of the loving soul, not the malignant, distorted entity that blinds selfish and ignorant human beings, driving them as a cruel master through life after life. The only desire angels have is to do the will of God. “I want” is totally absent from their consciousness. Instead, “God wills it” is their only focus. Because of this they have absolutely no interest in the results of their deeds–their only duty is to act according to the divine will. That in itself is perfection. Our shortsighted concepts of success or failure have no place in them for they “know that all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28), however they may appear momentarily. Actually, after doing their task, angels do not stay around to “see how it turns out,” but hasten on to their next work for God Who “giveth the increase” (I Corinthians 3:7).
Angels have no likes or dislikes. They have love–and that love is one: God. It is impossible for us to comprehend how alien they are from us, not just because they are powerful, but because they are so totally without egotism and without selfishness, and they have such a deep love for God.
They are truly flaming fires of divine love (Psalms 104:4). They are not little naked babies with wings growing out of their backs or little heads with wings under their chins, the way the Victorians depicted angels. Rather, they are flaming fires before the face of God, before His throne (Revelation 1:4).
One thing that marks them out from us is the positing of their consciousness. Even when we are in the presence of God, we have our minds crammed with the things of earth. But although the angels are in this world with us they are always seeing God alone. That is why the Lord Jesus said that the angels “always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10). That is their normal state. They behold Him, of course, within the limited scope of their ability, and that is why they aspire to serve Him and go higher–so they may see Him better and may move deeper into His life.
The holy angels should not be looked upon so shallowly and cheaply as people usually do, nor should they be ignored, for they are part of our evolutionary life, a link to assist us in transcendence of the human status.
How do we live with angels? Perhaps the first question to ask is how they live with us. Their thought is to serve God through assisting us. Nothing is too small for them, since they do it for love of God–and the distinction of large and small does not exist within the infinity of God.
Every time a human being is born in the world, God assigns an angel to be with him all the days of his life to preserve and protect him. It is these angels that are usually known as “guardian angels.” They protect us, keeping us from danger, injury, and illness. However, the earth is not their home but ours, and the life they guard is ours, not theirs. Consequently they are not allowed to interfere with us or our life. Therefore they guard us only minimally unless we consciously ask for their help. If we ignore them and give them no permission to function in our life, they cannot do much of anything. But we will find that their influence will become evident in our daily lives, especially through their silent guidance that will come in the form of intuitive inspirations, if at the beginning and close of every day we speak to them, saying:
O angel of God, who art my guardian, this day/night illumine, protect, rule and guide me who am committed to thee by heavenly loving kindness. Amen.
The angel of birth does but one thing: follow behind us to guard and maintain our physical bodies and life energies. The angel’s power and influence is great. Those who call on their angel guardian of birth in times of difficulty, danger, and illness will find their guardian swift and powerful to help. We must remember, however, that the angel guardians are extremely pure, their bodies being formed of subtle astral light. If we tune our bodies down to grossness and heaviness through material and sensual consciousness, negative emotions, thoughts and desires, and the ingestion of meat, alcohol, tobacco, and mind-altering drugs (including the legal ones), we make their task much harder. For not only are we working against them by willfully harming ourselves with these substances, we also make ourselves less responsive to the influences of the positive angels, while on the other hand we making ourselves more responsive to the negative, destructive influences and energies that war against our life and evolution.
And so we come to the first step in living with angels: we must purify ourselves to the utmost (I John 3:3) so as to become perfectly in tune with them and aware of their communications to us–most of which are on the subliminal or psychic level.
This being true, we should here consider the other types of angelic guardians: angels of baptism and angels of confirmation (chrismation).
Baptism and Confirmation angels
At baptism, another guardian angel is sent for the guarding and guiding of our mind, thoughts, and emotions–that is, the lesser part of our mind. Specifically, this angel works with the psychological and psychic sides of our nature, assisting us in conquering the negativity of the lower mind and psyche and in uplifting and enlightening it. This angel often inspires us with understanding and good thoughts.
We are more than psychic, however: we are spiritual. Therefore, in confirmation (chrismation), when we receive the indwelling Presence of the Holy Spirit, the Lord sends a third angel to guide and foster those aspects of our development which are to culminate in our deification and perfect union with God. This angel helps us in our spiritual practice, guiding and inspiring us in our ascent to God. Just think of that! We have present with us every single moment of our lives a spiritual guide and guardian whose whole function is to help us attain illumination. But again, we must cooperate with and communicate with this angel as well as our guardians of baptism and birth. Therefore we pray: “O angels of God, who art my guardians, this day/night illumine, protect, rule and guide me who am committed to thee by heavenly loving kindness. Amen.”
It is a great and wonderful thing when people can meet with men of wisdom and holiness, but those who been baptized and confirmed have two superhuman beings with them to perpetually guide them in the ways of holiness. A Christian thus has a trinity of angels always with him to guard and guide his threefold being of body, psyche (soul), and spirit to perfection. These angels are not just to protect us so we do not suffer pain or misfortune–they are for our attainment of Christhood.
From David we learn that God has made the human status “a little lower than the angels” (Psalms 8:5) so their nearness to us makes them most advantageous to the working out of our salvation, which is not the simplistic matter of having our sins forgiven and going to heaven, but rather our deification (theosis), our Christing, for “Christian” literally means “another Christ.” That is why Saint John wrote: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2). Our personal angelic guides will work with us “till we all come…unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (I John 2:6; Ephesians 4:13).
This is how serious God is about this call to deification: He who told Abraham: “I am thy exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1), and told all humanity through David: “Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High” (Psalms 82:6), sends two angels to guide us to perfection beyond the human status. “For in him we live, and move, and have our being;…for we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28). No wonder Saint John wrote at the beginning of his Gospel that “as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God” (John 1:12).
So we have two angelic guides and teachers to whose influence we should constantly be open. Every day of our life we should be keenly aware of their purpose in our life and consciously work and cooperate with them. If two physical beings were following us around all the time to guide us in our spiritual life we would not easily forget or neglect them. But the Lord has made our angelic guardians invisible so our will and sensitivity may be determined. And meditation is the best way to develop both will and sensitivity.
We are never alone. Our three guardian angels are always with us. There are many methods of psychic defense, but we must not forget that our three guardians are always present to defend us whenever we ask them for their defense. At times of need we should simply say: “Angel guardians, draw close to me, surround me and protect me.” When we are ill we should ask them for healing. Whatever the problem, they are there to help us out if we will only ask them. This is a very important lesson for us Christians to learn because we tend to ignore our angel guides and not call on them at all. Therefore we lose many benefits that God intended us to receive.
We may also invoke the holy angels for others as well as for ourselves.
There are seven archangels which stand before the throne of God. They are spoken of in the New Testament as the “seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God” (Revelation 4:5; 1:4; 3:1; 5:). The angels are all under the directorship of archangels, in the way soldiers are under commanding officers. When we call on the great archangels they either come themselves or send some of the holy angels that are their “troops” to help us.
There are three great archangels that–along with the numberless angels under their supervision–have a major part to play in the life of each Christian who asks their assistance. Their names are recorded in the Bible:
Michael–Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1; Jude 9; Revelation 12:7.
Gabriel–Daniel 8:16; 9:21; Luke 1:19, 26.
Raphael–Tobit 3:17; 5:4; 7:8 8:2; 9:1,5; 11:2,7; 12:15.
These holy archangels are standing at the center of heaven before the throne of God. Since the kingdom of heaven is within, in a subtle manner they are reflected in each one of us. So when we call upon them we also call upon the depths of our being that correspond to them.
The glorious Michael is Prince of the Sun, and is often identified with Christ Himself, as Christ is the Sun. (The early Christians sometimes depicted Christ as the Sun-God, Helios.) The great Michael is especially the angel of the power of life and illumination on all levels of existence, gross and subtle. He it is who cast down Lucifer (Revelation 12:7-9), in his humility not commanding or addressing the adversary, but simply calling out in triumph the name given him by God, saying: “Who is like God?”–the literal meaning of the name Michael. Thus he is the great archangel of both power and humility. He embodies the principle of spiritual enlightenment which casts down ignorance and drives away darkness from us. He still banishes evil spirits and influences from those who call on him, saying:
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. For who is like unto God? Amen.
Archangel Michael is called “Captain of the Bodiless Hosts of Heaven.” He is first in rank of all the archangels and angels. The angels that work with him are called his lieutenants. (We are using military terms because Saint Michael is a warrior.) That is why in depictions of Saint Michael he is carrying a sword or a spear. We can call upon him for defense, saying: “Mighty Michael, Captain of the Bodiless Hosts of Heaven, help me.” And he will indeed help.
Therefore we can call upon him specially for spiritual protection, for spiritual illumination, for life power and force itself, for protection against evil beings, physical or psychic, and for exorcism of all evil, both internally and externally.
Another important archangel is Saint Gabriel, he who announced the birth of Christ to the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38) and to Saint Joseph (Matthew 1:18-20), as well as foretelling the birth of Saint John the Forerunner to Zachariah (Luke 1:5-19). He is especially the conveyer of intuitional knowledge–as he was to the prophet Daniel (see the eighth and ninth chapters of the book of Daniel). As Saint Michael is the Angel of the Sun, Saint Gabriel is the Angel of the Moon, which in esoteric science corresponds to the mind of the microcosmic man. Thus he is to be invoked for the natural functioning of the mind and its development. Saint Gabriel’s sphere of influence is the lower mind of the senses and emotions, therefore he is invoked in times of sorrow or negative emotions. Moreover, he is the bringer of peace through understanding–something sorely needed by individuals and nations. It is obvious, then, that he should be very faithfully called upon by all Christians.
The third archangel that is vital to our life is Saint Raphael. Most of what we know about Saint Raphael is in the Book of Tobit which is missing from most Protestant Bibles, though it was originally in the King James Version. There Saint Raphael himself says: “I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One” (Tobit 12:15).
According to the Book of Tobit, Saint Raphael guided Tobias, the son of Tobit, on his journeying to find a wife, whom Saint Raphael delivered from the oppression of a demon. Further, through Saint Raphael’s advice Tobit was healed of his blindness. Thus Saint Raphael is especially the protector and guide of travelers, the healer of the sick, and deliverer from evil influences and situations.
In esoteric science Saint Raphael is considered the Angel of Mercury. Although Saint Raphael is invoked for travelers and for deliverance from evil forces, he is most especially considered the angel of healing and is always invoked in illness and injury. When we consider that most illnesses are negative thoughtforms that need to be “exorcised,” we can see how important it is to call upon Saint Raphael for all physical infirmities.
At the beginning of all excursions from home, however small, it is good to invoke Saint Raphael and ask him to send his angels to accompany us, to protect us, and to bring us safely to our destination and back again. Through his patronage we can be made aware of dangers–especially in the psychic realm. Thus Saint Raphael along with Saint Michael is essential for our defense in time of physical and psychic danger or attack. In fact, we should ask Saint Raphael to reveal the occasions of such situations, since we usually rationalize them away and thus do not strengthen ourselves in time of need.
Saint Raphael is also the angel of intelligence and perception, just as Saint Gabriel is the angel of the sensory and emotional mind, and he should be invoked in all matters requiring intelligence and reasoning–especially academic and esoteric study. He is also to be invoked for the development of intuition.
Some more practical information
For those who are familiar with astrology: Saint Michael is invoked in all matters under the rulership of the Sun, Saint Gabriel is invoked in all matters under the rulership of the Moon, and Saint Raphael is invoked in all matters under the rulership of Mercury. (For many centuries in Christian Europe the usual form of astrology was Angelic Astrology in which the influences of the seven great Archangels mentioned by Saint Raphael in the book of Tobit were considered rather than the magnetic influences of the planets.)
It is tremendously beneficial for us to keep statues or icons of the three holy archangels in our homes, places of work, and even our vehicles. Candles lit before them are extremely effective, as you will see. And the effect of prayers addressed to them cannot be measured. Their patronage is God’s great gift to us that they, too, may be unto us “a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1).
The more we refine our interior perceptions through purification and meditation, the more we will come into the sphere of the angels, so that at the end of this incarnation, as Jesus said: “they may receive you into everlasting habitations” (Luke 16:9) beyond the bonds of recurrent birth and death to continue our evolution through angelic forms. Consequently we need to increasingly live and move with the angels to prepare ourselves for the great step beyond humanity into the “everlasting habitations” of angelic evolution.
Angels want to interact with human beings. We can call upon any of these angelic beings to work with us to re-divinize the universe, to return it to its pristine state. And the angels are eager to work with us for that.
People have all kinds of stories about their interactions with angels. One that comes to mind is about the man who was driving an automobile along a cliff, when one of his tires blew out. As the car veered over the cliff, which was a sheer drop, he called out to Saint Michael for help. He felt the car lurch, and it was pushed back on the road. He felt that it was the hand of Saint Michael who pushed the car back onto the road. That is the kind of thing the Archangel does indeed do. Our interactions may not always be that spectacular, but they will be none the less real and meaningful.
A college student in his senior year read one of the earlier versions of this essay. Since it said that Archangel Raphael is the angel of intelligence, he prayed to Saint Raphael because he had not been keeping up so well in one of his college courses, and it could prevent his graduation. He just said to him: “If it is to be, help me out so that I can graduate.” Later on that very day the student was asked to join a study group, which he did. While studying he received a really strong intuitional impression as to what parts of the book he should study. So he focussed just on those parts and forgot the rest. It turned out that the essay questions on the test were exactly on the sections he had studied.
How is it that although we can pray for ourselves, it is also perfectly all right to ask an angel from before the throne of God to come down and help us? Because through baptism and chrismation, our status is changed. We become princes of the royal blood of the House of David through Jesus the Christ taking us as His brothers and sisters, making us part of the royal household of the spirit–the Holy Spirit. This is the purpose of Christian Sacraments. Thenceforth when we call upon angelic aid, the angel will respond because we are of the household of God. “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).
If a family member called us for help, we would surely give it. The angels are our brothers and sisters. They will come to help us, without question. In his poem “The Homecoming,” Robert Frost says that being family means that when you come for help, they have to help you. So when we become a member of the household of God we can call upon the angels. Keep in mind that as baptized and confirmed Christians there is nothing about us that seems too petty or too small to the angels. We all need help, and the angels want to help. How do we call upon angels? Is there some kind of mystic rite? No, the mystic rites of baptism and chrismation are sufficient. From then on all we need do is call upon them in our own way.
Saint Paul says that as Christians “we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1), and then proceeds to define that cloud, saying: “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels” (Hebrews 12:22).
We are surrounded by angels–so let us call on them.
Whenever we make the Sign of the Cross it attracts the attention of angelic beings. So it is good to preface any message to them by making the Sign of the Cross. They will perceive that there is something they need to draw near and attend to. When you see an ambulance, fire truck or police car with its siren going, make the Sign of the Cross and ask the angels to help in that situation. Do the same in any situation that needs help, for “are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14).