In praise of Angels

Photo detail of East Window,Parish Church of St. Eadmer, Admarsh-in-Bleasdale, Lancashire.
taken by Mr Robert Gardner, then Church warden.

In praise of Angels.

Edward King, the 19th century saintly bishop of Lincoln was described by Archbishop Cosmo Lang as the most saintly of men and the most human of saints.’  He was a man truly in touch with both God and with people.
As a bishop he continued to place great importance on visiting and one person he visited regularly was an old woman who lived in a woodland.
He also visited prisoners and he met one prisoner who told him that once he had followed the Bishop as he went to visit the old lady with the intention of robbing him. ‘But’ he said, ‘though you always went alone, on that day you had a companion with you, so I didn’t rob you.’
Bishop King shook his head. ‘I always went alone,’ he said and then he smiled. ‘Ah, that would be my guardian angel watching over me.’

We might say that is a fanciful notion because not every Christian believes in the existence of angels. (probably not a few non-Chistians either!)

Yet the Scriptures refer to angels a great deal and name four Archangels—Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael and, of course, Michael, who contended for God. In the Book of Revelation he waged war on God’s enemy, Satan and promised to guard and defend God’s creation from the wiles of the devil.
Each of these, and the others unnamed but present and active in the Bible are signs of God’s presence and activity in the World. In that sense they are God’s messengers, bringers of God’s word, God’s blessing, His healing and the carrier of our Souls back to God.

The word Angel comes from a Greek word meaning messenger and the angels do God’s bidding as his loving and loved servants, linking heaven to earth. Gabriel is, of course, the most famous messenger who came to Mary with God’s announcement that she would become Christ-bearer.

There is also a view that Angels carry back to God our prayers and so are always near to us especially during the Eucharist and other times of Worship,  when we pray, that we are linked with the whole company of heaven.“Therefore with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, we proclaim your great and glorious name.  

If we don’t believe angels exist, I wonder what those who say the Creed at that point where we say that God is the maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. This  reminds us that God creates far more than we can see on earth, and which we can see only with the eyes of faith. Like angels!

The angels are there, surrounding us, bringing God’s guidance and His interpretation.

But we can miss all that by our lack of attentiveness or our unbelief.
I think that it was  the Novelist, Patrick White, in his novel, Solid Mandela, who quoted some words by the French poet, Paul Éluard : There is another world, but it is in this one.
Sceptism and a narrowness of vision can prevented us seeing that other world which surrounds us but that doesn’t make angels less real.

At an important moment in my life, my friend & mentor, Patrick Kent, introduced me to a powerful poem that nourished and deepened my belief in angels was written by Francis Thompson, in his poem, In No Strange Land,  wrote:

O world invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!

Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air–
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumor of thee there?

Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars!–
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.

The angels keep their ancient places–
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
‘Tis ye, ’tis your estrangèd faces,
That miss the many-splendored thing.

But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry–and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry–clinging to Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water,
Not of Genesareth, but Thames!

Francis Thompson

The angels keep their ancient places;–
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
‘Tis ye, ’tis your estrangèd faces,
That miss the many-splendoured thing.

Personally, with Edward King, I am delighted to know the presence and care of the many-splendoured angels because I need all the help I can get!

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