Monday 10 September 2012

A Bit About Angels...

Angels seem to be badly understood today. Often when attending a child’s death I hear someone say “Well you have an angel in heaven now”. But people do not become angels in heaven; we remain human souls. I was only recently asked, “What are these dominations, powers and virtues we hear about in the new translation?” My answer, “They’re angels” is of no help to many, who think there are but angels, archangels and nothing else.  I think then, that a brief look at angels might be of help to those who have not received any instruction on angels in their lifetime as a Catholic.

An angel is a being who is pure spirit and whose privilege it is to praise God continually in heaven while enjoying the vision of His glory.

There are nine ‘Choirs’ or ‘grades’ of angels:

1.    Seraphim
The highest choir of angels. These are the angels who are attendant before God's throne, cf. Isaiah 6:1-7.

2.    Cherubim
Cherubim are the second highest choir. They are found in the New Testament at Rev.4v6.

3.    Thrones
Thrones are described as Angels of Humility and Peace.

4.   Dominions
Dominions are said to be angels of Leadership, making known the commands of God.

5.   Virtues
Virtues are said to control the elements and are sometimes called "the shining ones." They are also said to take charge of miracles and to provide grace and valour.

6.    Powers
Powers are Warrior Angels, defending the cosmos and humans from evil spirits who attempt to wreak chaos.

7.    Archangels
Archangels are those most frequently mentioned in scripture.  They have a unique role as God's messengers to people at critical times in salvation history, such as in The Annunciation.

8.   Principalities
These are said to inspire man to art and science.

9.    Angels
These angels are the lowest rank of angel. They are described as caring and as giving help to those in need.

A Guardian Angel is that angel appointed by God to individually watch over and guide us.

Angels and Holy Mass

The Preface of the Mass (of the Blessed Virgin) says:

Through Him the Angels praise your majesty,
Dominions adore and Powers tremble before you.
Heaven and the Virtues of heaven and the blessed Seraphim
worship together with exultation.
May our voices, we pray, join with theirs in humble praise, as we acclaim:

This is a reminder that our liturgy is a uniting of earth with heaven; that liturgy is not so much an earthly thing as a heavenly thing.  This is why liturgy demands a sense of the sacred, with heavenly music and a focus that is clearly on God. To my mind this is where many celebrations of Mass fail, since they are more a celebration of the community with music more akin to that of the local dance hall.

An interesting note is the line in the Roman Canon:

“command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high...”

‘Angel’ is capitalised here to show that the ‘Angel’ is in fact Christ: God made Man, since, as Hebrews 9v12 tells us, it is Christ Who has entered heaven taking with Him His own Blood; it is not borne by the hands of a mere creature (an angel) but by God the Son. God is described as an angel several times in Holy Writ:

Genesis 31v11; Gen. 32v23-34; Ex.14v15; Judges 13v9.

I do hope this has been useful to those who have heard but not understood what they have heard in the vernacular Mass...


  1. Thank you so much for this post Father, I find this very educational. I knew very little about angels, but have always felt moved by the words in the part of the Holy Mass you quote above.

  2. On the other hand, Jesus in Mark 12:25 says that in the afterlife we will neither marry nor be married, but will be like the angels of heaven.

    1. This verse does not mean we stay like angels, that is, as spirits without bodies. After all, we will be pjysically resurrected in eternity. Mk 12 only means that there is no marriage in heaven (hence we can marry again and again on earth when our lawful spouse(s) die.


Please comment using a pseudonym, not as 'anonymous'.
If you challenge the Magisterium, please do so respectfully.
We reserve the right to delete from comments any inflammatory remarks.
If we do not reply to your comment it is through lack of time rather than interest.