29 September 2006

Angelic ministers

Feast of the Archangels: Revelation 12.7-12 and John 1.47-51
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation

Clouds of incense rise and curl around the taller candles, running faster up the flames and spreading in a thin fog around the book and cards. Each homemade card turned brings to mind a color, a scent, a flavor, a task, and each has a name and purpose. Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, Uzziah…Hebrew names, Latin names, Sumerian names, and other names unsayable. The last card turned was Azareel. Blue. One of the seven angels given dominion over the Earth. Protector of the Waters. Friend to fishermen. My homemade angel cards were telling me that my link to the Divine, my line of communication with The One and All was Azareel.

The first sign from God to me that I probably shouldn’t be spending my time with candles, incense, and homemade angel cards came when, hungry for more info, I did an internet search on Azareel. Most everything I already knew was confirmed—blue, water, fishermen. I was humbled to learn, however, that Azareel is primarily responsible for curing human stupidity. I hear ya, Lord; I hear ya.

To avoid any scandal, let me say quickly: I was not Catholic when I went on this little angelic adventure, and I was very young. I was also smitten, as we all often are, by the possibilities of knowing more about those who live above us, beyond us; those who are in some way like us but better, similar enough to communicate but different enough to show us what we think we want to see but can’t see on our own. Created with a desire for the transcendent coursing through our veins, we stretch for those moments of going beyond, stepping over, those instances of standing at the limits of what we know and can experience and just barely peeking into the darkness, whispering some unsayable word into all that dark longing, hoping for an answer or an echo.

The temptation here, of course, is the temptation of the occult. Not just the usual suspicious nonsense of suburban bookstore potions and spells, but the temptation to learn that which is hidden and then believe that you are somehow graced above others because you have the secret knowledge, the truth of the universe only a few know. This is the Devil dangling pride on a golden chain and stroking your intellect with delicate, well-practiced fingers!

The shield against this temptation, the sure-bet foil for inviting this particular stranger into your spiritual life is the advent proclamation of the angelic voice: “Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night. They conquered him by the Blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death. Therefore, rejoice, you heavens, and you who dwell in them.”

The Loud Voice of Revelation reveals the strategy of the war against the fallen angels and gives us in the telling our own strategy for combating and defeating the temptations of occult curiosity: he who tempts us to seek and acquire what is not ours to seek and find is defeated, done in. The one who strokes our pride to find answers and echoes in divining the angels or the demons or the cards or the birds or the alphabetic board, he has lost. The angels serve the Lamb. And so will the demons. The angels minister to their Lord and his family. They are servants, messengers, manifest signs of God’s glory. They are not gods.

You will see angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man and you will come to know not a carefully guarded secret or a hidden key; you will come to know fully, perfectly what we celebrate in this Mass—his coming in splendor, his arrival in glory, and his eternal reign as Lord and King.

1 comment:

  1. An excellent homily and I dare say somewhat better than what I heard yesterday!