CATHOLIC SPIRITUAL DIRECTION
SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS
The following is from the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, from the Summa Theologica Ia, The First Part, Questions: 50-64 and Questions: 106-114 as presented in the book A Tour of the Summa, written by Msgr. Paul J. Glenn. Used with permission. Publisher TAN Books and Publishers. To see the teaching on angels from the complete Summa Theologica, go to: http://www.ccel.org/a/aquinas/summa/FP.html#TOC03
|(QUESTIONS 50 TO 64)
50. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE ANGELS
1. Creatures exist in a series of grades. They participate and represent the goodness of God in various ways. In the world about us, there are three kinds of substances: mineral, vegetal, animal. These are all bodily substances. We find also in this world the human substance which is mineral, vegetal, and animal, and yet is something more; it is not all bodily; man has a spiritual soul. To round out the order of things, there must be some purely spiritual or nonbodily substances. Thus createdsubstances are: the completely bodily substance, the substance that is a compound of body and spirit, and the completely spiritual substance. Completely spiritual substances are called angels.
2. A bodily substance is composed of two substantial elements, primal matter and substantial form. In angels there is no compounding of matter and form. Matter does not exist in angels; they are pure substantial forms. That is to say, they are pure spirits; they are spirits with no admixture of matter in them.
3. Holy Scripture (Dan. 7:10) indicates the existence of a vast multitude of angels: "Thousands of thousands ministered to Him, and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before Him." Indeed, since the intention back of creation is the perfection of the universe as sharing and representing the divine goodness, it appears that the more perfect creatures should abound in largest multitude. It is, therefore, reasonable to suppose that angels exist in a multitude far exceeding the number of material things.
4. In bodily substances we distinguish their species or essential kind, and their status as individuals of that kind. For example, we distinguish in a man, (a) what makes him a human being, and (b) what makes him this one human being. Now, that which constitutes a thing in its species or essential kind is called the principle of specification. And that which constitutes a thing as this one item or instance of its kind is called the principle of individuation. In all creatures, the principle of specification is the substantial form which makes the creature an existing thing of its essential kind. And the principle of individuation is matter or bodiliness inasmuch as it is marked by quantity. Since angels have in them no matter or bodiliness at all, for they are pure spirits, they are not individuated. This means that each angel is the only one of its kind. It means that each angel is a species or essential kind of substantial being. Hence each angel is essentially different from every other angel.
5. The angels are incorruptible substances. This means that they cannot die, decay, break up, or be substantially changed. For the root of corruptibility in a substance is matter, and in the angels there is no matter.
51. ANGELS AND BODIES
1. Angels have no bodies. An intellectual nature (that is, a substantial essence equipped for understanding and willing) does not require a body. In man, because the body is substantially united with the spiritual soul, intellectual activities (understanding and willing) presuppose the body and its senses. But an intellect in itself, or as such, requires nothing bodily for its activity. The angels are pure spirits without a body, and their intellectual operations of understanding and willing depend in no way at all upon material substance.
2. That the angels sometimes assume bodies is known from Holy Scripture. Angels appeared in bodily form to Abraham and his household; the angel Raphael came in the guise of a young man to be the companion of the younger Tobias.
3. In bodies thus assumed, angels do not actually exercise the functions of true bodily life. When an angel in human form walks and talks, he exercises angelic power and uses the bodily organs as instruments. But he does not make the body live, or make it his own body.
53. ANGELS AND LOCAL MOVEMENT
1. Since an angel can be in a place (by definitive presence), it can be first in this place and afterwards in that place. That is to say, an angel can move locally. But this local movement of an angel is not like the local movement of a body. An angel is in a place by exercising its powers there; it can cease to apply its powers there and begin to apply them elsewhere; and this, equivalently at least, is a kind of local movement.
2. By this sort of local movement an angel may, at will, be present successively in several places and thus may be said to pass through the space between the first and the last place of the series. Or an angel may cease to apply its powers in the first place and begin to apply them in the last, not passing through the space between.
3. Since there is succession, that is, before-and-after, in the application of an angel's powers, now here and now there, it must be said that an angel's local movement occurs in time, and is not instantaneous. This time, however, is not measurable in our minutes or seconds; these units of time are applicable only to bodily movement.
55. THE MEDIUM OF ANGELIC KNOWLEDGE
1. God gives the angels their knowledge of things when he brings them into existence. This knowledge is creatural knowledge, and hence is not comprehensive, as is the knowledge of God alone.
2. An angel's ideas or intelligible species are directly imparted by the Creator; hence an angel has no need to learn. God gives to angels that extent of knowledge that he chooses to give.
3. And the extent of knowledge is not the same in all the angels. There are higher and lower angels. Each receives what is fitting and necessary for its status and the service it is to render, and therefore some angels know more than others. As we shall see later, the imparting of knowledge to angels by the Creator is comparable to light that shines through a succession of panes of glass, one under the other, so that while the light pours out at once and penetrates the whole series of panes, it may be truly said that the lower panes receive their light from the upper panes. And so the lower angels (that is, the less perfectly endowed angelic natures) are illuminated or instructed by the higher angels. Nor, as we see, does this conflict with the fact that angels have their knowledge from God as soon as they come into existence.
58. THE MODE OR MANNER OF ANGELIC KNOWING
1. An intellect is in potentiality in so far as it can know; it is in actuality in so far as it knows. An angelic intellect, in its natural knowing, has its full knowledge and there is nothing for it to learn. Yet it is not always considering everything that it knows. In regard to supernatural knowledge, the angelic intellect is always in actuality as to what it beholds in the divine Word; it may be in potentiality with reference to special divine revelations that may be made to it.
2. Angelic knowledge, arising from the vision of the divine Word (the beatific vision) is all possessed at once. In the realm of its natural knowledge, however, an angel may think of many things at once if these things are comprised under the same concept or species, but things comprised under various concepts or species cannot be all thought of at once by any creatural intellect.
3. Human intellectual knowledge is developed step by step; man advances from what he knows to what, at the start, is unknown. The process of human learning is exampled in the manner in which we prove a theorem in geometry. This way of thinking things out, step by step, is called discursive thinking or reasoning. Now, if, in the light of some master truth, we could see all that is implied in our thoughts, we should not need to work out knowledge by discursive thought. We should not, for example, need to work out the theorem in geometry, for we should instantly take in the whole demonstration and understand it thoroughly without effort. An angel actually has this type of knowledge. An angel does not require discursive thinking. In whatever area of its natural knowledge the angelic intellect is employed, it sees the whole picture; it beholds the thing thought about together with its implications and consequences, and therefore has no need to move from point to point to round out knowledge.
4. The human intellect forms ideas or concepts, and then compares these and pronounces judgment on their agreement or disagreement. Two ideas in the human mind are, when brought into comparison for judgment, in the relation of subject and predicate. When the predicate idea is found in agreement with the subject idea, the mind affirms the predicate of the subject, thus, "A stone is a substance." The mind or intellect thus composes or compounds the two ideas into an affirmative judgment. And when the predicate and subject do not agree, the mind divides them by a negative judgment, thus, "A stone is not a spiritual substance." Thus the human intellect works out its knowledge "by composing and dividing"; and from its judgments (made by composing and dividing) it works out other judgments by reasoning or discursive thinking. Now, the angelic intellect, as we have seen, has no need of this knowing process (of composing, dividing, reasoning), for its knowledge is not built up by abstraction from the peacemeal findings of senses. The angelic mind is like a clear mirror that takes in the full meaning of what it turns upon. Yet an angel understands our way of thinking and knows how we go about the business of composing, dividing, and reasoning.
5. In the natural knowledge of an angel there can be no falsehood or error. An angel knows truly all that it knows, and all that can be said of the object of its knowledge. And it goes without saying that in its supernatural knowledge an angel knows all that God wills it to know, without error or falsehood. But the fallen angels (or demons) are totally divorced from divine wisdom, and hence, in things supernatural, there can be error or falsehood in their knowing.
6. Inasmuch as angels know creatures in the Word of God, the beatific vision, they have what St. Augustine calls "morning knowledge." And inasmuch as they know creatures in the creatures' own being and nature, they have "evening knowledge."
7. It seems that St. Augustine makes a real distinction between morning and evening knowledge in the angels, for he says (Gen. ad lit. IV 24): "There is very great difference between knowing a thing as it is in the Word of God and as it is in its own nature."
59. THE WILL OF ANGELS
1. Where there is understanding of good, there is an understanding tendency to attain it. In other words, where there is intellect, there is will. There is intellect in angels; therefore there is will also.
2. In a creature, intellect and will are not identified. The angel's intellect is not the same faculty as the angel's will. These are two faculties, not one.
3. And will means free will. Will is an intellectual appetency; it is the faculty of tending to, or choosing, what is proposed by the intellect as good. Man, who is less perfect in the realm of intelligent creatures than angels, has free will; certainly, the, an angel possesses it. An angel exercises free will more perfectly than man does.
4. Man's will is subject to outside influence arising from the appetites of sense. The will is an appetency for good as such, good in its common aspects. But man's senses fix upon some particular good and tend towards it. These human sense-tendencies, when they are simple and uncomplicated tendencies, are called concupiscible appetites. And when these tendencies involve an awareness of difficulty in attaining the object (that is, the satisfying thing, the good, that they seek), they are called irascible appetites. Thus the sentient tendency or appetite called desire is a concupiscible appetite;whereas the sentient tendency of courage or daring, which tends to an object obtainable only by facing obstacle, threat, or danger, is an irascible appetite. These sentient appetites work into the intellective order in man and exercise an influence on the will and its choice. Now, since the angels have no sentient element, they are not subject to concupiscible and irascible appetites. Angels choose with a will uninfluenced by such nonspiritual tendencies.
|60. LOVE IN
1. Love is a natural inclination of a will towards its object. It is the fundamental operation of will. Where there is will, there is love. Hence there is love in the angels.
2. Love in an angel is not only a natural tendency, it is a knowing tendency of the intellectual order, and involves not only inclination but choice.
3. Every being loves itself in as much as it seeks its own good. Free creatures love themselves in this manner, and tend to, or desire, what will be a benefit to them. And in so far as free creatures exercise choice in striving for a beneficial object, they are said to love themselves by choice. Angels love themselves both by natural tendency and by choice.
4. Natural love of one creature for another is based upon some point of unity or sameness in lover and beloved. Since angels are all of the same spiritual nature, they naturally love one another. [Note: The angels are generically one; they are of the same genus or general essential class; we have already seen that they are specifically distinct, that each angel is the only one of its specific essential kind.]
5. By natural love, angels love God more than they love themselves. All creatures belong absolutely to God; they naturally tend to God as their ultimate end or goal. Freely loving creatures must recognize God as their end or goal and tend to him before all else. Hence love of God comes naturally (in free creatures) before love of self, and is the greater love. If this were not so, natural love would be a contradiction, for it would not be perfected by attaining its true object, but would be fruitless and self-destroying.
THE AGONY IN THE GARDEN
"Then he withdrew from them, about a stone's throw away, and knelt down and prayed. 'Father,' he said, 'if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine.' Then an angel appeared to him, coming from heaven to give him strength."
Luke 22: 41-43
61. THE CREATION OF THE ANGELS
1. Angels are creatures. They exist, not by necessity, but by having existence given to them. That is, they have existence by participation. Now, what has existence by participation receives this existence from that which has existence by its own essence. Only God exists by his own essence. Therefore, angels have their existence from God; they are created.
2. God alone exists from eternity. He creates things by producing them from nothing. Creatures exist after they were nonexistent. Hence angels do not exist from eternity.
3. It seems most likely that angels and the bodily world were created at the same time, not angels first (as a kind of independent world of spirits) and the bodily world afterwards. Angels are part of the universe, and no part is perfect if it be entirely severed from the whole, the totality, to which it belongs.
4. The angels were created in heaven. And it is fitting that creatures of the most perfect nature should be created in the most noble place.
62. GRACE AND GLORY OF THE ANGELS
1. Although the angels were created in heaven, and with natural happiness or beatitude, they were not created in glory, that is, in the possession of the beatific vision.
2. To possess God in the beatific vision the angels require grace.
3. And, while the angels were created in the state of sanctifying grace, this was not the grace which confirms the angels in glory. Had the angels been created with the confirming grace, none of them could have fallen, and some did fall.
4. Angels were created in grace, and by using this grace in their first act of charity (which is the friendship and love of God) they merited the beatific vision and heavenly beatitude.
5. Instantly upon meriting the beatitude of heaven, the angels possessed it. The angelic nature, being purely spiritual, is not suited for steps and degrees of progress to perfection, as is the case with man.
6. The higher angels, those of more perfect nature and keener intelligence, have greater gifts of grace than other angels; for their more perfect powers turn them more mightily and effectively to God than is the case with angels of lesser capacity.
7. The heavenly beatitude enjoyed by the angels does not destroy their nature or their natural operations; hence the natural knowledge and love of angels remain in them after they are beatified.
8. Beatified angels cannot sin. Their nature finds perfect fulfillment in the vision of God; it is disposed towards God exclusively. There is in beatified angels no possible tendency away from God, and therefore no possible sin.
9. Angels who possess God in beatific vision cannot be increased or advanced in beatitude. A capacity that is perfectly filled up cannot be made more full.
63. SIN OF THE FALLEN ANGELS
1. A rational creature (that is, a creature with intellect and will) can sin. If it be unable to sin, this is a gift of grace, not a condition of nature. While angels were yet unbeatified they could sin. And some of them did sin.
2. The sinning angels (or demons) are guilty of all sins in so far as they lead man to commit every kind of sin. But in the bad angels themselves there could be no tendency to fleshly sins, but only to such sins as can be committed by a purely spiritual being, and these sins are two only: pride and envy.
3. Lucifer who became Satan, leader of the fallen angels, wished to be as God. This prideful desire was not a wish to be equal to God, for Satan knew by his natural knowledge that equality of creature with creator is utterly impossible. Besides, no creature actually desires to destroy itself, even to become something greater. On this point man sometimes deceives himself by a trick of imagination; he imagines himself to be another and greater being, and yet it is himself that is somehow this other being. But an angel has no sense-faculty of imagination to abuse in this fashion. The angelic intellect, with its clear knowledge, makes such self-deception impossible. Lucifer knew that to be equal with God, he would have to be God, and he knew perfectly that this could not be. What he wanted was to be as God; he wished to be like God in a way not suited to his nature, such as to create things by his own power, or to achieve final beatitude without God's help, or to have command over others in a way proper to God alone.
4. Every nature, that is every essence as operating, tends to some good. An intellectual nature tends to good in general, good under its common aspects, good as such. The fallen angels therefore are not naturally evil.
5. The devil did not sin in the very instant of his creation. When a perfect cause makes a nature, the first operation of that nature must be in line with the perfection of its cause. Hence the devil was not created in wickedness. He, like all the angels, was created in the state of sanctifying grace.
6. But the devil, with his companions, sinned immediately after creation. He rejected the grace in which he was created, and which he was meant to use, as the good angels used it, to merit beatitude. If, however, the angels were not created in grace (as some hold) but had grace available as soon as they were created, then it may be that some interval occurred between the creation and the sin of Lucifer and his companions.
7. Lucifer, chief of the sinning angels, was probably the highest of all the angels. But there are some who think that Lucifer was highest only among the rebel angels.
8. The sin of the highest angel was a bad example which attracted the other rebel angels, and, to this extent, was the cause of their sin.
9. The faithful angels are a greater multitude than the fallen angels. For sin is contrary to the natural order. Now, what is opposed to the natural order occurs less frequently, or in fewer instances, than what accords with the natural order.
64. STATE OF THE FALLEN ANGELS
1. The fallen angels did not lose their natural knowledge by their sin; nor did they lose their angelic intellect.
2. The fallen angels are obstinate in evil, unrepentant, inflexibly determined in their sin. This follows from their nature as pure spirits, for the choice of a pure spirit is necessarily final and unchanging.
3. Yet we must say that there is sorrow in the fallen angels, though not the sorrow of repentance. They have sorrow in the affliction of knowing that they cannot attain beatitude; that there are curbs upon their wicked will; that men, despite their efforts, may get to heaven.
4. The fallen angels are engaged in battling against man's salvation and in torturing lost souls in hell. The fallen angels that beset man on earth, carry with them their own dark and punishing atmosphere, and wherever they are they endure the pains of hell. [Note: For further discussion of angels, see Qq. 106-114.]
THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT
106. HOW ONE CREATURE MOVES ANOTHER:
1. One angel can enlighten another, the superior angel manifesting truths which it grasps perfectly to inferior angels whose grasp is less perfect. It agrees with the nature of intellectual creatures to move or effect others of their kind in this fashion of one teaching and others being taught.
2. Thus, by affording enlightenment, one angel may move another angel's intellect. But one angel cannot change another's will. Only God can effect such a change.
3. An inferior angel cannot enlighten a superior angel any more than a candle can bring illumination to the sun. Among human beings, who learn by degrees, because their knowing is bound up with material things, it can happen that one who knows much may be enlightened by one who knows little. This cannot be so among pure spirits who do not achieve knowledge ploddingly and piecemeal as human beings do.
4. The higher an angel is, the more it participates the divine goodness; consequently, the more it tends to impart its gifts to lesser angels. The superior angel tends to give all that it knows to inferior angels, but these cannot perfectly receive all that is given. Hence the superior angels remain superior even though they impart all their knowledge. Somewhat similarly, the human teacher who does all he can to impart his own complete knowledge to his young pupils, remains superior in knowledge even after he has taught the lesson; for the pupils take in by a lesser capacity than that of the giver.
107. THE SPEECH OF ANGELS
1.Angels manifest knowledge to one another, and to this extent they "speak" to one another. But the speech of angels is not a matter of sounds or of uttered words. The speech of angels is a direct communication of knowledge from spirit to spirit.
2. An inferior angel can speak to a superior angel, even though, as we have seen, it cannot enlighten the superior angel; a candle cannot enlighten the sun, but it can burn visibly in the sunlight. An angel speaks by directing its thought in such ways that it is made known to another angel, superior or inferior. Such directing is done according to the free will of the angel speaking.
3. Certainly the angels "speak" to God by consulting his divine will and by contemplating with admiration his infinite excellence.
4. Neither time nor place has any influence on angelic speech or its effect. Local distance cannot impede the communication of angels.
5. Angelic speech is the ordering of angelic mind to angelic mind by the will of the angel speaking. Now, it belongs to the perfection of intellectual communication that it can be private; even a human being can speak to another person alone. Therefore, the angels who are superior to human beings, must be capable of communicating thoughts, angel to angel, without making their communication known to all the other angels. The scope of angelic communication depends on the will of the angel speaking; this will determines the communication for one other angel, or for several, or for all.
108. THE HIERARCHIES AND ORDERS OF ANGELS
1. A hierarchy is a sacred principality. And a principality means ruler and subjects. If we speak of the hierarchy of God and creatures, there is only one hierarchy. But if we consider only creatures who are dowered with God's gifts, there are many hierarchies. There is, for example, a human hierarchy; there is an angelic hierarchy. Indeed, among the angels themselves, there are three hierarchies according to three grades of angelic knowledge. But in God himself, that it, in the Blessed Trinity, there is no hierarchy. For there is no greater or lesser among the three Persons in God. All three persons are one and the same God. The trinity is an order of distinct Persons, but it is not a hierarchical order.
2. The nature of a hierarchy requires a classifying of orders within it; these may be loosely described as upper, middle, and lower orders. In human social and political groups we have such a classification: the nobility or aristocracy; the middle classes; the common people. Among angels there are three orders in each hierarchy (upper, middle, and lower orders), and, since there are three angelic hierarchies, there are, in all, nine orders of angels.
3. As we have noticed, our human knowledge of angels is not direct and perfect; we cannot know angels as they are in themselves. In our imperfect way, we assign many angels to each order, even while we realize that, since each angel is a complete species, it has its own specific office, and, to that extent, its own order. We cannot discern what these specific offices and orders are. If star differ from star in glory, much more does angel differ from angel. Our classification of angelic orders is, therefore, a kind of general classification.
4. Among human beings, who are all of one species and nature, a hierarchy, in the true sense of sacred principality, is a hierarchy of holiness, that is, of God's grace. But, as we have just recalled, angels are distinguished from one another, not only by the gifts of grace, but by their very nature; for each angel is the only being of its specific kind. Each angel is essentially different from every other angel, whereas each human being is essentially the same as every other human being. Moreover, the gifts of grace are given to angels to the full of their natural capacity to receive them; this is not the case with human beings.
5. There are three angelic hierarchies. Each hierarchy has three orders. All the heavenly spirits of all hierarchies and orders are called angels. Thus the term angel is common and generic. The same name, usually with a capital letter, is the proper and collective name for the lowest order of the lowest hierarchy of heavenly spirits. We must therefore distinguish angel, which means any heavenly spirit from highest to lowest, from Angel which means a member of the lowest order of all.
6. The following hierarchies and orders exist among the angels: (a) The highest hierarchy includes the orders of (in descending order of rank) Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones. (b) The middle hierarchy includes (in descending order of rank) the orders of Dominations, Virtues, Powers. (c) The lowest hierarchy includes (in descending order of rank) Principalities, Archangels, Angels. This classification is commonly, but not unanimously, accepted by learned doctors.
7. After the end of this bodily world, the angelic orders will continue to exist, but their offices will not be altogether the same as they now are, for they will then no longer need to help human beings to save their souls.
8. By the gifts of grace, human beings can merit glory in a degree that makes them equal to the angels in each of the orders. Therefore, human beings who get to heaven are taken into the angelic orders. But these human beings remain human beings; they are not turned into angels.
109. ORDERS AMONG THE FALLEN ANGELS
1. The angels that rebelled and became demons did not lose their nature or their connatural gifts. They cast away, by their sin, the grace in which they were created. They did not cast away the beatific vision, for they never had it. Now, if we think of angelic orders as orders of angels in glory, then, of course, there are no orders of bad angels. But if we consider angelic orders as order of angelic nature simply, there are orders among the demons.
2. Certainly, there is a precedence among bad angels; there is a subjection of some to others.
3. Demons of superior nature do not enlighten inferior demons; enlightenment here could only mean the manifestation of truth with reference to God, and the fallen angels have perversely and permanently turned away from God. But demons can speak to one another, that is, they can make known their thoughts to one another, that is, they can make known their thoughts to one another, for this ability belongs to the angelic nature which the demons retain.
4. The nearer creatures are to God the greater is their rule over other creatures. Therefore, the good angels rule and control the demons.
110. THE ACTION OF ANGELS ON BODIES
1. Superior rules inferior; hence angels rule the bodily world. St. Gregory says that in this visible world nothing occurs without the agency of invisible creatures.
2. Angels, however, have not power to produce or transform bodies at will. God alone gives first existence to things; after first creation, bodies come from bodies. But angels can stir bodily agencies to produce change in bodies.
3. Angels can directly control the local movement of bodies, for this is an accidental change in bodies, not a substantial production of bodies nor a substantial change.
4. Angels cannot, of themselves, work miracles. A miracle, by definition, is a work proper to God alone. Of course, angels can serve, even as holy men may serve, as ministers or instruments in the performing of miracles. Angels, good or bad, can do wonderful things, but only such as lie within the power of angelic nature, and a miracle surpasses the powers of all created natures.
111. THE ACTION OF ANGELS ON MEN
1. Since angels are superior to man, they can enlighten man. They can strengthen the understanding of human beings and make men aware, in some sensible manner, of the truths to be imparted. Thus angels can act upon the human intellect.
2. But angels cannot act directly upon the human will; God alone can do this.
3. Nevertheless, angels, good or bad, can exercise an indirect influence on human wills by stirring up images in the human imagination. And angels, good or bad, can, by their natural power, arouse sentient appetites and passions in the same way, that is, by producing images in the human imagination.
4. Equally, an angel can work upon the human senses, ether outwardly, as, for example, by assuming some visible form, or inwardly, by disturbing the sense-functions themselves, as, for example, making a man see what is not really there.
112. THE MISSION OR MINISTRY OF ANGELS
1. God sends angels to minister to his purposes among bodily creatures. This sending or mission is not the dispatching of angels upon a journey. To be sent means to be present in a new place in which one was not present before, or to be present where one was but in a new way. An angel is present where it exercises or applies its powers, and not elsewhere. When God has an angel apply its powers to a creature, the angel is sent to that creature. God is the sender and the first principle of the effect produced by the angel sent; God is also the ultimate goal or final cause of the work so produced. The angel is God's minister or intelligent instrument; by its being sent it renders ministry to God.
2. It seems that, of the nine orders of angels, only five orders are sent for the external ministry, and that the superior angels are never sent.
3. Angels are said to assist before the throne of God. All angels assist inasmuch as all permanently possess the beatific vision. But, in a special sense, only the superior angels assist before God's throne. These superior angels, beholding mysteries in God, communicate what they behold to the inferior angels. All good angels see God in the beatific vision, but the superior angels behold deeper and wider mysteries in God than do the lesser angels. By their deeper and wider knowledge of divine mysteries, the superior angels are said to assist.
4. Angels sent in the external ministry are those whose names indicate some kind of administrative or executive office. These are, in descending rank, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, Angels.
113. ANGEL GUARDIANS
1. It is fitting that changeable and fallible human beings should be guarded by angels, and thus steadily moved and regulated to good.
2. St. Jerome, in his commentary on Matthew 8:10, says "The dignity of human souls is great, for each has an angel appointed to guard it." God's providence extends, not only to mankind as a whole, but to individual human beings. Each human being has, by God's loving providence, his own guardian angel.
3. It seems that the office of being guardians to men belongs to the lowest order of heavenly spirits, that is, the ninth order, the order of Angels.
4. Each human being, without exception, has a guardian angel as long as he is a wayfarer, that is, during his whole earthly life. In heaven a man will have an angel companion to reign with him, but not a guardian; no guardian is needed when the guarded journey has been successfully completed. In hell, each man will have a fallen angel to punish him.
5. Each human being has his guardian angel from the moment of his birth, and not, as some have taught, only from the moment of baptism.
6. The guardian angel is a gift of divine providence. He never fails or forsakes his charge. Sometimes, in the workings of providence, a man must suffer trouble; this is not prevented by the guardian angel.
7. Guardian angels do not grieve over the ills that befall their wards. For all angels uninterruptedly enjoy the beatific vision and are forever filled with joy and happiness. Guardian angels do not will the sin which their wards commit, nor do they directly will the punishment of this sin; they do will the fulfillment of divine justice which requires that a man be allowed to have his way, to commit sin if he so choose, to endure trials and troubles, and to suffer punishment.
8. All angels are in perfect agreement with the divine will in so far as it is revealed to them. But it may happen that not all angels have the same revelations of the divine will for their several ministries, and thus, among angels, there may arise a conflict, discord, or strife. This explains what is said in Daniel 10:13 about the guardian angel of the Persians resisting "for one and twenty days" the prayer of Daniel offered by the Archangel Gabriel.
114. ASSAULTS OF BAD ANGELS ON MAN
1. To tempt means one of two things: (a) to make a test or trial; thus "God tempted Abraham" (Gen. 22:1); (b) to invite, incite, or allure someone to sin. It is in the second sense of the word that the fallen angels tempt human beings. God permits this assault of the demons upon men, and turns it into a human opportunity and benefit; God gives to men all requisite aid to repulse the assaults of demons, and to advance in grace and merit by resisting temptation.
2. To the devil (who is the fallen Lucifer, now Satan) belong exclusively the plan and campaign of the demons' assaults upon mankind.
3. In one way the devil is the cause of every human sin; he tempted Adam and thus contributed to the fall which renders men prone to sin. But, in a strict sense, diabolical influence does not enter into every sin of man. Some sins come of the weakness of human nature and from inordinateness of appetites which the sinner freely allows to prevail.
4. Angels cannot perform miracles; therefore demons cannot. But demons can do astonishing things, and can occasion real havoc.
5. When the assault of demons is repulsed, the devil is not rendered incapable of further attack. But it seems that he cannot return immediately to the assault, but only after the lapse of a definite time. God's mercy as well as the shrewdness of the tempter, seems to promise so much.
For more information on angels see a St. Thomas Aquinas Web Site(Summa Theologica) at:
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