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Home » Daily Gospel, Daily Readings, New Testament Writers

The Archangels

Submitted by on Monday, 29 September 2008No Comment


The gospel reading from John 1:47–51 is not really about angels but about Jesus as the new Jacob’s Ladder.  How it got paired with the reading from Daniel or Revelation for the Feast of the Archangels is something for experts to explain.

In the New Testament, angels are seldom mentioned.  In Luke, for example, the archangel Gabriel is referred to as the “angel of the Lord” who makes the announcements to Mary and Zechariah.  Apart from these episodes, angels, are seldom the main characters of a gospel episode.  They are mentioned in the Synoptics as secondary characters (as when they help Jesus after his being tempted by the Devil, cf. Mark) or simply because Jesus refers to them (as in the saying about children having their angels before God’s presence — a passage used for the Feast of Guardian Angels).  They become prominent mostly in the Resurrection narratives where they function as announcers of the rising of the Lord.  Michael the archangel is mentioned specifically in the Apocalypse as he engages in battle the minions of the Serpent (Revelation 12:7–12).  New Testament writers generally mention the angels because of a worldview shared with others or because they have in mind scripture passages that mention them. 

Angels are “messengers”; when they appear in Jacob’s Ladder, it is because they make use of the ladder for going to and from the earth, shuttling between human and divine abodes.  When Jesus says that angels would be “ascending and descending on the Son of Man”, it is because the fulness of revelation has been given in and through Him.  He says this to Nathanael who as a good Israelite has been meditating on the Torah under a fig tree.  The Torah, after all, was — in Jewish lore — given through the angels.

In Catholic tradition, the archangels are Rafael, Gabriel and Michael.  Michael is of course the captain of God’s armies, Gabriel, the announcer of good tidings and Rafael, the healing angel and body guard in the book of Tobit.  There are however seven archangels known from Jewish sources:  Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Raguel, Sariel, and the fallen Lucifer.  The Greek orthodox include Salaphiel, Jegudiel, & Barachiel.

The more significant aspect of the angels is their relationship to Divine Providence.  They do not only carry messages, they are also instructed to carry out God’s will.  During classical times, the universe was thought to move because of the agency of daimons who were later on regarded as “angels”.   The movement of the sun, the moon and the stars were attributed to the action of daimons who inhabited the lower echelons of heaven.

For Catholics, angels are a matter of faith.  They are included in the profession of the faith:  “I believe in God Creator of all things visible and invisible….”  They protect the Church and her members against the attacks of the Enemy.  The responsorial psalm (Psalm 138:2), reflecting the idea that the Divine worship rendered on earth reflects what the angels do in heaven, is from a Catholic viewpoint, also a reflection of the conviction also formulated in St. Augustine that the Church and the angels form one community worshipping and serving God.





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John 1:47
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
47Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him: and he saith of him: Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile.
Revelation 12:7
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
7And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels:
Psalm 138:2
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
2I will worship towards thy holy temple, and I will give glory to thy name. For thy mercy, and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy holy name above all.

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