The most memorable angel in the movies is the Christmas classic, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life where Jimmy Stewart plays George Bailey in the fictional town of Bedford Falls shortly after World War II – a man whose imminent suicide on Christmas Eve gains the attention of his guardian angel, Clarence, who is sent to help him in his hour of need. ‘And whenever an angel gets his wings, a bell rings.’ A great movie.
I’ve always believed that we all had guardian angels; angels who protect us from that close call while driving; or making us aware of things that could be harmful to us or simply keeping us from doing wrong.
The Bible mentions angels frequently. Angels are mentioned at least 108 times in the Old Testament and 165 times in the New Testament. Only two angels–Michael and Gabriel–are mentioned by name in Scripture. These two names are masculine in gender.
According to the Bible, however, angels are spiritual (not physical) beings. Although they can take on human form or appearance (as they do at times in Scripture), they do not have physical bodies like humans and so are neither “male” nor “female” in gender. Angels are essentially “ministering spirits”. Jesus declared that “a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have”.
The English word “angel” comes from the Greek ‘angelos’, which means ‘messenger’. The Bible tells us an angel is a pure spirit created by God and although the word “angel” in the Bible, meaning a messenger, nearly always applies to heavenly beings, it can occasionally apply to human messengers.
In the Old Testament, there is mention of belief in angels: the name is applied to certain spiritual beings or intelligences of heavenly residence that were employed by God as the ministers of His will. These ministers or messengers carried out His requests, and special commissions, regarding men and ordinary matters. There is no special teaching in the Old Testament; but the doctrine is expressly laid down in Maccabees. However, in the New Testament the doctrine is precisely stated. Angels are everywhere — the intermediaries between God and man; and Jesus set a seal upon the Old Testament teaching: “See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven”. Matthew 18:10.
It also tell us in the doctrine : ‘even little children have guardian angels, and these same angels are within the vision of God and they have a mission to fulfill on earth.’ There are a whole range of spirits whom God has created, including both good and evil angels, and special categories such as cherubim, seraphim, and the archangel. We are familiar with archangels Gabriel and Michael.
Although the Scriptures give us no indication of the precise time of the creation of angels; their existence is assumed at the earliest times. While the Scriptures themselves give no definite figures, we are told that the number of angels is very great (Daniel, Matthew & Hebrews.) There are many places in the New Testament that allude to ministering of angels: Gabriel announcing the good news of Jesus to Mary; the angel in the Garden of Gethsemane ministering to Jesus; and the angel who delivered St. Peter from prison. They are sometimes in the form of men and their purpose is very meaningful.
Angels in the Bible never appear as cute, chubby infants! They are always full-grown adults. When people in the Bible saw an angel, their typical response was to fall on their faces in fear and awe. Some Bible passages picture angels with wings. Other verses talk about angels flying, and we assume that the wings would be useful for that flight. But others say that angels may be able to move around without having to depend on wings, somewhat like clouds do. Most references to angels in Scripture say nothing about angels having wings and yet, Daniel and John both refer to angels as ‘flying’ by.
Our Lord often spoke of angels; in the New Testament – and because of this, the Church teaches that everyone has a guardian angel based on references to them throughout the Bible. “That every individual soul has a guardian angel has never been defined by the Church, and is, consequently, not an article of faith; but it is the “mind of the Church”, as St. Jerome expressed it “how great the dignity of the soul since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it.” (Comm. in Matt., xviii, lib. II). “No evil shall befall you, nor shall affliction come near your tent, for to His Angels God has given command about you, that they guard you in all your ways. Upon their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” “For he hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways.”
Some of the activities done by angels are: Worship and praise – This is the main activity portrayed in heaven. Revealing – They serve as messengers to communicate God’s will to men. They helped reveal the law to Moses and were carriers of much of the material in Daniel and Revelations. Instructing – Angels gave instructions to Joseph about the birth of Jesus, to the women at the tomb, to Phillip and to Cornelius. Providing – God has used angels to provide physical needs such as food for Hagar, Elijah and Christ after His temptation. Protecting – Keeping God’s people out of physical danger, as in the cases of Daniel and the lions and in the fiery furnace. Getting God’s people out of danger once they’re in it. Angels released the apostles from prison. And don’t forget – we all have one protecting us – that’s lots of angels. Strengthening and encouraging – Angels strengthened Jesus after his temptation and encouraged the apostles to keep preaching after releasing them from prison and gave Paul information about his shipwreck. Answering prayers – God often uses angels as His means of answering the prayers of His people. Caring for believers at the moment of death – In the story of Lazarus and the rich man, we read that angels carried the spirit of Lazarus to “Abraham’s bosom” when he died.
So – “Do you believe you have a Guardian Angel?” I know I do. I can be very klutzy and he or she has prevented a lot of mishaps in my life! I use to say ‘Wow, that was lucky’ and now I say thanks to my angel and to God for providing him. For those of you who do believe there is a spirit out there watching over you and protecting you from most things, I found this little prayer…. A Prayer to the Guardian Angels My good Angel, You come from heaven; God has sent you to take care of me. Oh, shelter me under your wings. Lighten my path, and direct my steps. Do not leave me, stay quite near me and defend me against the spirit of evil. But above all come to my help in the last struggle of my life. Amen
Marie Coppola Revised March 2017