The Association of Priests in the Opus Angelorum is for those who feel called by God to pastorally assist the faithful of the OA in their region and/or for those who want to find some spiritual support in their priestly ministry through clerical reunions of prayer and retreats. The monthly Circular Letter with meditations on the angels in Scripture is intended as an (unofficial) instrument of common formation and as a help towards deeper communion with the holy angels and among ourselves. It is directed to all bishops, priests and deacons who are particularly interested in collaborating with the holy angels and to the members of the Association itself.

XXII, September/October 2016

"In his glory and of the Father and of the holy angels" (Lk 9:26)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

Our next text on the angels in St. Luke is found in an almost confidential circumstance, namely, "when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him." He used the occasion and brought up a very important question: "Who do the crowds say that I am?" And, "who do you say that I am?" Peter answered,, he who so often had already acted as spokesman for the apostles: You are "the Messiah of God" (Lk 9: 18-20). After such a clear answer, Jesus became very open to them. He foretold His passion and resurrection and laid out the condition for everyone who wants to follow Him: "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me…" Each disciple must be earnest in this regard, for "Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels" (Lk 9:23,26).

1. The holy angels as faithful companions of man

On various occasions of the New Testament we are told that the Lord will come with His angels (e.g. Mt 25:31). But here he says even more: They seem to take up the position of the Holy Spirit, at least in a ministerial fashion. That Jesus will present to the angels those who were not ashamed of him. Elsewhere it is the angels who cast the weeds into the fire and the worthless fish into the garbage (cf. Mt 13:30. 48)!

a) A question of justice

Nevertheless, it is, first of all, a question of justice: The angels are sent out to "those who are to inherit salvation" (Hb 1:14), and they fulfill their mission in such a humble, silent and invisible manner that it is simply called a "service": "Are they not all ministering spirits sent to serve" (ibid.). Besides being heavenly citizens, "mighty in strength and attentive, obedient … to God's will" (Ps 103:20f.), the angels do not seek for any honor or glory for themselves. "Worship God" (Ap 22:9) they say. They are the ones who encourage us not to be ashamed of Christ, such that it can be said: Whoever is ashamed of the Lord, has not listened to the admonitions of the angels! It is a necessary act of solidarity when Jesus, at the end, will also manifest before the angels who served his glory those who resisted their ministry and refused to give him the glory.

b) A question of gratitude

Then it is also a question of gratitude from our side towards them, especially for their fidelity and perseverance, for not getting so angry with us that they would desist from interceding for us and guiding us with their inspirations. It is also a matter of justice towards those, who during their life-time rejected the angels, that they should miss their company in the life hereafter. Therefore, Jesus will not acknowledge them before the angels, and their angels will follow their Lord and abandon such souls to their eternal fate, since they practice neither the love of God nor the love of their neighbor (in this case, towards the angels!).

c) As man wishes…

Those who are more afraid of men than of GOD and of the presence of His heavenly servants, they will see and reap the consequences: at the end, at judgment, God and His angels will withdraw from them; they will go, by way of punishment, to where they wished to go, far from God, into hell. This is what Jesus wants to say here: We are either on the way to a joyful union with God in communion with all the holy angels and saints or to a never ending despair and self-hatred for having failed to pay due attention to Christ and his ministers.

2. The holy Angels as servants of the Holy Spirit

A second moment of the angelic existence in heaven is herewith revealed! They are evidently mentioned in the place of the Holy Spirit, inasmuch as his ministers. Of course, there is no confusion about the Divinity of the Holy Spirit (the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity) and the creaturehood of the angels. Thus Jesus and in other places St. Paul and St. John (cf. 1 Tim 5:21; Rev 1:4f; 3:5) mentions the angels in a seemingly Trinitarian formula, where we would expect the Holy Spirit. In fact, in all these passages it is rather a formula which expresses the economy of salvation where our concern is not about the inner life of the Blessed Trinity.

a) The angels represent the Holy Spirit

GOD prefers to act through secondary causes, to make "use of his creatures' co-operation. This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God's greatness and goodness. For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles contributing to the good of others, and thus of co-operating in the accomplishment of his plan." (CCC 306) We know that in creating the Blessed Trinity acts as "one principle. However, each divine person performs the common work according to his unique personal property" (CCC 258). Thus, we may think of the apostles and priests, as special servants of Christ, the Son in God (cf. e.g. Rm 1:1) on the one hand, and then think of the holy angels as servants of the Holy Spirit on the other: "Invisibly, through the ministry of angels, the Spirit of God, whom even the mind's eye cannot see, baptizes into himself both our souls and bodies, giving them a new birth" (Didymus of Alexandria, On the Blessed Trinity, in: Liturgy of the Hours, 2nd reading on Monday of the 6th Week after Easter).

b) … are active like the Holy Spirit

The similarity of the angels' activity in our life serves just as an indication of such attribution. As the Holy Spirit is sent (cf. Jn 14:26), so are the holy angels (cf. Ex 23:20; Hb 1:14); as he gives testimony (cf. Jn 15:26), so we meet the holy angels giving testimony, e.g., att he Resurrection of their Lord (cf. Mt 28:5ff). As the Holy Spirit will be close to those who are persecuted (cf. Mt 10:18ff.), so the patriarch Jacob confessed to his sons regarding the angel: "The angel … has delivered me from all harm" (Gen 48:16; cf. Ex 23:22). Many other activities are also attributed principally to the the Holy Spirit and secondarily to the holy angels such as casting out demons, consoling the afflicted, convincing of sins. The holy angels intercede for us and the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings (Rom 8:26), especially that they remain with us as the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 14:17).

3. Our common mission

While we priests (and deacons) may not belong to those who are ashamed of Christ, and yet we are well aware how little we do for him and how easily we are caught up with the "world" and fail to confess him as eloquently as we should. How often do we attribute a good counsel or a homily which "came out well" to our own capacity and effort. We too need to be reminded "that God is at work in all the actions of his creatures … God is the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes: 'For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure' (Phil 2:13)" (CCC 308), and this is said also of the angels (cf. CCC 350).

a) The common mission of priests and angels

In many places of the Catechism of the Catholic Church we are taught that "Christ's whole work is in fact a joint mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit" (CCC 727; cf. 152, 243, 683, 686, 737, 1093). Therefore, "The desire and work of the Spirit in the heart of the Church is that we may live from the life of the risen Christ" (CCC 1091). We benefit by the Holy Spirit's presence each time we celebrate the Sacraments, as "ex opere operato (literally: 'by the very fact of the action's being performed'), i. e. … from the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it, independently of the personal holiness of the minister" (CCC 1128). Should this joint mission and effective cooperation between the Son and Holy Spirit not also be a call for a similar cooperation between us as the servants of the Son and the holy angels as the servants of the Holy Spirit!

Is it not painful when Jesus had to complain about his disciples? "Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?..." (Mk 8:17-21) – They had not yet received the Holy Spirit, but what about us? Are not the holy priests among us a proof that we too could be doing better?

b) The unemployed deacons

As the Holy Spirit accompanied and assisted the mission of the Son, Jesus, similarly are the holy angels sent to accompany and assist our service of Jesus. St. John heard the angel himself say it: "I am a fellow servant of yours (conservus tuus sum) and of your brothers who bear witness to Jesus. Worship God. Witness to Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Ap 19:10; cf. 22:9) And the Church invites all of us (as even all the faithful or lay-missionaries) to turn to the "holy angels of God" in an act of consecration in her name. Through such act "I want to make a covenant with you, who are His servants, so that in union with you, I might work with humility and fortitude for the glory of God and the coming of His Kingdom. Therefore I implore you to assist me, especially … in the faithful fulfillment of my mission within the Church, serving humbly after the example of Mary, my heavenly Mother, your Queen." (Prayer of "Consecration to the holy Angels" in the Work of the Holy Angels).

4. Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

The angels stay with us, help us, lead us according their best capacities. They have every reason to expect fruits from their efforts in terms of holiness and the salvation of souls. Moreover, conscious cooperation with the holy angels itself bears special fruit in "a certain form of the Christian life" to which the "devotion to the Holy Angels gives rise" (Congregation of Divine Worship, Directory on Popular Piety and Liturgy, # 216). First of all, though, far from being ashamed of Christ, it is our honor to even suffer for his name (cf Acts 5:41) and to share in his mission alongside our angels. Let us be convinced: When Jesus has no cause to be ashamed of us before the angels, then they will help us in many ways, for his sake, and with their help we will become more worthy servants of Our Lord.

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC

 

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