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Circular Letter: Advent 2023

Living with and like the Holy Angels

In the Work of the Holy Angels, we strive to do all things with and like the Holy Angels. They are our educators on the way to holiness, and through the consecrations, we enter into their ranks, working and fighting together with them in the battle for the defense, upbuilding and consolidation of the Kingdom of God on earth, that is, the Church. The foundation for walking with the Angels is spiritual childhood, which we contemplated in the summer circular letter. “The Angels teach us to be childlike before God again, so that we become transparent for them – through the clarity and integrity of our character, through simplicity and pure love for God – and so that they, through us, can apply their force of radiation more effectively to the battle for the Kingdom of God” (Readings I, 5). The way we follow is the way of the Cross, the way of priestly mediation in sacrifice, expiation and intercession for souls, which we meditated in the last circular letter. As Mother Gabriel wrote, “The Cross is our guide to heaven. The Guardian Angel leads us along this way. Angel as well as man are before the Cross learning, contemplating, proving themselves” (Readings I, 25). Along with the ways of the child and the priest, we are also called to follow the way of the Angel, who is for us model, helper, teacher and guide. “The Angel carries the light in the lead, he is the mediator of knowledge and grace, help and strength” (ibid., 10). 

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The Angels prepare us for the task which lies before us, training us to work with them as effective instruments in their hands. They teach us faithful discipleship in the following of Christ, who is for us already at Bethlehem the Light of the world. Only when we have learned to follow the lead of the Angels in silence, listening and obedience can they can use us in the battle against the forces of darkness. With them, “we go through the darkness of this age, which is oppressed by the evil one, out to meet the light of Jesus in the great Rorate journey of our life…. Just as the Angels are for us like telescopes through which we can see God much more closely and clearly, as more absolute and majestic, so are we for the Angels like doors through which they can better approach the interior of souls, in order to enlighten and direct their actions” (Readings I, 5).

Thus we see that God wills the cooperation among His creatures in the work of salvation (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 340), between the purely spiritual Angels, who have already reached the goal of heaven, and man, who is a composite of body and soul, and is still on the way to perfection. Pope St. John Paul II wrote in his catechesis on the Angels, 

It is precisely the religious encounter with the world of the purely spiritual beings that becomes valuable as a revelation of [man’s] own being not only as body but also as spirit, and of his belonging to a design of salvation that is truly great and efficacious within a community of personal beings [Angels and men], who serve the providential design of God for man and with man. (General Audience, August 6, 1986)

In the collaboration between Angel and men, the Angel must first lead man, who has been disfigured by sin, to holiness of life, to be as God wants him to be, in order that he can join the pure spirits, the holy Angels, in working for the Kingdom of God. Pope Benedict XVI writes:  

They are God’s messengers. They bring God to men, they open heaven and thus open earth …The Angels speak to man of what constitutes his true being, of what in his life is so often concealed and buried. They bring him back to himself, touching him on God’s behalf. (Homily, September 29, 2007)

And Mother Gabriele writes,

O Soul, just as the Angel is a clear, glorious image of God, so you should also become such an image; this is your preeminent task in life. …And in order to help you with this task, the Angel was placed at your side. He directs your gaze in the right direction; he opens your ear for the call of the Lord He moves your heart so that it begins to beat for God, for His word and His love. He stands before you and admonishes you to do something for God, to do more, to do it out of love. (Readings I, 12)

In particular, the Angels lead us to God and holiness of life by way of what in the Opus Angelorum is known as the “four fundamental directions”: Adoration, Contemplation, Expiation and Mission. These paths to holiness are the creature’s response to the four essential qualities of God, His Holiness, Wisdom, Justice and Omnipotence. In this circular, we want to meditate briefly on the role of the Angels in our lives and how they lead us in each of these four directions.

Adoration

Adoration is the creature’s response to the holiness of God. The Holy Angels continually stand before the throne of God in joyful praise, adoration and thanks. “Day and night they do not stop exclaiming: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come!’” (Rev 4:21). The Angels adore God not only with their voices, but also with their whole being. “God is inscribed in their names, in their nature. Their true nature is existing in His sight and for Him” (Benedict XVI, ibid.). In reverence and holy Fear of the Lord, they submit themselves entirely to His will, continually reading His slightest wish from the “face of My heavenly Father” (cf. Mt 18:10). 

Each of us knows that in the Work of the Angels adoration is first. It is the first thing the Angel taught us and vigorously demanded of us. God must be our one and all, the center of our life, of our thinking and acting, the goal of our desires and plans, the guideline for all our decisions. But it is not merely important that we firmly and steadfastly know that “God is,” we must also love Him above all, more than ourselves and everything else. (Mother Gabriele, Lenten Circular 1969)

Since they have a much greater knowledge of the majesty, transcendence and holiness of God, the first thing the Angels want to mediate to us is the knowledge of this greatness and sovereignty of God, and thus a corresponding Fear of the Lord, not fear in the sense of fright, but in the sense of profound awe, reverence, submission (obedience) and love! 

Further, the Angels can mediate to us a loving reverence for all the things of God: for the Saints, the Holy Church, the priests and consecrated souls, but also for the poor, the sick and the suffering. Jesus and His holy Mother in the stable at Bethlehem are for us a sign of God’s great love for the poor. Recall that among the first to adore the Lord at the summons of the Angels were the poor shepherds of the fields. The Holy Angels can open our eyes for the presence of Christ in the poor around us, in all who suffer, that we may treat them with charity and respect. Thus, with the help of the Holy Angels, by their light and guidance, we learn to adore and praise God in both word and deed, in our worship, especially at the Holy Mass and in Eucharistic adoration, yet also by our very life. The Catechism states,

To adore God is to acknowledge Him as God, as the Creator and Savior, the Lord and Master of everything that exists, as infinite and merciful Love. …To adore God is to acknowledge, in respect and absolute submission, the “nothingness of the creature” who would not exist but for God. To adore God is to praise and exalt Him and to humble oneself, as Mary did in the Magnificat, confessing with gratitude that He has done great things and holy is His name. The worship of the one God sets man free from turning in on himself, from the slavery of sin and the idolatry of the world. (CCC 2096- 2097)

True adoration from the heart unites us through love with God, with Jesus, with His holy will. Thus, we adore God by our lives when we submit with a loving, joyful “yes” to all that He in His providence asks of us. Unlike the “non serviam” – “I will not serve!” of the fallen angels, our yes to God, even when He sends us the Cross, sickness, hardships, or difficult persons or situations, is an act of adoration of His sovereign will. How much peace and love we will find if we start our day with a joyful, “All for love of You, Lord! I accept and offer You all that this day may bring from Your hands, for Your Church, for her priests, for my family and loved ones!” 

The adoration of God expresses itself further in walking in the presence of God with grateful love, thanking Him for His gifts, for our lives, for each day! How much God longs to share the day with us, to share our thoughts! This is living Adoration, walking in His presence like the Angels, speaking with Him of our joys and sorrows, loving Him and telling Him that we love Him in little acts during the course of the day! Already in the morning we can ask our holy Guardian Angel to lift our hearts to God throughout the day, so that we may live in His presence with love and joy, and in grateful adoration!

Contemplation

All the ways of God are wisdom and love. The Angels are those who behold, contemplate and look upon God. “I say to you that their Angels in heaven always look upon the face of My heavenly Father” (Mt 18:10). In silence and awe, they behold His wisdom and providence, His light and will; and they long to mediate this silent, contemplative gaze to us. They want to teach us to look up to God, to rest in Him, to let ourselves be transformed by His wisdom and His love. We open ourselves for the wisdom of God and this light of the Angels through the fundamental attitude of contemplation. 

Contemplation is the highest form of mental prayer. For mental prayer is traditionally divided into two kinds, meditation and contemplation. Meditation is the more active pondering and weighing of the word and salvific works of God as revealed in “Sacred Scriptures, particularly the Gospels, holy icons, liturgical texts of the day or season, writings of the spiritual fathers, works of spirituality, the great book of creation, and that of history” (CCC 2705). “Meditation is above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the why and how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking” (ibid.). This pondering then leads to acts of love and desire for God, to clarity in a decision or to more zeal to grow in virtue.

Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the Rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with Him. (CCC 2708)

The practice of meditation disposes us to receive the gift of contemplation, which is simpler and more passive, the simple looking upon God, His wisdom and love. While meditation is carried out by human effort, contemplation is a gift for which we can dispose ourselves through fidelity to prayer, love and longing for God.

What is contemplative prayer? St. Teresa answers: “Contemplative prayer [oracion mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us” (Book of Her Life, 8, 5). Contemplative prayer seeks Him “whom my soul loves” (Song of Songs 1:7; cf. 3:14). It is Jesus, and in Him, the Father. We seek Him, because to desire Him is always the beginning of love, and we seek Him in that pure faith which causes us to be born of Him and to live in Him. In this inner prayer [contemplation], we can still meditate, but our attention is fixed on the Lord Himself. (CCC 2709)

In order to walk at the hand of the Angel in the direction of contemplation, we must first learn silence of the heart, to detach ourselves from all our anxieties, cares, desires and restlessness, so that we can be free to rest in God. This resting in God is not to be practiced only during our set times of prayer, but like adoration, it is to be lived throughout the day. We attain to rest in God by turning to Him in our hearts and finding rest in Him a thousand times throughout the day. We must learn to seek like Mary of Bethany the “one thing necessary”, God alone, in all our actions and duties of our state in life. Soli Deo, to live for God alone! Mother Gabriel writes:

Today, man rushes through his days with unequaled restlessness and disorientation. He cannot calm down. Everything must be done fast and ever faster. The offers of everything he can see and hear, of events in which he can participate and of the things he can have, are almost unlimited – and the person becomes addicted. Even in the Church, the rushing world has already captivated the people. Does one not hear again and again, “I have no time,” “I don’t have enough time for that”? The curve of activism is becoming ever more steeply inclined, while the creative spirit of living meditation is dying out! 

Then the call of the holy Angel reaches us: Get up! One thing alone is necessary: God! – Soli Deo! The Angel does not know haste, nor the fragmentation into many things. And precisely in this way he does everything on time, is always punctual, because he looks always to God, and through God, knows and does everything at the proper time. Make an effort to order everything to God (Soli Deo!), to contemplate everything as coming from God and to accept everything from Him. God at the center of your being, that must be your resolve! (Mother Gabriele, Confraternity Letters)

The interior silence of resting in God in the heart bears fruits of calmness, wideness of heart and equanimity. These in turn dispose us for the reception of wisdom. “Then the manner of your personal communing with God will pass more and more from words to light, to beholding. And then you will remain with your Angel before God as one” (ibid.).

Expiation

The third fundamental direction in which the Angels want to lead us is expiation, as an answer to the justice of God. Through the Incarnation and expiatory Cross of Christ, the justice of God has been transformed into mercy. Jesus has taken our sins upon Himself in expiation; by His sacrifice out of love, He has redeemed us from the just punishment of eternal damnation. Having received the gift of Redemption ourselves, we can actively participate in this merciful, saving work of Christ through expiation, vicarious prayer and sacrifice for souls. (We meditated much on this priestly calling in the last circular.) The Holy Angels want to lead us in this fundamental direction of expiation for the good of the Church, for the good of souls, most especially for priests. The Angels train and admonish us in the way of sacrifice and renunciation out of love for God. They themselves can neither suffer nor merit for souls, since they are already in the state of glory, but they can enlighten, encourage and strengthen us in suffering and in the spiritual battle. Mother Gabriele writes,

Your goal, …if you wish to transform the justice of God into love, must be sacrifice. Let our Lord’s words on the Cross, ‘I THIRST!’ be written in large letters over your soul. Strive to save souls through sacrifice! Offer up your daily work, your labors for priests, so that none may be lost. Expiation is the essential core of the Work of the Holy Angels. Let everyone take a brother upon his shoulders and carry him home! Offer up sleepless nights for mortal sinners who are dying, for those who must die this night, for endangered consecrated souls! Offer up as often as possible our Lord Jesus Christ Himself [in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass] for the salvation of the world! 

May sacrifice be for you a broad field of salvation. Our Lord goes before you: He descends continuously from heaven to earth for your sake and for the sake of your fellow men, to give Himself to you and to them as the Bread of Heaven, as nourishment…as a sacrifice whose dimensions are for us unfathomable, a sacrifice which He offers in and for us to His Father. A sacrifice is a gift which we offer up, whether it be a holy sacrifice or a renunciation. Love should always be embedded in this sacrifice. ((Mother Gabriele, Confraternity Letters)

The way of expiation is thus both a way of the Cross and a way of love. Mother Gabriele writes, “Expiate through love! Expiate through sacrifice, through prayer! Expiate through daily life, through the hidden Cross. The more you love, the more you expiate!” We do not walk this way alone. When we say yes to God, when we accept our Cross out of love, it is the Lord Jesus Himself who carries the Cross in and with us. This is why the Saints could say, Ave Crux, spes unica! Hail holy Cross, only hope! For by accepting it in deep faith and in dark trust, the Cross and suffering lead us out of ourselves, away from our natural inclinations and goals, and bear supernatural fruits of union with Christ and His holy will. These bring us true peace and joy! Thus the Cross, this dying to self, will transform us into the image of Jesus, and through us, bring conversion, grace and mercy to many souls.

We receive this love and strength to say yes to the Cross especially in the Holy Eucharist. When we actively participate in the Holy Mass and lovingly receive Jesus in Holy Communion, we enter into a greater union with Him and His loving, expiatory sacrifice, made present at every Holy Mass. “The only perfect sacrifice is the one that Christ offered on the Cross as a total offering to the Father’s love and for our salvation. By uniting ourselves with His sacrifice we can make our lives a sacrifice to God” (CCC 2100).

In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of His Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with His total offering, and so acquire a new value. Christ’s sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with His offering. (CCC 1368)

Mission

Through the fundamental directions of Adoration, Contemplation and the surrender of self in Expiation, the Angels lead us to an ever greater union with Christ. Only united with Him, as His members and with His strength, can we walk effectively in the fundamental direction of Mission. “As the Father has sent Me, so I send you” (Jn 20:21). In the Work, we carry out our mission with and like the Holy Angel. In the Catechism we read, “With their whole beings the Angels are servants and messengers of God. Because they ‘always behold the face of My Father who is in heaven’ they are the ‘mighty ones who do His word, hearkening to the voice of His word’ (Ps 103:20)” (CCC 329). So too, we can also be an “alter angelus”, another “angel” for those around us, carrying out what is called “Guardian Angel services”. Mother Gabriele writes, 

God has sent you at the hand of your Angel to help. You bear the office of Guardian Angel on earth as your worldwide duty. And you help not just as one person helps another, but you help like the Angel and with him, by carrying within yourself your Lord and God. God radiates through you into the abysses of life, and in a mysterious way, you meet Him here and there as the Cross-bearer, as One who stands in our midst and whom we do not notice. (Pentecost letter, 1964)

We become “Guardian Angels” for others concretely through the spiritual and corporal acts of mercy, bearing witness by our lives and actions to the love of God for men, for those suffering and abandoned. Our Guardian Angel can open our eyes to see the needs around us. We live the love of Christ especially in expiatory sacrifices in our everyday life, helping souls to return to God. We live love by an act of kindness, for example, by helping an elderly person or visiting a lonely person. By living generous love, we bear witness to the world of the giving love of the Father who gave us the most He could give, His only Son, born into the poverty of Bethlehem as a little Child for our sake. 

Like the Angel, you, too, must walk through your time on earth like a light. And like his light, yours must also point very precisely and sharply to God, for you stand in His service. What you have, is from Him. What you do, you do for Him. He fills your hands, so that you can give – and you will bring to Him, what you have received. Is it not a glorious calling, to be a Guardian Angel? (ibid.)

Walking with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem

Advent is the particular Liturgical Season for learning to slow down, to focus on the essentials, to allow time for God. We want to join Mary and Joseph in their redemptive journey to Bethlehem. They walk in silence and hiddenness – one hears only the rhythmical plodding of the donkey. But the Angels go with them. Joseph is alert, listening for every warning indication from the Angel, warding off every possible danger, avoiding every false path, also in the spiritual sense. Mary looks inwardly, forgetful of self and of all hardship; she lovingly embraces the Child within, in wonder, praise and gratitude. The Angels inspire her with ever more courage and trust. Let us walk with them on this way of Redemption, let us also offer up every hardship for the salvation of souls; let us avoid every false path of irascibility, self-will or self-seeking; let us ward off every danger of temptation. With the help of the Holy Angels then, we too will become for those around us a light pointing to Bethlehem, to the condescending, merciful Love of God lying in the manger.

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