Circular Letter: Advent 2015

The Angels & the Divine Mercy (Part 1)

The holy Church directs her prayers frequently to the “Almighty and ever-living God,” to God Who is infinitely perfect and holy. At other times the Church’s prayer begins, “Grant graciously, almighty and merciful God.” Thus the Church emphasizes our relationship (and that of all creation) with Him, as well as His infinite power and wisdom, His paternal care and patience. The ultimate root behind all His communication with the creatures is love which marks His very nature as One God in Three Persons.

God’s only reason to call the material and spiritual world into existence was love. We can see the proof in the fact, that whenever a need arises in creation, He always is there to give, and to give in a measure far beyond any norm of justice. Such love is then called mercy. Mercy, therefore, appears in every work of God towards creation (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, 21, 4).

Saint Faustina’s writings contain precious observations in regards to the relationship between the holy angels and Divine Mercy. She makes these observations in regard to the creation of the angels by God as well as with respect to the answer spiritual creatures gave and still give to the God of mercy, both in heaven and in their earthly ministries. In this and the following circulars we will reflect on what God tells us through this Saint, the “Secretary of My mercy”, as Jesus called her (Sister M. Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy In My Soul. Diary, hereafter = D, Marian Press, Stockbridge, MA, 3rd edition, n. 1605).

All Was Created by Divine Mercy

God the Father, Who is “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4), created in His Son “all things … in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him and in Him” (Col 1:16).

It is important to state that God has no need whatsoever of creatures. He is infinitely happy in Himself. “O God, Who are happiness in Your very self and have no need of creatures to make You happy, because of Yourself You are the fullness of love”(D. 1741). Considering that God Himself suffices, we must perceive that creation is an act of pure love. Still, contemplating the absolute gratuity with which God creates, and the union with Him as the goal for all rational or spiritual creatures, we must also recognize the act of creation as an act of the “unfathomable mercy”. Thus, all creation must be attributed not only to the Divine omnipotence, but also to God’s mercy.

If I call creatures into being – that is the abyss of My mercy (D. 85; cf. 699; 949).

Every mother and father agree that their child is a mystery. Its existence is beyond all comprehension. “I do not know how you came into being in my womb;  it was not I who gave you breath and life, nor was it I who arranged the elements you are made of.” (2 Macc 7:22) said the mother of the seven martyrs of the Maccabees.

Although we don’t see the holy angels, these pure spiritual creatures, they too reflect the marvelous and powerful mercy of God. Saint Faustina explicitly writes: “All the angels … and all humans have emerged from the very depths of Your tender mercy” (D. 651), “In Your unfathomable mercy, You have created angelic spirits and admitted them to Your love and to Your divine intimacy” (D. 1741).

No creature, not even the most perfect, has a right either to existence nor to be called to such a final and perpetual destiny which God offers them. Nor has anyone the right to determine how to reach that goal of union.

On one occasion St. Faustina reflected about the fall of the angels. She not only refers to mercy as cause of creation, but also characterizes the time of the angels before their fall – and before the creation of mankind (cf. CCC 327) – as “time of mercy”. “You did not give the fallen angels time to repent or prolong their time of mercy” (D. 1489).

The Divine Mercy — Incomprehensible for Men and Angels

In light of these and other facts which faith offers, it can and must be affirmed that Divine Mercy is incomprehensible for any creature, including the angels. This is what one finds in our Saint’s reflections: “O incomprehensible God, how great is Your mercy! It surpasses the combined understanding of all men and angels” (D. 651; cf. 69).

My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity (D. 699).

“Such is the omnipotence and the … miracle of Your mercy. All the tongues of men and of angels united could not find words adequate to this mystery of Your love and mercy” (D. 1489). Yes, “No mind, either of angel or of man, will ever fathom the mysteries of Your mercy, O God. The angels are lost in amazement before the mystery of divine mercy, but cannot comprehend it” (D. 1553; cf. 492, 819 and 873).

Sacred Scripture invites us to praise God’s mercy, to adore Him in His Wisdom and mysterious Goodness: “O give thanks to the Lord of lords: … To Him that by wisdom made the heavens … To Him that stretched out the earth above the waters: … To Him that made great lights: for His mercy [‘chesed’ in Hebrew] endureth for ever” (Ps 136:3ff., KJV). “How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory for ever. Amen.” (Rom 11:33.36); or as St. Faustina affirms: “Divine Mercy, unfathomed by any intellect, human or angelic, … astonishment for angels, incomprehensible to Saints, I trust in You” (D. 949). Yes, “O God, this unfathomable mercy enthralls anew all the holy souls and all the spirits of heaven. These pure spirits are immersed in holy amazement as they glorify this inconceivable mercy of God, which in turn arouses even greater admiration in them, and their praise is carried out in a perfect manner” (D. 835).

The “Participation” of the Angels in God’s Perfections

The angels find themselves in ecstasy over the perfections of God. It is impossible, namely, to speak about one aspect of God’s face and to ignore all His other attributes.

The Saint received from Jesus the necessary instruction about God. “On one occasion I was reflecting on the Holy Trinity, on the essence of God. I absolutely wanted to know and fathom who God is. … In an instant my spirit was caught up … I saw an inaccessible light, … from this sea of inaccessible light came our dearly beloved Savior, unutterably beautiful with His shining Wounds. And from this light came a voice which said, ‘Who God is in His Essence, no one will fathom, neither the mind of angels nor of man’. (And further on) Jesus said to me, ‘Get to know God by contemplating His attributes'” (D. 30).

Saint Faustina speaks about the “participation” of the angels in the perfections of God. “You have created angelic spirits and admitted them to Your love and to Your divine intimacy. You have made them capable of eternal love” (D. 1741). Heaven does not add anything to God, nor does its creation take anything away from Him. It is like a beautiful piece of music: It can be played often and anywhere, cause great joy in many people, and yet it remains the same and can be played again by others in different times and places.

Saint Faustina concludes her reflection in this way: “And if You have allowed them to participate in Your happiness and to exist and to love You, that is only due to the abyss of Your mercy. This is Your unfathomable goodness, for which they glorify You without end, humbling themselves at the feet of Your majesty as they chant their eternal hymn: Holy, Holy, Holy …” (ibid.).

All divine attributes are merely expressions of God’s Divinity, of His goodness and love. Consequently, all of them require creatures, men gifted with spiritual souls, to respond to God Himself. Yet, even an answer similar to that made by the holy angels is insufficient.

My daughter, even if you were to speak at one and the same time in all human and angelic tongues, even then you would not have said very much, but on the contrary, you would have sung in only a small measure the praises of My goodness – of My unfathomable mercy” (D. 1605).

The Liturgical Season of Advent, a Time of Special Graces

The liturgical season of Advent was, for Sister Faustina, a time of special graces for these reflections. In Advent, the Church looks in her liturgy at the One God, known in the Old Testament, and sings, “To you, I lift up my soul, O my God” (Entrance Antiphon on the First Sunday of Advent). This leads man into a greater revelation.

“During Advent, a great yearning for God arose in my soul. My spirit rushed toward God with all its might. During that time, the Lord gave me much light to know His attributes” (D. 180).

The Saint shares three of these insights. “The first attribute which the Lord gave me to know is His holiness. His holiness is so great that all the Powers and Virtues tremble before Him. The pure spirits veil their faces and lose themselves in unending adoration, and with one single word they express the highest form of adoration; that is – Holy … The second kind of knowledge which the Lord granted me concerns His justice. His justice is so great and penetrating that it reaches deep into the heart of things, and all things stand before Him in naked truth, and nothing can withstand Him. The third attribute is love and mercy. And I understood that the greatest attribute is love and mercy” (ibid.).

Saint Faustina gives insight into the reaction of the angels before God and His attributes. Before His Divine Holiness, the holy angels “tremble” (D. 566), but they also glorify the Lord through the song, proclaiming that He is the “Holy One” as already said by the prophet Isaiah (cf. Is 6:2-4) and the Apostle John (cf. Rev 4:8). “When during adoration, I repeated the prayer, ‘Holy God’ several times, a vivid presence of God suddenly swept over me, and I was caught up in spirit before the majesty of God. I saw how the angels and the Saints of the Lord give glory to God. The glory of God is so great that I dare not try to describe it, because I would not be able to do so …” (D. 1604).

Speaking about the Divine Justice, Saint Faustina wrote: “Then I saw the Mother of God, who said to me, Oh, how pleasing to God is the soul that follows faithfully the inspirations of His grace! I gave the Savior to the world; as for you, you have to speak to the world about His great mercy and prepare the world for the Second Coming of Him who will come, not as a merciful Savior, but as a just Judge. Oh, how terrible is that day! Determined is the day of justice, the day of divine wrath. The angels tremble before it” (D. 635).

About the Love of God, the Saint says: “O Love, O queen! Love knows no fear. It passes through all the choirs of angels that stand on guard before His throne. It will fear no one. It reaches God and is immersed in Him as in its sole treasure. The Cherubim who guards paradise with flaming sword, has no power over it. O pure love of God, how great and unequalled you are!” (D. 781).

According to Saint Faustina, the angels are awed by the immensity of God and confounded by the chasm created by the limitation their finitude imposes. They sing the eternal “Holy” because they don’t know how to worship more perfectly. “Be praised, merciful God, One God in the Holy Trinity, unfathomable, infinite, incomprehensible, immersing themselves in You, their [the angels’] minds cannot comprehend You, so they repeat without end their eternal: Holy. Be glorified, O merciful Creator of ours, O Lord, Omnipotent, but full of compassion, inconceivable. To love You is the mission of our existence, singing our eternal hymn: Holy.” (D. 1742; cf. 361).

God created all creatures for His greater glory. “As purely spiritual creatures, angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness” (CCC 330).

“With their whole beings” (CCC 329) and with Divine assistance, they adore the greatness of God, glorify His splendor and give witness to His infinite mercy. “I see the angelic choirs giving You honor without cease, and all the heavenly Powers praising You without cease, and without cease they are saying: Holy, Holy, Holy” (D. 80; cf. 85). “The heavens cannot contain Him. The Seraphim who stand closest to Him cover their faces and repeat unceasingly: Holy, Holy, Holy” (D. 1805).

When Saint Faustina remained unsatisfied with the love and praise she was able to offer God, besides the “long hours” (D. 195) in adoration, she turned to the holy angels and hoped to grow in her own fervor through union with them.

“Satan Hates Mercy”

The adoration of the Divine Majesty is an act of love and surrender. This act is also required from the angels and they especially accomplish it more perfectly than us precisely in the measure in which they are very much closer to God than men. An angel told St. John, and with him every one: Only God must be adored (cf. Rev 19:10) under any attribute: the Omnipotent God, the Holy God etc., but principally the Merciful God. Furthermore, it is not important if He is understood or not, because He is always adorable and merits to be adored.

However, not all beings willingly agree on this point. God brought light, but some angels fled into darkness. Saint Faustina refers to the rebellion of some angels against this submission to God. The world of the angels split: some submitted themselves to His Majesty and defended it, while others refused God’s plan of love and rebelled against Him.

The Saint speaks about the sin of Lucifer to illustrate the ugliness of any sin against God. “To receive God’s light and recognize what God wants of us and yet not do it is a great offense against the majesty of God. Such a soul deserves to be completely forsaken by God. It resembles Lucifer, who had great light, but did not do God’s will” (D. 666).

It is difficult to understand this attitude. One knows what God wants, but does not do it. An angel, even with his clear vision of God and of His love, does not want to fulfill His will. Saint Faustina is still more explicit in another paragraph where she says: “One of the most beautiful spirits would not recognize Your mercy, and, blinded by his pride, he drew others after him. Angel of great beauty, he became Satan and was cast down in one moment from heaven’s heights into hell” (D. 1742).

This corresponds to the faith and teaching of the Church which instructs us: The angels, spiritual creatures, “were indeed created naturally good by God,” but some of them “became evil by their own doing” (CCC 391); “indeed, they have sinned” (CCC 311). How did it come to this point?

By their “free choice”, the devil and the other demons ignored “God’s supremacy, which requires … an act of docile and obedient subjection. All this is summed up concisely in the words: ‘I will not serve’ (Jer 2:20), which manifests the radical and irreversible refusal to take part in the building up of the kingdom of God” (St. John Paul II, Catechesis on the Angels, July 23, 1986, 5; cf. CCC 392). They “have freely refused to serve God and his plan” (CCC 414) and now “act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus” (CCC 395; cf. St. John Paul II, Catechesis, August 13, 1986).

The parable of the householder who hired workers during different hours of the day may illustrate their attitude. Namely, “when evening came” and the owner started to pay all of them, “beginning with the last, up to the first … Each of them received a denarius,” the amount to which they had initially agreed to in the morning. “When the first received a denarius, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder.” But He told one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you.” He gave the first what they agreed to. So far he is just, but he was, in a sense, more generous and merciful to the others. He asked: “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?'” (Mt 20:1-16) Those of the first hour may refer to those who were created first, the angels. Many have accepted the judgment of God; but others had turned hard-hearted and rejected even what had already been given them. They judged God as unjust and turned away from Him and did not accept humbly His still more merciful love with which He treated the last created, that is, man.

Saint Faustina never doubted the existence of these fallen spirits. She wondered: “As I was meditating on the sin of the angels and their immediate punishment, I asked Jesus why the angels had been punished as soon as they had sinned. I heard a voice: ‘Because of their profound knowledge of God. No person on earth, even though a great saint, has such knowledge of God as an angel has’.” (D. 1332).

To “give the Fallen angels time to repent or prolong their time of mercy” (D. 1489) was not even possible. The Church explains with Saint John Damascene that God could not give them another chance because “There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death” (CCC 393); and this precisely, because Satan – and all the other demons like him – are not willing to repent. Indeed, the nature of their knowledge regarding any matter of choice is exhaustive, such that there is no room in their nature that allows a change in choice. By contradistinction, man’s choices are so often marked by ignorance and weakness, which is augmented by disordered passions. Hence, when man receives more light and his passions calm down, then he is better disposed to repent and make a better choices. Hence, naturally smaller and less perfect by nature, man has the better part with respect to God’s mercy. Accordingly, “Satan hates mercy more than anything else. It is his greatest torment” (D. 764). Yet, Saint Faustina heard and recorded this. “The devils glorify My Justice but do not believe in My Goodness” (D. 300).

On a certain occasion, Saint Faustina saw Saint Michael in the midst of many angels as an admirable person. Without looking to the right or to the left, he fixed himself only on the truth which he proclaimed: God is faithful, God does not deceive, God wants the good for all! Who is like God?

The majority of angels followed the example of Saint Michael (cf. Rev 12:4; St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, 63, 8), who asked: “Who is like GOD?” – This brought (and still brings) light into darkness and was (and still is) the solution to any problem! Who is so wise … so mighty… like God?!

Then the faithful spirits cried, ‘Glory to God’s mercy!’
And they stood firm in spite of the fiery test.
Glory to Jesus, the Christ abased,
Glory to His Mother, the humble and pure Virgin (D. 1742; cf. 667).

Herewith we come to the bridge, to the greatest act of mercy which God ever performed. It is the Incarnation of the Son of God through the humble and poor Virgin of Nazareth, Mary. With her Magnificat, she sang the greatest praise to the mercy of God in the history of salvation.

The Blessed Virgin, that Snow-White Lily,
Is first to praise the omnipotence of Your mercy.
Her pure heart opens with love for the coming of the Word;
She believes the words of God’s messenger and is confirmed in trust. …
O mystery of God’s mercy, O God of compassion,
That You have deigned to leave the heavenly throne
And to stoop down to our misery, to human weakness,
For it is not the angels, but man who needs mercy.…
To give worthy praise to the Lord’s mercy,
We unite ourselves with Your Immaculate Mother,
For then our hymn will be more pleasing to You,
Because She is chosen from among men and angels (D. 1746).

O God of great mercy, who turned Your Sacred gaze away from the rebellious angels and turned it upon contrite man, praise and glory be to Your unfathomable mercy, O God who do not despise the lowly heart (D. 1339).

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC

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