Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 91 from the readings for the Mass of the Guardian Angels – those magnificent beings who carry God’s Presence to us in every situation of our lives.
The Lord shall deliver you from the snare of the hunter and from the deadly pestilence. The wings of the Lord shall cover you, and you shall find refuge under them; the faithfulness of God shall be a shield and buckler.
Maybe the only angels we ever think about are chubby little cherubs on Christmas cards. The cultural tendency to represent angels in that way diminishes the real power of these mighty and loving beings to inspire and guide us. Today might be a day to rethink our relationship with our Guardian Angels – to talk with them and to listen to the good things they tell us even without words.
Poem: Touched by an Angel by Maya Angelou
We, unaccustomed to courage, exiles from delight, live coiled in shells of loneliness until love leaves its high holy temple and comes into our sight to liberate us into life. Love arrives and in its train come ecstasies old memories of pleasure ancient histories of pain. Yet if we are bold, love strikes away the chains of fear from our souls. We are weaned from our timidity In the flush of love's light we dare be brave And suddenly we see that love costs all we are and will ever be. Yet it is only love which sets us free
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this special feast, we pray with Psalm 34.
This psalm has the most delightful introduction:
Of David, when he feigned madness before the King, who drove him out and he went away.
The Psalm refers to a time when young David was fleeing from Saul who was jealous of David’s impending takeover as king. David seeks harbor with King Achish, but later realizes that was a mistake. Fearing the King, David pretends for be insane in order to be dismissed as harmless.
Serious as the situation is, picturing it makes me smile. Have you ever wanted to get away from someone who had hijacked you into a one-sided conversation? You might pretend you had an appointment, or medical necessity, or anything just to get away.
Peter, in our first reading, doesn’t need pretense to escape the wrathful imprisonment of King Herod. All he needs is the angel which God has sent him.
Thus, Psalm 34 is a most appropriate choice for the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. It is the first psalm in which an angel is mentioned and here, as in Acts, she is a rescuer.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear the LORD, and delivers them. Taste and see how good the LORD is; blessed the one who takes refuge in God.
I’ll be honest, I neglect my angels. I believe in them. I trust them. But basically I forget about them unless I’m scared out of my mind about something. In those situations, I call out loudly to them to make sure their “encampment” around me is still intact!
I think it would be a lot better to get to know our angels, and let them get to know us. Inviting them to accompany us in prayer might be a good way to start. And, of course, remember that prayer so many of our parents taught us. We never grow too “mature” to whisper it at night. Maybe even Peter said something like it in that dark prison long ago.
Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, Ever this night be at my side to light, to guard, to rule, to guide. Amen
St. Peter And The Angel - Denise Levertov
Delivered out of raw continual pain,
smell of darkness, groans of those others
to whom he was chained--
unchained, and led
past the sleepers,
door after door silently opening--
And along a long street's
majestic emptiness under the moon:
one hand on the angel's shoulder, one
feeling the air before him,
eyes open but fixed...
And not till he saw the angel had left him,
alone and free to resume
the ecstatic, dangerous, wearisome roads of
what he had still to do,
not till then did he recognize
this was no dream. More frightening
than arrest, than being chained to his warders:
he could hear his own footsteps suddenly.
Had the angel's feet
made any sound? He could not recall.
No one had missed him, no one was in pursuit.
He himself must be
the key, now, to the next door,
the next terrors of freedom and joy.
Music: Gloria in Excelcis Deo – J.S. Bach (I thought one of the angels’ greatest hits, first recorded over the hills of Bethlehem, might be appropriate today)
Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.
I have always had a special love for St. Michael, having grown up in a parish named for him. Like many people, I was fascinated by the concept of angels – dynamic, immortal beings who provided hidden protection to my young soul. Although popular culture minimizes angels into fat little Valentine cherubs, the idea of a strong, noble supernatural sibling has remained with me throughout life.
And although tradition has designated these angels with beautiful male names, angels are without gender. They could just as easily be imagined as mighty, glorious Sisters safeguarding us for God.
Praying with the angels can teach us more about their nature, and more about our own. Each of us, creatures of The Eternal One, reflect particular aspects of God’s nature. Just as children might resemble one of their parents, we humans and angels look like God.
We humans, with all natural Creation, reflect God’s mercy, love, inclusivity.
Angels mirror God’s power, transcendence and glory. They exist in the perfection of adoration and service to God. They invite us to that same perfection when our earthly journey ends.
What a blessing and help for us to live more consciously in the presence of these invisible beings who desire and foster our good! What a spiritual support to realize that the communion of angels and saints perpetually and lovingly surrounds us!
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this:
From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by the angels’ watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading that person to life. Here on earth the Christian life already shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and saints united in God.
Perhaps today, we might pray to know these holy companions a little better, and to gratefully allow them to bolster our spirits for the day’s journey.
Music: The Hymn of the Cherubim of the Byzantine Liturgy is one of the most beautiful hymns of all the Catholic Liturgies. The hymn was added to the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom by the Emperor Justinian. The lyrics are:
We, who mystically represent the Cherubim, And chant the thrice-holy hymn to the Life-giving Trinity, Let us set aside the cares of life That we may receive the King of all, Who comes invisibly escorted by the Divine Hosts.
Today, in Mercy, we begin reading Peter’s first epistle. Addressed to Christians dispersed through Asia Minor, the letter reminds them of the revelations of the prophets passed down to them and ultimately realized in in the Person of Christ. Peter instructs these early Christians to persevere in trials because they are now the bearers of this continuing divine revelation.
Today, we are the agents in that evolving revelation of the mystery of salvation. How we live as Christians opens the world’s insight into God’s Mercy and Love. Our testing ground is not a Roman persecution. It is a prevailing culture of death and degradation of the human person. This culture mesmerizes and poisons us to the point that we fail to see the glorious mysteries revealing themselves in our lives.
Peter says that even the angels long to look into these glorious mysteries. And yet, through faith in Jesus Christ, we have been given that blessing. It deserves our continual, grateful and responsive attention.
Listen for the angels circling your life today, singing “Look, the glory of God is here!” – in a child’s smile, a beloved’s hand, a gentle sunset, a raging storm – a call to mercy, justice, forgiveness, or generosity.
Music: Emanuel ~ Tim Manion
Even though this is an Advent/Christmas hymn, it captures the gift of revelation in Christ announced to us by the songs of angels. A lovely hymn.