Sunday, December 21, 2008


As Chesterton said: "Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly." Today's gospel is the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel takes a message to Mary telling her she has found favor with God. She is hailed as "full of grace." It is this salutation and the titles of Mary such as Ark of the Covenant that led to the doctrine of her "Immaculate Conception." But that takes me off my topic.

I want to concentrate on "Angels." Mortimer Adler insisted on "Angels" being one of the Great Ideas. Somewhere or other, and I'm not sure where, Adler discusses the issue of adding Angels to the Great Ideas. He balances the idea of Angels with the idea of Matter. Matter is Body without Mind and Angels are Mind without Body. We who inhabit the domain between Mind and Matter, an image of God molded on the matrix of molecules, speak of Muses, and we are assured in scripture that we each have a guardian angel. (Mt 18:10)

"The materialist assumption that spiritual substances do not exist is as much an act of faith as the religious belief in the reality of angels." — Mortimer Adler

Where Scripture speaks of the world's creation, it is not plainly said whether or when the angels were created; but if mention is made, it is implicit under the name of "heaven," when it is said, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." — St. Augustine

"Angels are spirits, but it is not because they are spirits that they are angels. They become angels when they are sent. For the name angel refers to their office, not their nature. You ask the name of this nature, it is spirit; you ask its office, it is that of an Angel, which is a messenger." — St. Augustine

The aura of light that surrounds them, especially the haloes that encircle their heads, suggests a quite different role. Their wings betoken their coming to mankind as messengers, but their haloes symbolize that they come from heaven which is their home. — Mortimer J. Adler, Angels and Us


Max Weismann said...

Yes, he wrote a book entitled, The angels and Us.

You can probably find it on the web.

Ray Schneider said...

I have it floating around the house somewhere. I am curious about where I read Adler's comment about getting "Angels" accepted as the first of the Great Ideas. Apparently some of the editors didn't think angels belonged.