Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Aquinas on the Angels

Thomas Aquinas was known as, among other things, the "Angelic Doctor.” He wrote extensively about the nature and mission of the angels in his masterpiece, The Summa Theologica, devoting a substantial part of his massive tome to them.

In keeping with the nature of this blog (i.e., easy to read and digest), I thought I'd post a "Top Ten List" of some of St. Thomas' points about the angels from the Summa.

These tidbits aren't arranged in any particular order, nor do they purport in any way to adequately represent the whole of St. Thomas's teachings on the angels. Nonetheless, I think there's enough here for us mere mortals to ponder and appreciate for quite some time And if the spirit should move you to further scholarship, you can read the good Doctor's entire discussion of celestial beings at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library

So, here we go:

1.  The angels were created in heaven. And it is fitting that creatures of the most perfect nature should be created in the most noble place.

2.  Angels were created in grace, and by using this grace in their first act of charity (which is the friendship and love of God) they merited the beatific vision and heavenly beatitude.

3.  God gives the angels their knowledge of things when he brings them into existence . . .Each receives what is fitting and necessary for its status and the service it is to render, and therefore some angels know more than others.

4.  Angels manifest knowledge to one another, and to this extent they "speak" to one another. But the speech of angels is not a matter of sounds or of uttered words. The speech of angels is a direct communication of knowledge from spirit to spirit.

5.  The faithful angels are a greater multitude than the fallen angels. For sin is contrary to the natural order.

6.  Angels, good or bad, can do wonderful things, but only such as lie within the power of angelic nature, and a miracle surpasses the powers of all created natures.

7.  Superior rules inferior; hence angels rule the bodily world. St. Gregory says that in this visible world nothing occurs without the agency of invisible creatures.

8.  God sends angels to minister to his purposes among bodily creatures . . . Angels sent in the external ministry are those whose names indicate some kind of administrative or executive office. These are, in descending rank, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, Angels.

9.  Each human being, without exception, has a guardian angel . . . In heaven a man will have an angel companion to reign with him, but not a guardian; no guardian is needed when the guarded journey has been successfully completed. In hell, each man will have a fallen angel to punish him.

10.  An angel can illume the thought and mind of man by strengthening the power of vision, and by bringing within his reach some truth which the angel himself contemplates.

(The above translation and wording is courtesy of A Tour of the Summa by Msgr. Paul J. Glenn, Tan Books and Publishers.)