I used to believe in Angels. I learned about them before I went to Kindergarten, when I was four. I used to speak to them – well, one of them anyhow. He (she ?) never told me his (her ?) name. Matter of fact, s/he never told me anything. The Holy Cards that I had made Angels look like girls – which was odd, for another reason : Mum had told me that Angels are “pure spirits”, so I never saw one … in the flesh (s/he had none). He – let’s presume he had a spiritual weenie – he was my Guardian Angel to whom I spoke every day in my morning prayers : “Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here; ever this day be at my side to something something and to guide”. He was supposed to remind me to look both ways before crossing the street, and if necessary to stop that ten-ton truck in its tracks. He must have been talking to God when some years later the brake on my handlebars fell into the front-wheel and I ended up in hospital. Somehow, as time went by, Sam, I just stopped talking to him and he went right off my radar. He never heard from me again. I now know he never had.
Why do people believe in Angels ? Because someone told them they exist. We were kids; we took their word for it – especially if it was your Mum’s. It didn’t bother us at all that they were invisible. They weren’t scary, like ghosts. They were kind and good and ready (most of the time) to help. Some adults still believe in Angels. Why ? Because they are part of the package. The Bible is full of them. On March 25 Catholics celebrate (or used to … ) the Feast of the Annunciation. Who did the announcing to Mary ? Gabriel, of course.
Later we may have learned that there are all sorts of Angels. Apart from those we call the Fallen Angels – devils, like Lucifer (they all ride Harleys) – there are the Good Guys like Michael, Raphael and the rest. Some are messengers, like Gabe, others exterminators like the bastards that killed the first-born baby-boys of the Egyptians in the time of Moses, and that monstrous mass-murderer who all alone, in just one night, slaughtered 185,000 enemies of the Hebrews in the camp of Assour (check out the Second Book of Kings, chapter 19, verse 36).
In the sixth century A.D., a theologian with nothing better to do, Denis the Areopagite, drew up a list of the ranks in this celestial army – a hierarchy, in ascending order, of Angels, Archangels, Principalities, Virtues, Powers, Dominations, Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim. A personal note : In Australia we called the Franciscan juniorate, a high-school seminary for future priests, the “Seraphic College”. None of us was exactly even a low-level Angel, let alone a Seraph. Later, during our four years of Theology, we learned about Denis and his lovely list, but never asked how he discovered all this. We just presumed he must have scoured the Bible more than we did (theologians have a lot of time on their hands), and so we took his word for it. (In fact, his categories have little biblical foundation; they are products of his own imagination.)
Sharp readers have tumbled to what I’m driving at. “We took his word for it”. That’s what faith is all about.
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God … All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything that was made.” These opening words of John’s Gospel, supposedly written by the favorite Apostle of Jesus, lyrically spell out that the Logos, the Word, incarnated in Christ, created the world and everything in it, including us. Why do people believe it ? Because they take the author’s word for it. Believers – presuming the authenticity of “John’s” identity as a witness of a supposedly resurrected Christ – believe because he said it was true. We really have no more reason to believe John the Evangelist than Denis the Areopagite.
Even Catholics today recognize that there is no evidence for the very existence of Angels, let alone a hierarchy of them. There is no evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection or any other of His “miracles”, apart from repeated hearsay and wishful thinking.
“When I was a child, I thought like a child”, St Paul wrote. “Now that I am an adult, I have put away childish thinking”. He should have realized that he was shooting himself in the foot and undermining the edifice that the Church was to become. If you still believe in Angels, I guess there’s not much anyone can say or do to get you to question your belief in God. But if you no longer believe in the army of Angels, why believe in their Field-Marshal ?