Back

Vol. II, Sept.1996

 

A Chapter of Angelology (Gen 28,12)

Dear Brothers in the priesthood!

Pursuing our biblical meditations on the Angels we come to a well known episode involving the Holy Angels in Sacred Scripture, to the dream of Jacob, who saw a ladder and the Angels of God ascending and descending upon it. By pondering this most illuminating event we come to a fundamental principle in "Angelology".

1. The Angels are shown to Jacob as active between him and God. There is a twofold reason for this.

a) Jacob is under way to seek a woman of his own belief, i.e., for a marriage according to the will of God. This manifests him as a man with fear of God, who places fidelity in faith above the passion of love (cf. Gen 27,46). He is obedient towards God and his parents; to such individuals God desires to offer His guidance and His spirit (cf. 28,7; Acts 5,32) and can in fact do so, thanks to Jacob's simplicity and obedience, which bring the peace of soul (cf. 28,11). Jacob is a faithful man; he hangs onto his faith and remains obedient even though it demands sacrifice and renunciation and the acceptance of the dangers that were part of a long journey in those days.

We often encounter this motive in Revelation: The Holy Angels help towards the preparation of a marriage that is pleasing to God, as was the case with Isaac and is now here with Jacob (Gen 24 and 28) and will be again later on with Tobias (cf. Tob 4,12-13); they also help in marital life, as we saw with Abraham (cf. Gen 16 with 21 and 18,10) .

b) We can also consider this manifestation of the Angels from another point of view: Jacob was the younger of two brothers, but still chosen by God: The elder shall serve the younger (Gen 25,23), the Lord said. Election is certainly accompanied with special assistance from God ("the grace of state"), but also by the persecution of the envious: Esau said to himself: ... I will kill my brother Jacob (27,41).

In this view, God shows us the man, Jacob, who, though specially called, remains humble and understands himself as servant of God; a man, who understands the meaning of his life ultimately only in obedience to the will of God (as we see it later in Jesus) and to whom and, in consequence, can give the Holy Angels as co-workers at his side. Jacob is shown as a man, who is not blinded by self-confidence, but again, through humility and trust in God, retains his peace and serenity even in the midst of storms, and so is sensitive to the grace of God.

We can see Jacob as a representative of both groups of men; first, those in the marital life and, then, those with the special call like a prophet. As such he is a representative of the laity and of the priesthood. God calls both, and both are expected to answer Him. To both He manifests the presence of the Holy Angels as helpers and mediators.

2. a) For the suggested "Chapter of Angelology" we find three elements here : the vocation as a free gift of God, the humble readiness of man to respond in obedient collaboration, and finally, the supporting and mediating intervention of the Holy Angels. The trinitarian view of the Christian reality (cf. John Paul II., Pastores dabo vobis, 35-37 and Vita consecrata, 1,16-22,36,66,111) invites us to relate the grace of the call to the Father (e.g. Jer 1,5), the requisite attitude of humility and of obedience out of the depths to the Son Who became man (Mt 16,24f.; 18,3f.), and the strength and grace of correspondence and fidelity to the Holy Spirit (Lk 22,43; Heb 9,14).

b) For the man of election there exist the dangers on two extremes: Either he becomes proud and self-confident and, consequently, not only grows blind for the helping Angels but also for the very grace of his call as such and so falls away, or he does not trust in the special help and does not believe in the Angels and so, consequently, cannot carry the burden and turns away from the grace of his vocation.

In both cases man finds the protection in a certain burdensome measure of need, of the cross, which preserves him, on the one hand, from "feeling himself to be like God" or, on the other hand, to feel totally alone. Misery teaches us to prayer; man is forced to surpass himself and search for help. This experience frees him from self and disposes him to the "fiat" which Our Lord offered to the Father and with which Our Lady replied to God through the Angel, the "fiat" which she taught us (Jn 2,5) and which places us alongaside the servant Angels (Jer 2,20; Rev 19,10). In other words: The Cross of the Son disposes us for the answer to the Father; but we receive the strength from the Holy Spirit, Who is acting "through the Angel", His servant (CCC. 695).

c) To respond to the call of God we have to insert ourselves into the "economy" of the Blessed Trinity, we have to answer with the Son (our way) to the Father (our goal). But to do so we are enabled only by the assisting power of the Holy Spirit. He is the union of the Father and the Son, the union of the call from on high and of the humble obedience out of the depths.

3. Just as there is not much need to go looking for this necessary cross in our lives, so it follows that it is not necessary to go looking to find the assisting and helping Angels in our life! Should not the heavens with the ascending and descending Angels be open to the interior eyes of our faith? Could it be that we lack the fitting attitude of Jacob, that we also fall short of the right measure of humility and trust?

However, two facts have been brought home to us: The Holy Angels mediate ascending from man to God and descending from God to man, they link the creature with the Creator, the calling God with the called man as the Holy Spirit is the Link between the Father speaking and the Son spoken. And man before God and His Angels is filled with awe like Jacob, who was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. ... The Lord shall be my GOD" (v. 17.21); the man in the presence of the Angels is marked by the fear of the Lord and by the longing for the presence of GOD by the impulse to strive for an ever closer life with God, by an ever more radical surrender to Him, and by the longing for an ever deeper union of love, for the sharing of one's entire life with Him.

4. We see in Jacob man in his earthly life and the call of God to which he has to respond. We understand that our human life has to be built with God. It will be easier if we pay attention to the presence of the Holy Angels with the eyes of our heart, cleaned by humility and obedience. The Angels are placed by God on this ladder between heaven and earth because they already made an answer to God’s Holy Will with their life in a constant liturgy and service to God in total dependence upon Him. They live with the purity of their spiritual nature the necessary virtues in all they think and do.

Let us try this coming month to understand our life as a creature marked with the special call of a priest, having Jacob always before our meditating mind:

We are on earth to form our soul into a sanctuary of God through the fundamental virtues of humility and obedience and we should celebrate our lives as a liturgy before Him!

How strong in me already is the fruit of humility and obedience and the peace of soul? How sincere is my obedience to the Bishop? How sincerely do I intercede for the needs of the people and how promptly do I attend to them? Do I have the humility to submit myself freely to a spiritual friend as my guide, exposing even my most personal desires to him and submitting myself in all to his judgment? Am I to be numbered among the envious of the clergy or do I rejoice at the success of my confrères? Do I teach youth about the angel's help in view of marriage pleasing to God as well as in view of an eventual vocation.

Let us try this month, which according to an old tradition is the month of the Guardian Angels, to practice in one way the priestly friendship like that which the Angels cultivated with Jacob, and also make reparation for any form of conflict such as existed between Esau and Jacob. These graces we especially wish to all those attending our annual retreat at Rockford, Illinois from 23rd to 27th of this month!

God bless you all,
Fr. Titus Kieninger