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Vol. VI, August 2000

 

The Angels' Way of Helping (cf. Tob 6:13-18)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

In the second angelic instruction about the general rules guiding the choice of a marriage partner St. Raphael touched a common theme (cf. Tob6:12). However, the young lad, Tobias, had not yet reflected on such matters. Hence, it surprised him that the angel had a particular girl in mind. He foretold to the boy that he would meet her very shortly, in a few hours, and that he should marry her. A dialogue developed between the two of them: the angel presented his plan, Tobias raised his objections, and Raphael dissolved them.

1. After describing the qualities of the girl, the Angel became very specific:

  1. He exposes his plan that goes far beyond the original contract according to which he was simply to accompany Tobias: "Now listen to my plan. This very evening I will speak to her father and arrange for her to be betrothed to you, and when we come back from Rhages we can celebrate the marriage. I assure you, Raguel has no right whatever to refuse you or to betroth her to anyone else. That would be asking for death, as prescribed in the Book of Moses ... So listen, my brother ...This very evening ..." (6:13).
  2. It surprises us to see the angel so decisive in such a delicate matter. However, the angel did not just demand, but also offered his help. That is certainly the first relieving observation of the young boy, so far away from his parents. And it helped him to not close himself off, but to courageously expose his objections. Due to the incredible experiences of others before him, who were killed by a demon, he is afraid: "The demon does no harm to her, of course, because he loves her; but as soon as a man tries to approach her, he kills him" (v. 15).
  3. The angel is well aware of all this and does not deny any of it, but at the same time, is not impressed by it. He answers now with greater firmness than before: "This very evening, I promise, she will be given to you as your wife". Then he proceeds to apply the lesson he taught in the "first instruction" about the possibility or "the case of a man or woman plagued by a demon or evil spirit" (v. 8). Once again he says: "Listen then, brother! Do not worry about the demon ... once you are in the bridal room, take the heart and liver of the fish and lay a little of it on the burning incense. The reek will rise, the demon will smell it and flee, and there is no danger that he will ever be found near the girl again. Then before you sleep together, first stand up, both of you, and pray ..." (16-18).

 

What a help to have such a companion who is firm and secure, and who is impressed not even by the devil.

2. Different reasons might explain this attitude or view of the angel: his personal union with God, his strict fidelity to the objective divine law and his possibility to approach man interiorly.

a) The angel defends strictly the law given by Moses. He does not hesitate to recall the punishment for those who do not observe it. This recalls the strict observance of the law by father Tobit, who was not afraid to suffer for his loyalty to the law (cf. 2:7-8). The objectivity of the norm or common law, and more so the authority of God behind his law causes the clear attitude of the angel and is somehow reflected in his direct procedure and in his subjective security to reach his goal (inasmuch as intended first of all by the will of God).

How promising would be a more conscious, constant, trustful and familiar relationship of the faithful with the holy angels, especially in present time where there is so much emotional instability. The guidance and even education of the angel towards the permanent values of God and his laws would bring a harmonious equilibrium to their hearts and lives.

b) Then it is his pure spiritual nature which explains his confidence to win her father for the plan. "I will speak to her father!" What a difficult task it is to ask the parents to give their children freely in marriage, to let them go their way for the rest of their lives. Who does not know about the emotions awakened at such a thought, which so often blind the reason and chain the will. When the angel touches this theme, he approaches it in his way, different from the ways of most men. He is able to touch the "heart" of man, instilling thoughts, awakening remembrances, causing pleasure about certain ideas or fear before some eventualities. "The angel can suggest through imagination and memory they can coax, entice, threaten or frighten through these avenues of our sense nature" (Farrell and Healy, My Way of Life. The Summa simplified,73; cf. S.T., I,111). This is the way the angel can help man follow the way of God. The angel helps Tobias, the son, to overcome his fear through the trust in the power of God who is with those who live according to his holy will, which the angel has explained to Tobias concretely. The angel helps Sarah's father through the great happiness at seeing the son of one of his brothers and through discerning in him the only rightful husband for his daughter according to the law of Moses (cf.7:11). To hear from him almost the same words the angel had previously told Tobias shows that the father had "understood" and assimilated the inspiration of the angel.

c) Tobias left Raphael to play his role, even if had cost him a certain self-discipline; when they had arrived and sat down to table, he said to Raphael, "Brother Azarias, will you ask Raguel to give me my sister Sarah?" (7:9). Such a communication via the angel is much more possible where the two are destined for each other. The following true story illustrates this point. It regards the brief romance of a couple who have been happily married now for more than 30 years. Each had been praying for the right partner. After the very first dinner they had together, she prayed that he might invite her out the next evening too, and that he might ask her for marriage. Sure enough, when they said goodbye at the door of her home, he did invite her for dinner again the next evening. He, too, had prayed in the meantime: "If it is her that I am to marry according to the will of God, then let her accept this second invitation, and I will ask for her hand in marriage tomorrow. Such clock-work synchronization of timing, sign and intention are, on the one hand, remarkable... on the other hand, when seen against the background of years of prayer, one understands what is at play. Such a surprisingly reciprocal understanding! a natural work for the angel could make life so much easier and prevent so many painful deceptions.

3. The angel's reaction to Tobias' objection might surprise us. Life and death are not just simple alternative options that can be reconsidered, for death does not leave another choice. Sarah's father and mother trusted once more in surrender to the will of God made manifest through the Law, and still, they were reckoning with the same result as the seven times before. The angel, however, is like a pillar of iron amongst the vacillating emotions and doubts of man. It is not that the angel does not see the enemy of God. The angel did not ignore the fear of Tobias, nor deny his conclusion that it was the devil who had killed the men. And yet, he does not fear the devil, he confronts him, and in the very surprising way of the folly of the cross: first, with trust in the obedience to the law of God, and secondly, with the application of the little rules established by the Lord, Creator and Savior. The angel is a realist as he takes this world seriously; but he is also an optimist as he knows himself to be always with God and trusts in him.

a) The other husbands could be killed because, as Raphael explained: "They who in such manner receive in matrimony, as to shut out God from themselves and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust, as the horse and mule, which have no understanding: over them the devil has power" (6,17 acc. Vulg. Clem.). He who does not act in union with the will of God is like a deer in the open field, easily exposed to the hunter. Obedience, on the contrary, is like the refuge under the wings of the omnipotence of God. That is why Scripture so often repeats: "Obedience is better than sacrifice!" (1 Sam 15:22; Ho 6:6; Mt 9:13;12:7; cf. Heb 10:5-9). Humility, submission, and the surrender not of this or that particular, but freely of our entire is the way to salvation, and the way to escape the clutches of the devil. It is also the way of simplicity, of another logic than that of the world which strives for the establishment of the ego. The humble way is, therefore, a path from which the devils flee, but which we praise together with St. Paul who wrote to the Corinthians: "It is when I am weak that I am strong" (2 Cor12:10).

b) In the light of this same logic can be seen how the angel will win over the devil. First, the devil will be humbled by the interrelationship among all creatures, which we observed in the May-Circular. Then he is humbled by the fact, that God chooses the most simple part of his creation to drive him off. This is the power of the sacramentals: by the blessing of God through the Church, God places his hand upon them and uses them as an instrument in his hand. That is why St. Raphael, and the Church today, have not to fear the devil, for with God's power they can expel him and send him away where he belongs. And how fitting it is, that the evil spirits who refused to be subject to the WORD made Flesh (cf. CCC 392) are now subjected to material sacramentals blessed in the power of his name, before which every knee in heaven, on earth and beneath the earth must bend (cf. Phil 2:10).

4. Dear Brothers in the Priesthood! How we ought to admire St. Raphael! Not seldom we find ourselves in similar situations. And so we should live in union with God after the model of his shining example. We should believe and trust in the power of the keys of the Church and in the authority we received with the sacrament of Holy Orders. Therefore, let us deepen our union with God and the holy angels through a renewal of our prayer-life. Let us also encourage people, young and old, parents and teenagers to pray to St. Raphael, to their own guardian angel and to the guardian angel of the person, God may have chosen for them, should they be called to marriage. I encourage you to a more liberal use and administration of the sacramentals, by accepting their consecrations to Our Lady, by offering them blessed medals and images of saints, and "other preventive measures against the devil", as explained recently Fr. Basil Nortz in his booklet "Deliver Us from Evil" (Detroit 2000, pp. 23-33). Our mission is to make ourselves available in every reasonable way, so that no one should be without help, but find the channels of graces always open and available to them in their needs.

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC