Back

Vol.VIII, August 2002

 

"Joyful Concert...Unanimous Acclaim of the Sons of God" (Job 38:7)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

Our reflection on "Angel texts" in Holy Scripture brings us to a small but significant observation in the book of Job, which offers a beautiful insight into what the holy Angels are, namely a praise of God for the whole of their existence. The long discussion of the three friends with Job ends with two discourses by Yahweh. He refers to "the joyful concert of the morning stars and unanimous acclaim of the sons of God", or "When the morning stars praised Me together, and all the sons of God made a joyful melody", that is, the Angels "shouted for joy" (38:7). The Catechism of the Catholic Church vouches for the fact that this passage of Scripture refers to the Angels as "sons of God" (332). The context acts like a great invitation to ascend up to the happy life in the presence of God in the heights, as it were on a mountain peak beneath the free sky.

1. All the discussions with Job revolved around the question, whether it be possible for a just man to suffer without personal guilt. Job’s friends all claimed that if one suffers, it is a sign that he is guilty. Job clung to his innocence, and then could not understand the justice of God allowing an innocent man to suffer. "Yahweh gave Job His answer", He showed him the limits of his intellect: "I am going to ask the questions, and you are to inform Me! Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell Me, since you are so well-informed! Who decided its dimensions, do you know? What supports its pillars at their bases? Who laid its cornerstone to the joyful concert of the morning stars and unanimous acclaim of the sons of God?...Have you ever in your life given orders to the morning...? Have you been right down to the sources of the sea...?" (38:1.3-7.12.16).

a) God leads man out of his small horizon into the depths of the universe and far back to the splendorous drama of creation. When God made heaven and earth, the Angels or "morning stars" and "sons of God", He cannot yet even call them "Angels", that is, "messengers", as there was no man yet to receive the message. Then He describes the making of the world, the deep blue sea and the clouds above in the sky, adding the animals one after the other, the lions and goats and the donkeys...and finally asking, "Is Yahweh’s opponent going to give way? Has God’s critic thought up an answer?" (40:2).

b) Job listened, followed God’s reasoning, and "replied to Yahweh: My words have been frivolous: what can I reply? I had better lay my hand over my mouth. I have spoken once, I shall not speak again; I have spoken twice, I have nothing more to say" (40:3-5). The words of God did not fall into an obstinate heart. Job understood that God showed him much more than man could ever see and comprehend. He led him far back to the origin of this world, at creation. Everything could be or not be, and whatever is, is only because of the generous goodness and powerful greatness of God alone, and for "no other reason...than His love and goodness" (CCC 293). God was indebted to no one when He made the vast variety of creatures. This vision not only showed Job part of the real majesty of God, but led him to his humble and sincere recognition of his mistake in bringing up any question at all before God. What a difference to the "joyful concert of the morning stars and unanimous acclaim of the sons of God" far back at the origin of all creation, long before the existence of man!

2. God refers to the Angels as somehow the first and most brilliant among the creatures, the "morning stars", purely intellectual creatures who are able to reflect and respond to what they know.

a) In fact, the Church teaches that the Angels are among the first created beings: "The profession of faith of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) affirms that God ‘from the beginning of time made at once (simul) out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal, that is, the Angelic and the earthly, and then (deinde) the human creature, who as it were shares in both orders, being composed of spirit and body" (Lateran IV; cf. Vatican I; CCC 327). The Angels are those creatures who are nearest and most similar to God, they "have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness" (CCC 330). And, in view of God, they are pure mirrors of His perfections. When they were created, where should they turn to and what should they understand if not God Himself and what He had expressed of Himself in their essence. Among the Angels there is no doubt: Everything knowable is a thought and idea of God, according to which He formed the creatures. All that they see in the creatures and all that they admire in them are, in the final end, qualities and perfections of Him, of His love and beauty, of His mercy and fidelity, of His goodness and sanctity: "In all His works God displays not only His kindness, goodness, grace, and steadfast love, but also His trustworthiness, constancy, faithfulness, and truth" (CCC 214).

b) Here is the secret of the bliss of the faithful Angels: They stand always before God. They contemplate Him and all His perfections in the fullness of their capacity. How could anyone faced with the infinitely brilliant divine light and through such a vision of God’s glory reflected in all creation not be very blessed and happy? Each perfection of God is infinitely praiseworthy and adorable. This happiness overwhelms each single Angel completely. Thus, we see in this divinely given description of the Angels their proper meaning or the final cause of their being! For what were they made if not to praise their Lord and God? This dynamic finality gives meaning and intelligibility to their essence, and will never cease. "There were ten thousand times ten thousand of [Angels] and thousands upon thousands, loudly chanting: ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was sacrificed to receive power, riches, wisdom, strength, honor, glory and blessing’" (Rev 5:12).

3. God instructs Job about the Angels: They were created long before man, and standing just and always before God, they are very blessed and happy; they shout with joy.

a) Therefore, we must say of the Angels themselves, of their interest and even of their mission as far as it depends on themselves, that their desire is to defend, to love, to adore, and to make men understand, accept and love more and more the majesty and holiness of God; His greatness and omnipotence; His wisdom and His goodness; His veracity and faithfulness; His love and His justice; His inscrutability and His mercy. The Angels would have us understand that "the ultimate purpose of creation is that God ‘who is the creator of all things may at last become "all in all," thus simultaneously assuring His own glory and our beatitude’" (CCC 294). Consequently, a life in communion with the Angels must needs be a life lived in the presence of God, whereby all things are seen with respect to Him and referred back to Him at every moment. Therefore, it must be a life full of praise and joy, a life which enjoys God in all His perfections.

b) What should we think then of Job and of ourselves and of so many others who, at least seem to be in bad shape, feel sadness and are hardly to be consoled? From the book of Job we know that the just may suffer in ways that are, at times, inscrutable. Christ, the innocent just man, whom Job in a certain way prefigured, suffered and was sorrowful unto death. The transcendence of heaven and the wonderful workings of Divine mercy and providence should help us to rise above our momentary sufferings by uniting them to Christ, thus giving them a salutary efficacy for ourselves and for others. After all, Jesus, "for the joy set before Him, endured a cross, despising shame, and [now] sits at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb 12:2).

On the other hand, Job’s friends are often right, and sufferings may derive from our sins and imperfections. Here again, we need not be discouraged, for God is zealous for our healing and perfection: "He deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not correct?" (Heb 12:7-8). We stand in need of purification, to clean our soul in order to progress towards union. Joining the Angels helps us to come nearer to this goal. The grace of Christ obliges us even to go back to our original state of soul.

Let us note three prominent steps of purification: First comes holy detachment from the material world, from inordinate bonds that followed upon Original Sin: "We use everything that is not God only insofar as it brings us closer to Him, and to detach ourselves from it insofar as it turns us away from Him" (CCC 226). Then, our free heart cries out, "I want to see God" (cf. CCC 2534-2557!). However, we still need to renounce our reason and will to achieve this; such was God’s intention in trying Job. This rather negative form of abandonment shall be followed finally, as a third step, by total surrender positively motivated by love.

The holy Angels present such a soul to God; in this the soul will be touched and formed by the attributes of God in such a way–similar to and with the Angels–that the soul will forget (or rise above) all lamentations, become transformed and be consumed by admiration and by the adoring song of never ending praise. The constant "respiration" of the Angels, their total surrender and acclamations of praise, will also help us towards a joyful song before this world and an uplifting testimony of God.

4. Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

We are called to be servants of God, messengers of the divine perfection and holiness, and thus, of joy to the children of God.

Certainly, the world, with all its inhabitants, is under way. We priests, particularly those living in spiritual union with the Angels, if anyone, should be bearers of light and hope, of confidence and trust, to our fellow pilgrims along the way "home’. We owe it to God and the holy Angels to show mankind by our love and joy the real explanation behind all that happens, namely, God’s loving desire to share His beatitude with us and all creation.

"I rejoiced that...[all the Angels]...said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of Yahweh’" (Ps 122),
and join the Angels and the saints as they sing
their unending hymn of praise:
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of Your glory
.

Fr. Titus Kieninger ORC