Back

Vol. X, July 2004

 

“…Who made heaven and earth” (Ps 115:15, 121:2)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, from whence does my help come?” asks the Psalmist in Psalm 121:1. It is like so many people today who cry to heaven for help, and often look to us priests that we at least pray for them. The answer to the Psalmist’s petition is explicitly GOD—“My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth” (v. 2)—and implicitly from the holy angels.   Both the “heavens” and the “hills” are images which refer to the angels; the one points to their “residence” with God; the other, their existence and their permanence. Hence, “old as the hills,” they are full of strength, but are also faithful and submissive to God. They are totally committed to His will. This indirect reference to the angels is common enough in Scripture. Occasionally, they themselves even reject to be known more personally (cf. e.g. Judg 13:18). Verse two is especially interesting for us, as it is the second verse of the episcopal blessing: “Our help is in the name of the Lord—Who made heaven and earth”! (Ceremonial of Bishops, 1989, 1121). Therefore let us look further at the context of this reference.

1. The Awareness of the Holy Angels in our Ministry

a)“From whence does my help come?

It is characteristic of our times that with our physical needs, the human and spiritual needs grow at the same rate. After all, material goods can only satisfy material needs. The spiritual needs leave a greater or lesser gap in peoples’ lives: behold the spiritual sufferings of individuals and families. How many lift up their eyes “to the hills” and ask, “From whence does my help come?” Psychology can not console them; philosophy alone does not have the answer.

It really reminds us often of the statement in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and His kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries—of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature—to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence” (395). Only the Living God is the answer to these thirsting souls.

b) “Please pray for me!”

God is “a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29). When the people of Israel walked with Moses through the desert, they perceived God’s presence in “the thunderings and the lightenings and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking”. They “were afraid and trembled…and said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will hear; but let not God speak to us, lest we die’” (Ex 20:18-19). Be it for fear of the majesty of God, be it out of recognition of their own unworthiness, or be it out of a real esteem for priests and consecrated souls on account of their nearness to God, people come with their intentions to us: “Father, I am in great need! ‘From whence does my help come?’ Please pray for me!”

In such moments we should look not so much at our weaknesses and limitations as to our divine mission and consecration. Our renunciation of the world and our consecration to God out of love justifies their special trust in us. It would be false humility to reject their petitions. Recall Jesus’ reaction when “the children were brought to Him...and the disciples rebuked the people.” He said: “Let the children come to Me, and do not hinder them” (Mt 19:13ff.). In true humility let us look at these poor people and at God. In true humility we ought to consider such petitions in the light of our priestly dignity which the Lord Himself conferred on us. May it also serve to remind us of the love which we promised and should renew daily. We were called to be a mediator between the people and Him!

c) What is the answer we should give?

The Psalmist says in his reflection: “My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth” (v. 2). Does this answer surprise us? Are these our sentiments when people look to us for help? Is our faith so alive, that we present their needs immediately to God as the One Who has all things in His hands and even the angels at His disposition! He is the Creator, and consequently, the owner of the whole world, spiritual and material. Is ours such a living union with God, that we quickly refer to Him and in this way console souls? Through the Psalmist we know we should “not send them away empty”; rather, we should care for them and help them.

In a double sense we, too, gain by this mediation: We are impelled to live in a more conscious union with the Lord and the holy angels. At the same time, we realize that we should be at the disposition of the people. This is the priestly way to sanctity according the Vatican II: “Priests will acquire holiness in their own distinctive way by exercising their functions sincerely and tirelessly in the Spirit of Christ” (PO, 13).

2. God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth

a) He is the Creator of angels and men.

The “Creator of heaven and earth” sounds almost like a biblical title of God. Shortly before in Ps 115:15 we find the expression, and one of the next Psalms ends with the similar affirmation: “Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth” (Ps 124:8; cf. 2 Mac 7:28). In the New Testament, St. Paul presents God in the same way: Christ “is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth”. He becomes more explicit, similar to the Church in the formulation of her faith: “all things…in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things” (Col 1:15-16; cf. Acts 17:23-24). This phrase was soon accepted into the formula of the faith. First, the Apostles’ Creed refers to “God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.” The Nicene Creed of 325 speaks of “God, the Father almighty, Creator of all things both visible and invisible.” Finally, the Nicene-ConstantinopolitanCreed (381) unites the two versions in one, thus confessing down through the centuries , in the East and West: “We believe in one God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.”

Pope Paul VI explains this in his famous Credo of the People of GOD (1968, # 8) and says: “We believe in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Creator of the things visible —such as is this world in which we pass our brief life; and things invisible —such as are the pure spirits which we also call angels; and likewise the Creator, in each man, of a spiritual and immortal soul.” John Paul II also made clear in his reflections on “God the Creator of heaven and earth” that by “heaven” is meant “the creation of the purely spiritual beings which Sacred Scripture calls ‘angels’” (July 9, 1986; cf. Jan. 15 and April 30, 1986).

b) Man’s help comes from God the Creator.

The Psalmist is clear on this point. Is it clear also to us? How quickly do we direct those who ask for our prayers to the holy angels? Are we already so familiar with the holy angels , that we spontaneously recommend that the faithful have recourse to them and trust that they are a light for those in darkness? St. Peter said to the lame man: “I give you what I have” (Acts 3:6). Do we ourselves have frequent recourse to the holy angels? Has our faith matured and become a firm conviction and even familiar security, so that we ourselves turn spontaneously to them in our own needs? Are such confessions of our faith in the holy angels filled with trust and confidence? The Psalmist wants to build up such trust: Whatever might happen to me, He is great enough to help me! He has all the angels at His disposition. T hough they are only subtly mentioned, they are His and powerful! Whatever God wishes they do immediately. And God sends them as often as we ask in our prayers. Our prayer is the key to releasing God’s help through the angels.

 

3. He sends His angels everywhere.

a) The holy angels are sent everywhere.

The holy angles are not just creatures who passively contemplate the greatness and beauty of God. God sends them everywhere to keep through them all things in order. All His angels He “send[s] forth to serve…those who are to obtain salvation” (Heb 1:14). No one should be harmed, for “He will give His angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways” (Ps 91:11). And “He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Mt 24:31). Everyone will pass through their “hands”, for “they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers” (Mt 13:41). Not only man but also all the inferior creatures are subject to the administration and care of the holy angels.

b) “The heavens are the Lord’s heavens”.

The Psalmist expresses this point when he assures us no less than six times that the Lord “keeps” Israel: “The sun shall not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life” always and everywhere. “The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore” (v. 8). As we saw, this promise and confidence is justified. For it is actualized in the mission of the angels, whom God created and are His.  

4. Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

Has this Psalm already taken life in us? Do we have the “open ear” of God towards man? Do we speak out to God in behalf of men? Are we aware of the holy angels, of their constant presence and of the mandate they received to help us?

Do we already confess our faith in these heavenly helpers from the pulpit, in the confes­sional or in conversation?  

When we speak of God’s help, it is also fitting to speak about the angels’ existence and power. How could we be silent about them when “the whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of angels” (CCC, 334), or when the Church teaches that they “protect every human being” (CCC, 352) ?!

God placed the key to “heaven” in our hands. He expects us to call upon Him for help and to send His holy angels to all who cry to Him for help .

Fr. Titus Kieninger ORC