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Vol. X, September 2004

 

“Praise Him, all His angels.” (Ps 148:2)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

With Psalm 148 we want to conclude the meditations on the angels in the Book of Psalms. This Psalm does not refer to more than what we have already learned.   Namely, that all creatures should praise Our Lord and God! We may ask: Is this the final word of wisdom?

1. “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!”

a) All the Last Psalms

When we open the Bible, we find this exhortation to “praise the Lord” repeated in all the last Psalms: “Blessed be the Lord, my rock...” (Ps 144:1). “I will extol Thee, my God and King, and bless Thy name for ever and ever. Every day I will bless Thee, and praise Thy name for ever and ever” (Ps 145:1-2). “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!   I will praise the Lord as long as I live...” (Ps 146:1-2). “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for He is gracious, and a song of praise is seemly” (Ps 147:1). “Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, His praise in the assembly of the faithful!” (Ps 149:1). And Psalm 150 is simply—it seems—a repetitive invitation to praise the Lord:

 

Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty firmament!
Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His exceeding greatness!
Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp!...
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! (Ps 150)

 

b) “...and All in Heaven and on Earth”

While Psalm 150 refers to the means, our Psalm lists those who are to praise their Lord:

 

Praise the Lord!...Praise Him, all His angels, praise Him, all His host!
Praise Him, sun and moon...Mountains and all hills...Beasts and all cattle...
Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and maidens together, old men and children!
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted! (Ps 148)

 

c) The Praise of the Lord with What You Are

We learned through the Psalms why praise is the ultimate wisdom. First, let us note   the universality of the call: all creatures were created to praise the Lord and to glorify Him. The final end of all that exists lies in this praise and glorification of God. This praise of God is written in everything, for each one gives in its own way testimony to God’s wisdom and beauty, His goodness and love, His power and might, His sovereignty and presence. This explains also, why all things praise the Lord; namely, it is the highest expression of their love and esteem for God, the Supreme Good! Since all creatures have a natural love for the good, they are naturally drawn to the divine goodness. So even if the mouth is silent, the heart witnesses to this longing to see and taste and share in the glory of God.

Christians cling to this truth even when there is no apparent joy in their life. For even in sorrow, the creature still reflects its Maker. St. Paul refers to this saying: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). Only sin, or what is willed contrary to the will of God, blasphemes the Lord and turns man away from Him, so that “a hymn of praise is not fitting on the lips of a sinner, for it has not been sent from the Lord” (Sirach 15:8).   You see, mortal sin and blasphemy agree in this, that God is not the Supreme Good to be sought.

2. The Former Lessons on the Praise of God

God has sent the angels in a special way to each individual man, “to guard him in all his ways” (Ps 91). The angel pursues man’s enemies (Ps 35) and rescues those who fear the Lord (Ps 34); he encamps around them so that they can find refuge “in the shadow of their wings” (Ps 57).

The Book of Psalms contains, according St. Thomas Aquinas, all theology. In fact, we saw and reflected on the different Psalms about God, Whose glory is far above all the heavens (Ps 113), sitting on His holy throne formed by the angels (Ps 46). He created the angels (Ps. 33, 115, 121), “thousands upon thousands” (Ps 68), and made them His messengers (Ps 104). They bow down before Him in adoration (Ps 97) and so teach man to praise Him, too (Ps 89), to “give Yahweh His due” (Ps 29) and faithfully obey His Will (Ps 102). He has chosen the Cherubim especially (Ps 17, 99); through them He will come and call all to Himself (Ps 50).

The Psalms teach man that he lives always in the presence of the angels (Ps 138). Near them and through them man is introduced into the contemplation of the presence of God Himself. The goodness of God and the greatness of man — just a “little less than the angels” (Ps 8), — explain why   “the God of hosts is with us” (Ps 46). His presence invites man to seek his nourishment in holy contemplation, and more concretely, in the Holy Eucharist, “the Bread of the Angels” (Ps 78).

Could we come to any different solution than what our Psalm suggests? For all that marvelous service of the angels, man should give thanks to Yahweh and praise Him. “All peoples...old men and children! Let them praise the name of the Lord...” (Ps 148:11-13; cf. Ps 33).  

3. Man—His Own Choice to Be What He Is

In the books of Tobit and Job, we found this characteristic service of the angels. In their beatific vision of the glory of God they cannot but praise the Lord. Even though all the praise of creatures falls short of the Divine Majesty, still there is no other response; there is no wiser answer to the holiness, majesty and beauty of God, neither for angels nor for men.

a) Similar to the Angels  

There might be still many other reasons for the so frequent invitation to praise the Lord God with the holy angels. St. Thomas Aquinas explains that by knowing, we   take into ourselves what we see or learn. When we know something with our intellect, the object ends up within us. Of course, this takes place according to the mode of our intellect, namely spiritually. But if we want something, we turn with our will towards it as to a treasure. We desire to unite ourselves with it. For this purpose we go somehow out of ourselves, and join ourselves to the other, whatever it is. If it is higher than man, then man is enobled, he becomes more perfect. If it is lower than man—as is unfortunately so often the case—then man becomes less than he was before. He loses his dignity and becomes similar to the lower object desired by him. A drunken man, for example, loses his conscious reason and then behaves like an animal.

A silent contemplative looks up to heaven and desires the things above. In this, he becomes more than he is. He becomes similar to the angels: free and happy, full of admiration for God’s glory, always with the praise of the Lord in his heart! Convinced of the presence and power of God in His goodness, man becomes confident. He knows the Almighty is present, and therefore, fears less and less. Full of trust in God, he loves Him and gives Him thanks at every moment, and inspite of any misfortune which may befall him:

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, Who forgives all your iniquity, Who heals all your diseases.  (Ps 103:1)

We cannot live long together with the angels without approaching and becoming similar to them, in preferences and judgement, in interests and the language of praise.

b) Similar to God

What here is still a psychological observation and effect, did become in our time a deep reality, a mystery of faith. We are near the opening Congress of the Eucharistic Year. Through it, God wants to draw our attention: The One we are looking for in the highest, GOD the Almighty, became man and Eucharist, Bread for all of good will. He is found in the tabernacle of God on earth: “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them...And He who sat upon the throne said, ‘...Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ And He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment’” (Rev 21:3.5-6).

God became man and dwells among us in the most Holy Sacrament. It seems that St. Paul was thinking of this when he emphatically compared our advantages in the New Covenant over the Old: “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven...and to Jesus, the Mediator of a New Covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel” (Heb 12:22-24).

We rarely pay attention to the words he then adds: “See that you do not refuse Him Who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused Him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape if we reject Him Who warns from heaven. His voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven’” (Heb 12:25-26). He has enclosed His infinite richness for angels and men in the silent, simple Eucharistic Bread, perhaps visibly exposed for our contemplation and adoration, or perhaps enclosed in the tabernacle. He is the Son of God, to Whom we owe all our adoration and thanksgiving. He is certainly always accompanied by the celestial hosts. To Him must go all the praise and joyful songs of angels and men, heaven and earth. Men, who are called to form one society with the angels, should join them around Him especially now in this Eucharistic Year! “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” (Heb 12:28).

4. Dear Borthers in the Priesthood!

The Psalms direct our mind and will up to what is higher than ourselves. They remind us of what we already possess through the grace of Christ. He came down to earth and became man. We will continue to ask Him, with humble and contrite hearts, daily and ever more gratefully, to come down into our priestly hands.

Through the holy angels’ mediation we will have a clearer idea of what Jesus Himself said about His coming: “I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also” (Jn 14:3). Therefore, even if He places Himself into our hearts, we have to lift up our mind in faith and already start the eternal praise of God: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:1-3).

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC

We wish you many graces for the Feasts of Saints Michael, Raphael and Gabriel and of the Holy Guardian Angels in this year of the Eucharist!