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Vol. X, November 2004

 

The Holy Angels:
Ministers of the Prefigured Eucharistic Lord

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

We have seen in the first meditation on the Blessed Sacrament and the holy angels that Christ Himself is the Bread which the angels “eat” spiritually in heaven by contemplating Him, while men on earth eat Him sacramentally. Jesus is the same One, both in heaven and in the Blessed Sacrament. So men and angels are united in their One and same Lord and God Whom they serve. And men may learn from their elder brothers.

1. The Church lives from the Eucharistic Lord.

a) The Church is the Church of the Eucharist.

“In Him [Christ] all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him” (Col 1:16). Consequently, He is the center of all that exists: first, as Creator together with the Father and the Holy Spirit; then, in His humanity. He, the Head of the Church, which is His Mystical Body, perpetuates His human presence among us on earth through His Eucharistic Presence. It is through the Eucharist that He wants to lead all things to their final goal and perfection in the heavenly Jerusalem. “All is created in view of the Church” teaches the Catechism (CCC 760). All is created in view of Christ, the Eucharistic Christ in the Church. For this reason, since the very beginning, we find indications or prefigurations of the Eucharist with the holy angels present and ministering to Him.

b) The holy angels are responsible watchmen and porters of the tabernacle.

God placed the holy angels at the door of paradise with the purpose, “ to guard the way to the tree of life” (Gen 3:24). This “tree of life” is similar to the trees described by the prophet Ezechiel as growing “on both sides of the river” which issues forth from the side of the temple. Its “leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing” (Ez 47:13). Now our life issues from Christ. Through Him we find the “healing” of our sins; in Him we find our “food”!

The holy angels did, indeed, guard the access to the “tree of life”, but they did not block access to it forever. God the Father has deigned to forgive man through the expiatory sacrifice of Christ. Man must accept this gift and be reconciled personally to God. The angels rejoice at man’s conversion and facilitate as much as they can man’s access to the Lord: “I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Lk 15:10). Similarly, “the angel said to me [John, the Apostle], ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God’” (Rev 19:9). The angels, who first blocked access to the source of life for those who offended God and sinned, now invite even those who approach with repentant and cleansed heart. The angels are responsible “doorkeepers” and watchmen of the Eucharistic Lord in our tabernacles (consider the dramatic illustration of this development in the history of angels and mankind before God in the third secret of Fatima).

2. The angels are servants of the Eucharistic Lord.

a) The holy angels serve at the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

In order to give Himself to us as our Life, Christ first had to offer Himself in Victimhood. This He did by offering up His Body and shedding His Blood for us on the Cross. In fact, the Holy Eucharist is “the memorial” of Our Lord’s “suffering and death” (Prayer ofCorpus Christi). His offering first had to be expiatory to take away the hindrance to union on our side, i.e., sin. Only then does the real possibility of giving Himself to us open up. The first aspect of the offering is prefigured in the offering of the son of Abraham, the father of the chosen people, and in the offering of the Paschal Lamb in Egypt whose blood preserved the Israelites from death. The second aspect is prefigured in the Paschal Lamb as the meal which strengthened the people of Israel for their march into freedom.

The holy angels serve solicitously in both cases. Abraham had to offer his only son Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham obeyed, and reaching the mountain he “ took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it on Isaac his son” (Gen 22:6). The angel accompanies both, because in the decisive moment when Abraham “ put forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son,...the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said [to him]: ‘Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me’” (vv. 10-12). Just as it was beyond comprehension for Abraham, so too must it have been also for the angel. They serve the Will of God in obedience, because their love is greater than their reason. Only after trying and verifying the fidelity of Abraham’s love could the angel renew in the name of God the promise of the future (cf. vv. 15-18).  

Similarly, an angel is present at the offering of the Paschal Lamb in Egypt. God gave this order through Moses:

Select lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood which is in the basin...For the LORD will pass through to slay the Egyptians; and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to slay you. (Ex 12:21-23)

“The destroyer” is the angel who fulfills the judgment of God (cf. 1 Cor 10:10 and Heb 11:28). At they same time, he spared those whose door posts were marked by the blood of the lamb.

b) The holy angels adore the Eucharistic Lord.

Even after offering Himself, the Lord chose to remain with us always. This perennial presence, of course, is achieved by the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Our Lord. Further, since He is remaining with us, more is necessary than just an altar. He also needs a “dwelling place”, either a house or a temple. In view of this intention, God asked Israel to “ make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” and “an ark of acacia wood” (Ex 25:8, 10). This prefigures the tabernacles of the New Testament. In this context, moreover, the Lord chose also to reveal that the holy angels would be with Him wherever He may be. They are present with Him not only in heaven but also on earth in the tabernacle. He ordered Moses:

Make two cherubim of gold...on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end; of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The Cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. (vv. 18-20)

One may ask whether this artistic representation of the Cherubim does not rather indicate a protecting presence of the angels at the tabernacle. However, Isaias’ vision of the Seraphim reveals their adoring presence in the sanctuary. Isaiah recalls:

I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and His train filled the temple. Above Him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. (Is 6:1-4)

3. The holy angels are servants of the Eucharistic Communion.

The Lord wants to be in our midst; He wants to become one with us in Holy Communion. In this way, He shall achieve the express goal of His mission: “Father...that they may be one even as We are one” (Jn 17:22; cf. CCC 1331). Since a single Communion does not accomplish this effect in a lasting manner, we are called to receive holy Communion again and again, even daily.

This dimension of the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus is prefigured by an event in the life of the prophet Elijah in which an angel plays a significant role. Elijah had   “asked that he might die” (1 King 19:4).

He lay down and slept under a broom tree; and behold, an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank, and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, else the journey will be too great for you.” And he arose, and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. (1 King 19:5-8)

In the life of various Saints we find this activity of the holy angels repeated (cf. J. C. Cruz, Eucharistic Miracles, TAN 1987, ch. 38, 233-248). The holy angels are servants of the Eucharistic Lord Who wants to come to His creatures in holy Communion.

4. Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

This most sublime sacrament: Christ’s real presence, His sacrifice and victimhood, His desire for communion with His creatures—all these dimensions were prefigured in the Old Testament, and the angels were called to play their part.

Surely their mission is not less now. They understand much more deeply than we Who He is, for they already behold Him in full glory! If they were already zealous to serve in the Old Testament regime of types and figures, how much more are they anxious to accompany Christ in the reality of the New Testament! How they want to help us priests as ministers of the Eucharistic Lord! Holy priests like Saint Padre Pio experienced the help of the holy angels many occasions.

Let us reflect about the angels’ model in the referred examples. Let us ask for their guidance, for their assistance, for their help when we are about to fail before this so great mystery. Let us share with our people the prayer of Saint José Maria Escriva: “O Angelic Spirits that guard our tabernacles, wherein lies the adorable treasure of the Holy Eucharist, defend It from profanation and preserve It for our love.” (The Way, 569).

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC