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Vol. XIII, March 2007

 

Elements of the Supernatural Angelology (cf. Ez 44 - 47)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

The last part of the Prophecy of Ezekiel is dedicated to the directives for the re-edification of the temple, which the Prophet received from “a man [who] had a measuring reed in his hand” (40:3). Tradition identified him as an angel. The activity of this angel is also described in the subsequent chapters. The angel functions as a guide and interpreter. However, the subsequent chapters emphasize some further points which are, theologically speaking, essential.

1. The Holy Angels as Guide to God in His Temple

The holy angels do not guide man simply into the presence of God as did, for example, “the angel of the Lord [who] appeared to [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush” (cf. Ex 3:2-6) or the angel who “stood in heaven” before God on His throne (Rev 4:2). This angel guided the prophet before God who had come into the temple: “Then he brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the temple; and I looked, and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple of the Lord; and I fell upon my face” (Ez 44:4; cf. 1:28; 43:3). He has entered by the “gate of the sanctuary, which faces east” (44:1).

The angels were tested not in view of God’s infinity, his omnipotence or other attributes, but in view of God’s will, of “God and His reign” (CCC 392). God is seeking a dwelling place in His creation:

Among all these I sought a resting place; I sought in whose territory I might lodge… And He said, “Make your dwelling in Jacob, and in Israel receive your inheritance.” …And so I was established in Zion. In the beloved city likewise He gave me a resting place, and in Jerusalem was my dominion. (cf. Sir 24:7-8,10-11)

Contrary to the rebellious angels (cf. Jer 2:20), the humble angels were willing to serve God wherever He might go (cf. Heb 1:14). It is their joy to help Him find reception in the temple of this world and, with the help of Ezekiel, by the Chosen People; the necessary purification could be achieved only through sacrifices of reconciliation (cf. Ez 44:18-27).

The angels bring man to God in salvation history, to the Son of God made man (cf. 1 Jn 4:14), to God in His Church. The vision of the Prophet relates to just one part of this process; we might see in the stone temple the Old Testament, and in the chosen people of Israel already a prefiguration of the New Testament and the time of the Church. And in this Church the People of God receives reconciliation, transformation and sanctification. This can only be because man finds God in the Church, which, truly, “in Christ, is in the nature of a sacrament—a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men” (Lumen Gentium, 1).

2. All According to the Measure of God

We can find God in creation. Through the determination of the Creator, harmony and clear order are already present in the purely material world. In the higher orders of creation, that is, among the rational beings, we ought to expect a much greater order, perfection and specific determinations by the will of God. The Ten Commandments are certainly one of these “measures” of God. The angel takes the prophet around the temple and reads to him the measurements which God has determined for His dwelling place and for the house of offerings and reconciliation. There are spiritual measures or regulations about the laws of sacrifice and feasts (cf. 43:13-46:24). Other measures concern the life of the priests (cf. 44:15-45:8).

In the New Testament in God’s house, the Church, we do not find fewer rooms nor less precise measures. The goal is greater, how could the determinations for the church be less precise?! As it was already ordained in the Old Testament (cf. Deut 4:2), so we find it in the New Testament and throughout the history of the Church down to our own day precise directives: “I warn every one who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if any one adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if any one takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Rev. 22:18-19; cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 22; Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests, 64).

From man, and especially from us priests, it is required to adapt ourselves, our minds and will, to the directives of God and His Church, and, henceforth, to deny ourselves and take up the Cross with its clear circumscriptions, as here given by the angel. The Son Himself, Our High Priest, gives us an example when He affirmed that He cannot do nor even say anything which He did not first see or hear from His Father: “The Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing” (Jn 5:19); and “as I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I seek not My own will but the will of Him who sent Me” (Jn 5:30). This total dependence or rather conformity to the will of the Father is practically Christ’s identity card. By this we can recognize Him, Who gave His life to the Father as a ransom for many: “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Lk 23:46). Perhaps as a sign of this obedience of Christ, both the present Holy Father and his predecessor chose the Crucifix for the top of their shepherd’s staff.

3. The Meeting of Man and Angel in the Church

The mission of the angels does not end with this. After the directives, the Angel brought the prophet “back to the door of the temple; and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east)” (47:1). To be sure, no such fountain was to be seen in the temple, moreover, “the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar” (47:1). Surely the purpose here is purely spiritual.

If we link the God-Man with this precise description, then in Christ, we see the new Temple. The Jews would destroy this Temple—His Body!—but He would raise it up again   in three days (cf. Jn 2:19). Furthermore, He is the door (cf. Jn 10:9), and the altar (cf. V th   Preface of the Easter season). When He was elevated on the Cross, one of the soldiers “did not break His legs. But…pierced His side with a spear.” When JESUS faced east, the soldier pierced His chest and Heart from the left side, that is, on the south side, “and at once there came out blood and water” (Jn 19:33-34). The Easter antiphon, “Vidi aquam” refers to this moment. “Behold, water…”, etc. The origin of the sanctifying baptismal water is seen in this moment on Golgotha: “From His wounded side flowed blood and water, the fountain of sacramental life in the Church. To His open Heart the Savior invites all men, to draw water in joy from the springs of salvation” (Preface of the Sacred Heart).

The angel is the voice of God. And God invites mankind through His angel to follow the water in its increasing power. Taking the water as the word of God, St. Ambrose sees in its growing measure the deeper understanding of the word of God, from the historical sense to its moral and spiritual sense, till it grows in a fourth rise so deep that no one can “pass through” (v. 5), that is, penetrates to the “depth of the divine and heavenly mysteries.” Therefore, “the angel guides the prophet to this point and no further, because there the omnipotent God leads His saints to the contemplation of the secret and hidden mysteries of His divinity. No one can pass these, because the human fragility can not perfectly comprehend these divine mysteries” (PL 17, 2; col. 1047).

Was it reserved to a later development to see in the water the Sacrament of Baptism; and in the fruit-bearing trees, Christians nourished by these salutary waters? Cornelius a Lapide says:

See the many trees which these waters produce and nourish. In a mystical sense, these woods are the Christians, washed and watered by the water of Baptism, that they bring forth the fruits of virtues of which Psalm 95 speaks: “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes, for He comes to judge the earth” (Ps 96:11-13)… [The] trees are faith, hope and charity and other habitual virtues. For these grow out of the earth of our hearts, watered with the water of the Gospel, and bring forth the good works; the leaves are modesty, piety, decor, and all other honest external virtues.

Will it be another step of the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the third millennium, when the trees with their miraculous constant fruit are seen in reference of the Holy Eucharist?

It would not be surprising seeing as the “tree of life” is found already in paradise; God protected it after man’s sin through the angels’ intervention (cf. Gen 3:22-24). The Church sees in the Cross of Golgotha the “tree of victory; where life was lost, there life has been restored” (Preface of the Triumph of the Cross). Its fruits will never cease, and he who eats from it will also enjoy eternal life.

Here we see a threefold development: (1) the establishment of order and laws, (2) the appearance or coming of the glory of GOD in Christ, and (3) the transformation of the world in and through Him. The rhythm of the Holy Mass follows this process: We are (1) instructed in the Liturgy of the Word, and having responded and being disposed through the preparation of the gifts, (2) God appears in His glory (though hiddenly) at the Consecration in order to share with us (3) His sanctifying life in holy Communion. He, then, is the secret of the Christian life: He is the water of the word and He sustains each one through the divine virtues.

In Him angels and men find their salvation, in and through His grace, which flows first symbolically from the side of the temple, and then really from His open Heart on the Cross.

4. Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

God acted out of love when He created the world and when He became man. The holy angels speak with predilection of God’s glory. Love and glorious joy we find to be characteristic of those whom the angels call and bring to God: the shepherds, the holy Kings, the women after Resurrection, etc. We certainly experience a similar joy in our ministry. When we lead souls into God’s presence, they are filled with joy.

Let us therefore remember our prophetic mission and imitate Ezekiel’s docility towards the guidance of the holy angels. With their help, may we have God always before our eyes; may we always seek to fulfill His holy will even in the least liturgical matters. May we have God before our eyes in the application of the salutary doctrine of the holy Church, and become angelic servants of the divine glory and human joy.

Fr. Titus Kieninger ORC