Saturday, August 20, 2011
Today, 20th August 2011, was the Ordination Day of the Reverend Doctor Richard Benner Hitchcock, Ed.D. to the Sacred Order of Deacons. Doctor Hitchcock will serve as Deacon of Saint Barnabas Anglican Church in Dunwoody, Georgia. It was a particular honour and delight to ordain Dick, as he shall serve our parish, and the occasion was my first Ordination as a Bishop. In the group photographs, from left to right are: the Reverend Canon William R. Weston, our previous Rector, the Reverend Father Paul A. Rivard, our Curate, the ordaining Bishop, the Ordinand, and the Very Reverend Doctor Charles 'Gene' Mallard, Rector of Saint Thomas the Apostle Church, Alto, Georgia. Congratulations and God bless you, Doctor Hitchcock, on this glorious day!
Friday, August 19, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Every September, the Church jubilantly celebrates the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels. 29th September directs us to the truth that we are not alone in the universe, and we do not exist in a solitary fashion in God’s created order; rather, we are members of a great divine family created by God Himself, in which we share eternal life with brethren spirits, who, like ourselves, have free-will, intelligence, reason, and mind, but are bodiless - the Holy Angels.
The Creed proclaims God the Father as the ‘maker of all things visible and invisible.’ Our heavenly Father, in His wisdom and goodness, has created the world of the supernatural, not now accessible to men with their human eyes, and yet nevertheless just as real, more real, than the physical, tangible world which we now inhabit.
Angels, with men, were created by God to love and serve Him in a wonderfully beautiful and ever-mysterious order not fully comprehendible to the speculation of men’s minds. Together, men and angels comprise God’s created family, His Church, the mystical Body of Jesus Christ. Angels and men belong to One Family in Heaven and Earth (Ephesians 3.15)
Angels absolutely exist, and we should not question that they exist for one second: God has revealed to us that they exist, and not only exist, but love God and mankind. We know Angels exist and love us because we experience the truth of it in our lives. God has made it so.
Before proceeding to attempt an explanation of exactly who the Angels are, let us state for posterity what they are not!
Angels are neither anthropomorphised beings subject to whims of feeling, such as depicted in popular media, nor are they the cute, fat, irresistibly-squeezable babies portrayed in baroque art. Angels are probably not a little amused by man’s efforts to develop such simplistic representations of their glorious nature. If Angels were to appear before us right now, they would strike terror into our hearts by their overwhelming glory and power. Man cannot easily bear their lustre.
Angels are not divine beings deriving their existence from themselves. They are not to be worshipped; they are not half-god, half-mortal mediators that link us to God. They do not mediate in the sense that somehow they must by necessity connect the human race to God because of the infinite separation between Creator and creature. Such doctrine was invented by gnosticism, a pseudo-Christian heresy found in the early centuries of the Church, which deified angels and made them the object of worship. Gnosticism, meaning ‘secret knowledge,’ purports to give men a secret way of being saved, reserved to the initiate, in which angels serve as demi-gods leading man to union with God.
If one were tempted to worship angels as divine, the stern reminder of the Angel who addresses Saint John the beloved disciple in the Book of Revelation would surely apply: ‘See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God’ (22.9) Angels are undoubtedly offended when men contort their true purpose and make them an object of divine worship. The Holy Angels will have none of that.
Modern American culture seems to increase its angel-mania with every passing year, with a proliferation of ‘angel stuff’ sold in stores and pandered on television: some contemporary people, starving for an encounter with the supernatural and seeking to fulfil man’s innate need for an experience of the divine, embrace angel-worship and substitute it for a true intimacy with the Eternal. However, they are worshipping the creature, not the Creator, whose glory is radiated from the faces of Angels He has so lovingly made. Everything from angel pins and books to the adoration of angelic spirit guides is now in vogue. Much of this angel religion, devoid of the living and true God, is an explicit return to paganism and polytheism. ‘Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen…’ (Colossians 2.18).
Incorporeal powers, the Angels are created beings, pure, holy, good spirits created to adore the living God and to radiate His divine glory, love and power. Angels are bodiless and not composed of matter - they are total mind, pure spirit, utter will. The Angels are the servants of God. They resemble their Maker in their power, genius and perfection, but they are created beings, called in the Old Testament Scriptures the ‘sons of God.’ The Holy Angels, beings of great grace, beauty, intelligence, fiery brilliance reflecting the glory of God, were made by God the crown jewel of His heavenly court, the joy of that realm we call Heaven.
The Angels of God have a twofold vocation for which they were created:
1. The worship of God. For all eternity, the Angels lead the heavenly liturgy of worship and praise of God the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, singing the Thrice-Holy Hymn, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ (Isaiah 6.3 and Revelation 4.8). As servants of God, created to rejoice in His inexhaustible Presence, the Angels adore, serve and glorify the Most High God, their Master. Angels exist primarily to magnify their God and ours, the Lord of Hosts, the Lord of all. ‘And let all the Angels of God worship Him’ (Hebrews 1.6).
2. Service to men as intercessors, protectors and messengers of God’s will. The word Angel, anngelos in Greek, comes from the same word that forms ‘Gospel’ (or Good News), and means ‘messenger.’ Angels were created to serve mankind as messengers of God’s Gospel, His Good News of salvation. ‘Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?’ (Hebrews 1.14). Angels have been appointed by God to be the guardians of our souls, the ministers of our bodies, and our sponsors and supporters from above. As ministers of God, and fellow-servants with men, Angels form with us an inseparable bond comprising what we call in the Creed the Communion of Saints.
According to Apostolic Tradition, there are nine choirs or grouping of Angels in a divinely-created hierarchy: ‘seraphs, cherubim, thrones, dominions, princedoms, powers, virtues, archangels, angels’ choirs’ (Hymnal 1940, Hymn 599). The leader of their heavenly band is Saint Michael, whose name means, ‘Who is like God?,’ the chief and captain of the heavenly army of hosts, the great Prince of the Angels who mightily defends and protects us. Holy Michael is unveiled first in the Old Testament, in the Book of the prophet Daniel. There we see him, the great lord and prince, God’s appointed guardian of His chosen race. ‘And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people’ (Daniel 12.1). In the New Testament, Saint Michael, our heavenly champion, vanquishes the power of Satan: ‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon’ (Revelation 12.7). He is the special protector and defender of Christians, the holy standard-bearer who leads souls to love and serve God. Saint Michael battles for us against the world, the flesh and the devil; he is the personification of the mystery of the angelic world.
We rejoice in the communion and fellowship of the Holy Angels, who, with eyes that look upon God face to face, who always behold their Father in heaven, also behold us on earth. With the same eyes of mind and will that behold the Holy Trinity forever in His Beatific Vision, the Angels behold us, and love us intensely with an all-consuming, perfect love, a love not tainted with sin. How wonderful it is to know that we possess such heavenly friends, such dear ones who look upon us in love as they look upon God in love.
The Holy Angels of God love us, protect us, watch over us, guide us, and pray for us. We should honour them, invoke their presence, aid and defence, and ask for the effect of their prayers, knowing that their love for men surpasses imagination.
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