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Angels Participate in the History of Salvation

Catechesis by Pope St John Paul II
in his series on God the Father
General Audience, Wednesday 6 August 1986 - also in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish  

"1. In recent catecheses we have seen how the Church, illuminated by the light coming from Sacred Scripture, has professed over the centuries the truth about the existence of angels as purely spiritual beings, created by God. She has done this/so from the beginning with the Nicene-Constantinopolitan symbol and has confirmed it in the IV Lateran Council (1215), whose formulation is resumed/taken up by Vatican Council I in the context of the doctrine on creation: "God at the beginning of time created together from nothing both creatures, the spiritual one and the corporeal one, that is, the angelic and the earthly, and thus he created human nature as common to both/having both, being made up of spirit and body" (DS 3002). That is/In other words: God created from the very beginning both realities: the spiritual reality and the corporeal, the earthly world and the angelic. He created all this together ("simul") in order to/with regard to the creation of man, made up of/constituted of spirit and matter and placed according to the biblical narrative in the picture/within the framework of a world already established according to his laws and already measured by time ("deinde").

2. Along with the existence of angels, the faith of the Church recognizes
certain distinctive traits of their nature. Their purely spiritual being implies first of all their non-materiality and their immortality. The angels do not have a "body"/have no "body" (even if in certain circumstances they manifest themselves under visible forms by reason of their mission in favour of men (& women)) and thus are not subject to the law of corruptibility that unites the whole material world. Jesus himself, referring to the angelic condition, will say that in the future life the risen/those who are risen "cannot die any more, because they are equal to the angels" (Lk 20, 36).

3. As creatures of a spiritual nature, the angels are endowed with intellect and free will, like man, but in a degree superior to him, even if always finite, through the limit which is inherent in all creatures. The angels are thus personal beings and, as such, they too are /they are also "in the image and likeness" of God. Sacred Scripture refers to the angels by using appellatives not only personal (such as their own names of Raphael, Gabriel, Michael) but also collective ones (like the qualifications of Seraphims, Cherubim Thrones, Powers, Dominions, Principalities), (just) as it distinguishes between angels and archangels. While taking into account the analogical and representative language of the sacred text, we can deduce that these beings-persons, as it were grouped in society,are divided into orders and grades, corresponding to the measure of their perfection and to the tasks entrusted to them. The ancient authors and the liturgy itself speak also of the angelic choirs (nine, according to Dionysius the Areopagite). Theology, especially patristic and medieval theology, has not rejected these representations, seeking instead to give them a doctrinal and mystical esplanation, but without attributing to them an absolute value. St Thomas preferred to deepen researches into the ontological condition, into the cognitive and volitional activity and into the spiritual elevation of these purely spiritual creatures, both for their dignity in the scale of beings, and also because in them he could better deepen an understanding of /investigate more deeply the capacities and activities proper to the spirit in the pure state, drawing much light from it to illuminate the basic problems that have always agitated and stimulated human thought: knowledge, love, liberty, docility to God, the reaching/attainment of his kingdom.

4. The theme which we have touched on may seem "distant" or "less vital" to the mentality of modern man. Yet the Church, in proposing with frankness the totality of the truth about God Creator also of the angels, believes that she renders a great service to man. Man nourishes the conviction that in Christ, Man God, it is he (and not the angels) who is at the center of the divine revelation. Well, the religious encounter with the world of purely spiritual beings becomes (a) precious revelation of his own being not only body but also spirit, and of his belonging to a truly great and efficacious project of salvation, within a community of personal beings who for man and with man serve the providential design of God.

5. Let us note that Sacred Scripture and Tradition properly call angels those pure spirits who in the fundamental test of freedom have chosen God, his glory and his kingdom. They are united to God trhough the consummate love which springs/flows from the beatific vision, face to face, of the most Holy Trinity. Jesus himself says this: "The angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 18, 10). This/That "to see/seeing always the face of the Father" is the highest manifestation of the adoration of God. It can be said that it constitutes that "heavenly liturgy", accomplished/performed/carried out in the name of the whole universe, to which the earthly liturgy of the Church is incessantly associated, especially in its culminating moments. Suffice it here to recall the act with which the Church, every day and every hour, throughout the world, before beginning the Eucharistic prayer in the heart of the holy Mass, calls "to the angels and the archangels" to sing the glory of God thrice Holy, uniting herself thus to those first adorers of God, in the worship and loving knowledge of the ineffable mystery of his holiness.

6. Again according to revelation, the angels, who participate in the life of the Trinity in the light of glory, are also called to have/play their part in the history of the salvation of men (& women)/mankind, in the moments established by the design of divine Providence. "Are they not all spirits charged with a ministry sent to serve those those who are to to enter into possession of salvation?" asks the author of the Letter to the Hebrews (Heb 1, 14). And this the Church believes and teaches, on the basis of Sacred Scripture from which we learn that the task of the good angels is the protection/to protect of men (& women) and solicitude for their salvation. We find these expressions in various passages of Sacred Scripture, as for example in Psalm 90 (91) already quoted several times: "He will give his angels charge of you, to keep you in all your steps/ways. On their hands they will carry you, so that your foot does not stumble in the stones" (Ps 90, 11-12). Jesus himself, speaking of children and warning against giving them scandal, refers to "their angels" (Mt 18, 10); moreover
he attributes to the angels the function of witnesses in the supreme divine judgment on the fate of those who have recognized/acknowledged or denied Christ: "Whoever recognises/acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man likewise will recognise/acknowledge him before the angels of God; but whoever denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God" (Lk 12, 8-9). These words are significant because, if the angels take part in the judgment of God, they are interested in the life of man. Interest and participation that seem to receive an accentuation/be accentuated in the eschatological discourse, in which Jesus makes the angels intervene in the parousia, that is, in the definitive coming of Christ at the end of history (cf Mt 24, 31; 25, 31,41).

7. Among the books of the New Testament, it is especially the Acts of the Apostles that makes/lets us know some facts that attest to the solicitude of the angels for man and for his salvation. Thus, when the angel of God frees/liberates the apostles from prison (cf Acts 5, 18-20) and first of all Peter, who was threatened with death at the hands of Herod (cf Acts 12, 5-10). Or when he guides the activity of Peter in regard to the centurion Cornelius, the first pagan (cf Acts 10, 3-8; 11, 12-16), and analogously/similiarly the activity of the deacon Philip on the way from Jerusalem to Gaza (cf Acts 8, 26-29).

From these few facts cited by way of example, it is understood how in the conscience of the Church the persuasion/conviction could have been formed about the ministry entrusted to the Angels in favour of men (& women)/mankind. Therefore the Church confesses her faith in the guardian angels, venerating them in the liturgy with a specific feast, and recommending recourse to their protection with/by a frequent prayer, as in the invocation of the "Angel of God." This prayer seems to draw on the treasure of the beautiful words of St Basil: "Each of the faithful has beside him an angel as tutor and pastor, so as to lead him to life" [Adversus Eunomium, III, 1; see also St Thomas, Summa Theologiae, I, q11, a3] .

8. Finally, it is appropriate to note that the Church honours with liturgical worship three figures of angels, who in Sacred Scripture are called by name. The first is Michael the Archangel (cf Dan 10, 13,20; Apoc 12, 7; Jude 9). His name synthetically expresses the essential attitude of the good spirits. "Mica-El" in fact means "Who is like God?" In this name is thus found expressed the salvific choice thanks to which the angels "see the face of the Father" who is in heaven. The second is Gabriel: the/a figure linked above all to the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God (cf Lk 1, 19-26). His name means: "my power is God" or "power of God," as if to say that, at the culmination of creation, the incarnation is the supreme sign of the almighty/omnipotent Father. Finally, the third archangel is called Raphael. "Rafa-El" means "God heals." He is made known to us by the story of Tobias in the Old Testament (cf Tob 12, 15 ss), so significant about the entrustment to the angels of the little children of God, always in need of custody, care and protection.

On well reflection, it is seen that each one of these three figures - Mica-El, Gabri-El, Rafa-El - reflects in a particular way the truth contained in the question raised by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews: "Are they not all spirits in charge of a ministry, sent to serve those who are to enter into possession of salvation?" (Heb 1, 14)."


"Je souhaite la bienvenue à tous les pèlerins de langue française, aux groupes paroissiaux, aux familles, aux jeunes. Je salue notamment les handicapés de l’Association des Paralysés de France, et leurs dévoués accompagnateurs qui les aident à participer le mieux possible à la vie du monde.J’ai noté la présence d’étudiants grecs du Lycée léonin des Frères maristes d’Athènes: que le Seigneur favorise notre cheminement fraternel vers la pleine unité des chrétiens! J’offre mes voux particuliers aux Soeurs Arméniennes de l’Immaculée Conception, qui tiennent à Rome leur Chapitre général: chères Soeurs, depuis près de cent cinquante ans, votre institut se dévoue à l’éducation des enfants et des jeunes, à l’assistance des orphelins, au soin des personnes âgées, en plusieurs pays du Moyen-Orient et de la diaspora. Continuez ce bel apostolat, en puisant dans la foi chrétienne, dans l’exemple et la disponibilité de Marie, le courage d’une charité toujours active et largement ouverte. Que le Seigneur vous bénisse ainsi que les communautés arméniennes, chères à notre cœur!

Je salue de même le groupe des chrétiens libanais, “pèlerins de la paix”, venus de toutes les régions du Liban. Chers amis, malgré les actes de violence qui se perpétuent de façon inhumaine en votre chère patrie, vous avez entrepris ce pèlerinage à travers plusieurs pays; vous êtes allés prier saint François à Assise, et vous voilà près des tombeaux des Apôtres Pierre et Paul, surs que la paix sera le don de Dieu accordé à ceux qui cherchent sa volonté. Que le Seigneur vous soutienne! Ici nous prions tous pour vous, et pour ceux qui ont besoin de paix à travers le monde. Et en ce jour anniversaire de la mort de mon vénéré prédécesseur, le Pape Paul VI, nous avons une pensée spéciale pour ce grand pèlerin de la paix et de la civilisation de l’amour. A tous les participants à cette audience, je donne de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I wish to welcome all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today’s audience. In particular my greeting goes to the Chinese pilgrims from Hong Kong who have come to Rome after a visit to the Holy Land. It is my prayer that each of you will be renewed in faith as you seek to share with others your pilgrimage to the places made sacred by Christ and his disciples. I am also very pleased to welcome a parish group from Sacred Heart Church in Bahrain who are accompanied by their pastor. I welcome the pilgrimages from England, Nigeria, Indonesia and the United States. Upon all of you I invoke God’s blessings of peace and joy.

Deseo presentar mi más cordial bienvenida a esta Audiencia a todas las personas, familias y grupos de lengua española. En particular, saludo a los componentes de la Coral Elisard, del Centro Católico de l’Hospitalet de Llobregat (Barcelona); asimismo, al grupo de universitarios de Sevilla y a los jóvenes del Centro Juvenil Claretiano de Segovia. A todos los peregrinos y visitantes procedentes de los diversos Países de América Latina y de España imparto con afecto mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ao exprimir cordiais boas-vindas a todos os presentes de língua portuguesa, saúdo em particular: um grupo de Estudantes Universitários de São Paulo-Brasil; e a numerosa representação da paróquia de Nossa Senhora de Fátima, de Viana do Castelo-Portugal. Desejando-vos felicidades, desejo também: Que a vinda a Roma alente vossa fé e vida crista, com a protecção de Nossa Senhora, caminho seguro para Deus, pôr Cristo nosso Redentor e Salvador e Amigo dos Jovens. Dou-vos com afecto a Benção Apostólica, extensiva às vossas famílias e pessoas amigas de vossas terras.

Witam serdecznie pielgrzymów z parafii św. Mikołaja z Krakowa; z parafii katedralnej z Tarnova; z parafii Bł. Królowej Jadwigi z Długiego koło Sanoka; pielgrzymów dekanatu Bytom, diecezja opolska; pielgrzymkę międzyzakonną sióstr diecezji opolskiej z ich dobrodziejami; pielgrzymkę uczennic i nauczycieli Liceum ogólnokszłcącego sióstr Sacré-Coeur z Polskiej Wsi koło Poznania; również młodzież akademicką z parafii św. Stanisława Kostki z Gdańska; prócz tego uczestników grup turystycznych, w szczególności grupę nauczycieli Logos Tour z Dnvinowa i Tczewina; PKS z Lublina; Orbis ze Śląska, Sport-Tourist z Lublina; grupę Polaków przebywających w Capalbio; Orbis - grupa z parafii św. Piotra i Pawla w Tarnowskich Górach; załogę jachtu “Janina”; oraz wokalno-instrumentalny zespół “Oratorium” z Radomia . . . Wszystkim życzę błogosławieństwa Bożego i proszę, żebyście je przekazali naszym Rodakom i waszym najbliższym w Ojczyźnie. 

Nel salutare i vari gruppi di pellegrini di lingua italiana, desidero ricordare l’anniversario della morte del mio predecessore Paolo VI, invitando tutti ad una preghiera di suffragio nella memoria di questo amato Pastore della Chiesa. Cordialmente porgo un saluto alle suore dell’Istituto Figlie di Maria Santissima dell’Orto, convenute a Roma da varie località d’Italia e d’America in occasione del loro 25° e 50° di professione religiosa. A tutte il mio augurio cordiale, insieme con l’invito a vivere sempre più intensamente una profonda unione d’amore con Cristo, vostro sposo.  Saluto, poi, le associate all’Istituto Secolare Figlie della Regina degli Apostoli, che svolgono il loro annuale corso di aggiornamento impegnandosi, quest’anno, ad approfondire lo studio dei documenti del Concilio Vaticano II.  Il mio pensiero va, poi, ai giovani ciclisti della parrocchia di Campofiorenzo di Casatenovo, in Diocesi di Milano, i quali vogliono recare da Roma una fiaccola votiva per la consacrazione della loro chiesa parrocchiale, dedicata alla Madonna di Czestochowa. A tutti il mio cordiale saluto e la mia Benedizione. 

Desidero ora rivolgere un pensiero particolarmente affettuoso a tutti i ragazzi e giovani, che prendono parte a questa Udienza. Nella luce della Trasfigurazione del Signore sul monte Tabor, cui oggi ci richiama la Liturgia, vi esorto a non cessare mai di contemplare il volto del Cristo trasfigurato e di accogliere la voce che si fece sentire dal cielo: “Questi è il mio Figlio diletto . . . ascoltatelo”. Cercate il suo volto, lasciatevi prendere dalla sua bellezza e dal suo fascino, e camminate alla sua luce, quella che illumina ogni anima e rischiara ogni scelta e ogni fatica. In questo tempo di vacanze estive, in cui le scuole sono chiuse, mettetevi alla Scuola di Gesù ed egli illuminerà le vostre menti e istruirà i vostri cuori. Vi accompagni sempre la mia Benedizione. 

Anche a voi ammalati, presenti a questo incontro familiare, e a quanti soffrono negli ospedali, esprimo il mio pensiero cordiale. Vi dico altresì la mia riconoscenza per l’offerta, quanto mai preziosa, che voi fate del vostro dolore ad edificazione della Chiesa. Mentre vi incoraggio a saper superare sempre con fortezza cristiana tutte le prove a cui vi assoggetta la malattia, vi assicuro la mia costante preghiera al Signore perché vi liberi dal male. A vostro sollievo spirituale vi benedico con affetto. 

Saluto infine gli sposi novelli, esprimendo loro fervide felicitazioni per il traguardo conseguito, e sinceri auguri per una vita coniugale serena e ricca di frutti. L’affetto che unisce i vostri cuori sia sempre sorgente di vera gioia cristiana e trovi il suo alimento quotidiano nei grandi ideali del Vangelo e nei Sacramenti della Chiesa. Vi conforti la mia Benedizione."