Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers

angels

30 Entries

...advance into battle without hesitation. Should you be visited by the troubling thought of the hatred and undying malice, which the enemies harbor against you, and of the innumerable hosts of the demons, think on the other hand of the infinitely greater power of God and of His love for you, as well as of the incomparably greater hosts of heavenly angels and the prayers of saints. They all fight secretly for us and with us against our enemies... Lorenzo Scupoli (Unseen Warfare: Chapter 15)



...the Law (as it is written in the Scriptures) was given to us by Angels and, both before and after the days of the Law, Angels guided our illustrious forefathers to God, either by declaring to them what they should do and leading them from error and an evil life to the straight path of truth, or by making known to them the Divine Law, or in the manner of interpreters, by show to them holy Hierarchies, or secret visions of super-mundane Mysteries, or certain divine prophecies. Now if anyone should say that God has shown Himself without intermediary to certain holy men, let him know beyond doubt, from the most Holy Scriptures, that no man has ever seen, nor shall see, the hidden Being of God; but God has shown himself, according to revelations which are fitting to God, to His faithful servants in holy visions adapted to the nature of the seer. Dionysius the Areopagite

...we know there are Angels and Archangels, Thrones, Dominions, Princedoms, Powers, Splendors, Ascents, Intelligent Powers or Intelligencies, pure natures and unalloyed, immovable to evil, or scarcely movable; ever circling in chorus round the First Cause (or how should we sing their praises?) illuminated thence with the purest Illumination, or in one degree or another, proportionally to their nature and rank...so conformed to beauty and molded that they become secondary Lights, and can enlighten others by the overflowings and largesse of the First Light. Ministrants of God's Will, strong with both inborn and imparted strength, traversing all space, readily present to all at any place through their zeal for ministry and the agility of their nature... St. Gregory Nazianzen (Second Theological Oration no, 31)

Anger is by nature designed for waging war with the demons and for struggling with every kind of sinful pleasure. Therefore angels, arousing spiritual pleasure in us and giving us to taste its blessedness, incline us to direct our anger against the demons. But the demons, enticing us towards worldly lusts, make us use anger to fight with men, which is against nature, so that the mind, thus stupefied and darkened, should become a traitor to virtues. Abba Evagrius the Monk(Texts on Active Life no. 15)

Demons often transform themselves into angels of light and take the form of martyrs, and make it appear to us during sleep that we are in communication with them. Then, when we wake up, they plunge us into unholy joy and conceit. But you can detect their deceit by this very fact. For angles reveal torments, judgments and separations; and when we wake up we find that we are trembling and sad. As soon as we begin to believe the demons in dreams, then they make sport of us when we are awake too. He who believes in dreams is completely inexperienced. 'But he who distrusts all dreams is a wise man. Only believe dreams that warn you of torments and judgments. But if despair afflicts you, then such dreams are also from demons. St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent

Do not be surprised if you fall every day and do not surrender. Stand your ground bravely. And you may be sure that your guardian angel will respect your endurance. A fresh, warm wound is easier to heal than those that are old, neglected, and festering, and that need extensive treatment, surgery, bandaging, and cauterization. Long neglect can render many of the incurable. However, all things are possible with God. St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 5

Do not the angels differs from us in this respect, that they do not want so many things as we do? Therefore the less we need, the more we are on our way to them; the more we need, the more we sink down to this perishable life. St. John Chrysostom

Even if an angel should indeed appear to you, do not receive him but humiliate yourself, saying, 'I am not worthy to see an angel, for I am a sinner.' St. Clement of Rome

He stands, then - but not alone, for before Him go angels, saying: 'Lift up the gates, O ye the princes.' What gates? Even those of which the Psalmist sings in another place also: 'Open to me the gates of righteousness.' Open, then, thy gates to Christ, that He may come into thee - open the gates of righteousness, the gates of chastity, the gates of courage and wisdom. Believe the message of the angels: 'Be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in, the Lord of Sabaoth.' St. Ambrose of Milan, Exposition of the Christian Faith, Book IV

I said to (St. Onnophrius), "My good father, did you suffer when you first came to this place in the desert?" The blessed old man said, "I suffered a great deal, my son. Believe me, my beloved son, I came close to dying many times on account of hunger and thirst and on account of the burning fire during the day and the frost at night. My members were soaked by the dew of the sky.

When God saw me, that I patiently endured in the fight of fasting and that I devoted myself to ascetic practice, He had the holy angels serve me my daily food, giving it to me every night and a little water every night in order to strengthen my body. And this one palm tree produced for me twelve bunches of dates each year, one each month, and I would eat it.

And He made the other plants that grow in the desert places sweet in my mouth, sweeter than honey in my mouth. For it is written, 'A person shall not live by bread alone, but he will live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'

For if you do the will of God, wherever you are, He will care for you, because your Father in heaven knows what all your needs are, what you will eat or what you will drink. But rather seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.'" Now when I heard these thins from him I was greatly amazed.

I said to him, "My sweet and good father, where do you receive the Eucharist on the Sabbath and the Lord's Day?" He said to me, "Every Sabbath and every Lord's Day, and angel comes to me and gives me the Eucharist. And blessed is everyone who lives as a citizen in the desert on account of God and sees no human being -- He brings the Eucharist to them and comforts them. If they desire to see anyone, they are taken up to heavenly heights and they see them. They greet them and the hearts are filled with light. They rejoice in the Spirit and are glad in the good things they will never lack. When they see them, they are comforted, and they completely forget the afflictions that have been theirs. Afterwards they return to their places, and they are comforted for a long time, as though they had been removed to another world. Because of the great joy they have seen, they do not remember that this world even exists." the Coptic Life of St. Onnophrius (comm 13 June) by Paphnutius



It is said that in the life to come the angels and saints ever increase in gifts of grace and never abate their longing for further blessings. No lapse or veering from virtue to vice takes place in that life. St. Gregory of Sinai, Philokalia, Vol. IV

One of the fathers used to say that some old men were sitting one day and talking of what was useful to the soul. One of them had the gift of vision, and he saw angels who were waving branches in honor of the old men, but when one of them began to speak of irrelevant things the angels withdrew, and some pigs walked amongst the old men bringing a bad smell and messing up everything. As soon as they began once again to speak of what was useful to the soul, the angels returned to do them honor. The Desert Fathers

Since angels and souls are incorporeal beings, they are not in a particular place, yet neither are they everywhere. They do not sustain all things, but themselves depend on Him Who sustains them. Hence they, too, are in Him Who sustains and embraces all things, and they are appropriately delimited by Him. The soul, since it sustains the body with which it is created, is everywhere in the body, although not in the sense of being located in a place or encompassed, but it itself sustains, encompasses and quickens the body, by virtue of the fact that it is in God's image. St. Gregory Palamas, Philokalia, Vol. IV

Since the angels and souls are incorporeal beings, they are not in a particular place, yet neither are they everywhere. They do not sustain all things, but themselves depend on Him Who sustains them. Hence they, too, are in Him Who sustains and embraces all things, and they are appropriately delimited by Him. The soul, since it sustains the body with which it is created, is everywhere in the body, although not in the sense of being located in a place or encompassed; but it itself sustains, encompasses and quickens the body, by virtue of the fact that it is in God's image. St. Gregory Palamas, in Philokalia, Vol. 4

The angels know how to speak about love, and even they can only do this according to the degree of their enlightenment. St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), Step30: Concerning the Linking Together of the Supreme Trinity Among the Virtues

Then the devil left Him, and angels came and ministered to Him" (Matthew 4:11). It does not say that the angels were with out Lord during the actual time when He was being tempted. In the same way, when we are being tempted, God's angels for a time withdraw a little. Then, after the departure of those tempting us, they come and minister to us with divine intellections, giving us support, illumination, compunction, encouragement, patient endurance, joyfulness, and everything that saves and strengthens and renews our exhausted soul. As Nathaniel was told, "You will see the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of man" (John 1:51); in other words, the ministry and assistance of the angels will be given generously to mankind. St. John of Karpathos "The Philokalia: the Complete Text" (volume I), by St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth, trans. By G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and (Bishop) Kallistos Ware, (London: Faber and Faber, 1979), pp. 298 - 309

There are three things that impel us towards what is holy: natural instincts, angelic powers and probity of intention. Natural instincts impel us when, for example, we do to others what we would wish them to do to us (cf. Luke 6:31), or when we see someone suffering deprivation or in need and naturally feel compassion. Angelic powers impel us when, being ourselves impelled to something worthwhile, we find we are providentially helped and guided. We are impelled by probity of intention when, discriminating between good and evil, we choose the good. St. Maximos the Confessor (Second Century on Love no. 32)

There are three things that move us to the good: natural tendencies, the holy Powers, good choice. The natural tendencies - as, for instance, when what we wish men would do for us, we likewise do for them; or, when we see someone in sore straits, we then naturally have pity. The holy Powers - as when moved to some fine deed, we experience their good assistance and prosper. Good choice - when, for example, discerning good from evil, we choose the good. St. Maximus the Confessor, The Ascetic Life and Four Centuries on Charity

We make mention [in the Divine Liturgy] also of the Seraphim, whom Isaiah in the Holy Spirit saw standing around the throne of God, and with two of their wings veiling their face, and with two their feet, while with two they did fly, crying 'Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts' (Isaiah 6:2-3). For the reason of our reciting this confession of God, delivered down to us from the Seraphim, is this, that so we may be partakers with the hosts of the world above in their hymn of praise. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures: Lecture 23 no. 6)

When Abba Agathon went down to the city to sell some of his baskets and to procure a little bread, he found near the market place an old, poor cripple.

"For the love of God, Abba," the cripple began to plead on seeing the Saint, "don't you, too, leave this poor wretch unaided. Bring me near to you."

Abba Agathon picked the man up and sat him next to him in the place where he had set up his baskets to sell them.

'How much money did you make, Abba?' the cripple would ask each time that the Elder sold a basket.

"Such and such," the Elder would tell him.

"That's good enough," the cripple finally said. "Won't you buy me a little pie, Abba? That would be good of you, since I have not eaten since last evening."

"With pleasure," the Saint told him, immediately fulfilling the cripple's request.

Shortly thereafter, the cripple requested some fruit. And then some sweet. Thus, for each basket that was sold, the Saint spent the proceeds, until, thanks to his patronage, all of the baskets and money were gone, without his having kept even two pennies for himself. More importantly, he did this all with great eagerness, even though he knew that he would thus go perhaps two weeks without any bread for himself.

Since he had sold his last basket, the Saint got ready to leave the marketplace.

"So you're going?" the cripple asked him.

"Yes, I have completed all of my work."

"Uh, do me the favor of taking me as far as the crossroads, and you can leave for the desert from there," the strange old man again pleadingly said.

The good Agathon took the cripple on his back and carried him to the place where he wanted to go, though with great difficulty, since he was exhausted from his day's work.

As soon as he reached the crossroads and started to put down his living burden, he heard a sweet voice say to him:

"May you be blessed, Agathon, by God, both on earth and in Heaven."

The Saint raised up his eyes to see who it was who had spoken with him. The would-be old man had completely disappeared, since he was an Angel sent by God to test the Saint's love. The Desert Fathers



When the first order of angels fell from the angelic glory and became demons, the other nine orders humbled themselves and worshipped the All-holy Trinity, and remained in their place and rejoice forever. We, too, my brethren, must reflect what an evil thing pride is - that it cast down the devil from angelic glory and he will always burn in Hell - and that humility kept the angels in Heaven, and they rejoice perpetually in the glory of the Holy Trinity. Let us the, my brethren, avoid pride, because it is the first daughter of the devil, is a path that leads to Hell;; and let us have humility, because it is angelic, is a path that leads to Paradise. St. Cosmas Aitolos, Teachings (selections)

When the holy Abba Anthony lived in the desert he was beset by boredom, and attacked by many sinful thoughts. He said to God, 'Lord, I want to be saved but these thoughts do not leave me alone; what shall I do in my affliction? How can I be saved?'

A short while afterwards, when he got up to go out, Anthony saw a man like himself sitting at his work, getting up from his work to pray, then sitting down and plaiting a rope, then getting up again to pray. It was an angel of the Lord sent to correct and reassure him: 'Do this and you will be saved.' At these words, Anthony was filled with joy and courage. He did this, and he was saved. The Desert Fathers



When the intellect is pure, sometimes God Himself approaches and teaches it; and sometimes the angelic powers, or the nature of the created things that it contemplates, suggests holy things to it. St. Maximos the Confessor (Third Century on Love no, 94)

When you are praying alone, and your spirit is dejected, and you are wearied and oppressed by your loneliness, remember then, as always, that God the Trinity looks upon you with eyes brighter than the sun; also all the angels, your own Guardian Angel, and all the Saints of God. Truly they do; for they are all one in God, and where God is, there are they also. Where the sun is, thither also are directed all its rays. Try to understand what this means. Elder Herman of Mt. Athos

Whenever we enter the church and draw near to the heavenly mysteries, we ought to approach with all humility and fear, both because of the presence of the angelic powers and out of the reverence due to the sacred oblation; for as the Angels are said to have stood by the Lord's body when it lay in the tomb, so we must believe that they are present in the celebration of the Mysteries of His most sacred Body at the time of consecration." Venerable Bede

Whom else does the Lord call by the name of Powers of heaven unless the Angels, the Archangels, the Thrones, Dominions, Principalities, and Powers, who at the coming of the Just Judge will then appear visibly to our eyes, to the end that they may sternly exact an account of that which the Invisible Lawgiver now patiently suffers? St Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome - Homilia I in Evangelia, in The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, translated and edited by M. F. Toal

You see how bright the sun and the stars are. "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun" from the inner immaterial light of God. Whenever the angels appear upon earth, they are almost always surrounded by light. Aspire to that enlightenment. Throw aside the works of darkness. We can raise our nature to communion with the Divine Nature; and God is the Light uncreated, surpassing every light that has been created. St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ

...amongst the higher powers all things are done in due order, and with them there are limitations of honor or ministry, and boundaries are set for the glory of each by God who apportions all things as He sees fit. Yet there is a single yoke laid upon all, and they serve at the bidding of the Lord, not regarding their servitude as unworthy, but counting the reality of it as a source of honor and glory. St. Cyril of Alexandria (Commentary on Isaiah, Isa. 6:6-7, Cyril of Alexandria written and translated by Norman Russell; Routledge pg. 76)

Also in another place it shows that the angels are the ministers of the saints. For when Elijah was on the mountain and foreigners were rising up against him, his servant said, 'Many are coming against us and we are all alone.' Then Elijah answered, 'Do you not see the armies and multitudes of angels with us surrounding us to aid us?' (2 Kg. 6:15). You see how the Master and the multitude of angels are standing by the side of their servants. St. Macarios the Great, Fifty Spiritual Homilies.

Someone asked an old man, "How is it that some say, 'We see visions of angels'?" And he replied, "Blessed is he who always sees his sins." The Desert Fathers





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