02 Oct. 2012. Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels
Ex. 23:20-23. I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you on the way.
Mt 18:1-5, 10. Their angels in heaven look upon the face of my heavenly Father.
First Reading… Exodus 23:20-23
The Lord spoke to Moses and the people during their journey across the desert wilderness: ‘I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Be attentive to him and listen to his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him.
But if you listen attentively to his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes. My angel will go in front of you.’
Gospel Matthew 18:1-5, 10
The disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”
He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said,
“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,
you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever humbles himself like this child
is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.
And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones,
for I say to you that their angels in heaven
always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”
Guarding us from harm
A guardian angel is a spirit assigned by God to protect and guide particular persons or groups. While belief in guardian angels can be traced through antiquity, the concept of personal angels guarding each believer was extensively developed in the middle ages and is part of the Church’s devotional tradition. It is a colourful expression of the belief in a personal providence taught by Jesus: “The very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Mt 10:30-31) and “if God so clothes the grass that is today in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven; how much more you, O ye of little faith?” (Lk 6:28).
In Genesis 18-19, angels carry out God’s wrath against the cities of the plain, and deliver Lot from danger; in Exodus 32:34, God says to Moses: “my angel shall go before you.” Later we see how the story of Raphael and Tobias enshrines the Psalm words: “He has given his angels charge over you; to keep you in all your ways. In Daniel 10 angels are entrusted with the care of particular districts; one is called “prince of the kingdom of the Persians”, and Michael is termed “one of the chief princes”. The idea that angels can be guides and intercessors for us is implied in the Book of Daniel where the “prince of the Persian kingdom” contends with Gabriel (10:13). The New Testament Book of Jude describes Michael as an archangel. The Book of Enoch, part of the Ethiopian Church’s canon of scripture, says that God will “set a guard of holy angels over all the righteous” (1 En 100:5) to guard them during the end of time.
In the Gospel, angels are envoys between God and man; and the words of Jesus are decisive in establishing the belief: “See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 18:10). Two aspects of the doctrine are here: even little children have guardian angels, and these same angels do not lose the vision of God even while guarding people here on earth. The idea of people being protected by guardian angels is also implied in Hebrews 1:14, “Are they not ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?”
Acts 12:12-15 tells of a specific angel is assigned to protect saint Peter and escort him out of prison. Then, when he went to the home of his friends and the servant girl ran to tell the group that Peter was there, they thought it must be his angel. Since then, Peter’s guardian angel has been depicted in art, most famously in Raphael’s fresco of the Deliverance of Peter from prison. Another key example is the angel who comforted Christ in the garden (Lk
Whether guardian angels attend every individual is not consistently upheld by the Church Fathers, and is not an “article of faith”, although the concept is clear in both the Old and New Testaments. According to St. Jerome the concept is in the “mind of the Church” and he stated that: “how great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it.”
The belief in and theology about angels has undergone many refinements since antiquity. The common belief is that guardian angels serve to protect whoever God assigns them to, and pray to God on that person’s behalf. The first theologian to offer a detailed doctrine about guardian angels was Honorius of Autun (1080-1154), who held that every soul was assigned a guardian angel the moment it was put into a body. Scholastic theologians speculated further about the angel guardians. Thomas Aquinas held that the lowest order of angels served as guardians, and this view prevailed, but Duns Scotus said that any angel might accept the mission.
This feast was not in the breviary of Pius V, published in 1568; but in the following century Clement X made the Feast of Guardian Angels an obligatory feast for the whole Latin Church to be celebrated on October 2nd. This gave papal authority to an ancient and cherished belief. Pope John Paul II tended to link belief in guardian angels with devotion to our Blessed Lady. He urged people to “Invoke the Queen of angels and saints, that she may grant us, supported by our guardian angels, to be authentic witnesses to the Lord’s paschal mystery”.