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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Angels Ascending and Descending on the Son of Man

By the ministry of the angels and through the sacred humanity of our Lord, Christ brings about on earth what God wills in heaven. This is what happened to the Virgin in Nazareth. This is what happened in the agony of Gethsemane. In the spiritual life, God sends super intelligent messengers from beyond the narrow confines of this visible world to help us take on the mind of Christ and to act in his power. Angels ascend and descend on Christians just as on the humanity of Christ. Their words communicate deep things into our hearts unimaginably more expansive than are the limited horizon of thought open to merely human speech. St. John of the Cross says that their messages from heaven actually wound us with a deep ardent love of God that does not easily go away to change us, to help us find the only One who can satisfy our heart’s desire. There is nothing like love to free us from ourselves, from the prison of our own preoccupations. Their ministry is to guide us out of our big fat egos so that we might find Christ and cleave to Him in faith. One of the biggest obstacles to prayer is our bloated sense of self. It really is a problem of being full of oneself. A primordial hostility towards the true God lives in our hearts and compels us to seek and to fashion idols that appeal to our imaginations, that we seem to understand, that we think we can control. In our arrogance and ignorance, we easily convince ourselves that what we imagine God to be God is. When we do this we have made an idol out of the self because we have limited God to the product of our own fantasy. Whereas prayer should be a humble conversation with the Living God, when the ego is worshipped as an idol, prayer is reduced to an interior monologue in which we exhaust ourselves going round and round in circles - not unlike what is envisioned in various systems of reincarnation. Such prayer is nothing more than talking to oneself. It is fruitless self-occupation. Here, self-preoccupation is a very consuming kind of worship. Preoccupied with our own concerns, experiences, thoughts, memories, fantasies, feelings, plans, ambitions, grudges, and desires; there is no interior silence for us to listen to God, to allow his silence to humble us in ours, to hear his creative voice so that it might produce a new work in us. The shell of our ego is so thick that it would have imprisoned us forever had not Christ pierced it by allowing himself to be pierced through by our sins. Why does God send us angels? God has desire to bless us with every spiritual blessing through Christ so that we might become the praise of his glory. Angels help us realize this most high calling because their messages help us see the truth about God and about ourselves. Through their ministry of which we are rarely directly aware, we see ever more deeply that the life of the Trinity, the inner life of God, is a constantly going out from "self" in an eternal ecstasy of unimaginably rapturous love: the immortal life of God is pure vulnerability, pure desire for union, pure benevolence for the other, pure self-surrender, pure reciprocity—but in all of this a holiness, a wisdom, an inexhaustible incomprehensibility before which every created intellect must bow and the powers of all imagination must kneel. By the hidden ministry of the angels, God desires that we, mere frail creatures though we are, share in this eternal life, his own life. In the image and likeness of this unfathomable God, marred by sin but restored by Christ through his suffering and death, He constantly sends angels in secret ways to free us from ourselves and to lead us into a place where we can find Him to share his life with Him. God's holy messengers - both angels and men - in speaking the truth to us, wound us with a love by which we see that we are only most fully ourselves when like the Living God we give the gift of ourselves in love.

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