Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Gift of Angels

Archangel Michael, by Guido Reni in
17th Century from Wikipedia.
We all assume we know what angels are and where they come from, but in many respects, angels are as mysterious as many other classic symbols.

The word angel derives from the Late Latin word angelus based on an earlier Greek word angelos meaning messenger, which in later ages was used in translating the Hebrew word for Jehovah’s messenger. This means the concept of an angel is involved in communication as are all our other symbols.

Angels appear in the Jewish Tanakh, the Christian Bibles, and in the Muslim Quran, where they act as God's envoys and sometimes human mentors. According to these texts, thousands of angles exist even if never named or mentioned. Angles, being God’s messengers, can deliver messages and warning, plus provide insight and understanding. Meeting one can be either good or bad, perhaps because messages can be either.

The Tanakh, or Hebrew Scriptures, mentions hosts of angels but not by name, while the text of Rabbinic Judaism, the Talmud,  names four archangels, Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael. They surround the throne of God.

The Muslim Quran mentions the angels Azreaeel, Israafeel, Mikaa'eel, and Gabriel by name. 

While the Christian Bible mentions hosts of angels, only three are mentioned: Gabriel, archangel Michael, and Lucifer. Lucifer, the angel who brought God light for his creation and also known as the star of the morning (also known as Venus), was cast from heaven with other angels who had joined him. They created hell and a war began between heaven's angels and the fallen angels, now demons. Lucifer came to represent the embodiment of evil, but that doesn’t mean all heavenly angles have an entirely clean slate. Here is the good and evil conundrum: what is good for one society (or person) can be evil to another, and what is evil in one society or culture can be considered good in another. The boundaries between good and evil are not always finite.

As symbols, we have certain mental images of angels as winged human-like beings, but ancient texts describe them differently. Some look like babies. Some have two, four or even six wings, some have no wings. Some have halos or carry a staff or a sword. Other angles appear, depending on the viewer’s angle of vision, in different forms such as a lion, an ox, or an eagle. And as spiritual beings (or of the mind) they have no bodies except the viewer’s perspective. Why are there no documented female angels? Well angels, despite their names, were presumably non-gender; they lived forever so had no need for procreation.

In many respects, angels (and devils) exist within us just like the images of a person with an angel on one should and a devil on the other. They exist within our minds, providing each of us with private messages. This is their gift. These messages can provide guidance. Today I tend to think of angels as existing all around us, especially in the people who do inspiring or good acts. Demonic angels drive those who do cruel and evil acts. Some of these individuals are known through our media, but many remain unacknowledged. The deeds of those who show human kindness and generosity often lead others to do the same, but make no mistake, we all have both compulsions inside our minds.

These everyday angles, like the angles in the Bible, come in many categories from people to animals. They spread hope, caring, love, and the chance for a change which will lead to a better life and a better world.

With my imagination in high gear, I have to consider what good some animals provide, and since some have four wings, do bees, dragonflies, and butterflies fall into the category of angels? Despite mosquitoes having wings (two), are they devils?

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