One of my parishioners came away from a pilgrimage to Lourdes, more than a little shocked a few years ago and with her faith a little damaged. She had had a conversation with a certain prelate about the Holy Souls. “Oh,” he said, “you still believe in that stuff”. A friend of hers later asked him about angels and got the reply, “I have never met one, I am not sure what their purpose is.”
I can both sympathise with this man but I also think his attitude is highly problematic. I sympathise because our age is highly materialistic and it is difficult for modern man, even prelates, to think outside of what can been seen and touched and analysed. I couldn’t help wondering whether this man might have a similar difficulty with “God”.
The importance of belief Angels is precisely that they call us to believe in something beyond our experience, and beyond our knowledge. It is impossible to deny that Jesus had no problem with Angels, and fact is that the New Testament glitters with them from the Annunciation to the end of the world.
Angels extend the cosmos; they breach the cortex of our world. They slip between the presence of God and man, making God present to man and man to God. It is very easy to argue that we have no need of intermediaries; we have Jesus Christ the sole mediator. It is true we have no need of Angels, or for that matter of saints or even of the Blessed Virgin but they are part of God’s absolute generosity. Wherever God is there is the whole court of Heaven. Our Catholic cosmic vision is not that of the 16th century reformers where God is always alone and therefore tends to be distant, for us God is indeed always totally “other”, but he is not distant, he is intimate. He is united to us by numerous threads. He is with us, we see this world as being separated from heaven by the thinnest of veils which is continual penetrated.
In the liturgy especially we break through the veil; and so we join the Angel and Saints as we sing..., what we sing in the Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei is the song of the Angels. The Mass continually reminds us to this mystery; angels and saints are constantly referred to or invoked, maybe a little less in the Reformed Liturgy but they are still there.