Thursday, September 29, 2016

Michaelmas Day 2016: Dreaming of Angels

I've just read the epithet "Life is about dreams. A teacher makes them come true" on a colleague's coffee mug. It's one of those statements designed to make teachers feel good about what they do, and yet the reality  of the case seems far from what amounts to this sentence written only to raise the spirits. A child's dreams may indeed be influenced, positively or negatively, by a teacher but there are so many other factors which come into it as to render the true contribution of each teacher objectively invisible. Personally, I hope that I am not responsible for any of my students' dreams coming true, for then, I might be responsible for an inevitable nightmare!

Dreams are regarded with quite some suspicion or derision these days. What we would dearly love to happen in our lives is often not what we actually want. It is because of the rather insubstantial nature of dreams that causes them not to work out in reality. From life's bitter experience, dreams are often punctured with a good dose of cynicism, derision, or just plain fact. Nothing spoils a dream more than waking up to what really is.

I wonder if we are becoming obsessed with what is and is not real. Science claims to have complete objectivity and the deciding means of what is and is not truly real. Philosophy questions this and, in the multitude of metaphysical and existential theories, renders the question "What is reality?" inaccessible to the person on the street. We know the difference between dreams and reality, surely?

(Thanks to Channel 4 and Fr Ted for this!)

Well then, what about the angels?

We need the angels more than ever, but we also need to get out of thinking the wrong things about them in order to truly appreciate their influence and assistance in our lives and in our relationship with God.

Are angels real?

Our Lord talks about them in St Matthew xiii.39, is ministered by them in St Matthew iv.11, are present at the empty tomb in both St Luke and St John's gospel. Crucially the Lord says that they are ascribed to each of us when He says, "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven." He speaks of the presence of angels in Heaven telling us that we shall stand before them. However, we are only a little lower than the angels.

This is crucial. Our Lord, a historical figure, the One Whose Resurrection has sound historical evidence and thus historical evidence that He is Who He says He is, says that there are angels. If we trust Him, then there are angels indeed. Not floaty people with wings and harps but strange beings, sometimes appearing as men, or as wheels, or as six-winged seraphs. There is a legion of them out there yet, because they have no material existence, they are often missed.

I pointed out to Fr Anthony that there are times when I've celebrated Masses in which I enter 1 in the attendance and communicants column in the Parish Register. Yet, I know that when I celebrate Mass, I do so with the whole angelic host around me, as well as being present with every Catholic priest saying Mass in every time. That's the nature of Reality with God. It passes our understanding because our eyes are veiled.

We do not see, and therefore we are tempted to forget. It is in forgetting that we try to trust in ourselves to dispel evil, and then only end up propagating it. Yes, there are evil angels that we call demons. How can we battle such beings when we can't even control our own bodies? Looking at the world around us, the evil is growing in the spirits of Men. Cynicism, hatred, intolerance, scorn, smugness, self-righteousness, hubris, ambition, promiscuity, lust, dissent, deliberate confusion, complacency, apathy, apostasy, and pride are all on the increase - or at least we hear of them more with greater access to the media. These are spiritual evils from which we need to be exorcised, yet we allow them into our lives on a daily basis.

If this world's spiritual health is to be renewed then it can only come with God and the Angelic Host that He has under His command. We need to see the angelic force as being something that is real and effective, rather than as some dream, story, or vague Medieval superstition. We need to call upon God to send help, and pray to St Michael and our guardian angels to assist us in our daily struggle against evil. For God has given His angels charge over us to keep us in all our ways to God Himself. Indeed, they shall bear thee in their hands that thou hurt not thy foot against a stone but not, as Our Lord points out, to the extent that we put God to the test.

We need to start with ourselves and ask God and His angels to take us by the hand to walk along the path of Life. Their company will uplift us if we trust them, and we can trust them as they have been sent by God for that very purpose. Then we can pray for the angelic host to help us defeat the forces within our society and in our world that seek to separate and destroy the Creation of God. We each need this help if we want to overcome the growing spiritual darkness around us.

Holy Michael Archangel, defend us in battle.
 Be our guard against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
 May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
 and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
 by the power of God,
 thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits,
 who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

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