The approach of this line in the hymn caused me some anxiety , because it did not seem to admit of any significant commentary - but that was only at first glance!

Yes, the Holy Angels in Heaven most certainly do adore the Godhead.But even at that point it wasn't always completely so, was it?


Whilst the popular culture has keenly adopted the word " Angel" it has only done so by ignoring the sublime reality of the Holy Angels and  substituting either disembodied winged cherubs, or females of varying degrees of saccharine sweetness. 

Whereas , in reality , Sacred Scripture invariably speaks of Angels appearing as young men, and rather awesome ones at that - it is no co-incidence that Angelic appearances so often begin with " Be not afraid" or similar phrases.

What do we know about Angels? Well to begin with, we should consider the word "Angel" which comes at its origin, from Hebrew then  Greek and then Latin, means " one sent" and consequently, or by derivation, " a messenger". And these Angels are sent by God and bear messages from Him.

In Psalm 8:6 we are told, speaking of Man : " You have made him a little less than the angels". They are like man, created beings. As Saint Augustine and Saint Gregory point out their essential function is as attendants at God's Throne as we say. Whilst recognising that God is a Spirit ( yet remembering that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ retains in Eternity His Glorified Risen Body), this imagery is used because it occurs in Sacred Scripture, as in Daniel 7: 9-10. Angels are not solely messengers that is not their very nature or function. Indeed this essential role as " attendants" is reflected in Our Lord's parable of the Lost Sheep :
10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven."

Nevertheless, Man is most accustomed to Angels in their occasional role as Messenger.We see this :

when an Angel finds Agar in the wilderness ( Genesis 16),

when Angels lead Lot out of Sodom ,
when an Angel bears to Gideon news of his role in saving his people,
when an Angel foretells the birth of Samson,
when Gabriel instructs Daniel,
when Gabriel announces the birth of Saint John the Baptist,
when Gabriel announces the Incarnation of the Lord,
when Gabriel (traditionally) announces to the shepherds the Lord's Birth,
when Gabriel strengthens the Lord in His Agony.

It is interesting that the Prophet Zechariah speaks of the Angel speaking " within me" rather than , as the Revised Version has it " talked with me ". 

It is also interesting to note that there are direct references in Sacred Scripture to Angels assigned the role of guardians of specific nations and some such references that are only suggestive of such a role.

But the role of individual personal Guardian Angels for Man is clearly spelled out throughout the Sacred Scriptures, culminating in Our Divine Lord's statement in Matthew 18:10 :

"10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven."

This teaching is not de Fide . Nevertheless, since it is supported by  so many Doctors of the Church, it would be rash indeed to hold a contrary view. A quote from the great Saint Ambrose is typical :

" We should pray to the angels who are given to us as guardians" ( De Viduis, ix) .

We might note that in the Scared Scripture there is some reflection of the Semitic tendency to view anything that disturbs the harmony of Nature as being attributable to the intervention of God via angels. This extended to the winds and to various pestilences.

Hierarchy of Angels

We do get from Sacred Scripture definite references to various orders of Angels. The Cherubim are mentioned after the Fall as guarding Paradise against our first parents. They are later mentioned in detail in Ezekiel 1 and 10 . Whereas the Seraphim appear only in the vision in Isaias 6:6.

The term Archangel is used only in St. Jude and in 1 Thessalonians 4:15.

But saint Paul prove himself to be a veritable fountain of information in this area, for in two places he provides lists of the orders of the Heavenly hosts :

In Ephesians 1:21 he says that Christ is raised up " above all principality, and power, and virtue, and dominion".

And in Colossians (1 :16) :

".. for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things were created through him and for him."

It is intriguing that a little later at 2:15 Saint Paul speaks of Christ as " despoiling the principalities and powers.....triumphing over them in Himself" and only two verses later he warns the Colossians against being seduced into any "religion of Angels" and warning them against any superstition in this matter. There is ample evidence in the apocryphal Book of Enoch and even in Josephus of excess in this subject - in the latter case on the part of the Essenes.


For an authentic summary view on the broad subject , we may safely turn to Pope Saint Gregory the Great ( Hom. 34,In Evang.):

"We know on the authority of Scripture that there are nine orders of angels, viz., Angels, Archangels, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Dominations, Throne, Cherubim and Seraphim. That there are Angels and Archangels nearly every page of the Bible tell us, and the books of the Prophets talk of Cherubim and SeraphimSt. Paul, too, writing to the Ephesians enumerates four orders when he says: 'above all Principality, and Power, and Virtue, and Domination'; and again, writing to the Colossians he says: 'whether Thrones, or Dominations, or Principalities, or Powers'. If we now join these two lists together we have five Orders, and adding Angels and Archangels, Cherubim and Seraphim, we find nine Orders of Angels."

St. Denis ( De Coelesti Hierarchia vi.vii) later followed by St. Thomas Aquinas ( Summma Theol. 1: 108), divides the Choirs of Angel into three orders on the basis of their proximity to God :
Seraphim. Cherubim and Thrones, then
Dominations, Virtues and Powers, then
Principalities, Archangels and Angels.

Sacred Scripture provides us with the names of only three individual Angels who are traditionally referred to as Archangels : Michael, Raphael and Gabriel . The names are descriptive and mean:
Michael : " Who is like unto God?"
Raphael : "God is Healer"
Gabriel : " God is my Strength"

We should note here that " Lucifer" ( Bearer of Light) is held NOT to be the name of Satan but the state from which he has fallen ( Petavius , De Angelis ,III,iii,4).

The number of Angels according to Sacred Scripture is immense as attested by Daniel 7:10, Apocalypse 5:11 Psalm 67:18 and Matthew 26:53.


Jesus Himself tells us (Luke 10:18):

" I saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven"

Decades later saint John writing in the Apocalypse ( Rev, 12 : 7-9) tells us more:

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him."


History recounts elaborate Theological SPECULATION as to the reason for Satan's rebellion and fall. It need not detain us here.

In Part II we will consider who else is in Heaven and the issues surrounding that question.


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