Angels – An Introduction

As promised, during the three Tuesdays in Advent (the fourth is Christmas Eve) we will be gathering to discuss and discover angels. Scripture is full of angels: the guarding Cherub at the Garden of Eden, the helper who saves Hagar and Ismael in the desert, the burning Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision, the announcer of births from Isaac to Sampson to Jesus, and the great army that fights in Revelation. Daniel speaks of heavenly Powers and Paul writes of Thrones, Dominions, and Principalities. In the 5th century, a Syrian theologian writing under the pseudonym Dionysius the Aeropagite (see Acts 17:34) wrote the definitive Christian work on angels. In his book Celestial Hierarchy, he discusses the essence of heavenly beings and their various functions, and he classifies these angels into three hierarchies of three choirs each (in descending order): Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones; Dominions, Powers, and Authorities; Principalities, Archangels, and Angels. Dionysius’s views were adopted by Gregory the Great as authoritative in the Western Church in the late 6th century, and were used as the basis of Thomas Aquinas’ teachings on angels in the  Summa Theologica.

Each Tuesday during Advent we will look at a different hierarchy (taking them in ascending order) as well as discuss the essence and functions of angels in general. The only required reading is a few Bible verses each week usually drawn from the Old Testament. The primary book I am using in preparation for Advent is Mike Aquilia’s book  Angels of God: The Bible, the Church and the Heavenly Hosts. The book is a very easy-to-read summation of the nature and function of the angels. I would also recommend reading Dionysius’ Celestial Hierarchy. It too is fairly short and provides a very different way of thinking about humanity, angels, and the Divine. If you need us to order you a book, please let me know. 

The general format will stay the same with dinner beginning at 6, followed by a discussion, and ending by 8 with Compline. We’ll start the discussion on angels on December 3. If you haven’t joined us in a while, we would love to have you back for Advent. Also, please feel free to invite someone to come with you or to simply forward this email on to them.

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