Much is spoken on the topic of angels, but little in the way of true doctrine is understood. Many who call themselves Christians have drunk deeply from the well of New Age paganism. Since the Great Apostasy, people get their ideas from all the wrong places. New Agers teach that angels reside within us and are waiting for us to use them to tap our human potential, enhance creativity, provide psychological fulfillment, and spiritual self-enlightenment. Thus promoters of "angel contact" offer people what they want and need in troubled times: assurance, love, and guidance. It is a warped view of Guardian Angels. A couple of years ago, a gentleman at my Church told me about a time when he saw large bones he claimed belonged to beings conceived of angels and human females called the "Nephilim." There are some Protestant sects that actually believe this to be the case. It is based on a misunderstanding of Genesis 6:4. I didn't have time to discuss the issue with the gentleman that day (and I haven't seen him since). This post will give the Church's teaching on angels, and explain the so-called Nephilim.
Church Teaching on Angels
Except where expressly stated otherwise, the teaching of the Church is taken from the writings of theologians Ott and Pohle.
1. In the beginning of time God created spiritual essences out of nothing. It is a dogma declared by the Fourth Lateran Council and the First Vatican Council that "simultaneously at the beginning of time He created from nothing both spiritual and corporeal creation, angelic and mundane." The creation of the angels is directly attested to in Colossians 1:16, "For in him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and in him." (Four of the angelic choirs are mentioned; Emphasis mine).
2. The number and hierarchy of the angels. There is no definitive teaching on how many angels exist, although it is certain they are very numerous. Apocalypse 5: 11, "I heard the voice of many angels...and the number of them was thousands of thousands." The so-called "orders" or "choirs" of angels are not an article of faith, but the theologians hold it to be a theologically certain truth. The theological schools have put them into three hierarchies with three choirs in each hierarchy. The supreme hierarchy has the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones. The intermediate hierarchy is composed of the Dominations, Virtues, and Powers. The lowest hierarchy is made of the Principalities, Archangels, and Angels. It is speculated that the difference in rank is due to the supreme hierarchy assisting at the Throne of God and getting their orders directly from Almighty God Himself. They then hand these orders down to the intermediate hierarchy which, in turn, hands them down to the lowest hierarchy, and the angels bring messages (when necessary) to men. The name angel means "messenger."
3. The angels have an intellect superior to men and are endowed with free will. The angels were given a test, like humans, to earn the Beatific Vision. They were subjected to a probation which a number failed and became demons in Hell. The angels are vastly superior to humans, but cannot produce a true miracle which is something only God can do. The leader of the rebellious angels became known as "Satan" or "adversary" and it is conjectured that approximately one third of the angels followed his rebellion against God, Who created and condemned them to Hell. What was the test? We don't know for certain. Most theologians agree it was a sin of pride. Some theologians speculate that they did not want to serve God. Other theologians, most notably the great Suarez, teach that the sin of pride was in refusing to obey and worship God the Son when it was made known He would take on a human nature (Hypostatic Union).
4. Every human being has a Guardian Angel who should be venerated and invoked. There are four points on this:
Angels have a general guardianship over the human race. It is good and salutary to pray to them and venerate them. All humans, not just members of the One True Church are given a Guardian Angel upon conception. Theologians agree that even the Antichrist will have a Guardian Angel, but all his efforts to turn him from utter wickedness will be in vain because of the sheer perversity of his will.It is to be rejected that every person also has a demon to tempt him. It is impious to even think God, Who wills the salvation of all, would permit it.
Guardian Angels ward off dangers of body and soul consonant with the Will of God.
They inspire good and salutary thoughts and covey our prayers to the Throne of God.
They assist us at the hour of death and bear the souls of the elect to Heaven.
Genesis 6: 2-4 reads, "The sons of God seeing the daughters of men, that they were fair, took to themselves wives of all which they chose. And God said: My spirit shall not remain in man for ever, because he is flesh, and his days shall be a hundred and twenty years. Now giants were upon the earth in those days. For after the sons of God went in to the daughters of men, and they brought forth children, these are the mighty men of old, men of renown."
From this verse, comes the idea of a "race of supermen" half-angelic, and half-human. According to theologian Tanquerey, there are many errors concerning angels. Their very existence is denied by atheists, and some Protestants who claim that the angels in the Bible are either good inspirations sent by God, or men sent by God to enlighten others. On the other hand, Some of the Fathers and early theologians were in error regarding the nature of angels, thinking they were united to special bodies. They were led astray by either Platonic philosophy or the verse at hand which they misinterpreted. It is certain that angels are entirely spiritual. (See Tanquerey, Dogmatic Theology (1:372)). Thus the angel Raphael says to Tobias, " I seemed indeed to eat and to drink with you: but I use an invisible meat and drink, which cannot be seen by men." From this we may infer that angels do not have a body but only an apparent body.
Since angels do not have bodies, how does the Church interpret the passage? According to theologian Haydock, "sons of God" refers to the godly line of Seth (from whom the Redeemer would come; see Genesis 4:26) who intermarried with the godless line of Cain. At that time, people were preserved by God for long lives; some more than 900 years. God would now shorten their lives to 120 years for them to repent before He would send the great deluge. As far as size is concerned, is it possible that men who lived so much longer, could also have been much bigger in stature? Think of Goliath. It is pagan, and illogical, to think spiritual substances can have carnal relations with humans producing "heroes" much like the pagan Greeks believed about Hercules. Christ said, "For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." (St. Matthew 22:30).
As with all things theological, we must always consult the teaching of the Church. Those who do not seek out the true doctrine as taught by the Church's theologians on any given issue will fall in error (at best) or into heresy (at worst). The danger becomes apparent in the case of angels. Modernists and atheists outright deny their existence. New Agers turn them into self-help gurus from within, and promote "contact" with them in what will become contact with demons. Others distort the Bible believing in pagan-like "demi-gods" (Nephilim) derived from the alleged union between angels and humans. Pray to your Guardian Angel and ask him to help you learn, and love, authentic Church teaching on any given subject.
Culled from Intriobo Ad Altare Dei
Presented by Malachy Mary Igwilo, 31st March 2017