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Belief in brief: Angels as more than just Hollywood constructions

Friday, February 29, 2008 | 1:00 p.m. CST; updated 5:51 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"Touched by an Angel,” “Dogma” and “City of Angels” all depict representations of angels. But as models of the spiritual, religious and miraculous, angels are more than just Hollywood constructions.

Background

In Judeo-Christian traditions, angels appear in Scripture as bodiless guardians, guides and spiritual messengers between God and man. These angels are sent to Earth to relay messages from God and provide guidance.

Some angels appear only as long as it takes to communicate the word of God, while others may remain for longer periods of time as guardian angels. In the book of Exodus, for example, angels remained as the guardians for nations in crisis.

It is considered to be a point of faith that angels are the guardians of humans, but each individual does not have a guardian angel. The concept of individual guardian angels is supported strongly by the Doctors of the Church, Catholic scholars of the 13th century who developed religious doctrine.

Hierarchy

While the Old Testament describes only two orders of angels, seraphim and cherubim, Catholic scholars suggest there are nine choirs, or groups, of angels.

The highest triad is made up of seraphim angels, cherubim angels and thrones. Seraphim angels are six-winged, four-headed angels of light, love and fire; cherubim angels are angels of harmony and wisdom. Thrones are the angels of justice and will. These angels are considered to be closest to God and therefore the most powerful.

The second triad consists of the dominions, angels who provide guidance for mediating and divine wisdom; the virtues, known for producing miracles; and the powers, angels of protection and defense.

The third triad of angels is composed of the principalities, angels of time and personality; the archangels, angels of fire; and the angels, who are messengers.

Although Catholicism has never officially recognized the nine choirs of angels, Catholic scholars in the 12th and 13th centuries embraced the hierarchy.

Protestants recognize only angels and archangels.

Other religions

Angels are not specific to Judeo-Christian theology.

In Islam, angels, or malaikh, were created from light by Allah as messengers and guardians. These angels are neither male nor female and do not have a human shape, but they may appear in dreams and visions.

Hinduism does not specifically refer to any figure as an angel but rather to spiritual beings that have angelic characteristics. Devas, for example, are minor gods who live on the higher astral plane, and they may help or hinder a person’s spiritual journey. Asparas are heavenly, beautiful nymphs who can also influence a person’s spiritual journey.

Sources: newadvent.org, beliefnet.com


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