It is a commonplace in our culture to speak of guardian angels, particularly when we have come close to a physical disaster and survived. Thus, a near-miss in an auto-accident, or even a survival from a terrible accident, conversation often lightly turns to mention of “my guardian angel.” Of course, such references also raise the question about those who do not survive their accidents, or when near-misses become “head-on.” Are we to infer that one person’s guardian angel did a better job than another’s?
The task of our guardian angels, as understood in the Church’s tradition, is the guarding of our salvation. That guarding may very well include physical protection – though the greater danger for us all in each and every day is the spiritual danger that surrounds us.
These dangers are not simply the things that assault us – but those things that assault us in such a way that our soul itself is imperiled. The mystery of what is to our soul’s benefit and what is to its harm is known to God alone, or to those to whom He choose to reveal it. It is this mystery that the guardian angels serve. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his soul?”
The traditional “prayer to my guardian angel” guides our words to this understanding:
O Angel of Christ, holy guardian and protector of my soul and body, forgive me everything wherein I have offended thee every day of my life, and protect me from all influence and temptation of the evil one. May I nevermore anger God by any sin. Pray for me to the Lord, that He may make me worthy of the grace of the All-holy Trinity, and of the Most Blessed Theotokos, and of all the Saints. Amen.
The language of “angering God by sin” is the traditional metaphor of Scripture in which our sin sets us in opposition to God and thus puts us in the path of His “wrath.” It is not a description of a God whom we make angry.
In like manner, we pray that the Lord will make us worthy of saving grace and of the help of the prayers of the Theotokos and of all the saints. Of course, they will pray for us whether we are worthy or not (else who would ever be prayed for?).
However, the Tradition teaches us all a lesson, and that is to value our salvation above all else. Greater than our wealth, our physical safety, all things in our life. For our salvation (living communion with the True God) is nothing other than our true life. Without that true life we are not physically safe or wealthy or anything that the world values. Without true life we live in a deadly delusion. It is against such deadly delusion that our Guardian Angel and all the saints work and pray. They do not do so as substitutes for the grace of our good God, but in cooperation with that very grace. All of heaven yearns for our salvation and for us to know our true life.
May God keep us!