Archive for the ‘angels in Orthodox Christianity’ Category

When Things Are Not As They Seem

October 19, 2007

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It is said that when some of the natives of the South Seas first saw Captain Cook’s ships approaching, they saw them as clouds. There was no category in their world for “ships,” thus the Captain and his crew came in “clouds.”

I’ve have always wondered about the connection between how we name things in the paucity of our experience and how much that naming actually shapes our ability to see. Princess Ileana of Romania, later Mother Alexandra the nun and foundress of the monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, PA, wrote of her visual experience of her guardian angel when she was a child. There is a clear indication in her writing that she was able to see something as a child that as an adult would become increasingly difficult.

My life in the Church, over the years, even outside the Orthodox Church, has made me more than a little aware that there are “more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy” (to paraphrase). I have served Churches where angels were seen (in procession disappearing into the altar in one case). I have another case where a young woman was saved in the midst of a tumbling car wreck by an appearance of the Royal New Martyrs of Russia. I can add to such stories, though they are not daily reported to me.

But they have often enough been reported to make me wonder about the nature of the world in which I live. I often think that I live in a world that seems as it does because everyone expects it so to seem. And I’ve heard enough to doubt that all is as it seems.

This, of course, is an excellent place for me to mention yet again the difference between a “one” and a “two” storey universe. In the two-storey world, you can have all the oddities you want, you just push them off to the next floor and let the world seem as empty as it does.

Of course, if you live in one-storey world, then the things undreamt of are as likely to appear as anything else. Nothing may be quite as it seems. Indeed, it may very well be the case that very little is as it seems – and this I think is indeed the case.

It is the case, for instance, that most people you meet seem to be one way, but when you get to know them there is very much more there than at first there seemed. Sometimes there is very much more good than seemed at first – sometimes very much more bad. Sometimes there is more pain and sometimes there is more willingness to inflict pain. But things are rarely as they seem at first.

The same is true simply for the world in which we live. At the pace we travel, rushing about, there is very little that we actually see – or that we see for more than a blur. The Scriptures tell us that the pure in heart are blessed for they shall see God. We are not the pure in heart – nor is our heart slow enough to even begin the process of becoming pure.

Traveling at the speed of modernity – blinded by the flicker of screens that constantly interpret our world – we must be more and more certain that whatever things may seem to us they surely are otherwise. Our hearts are far from pure and thus we see no God and in our rush to some other vision we are redefining reality into no reality at all.

The call of the Church, of the Gospel, is a call to repentance. But that call is a very slow call. Repentance, even in the case of “quick cases” like the Apostle Paul are deceptive in their speed. His repentance had long been preceded by “goads” from God. Saul had been wrestling with God long before he met a blinding light. And he continued in his slow change for years to come, even enduring “buffeting” from Satan for the sake of his salvation.

There is a slowness that belongs naturally to children – a timeless quality to their wonder – when not interrupted by new strange sights and sounds that do not actually belong to the world. There is a slowness that can see angels.

The same speed of life beckons to us all: “Be still and know that I am God.” It is a stillness that may require a lifetime for in that stillness can be found the very purity for which our hearts were created.

Prayer to My Guardian Angel – A Post Revisited

October 3, 2007

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WordPress provides a fair amount of information to its bloggers – it gives you a chance to see some of what works and occasionally why. Then there are mysteries. One of my mysteries is the popularity of this particular post which first went up last January. Since then it has generated over 2800 views – probably more than 5 times the number of any other single post. Interestingly, it is daily listed among my top posts. Recently its viewing is simply growing everyday so that yesterday it had more views on that day than on its first day. I have looked at the listing of “referrals” (more information WordPress gives). I can’t see where the traffic is coming from. I don’t mind it. It’s a nice post. I was reading an article by Ochlophobist today that reminded me of it. So I am reposting it. If any of you have any hints as to why such a post would continue to grow in popularity (without generating comments particularly) I’d love to hear your thoughts. Enjoy. Thanks. 

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O Holy Angel, who stand by my wretched soul and my passionate life: do not abandon me, a sinner, neither depart from me because of my lack of self-control. Leave no room for the evil demon to gain control of me through the violence of this mortal body. Strengthen my weak and feeble hand, and instruct me in the path of salvation. O holy Angel of God, the guardian and protector of my wretched soul and body: forgive all the sorrows I have caused you, every day of my life. If I have sinned in this past night, protect me during this day. Keep me from every adverse temptation, that I may not anger God by any sin. Pray to the Lord for me, that He may establish me in His fear and make me, His servant, worthy of His goodness. Amen.

My wife recently asked me, “Do you know the prayer to the Guardian Angel?” I admitted that I was familiar with the prayer but she said, “No. I mean have you learned it yet?” I admitted I had not (she memorizes things much more easily than I do – that’s my first excuse). But it turned my attention to this simple prayer, and to the remembrance of my guardian angel. In Orthodoxy, by prayer, an angel is specifically assigned to your life as part of the rite of Baptism. I’ve always liked that fact, and known that my angel watches over me.

Many people associate Guardian Angels with “getting out of a close one” or barely avoiding a wreck. While traveling in England this summer, we apparently ran a red light on a roundabout (they rarely have lights on roundabouts so we were unprepared). A car pulled out, and all of us in the car were completely convinced by our eyes that we must have hit this car. By visual report it is impossible that we did not hit this car – but there was no sound. There was a bit of a dirty look and the other car drove on. We got out just a short bit down the road to see if we had been hit or touched in any way. There was no evidence. Part of me wanted to go back and look for feathers, thinking surely that a Guardian Angel had been injured in the event (I don’t think that’s actually possible).

But there is great comfort in thoughts of my Guardian Angel. According the traditional teaching, though, the task of my Guardian Angel is not to make up for my lack in driving skills (although I did not drive in England) but to see me safely to the harbor of salvation. “Safe” is the same thing as “saved,” and that’s not over ’til it’s over.

Another prayer you will find written no where else. It was created by my son when he was four years old (that was almost 16 years ago). He had a small statue of St. Michael the Archangel beside his bed on his nightstand. He liked it so we bought it for him. It was a very manly Michael, with a great and terrible sword drawn, and the devil, stuck beneath one of Michael’s feet, writhing helplessly.

My son’s prayer (still a family favorite):

Dear St. Michael, guard my room.

Don’t let anything eat me or kill me.

Kill it with your sword. Kill it with your sword. Amen.

Now that’s a fine prayer, particularly for a four year-old. I’m not certain what made him think of things that would eat him, but when you’re four, it’s good to cover all possibilities. The prayer worked. He has been safe all these years. The only thing eaten in his room have been several tons of pizza.

I do not really understand the objections that Protestants have to such prayers. I’m told “there is only one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus.” Well, of course. But that sense of mediation is a meaning of the word that Christ alone could perform. No angel, no other creature can unite me to God. Only God become man is able to unite man to God.

But we’re talking about prayer, not union, per se. Can someone else pray for me? I hope so and the last time I checked, even Protestants are allowed to pray for me (please do). Can angels pray for me (yes they can and they do). Is it wrong to ask them to do so or thank them for it (certainly not). Can saints in heaven pray for me (the Bible says they do). Is it wrong to ask them (Holy Tradition says it is not). In the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the Rich Man prays to “Father Abraham” to intercede with Lazarus for him. It is of no use in his case, but he was not rebuked for speaking to Abraham. Being told “No,” and being rebuked for even having the conversation are two very different things.

I give thanks to God for the dear fellowship of the saints. For those who pray for me that I have asked, and for the many who have prayed for me that I have known nothing about. I just know that part of the joy of being an Orthodox Christian is the fact that prayer is never a lonely thing. God is the “Lord of Hosts.” He is always surrounded by such a cloud of Angels, saints, etc. He cannot be approached “alone.” This great company of witnesses, as the book of Hebrews calls them, bears witness to my prayers before God, and hopefully improves greatly upon them. They see so much more clearly than I what I see. I see and know so little. Thank God someone is praying who knows. God knows, but it is His delight, in the utter humility of His nature, to share that knowledge and to invite us to pray.

May all the saints in heaven pray for you. May St. Michael pray for you and guard your room. May your Holy Guardian Angel pray for you and the saint whose name you bear. And may you know the great fellowship of heaven even here on earth. They are truly with us.

Prayer to My Guardian Angel and Some Other Thoughts

January 13, 2007

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For an update and additional comments on this article see angels.

O Holy Angel, who stand by my wretched soul and my passionate life: do not abandon me, a sinner, neither depart from me because of my lack of self-control. Leave no room for the evil demon to gain control of me through the violence of this mortal body. Strengthen my weak and feeble hand, and instruct me in the path of salvation. O holy Angel of God, the guardian and protector of my wretched soul and body: forgive all the sorrows I have caused you, every day of my life. If I have sinned in this past night, protect me during this day. Keep me from every adverse temptation, that I may not anger God by any sin. Pray to the Lord for me, that He may establish me in His fear and make me, His servant, worthy of His goodness. Amen.

My wife recently asked me, “Do you know the prayer to the Guardian Angel?” I admitted that I was familiar with the prayer but she said, “No. I mean have you learned it yet?” I admitted I had not (she memorizes things much more easily than I do – that’s my first excuse). But it turned my attention to this simple prayer, and to the remembrance of my guardian angel. In Orthodoxy, by prayer, an angel is specifically assigned to your life as part of the rite of Baptism. I’ve always liked that fact, and known that my angel watches over me.

Many people associate Guardian Angels with “getting out of a close one” or barely avoiding a wreck. While traveling in England this summer, we apparently ran a red light on a roundabout (they rarely have lights on roundabouts so we were unprepared). A car pulled out, and all of us in the car were completely convinced by our eyes that we must have hit this car. By visual report it is impossible that we did not hit this car – but there was no sound. There was a bit of a dirty look and the other car drove on. We got out just a short bit down the road to see if we had been hit or touched in any way. There was no evidence. Part of me wanted to go back and look for feathers, thinking surely that a Guardian Angel had been injured in the event (I don’t think that’s actually possible).

But there is great comfort in thoughts of my Guardian Angel. According the traditional teaching, though, the task of my Guardian Angel is not to make up for my lack in driving skills (although I did not drive in England) but to see me safely to the harbor of salvation. “Safe” is the same thing as “saved,” and that’s not over ’til it’s over.

Another prayer you will find written no where else. It was created by my son when he was four years old (that was almost 16 years ago). He had a small statue of St. Michael the Archangel beside his bed on his nightstand. He liked it so we bought it for him. It was a very manly Michael, with a great and terrible sword drawn, and the devil, stuck beneath one of Michael’s feet, writhing helplessly.

My son’s prayer (still a family favorite):

Dear St. Michael, guard my room.

Don’t let anything eat me or kill me.

Kill it with your sword. Kill it with your sword. Amen.

Now that’s a fine prayer, particularly for a four year-old. I’m not certain what made him think of things that would eat him, but when you’re four, it’s good to cover all possibilities. The prayer worked. He has been safe all these years. The only thing eaten in his room have been several tons of pizza.

I do not really understand the objections that Protestants have to such prayers. I’m told “there is only one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus.” Well, of course. But that sense of mediation is a meaning of the word that Christ alone could perform. No angel, no other creature can unite me to God. Only God become man is able to unite man to God.

But we’re talking about prayer, not union, per se. Can someone else pray for me? I hope so and the last time I checked, even Protestants are allowed to pray for me (please do). Can angels pray for me (yes they can and they do). Is it wrong to ask them to do so or thank them for it (certainly not). Can saints in heaven pray for me (the Bible says they do). Is it wrong to ask them (Holy Tradition says it is not). In the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the Rich Man prays to “Father Abraham” to intercede with Lazarus for him. It is of no use in his case, but he was not rebuked for speaking to Abraham. Being told “No,” and being rebuked for even having the conversation are two very different things.

I give thanks to God for the dear fellowship of the saints. For those who pray for me that I have asked, and for the many who have prayed for me that I have known nothing about. I just know that part of the joy of being an Orthodox Christian is the fact that prayer is never a lonely thing. God is the “Lord of Hosts.” He is always surrounded by such a cloud of Angels, saints, etc. He cannot be approached “alone.” This great company of witnesses, as the book of Hebrews calls them, bears witness to my prayers before God, and hopefully improves greatly upon them. They see so much more clearly than I what I see. I see and know so little. Thank God someone is praying who knows. God knows, but it is His delight, in the utter humility of His nature, to share that knowledge and to invite us to pray.

May all the saints in heaven pray for you. May St. Michael pray for you and guard your room. May your Holy Guardian Angel pray for you and the saint whose name you bear. And may you know the great fellowship of heaven even here on earth. They are truly with us.


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