We have all experienced the deep pangs and the emptiness of feeling alone. We have felt it in some cases because we have been physically alone, separated from those that we love for one reason or another. The feeling goes soul deep in us.
ʺI thank you, Lord, with all my heart; You have heard the words of my mouth. In the presence of angels I praise you. I bow down toward your holy temple. I give thanks to your name for your merciful love and your faithfulness. You have exalted your name over all. On the day I called, you answered me; You increased the strength of my soul. The Lord is high, yet he looks on the lowly, And the haughty he knows from afar. You give me life though I walk amid affliction; You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes. With your right hand you save me; The Lord will accomplish this for me. O Lord, your merciful love is eternal; Discard not the work of your hands.ʺ Psalm 138: 1-3, 6-8
We have all experienced the deep pangs and the emptiness of feeling alone. We have felt it in some cases because we have been physically alone, separated from those that we love for one reason or another. The feeling goes soul deep in us. There is both fear and longing in the experience of being alone. We feel untethered, as if floating in space, separated by time and space from all that is familiar and comforting. At times we may feel alone even in the midst of a crowd. We are aware that we do not ‘fit in,’ that we have nothing in common with those around us. And sometimes, we are made to feel alone in our faith. We may have had the experience of being surrounded by those who despise the faith we profess, who ridiculed us, even attacked us, for our beliefs. Alone in this we may have felt true fear, maybe even a sense of being overwhelmed and needing someone to defend us. But we are never alone. Throughout the scriptures, angels are mentioned as God’s messengers. Sometimes they are even named: Rafael, Gabriel, Michael. They are representatives of God’s love and power and are seen as his ever faithful and powerful servants.
As a child, my mother taught me a prayer, that I continue to pray every day as I wake up, and throughout the day whenever I feel the need. It is called the Guardian Angel Prayer and it goes like this:
ʺAngel of God, my guardian dear,
To whom God’s love commits me here,
Ever this day be at my side
To light, to guard, to rule, and to guide.ʺ
My mother told me that God, out of his wisdom, and out of his unique and special love for me, had assigned a specific angel to watch over me, to be present to me in God’s name, to be God’s ever present messenger and protector every moment of the day and the night. As a child, I remember that being inexplicably comforting. I knew that I was never alone, that God’s presence surrounded me with protecting wings. Now, I know that some fellow Christians will have problems with this idea, but angels are scriptural. They are spoken of in both the Hebrew Testament and the Christian Testament. It is not against scripture to believe in them. In some of our traditions we still echo the hymn attributed to the angels before the throne of God in the Book of Isaiah chapter 6, ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts; heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosannah in the highest.’
As an adult, even as an old man now, who has lived a long life full of the spectrum of life’s experiences both good and bad, I have always been aware of God’s presence. I have known his presence in the moments of when my conscience struggled against temptation to remain faithful to God and to do the right thing. I have also felt both the relief and the confidence that I have been guarded during times of danger. I have felt the ruling nudge and the guiding spirit of God in moments of doubt and fear. I have no trouble in believing that God’s love is manifested to me by one of his own ministering angels. It is not a matter of doctrine, or dogma. It is a matter of simple faith that God’s wisdom is beyond our own, that there are things that cannot be explained by human philosophies. It takes nothing away from God, rather it argues, in yet another way, God’s personal love for each and every one of us. It is not the belief in a guardian angel that is important, but to recognize that God’s love is greater than our human understanding. It is simply another way of recognizing God’s intimate, ever present love for us. I am comforted by this thought. It is not an article of faith. You do not have to believe in it to be a good Christian. But then, one is reminded that God can do whatever God wishes to do.
There is, of course, precedent for the theological acceptance of angels. We see them sent by God in both the Testaments of the Bible. It was Gabriel, after all, who visits Mary announcing to her that she would be conceived of the Holy Spirit and become the mother of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, the One who had been promised from the time of Abraham. Angels appeared to Joseph in dreams several times to guide and to advise him. We Christians come to know God through the scriptures, but God is greater even than that. When we finally come face to face with He-Who-Is-Love we will realize that what we have known here on earth was only a hint of what we will come to know of Him in his Holy Presence forever and ever in heaven. The idea that God has assigned a particular guardian angel to us is just one more way of thinking about, knowing, and experiencing the infinite mind and love of God. If it draws one nearer to God, then it is of God.
Lord, we thank you for your unconditional and thoughtful love for each and every one of us. We are humbled by it and drawn ever closer to you the more we experience it. Keep our minds and our hearts open to all of your ways. Guide us always in your ways. Protect us from the things that threaten to harm us, or to lead us away from you. We ask this prayer in your name, Jesus. Amen.SKM: below-content placeholder