Monday, September 29, 2008

"In the presence of the angels, I will praise you, LORD"

Today the Church celebrates the archangels – Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Michael – who gives Satan “the boot” from heaven – figures large in the Book of Revelation. Gabriel, of course, is the messenger sent to a maiden in Nazareth in the Infancy Narratives. And Raphael is the archangel of the Old Testament – a central “character” in the Book of Tobit. Although these three are rather well known to us, there are, of course, the multitudes whose only job is to sing the praises of GOD in glory. I am especially interested in these nameless, faceless voices who sing, “Hosanna in the highest!” before the Maker of all, the eternal Word and their Spirit. What a great job! Imagine…being in the presence of the triune GOD and filling heaven with your joyful song. If angels were not a wholly different creation, I’d want wings myself one day. (Actually, as monastics we have an "angelic charism". When we pray the Liturgy of the Hours three times a day, we believe that we are leaving time to join the unending hymn of praise in heaven. As we chant or recite the psalms, we add our voices to the heavenly host. I like thinking about it - remembering that we are always in the eternal now, always before GOD especially when we pray.)

When I was small – 2 or 3, perhaps – my big sister and I shared a bedroom. I remember having these strange metal bars that my Mom slid between the mattress and box spring to keep me from falling out of bed in the night. (Lizzie was a big girl by then so she was free to escape her rack if she so desired.) Anyway, over each of our beds was a heavy, ceramic angel. Every night we would say our bedtime prayers with my Mother and she would direct our attention to “our” angels who would protect us all night long. She called them our “guardian angels.”

Now, the guardian angels have their own feast day, but I can’t think about angels without remembering their comforting embrace. Some adults still talk their guardian angels. I’m afraid I’ve long since let go of that nightly practice. But, I am grateful for having been raised with the angels – taught from the very beginning that GOD loved me so much that there were actually special beings assigned to care for me and keep me out of trouble. I do remember being in my early twenties – a young high school teacher – and running a stop sign I didn’t see in town. I remember my heart racing as I slowed to a stop and realized what could have happened. And I remember feeling that “someone” had saved me – kept watch as I made a life-threatening mistake. It was one of those “goose bump” moments when you feel the divine in action on your behalf. I am twice that age now. But, I will say a prayer of gratitude tonight as I lay down in bed. I will remember the ceramic angels of my childhood and send some love to my “guardian” who, I am certain, goes before me still.
Blessings and love to you all…

- Sister Vicki