Wednesday, 28 September 2011

All Angels, a sermon by John Henry Newman

Picture, with acknowledgement -thank you.


On earth as it is in heaven…
Artwork of the front cover: The Archangels Triumphing over Lucifer(1516), Marco d’Oggiono (c. 1470-1530), Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, Italy. © akg-images / Erich Lessing.

Created “with the seal of perfection, of complete wisdom and perfect beauty” (Ez 28:12), the angel Lucifer (Light-bearer), weary of worshipping, wanted to be worshipped. He revolts against God and draws away a third of the angels in his mad enterprise (Rv 12:4). A great battle in heaven ensues, and Michael (Who is like God), at the head of the army of faithful angels, triumphs and casts the vanquished into the abyss. In this painting, Marco d’Oggiono proposes that we meditate upon the repercussions, in our own everyday lives, of this incomprehensible mystery of iniquity, as Saint Paul puts it (2 Thes 2:7). This is why the artist depicts Lucifer nude, in a caricature of the wicked man who falls headlong into the pit of his own passions. It is also why he portrays the victorious Michael flanked by Gabriel (God is strong) and Raphaël (God heals). The invisible, spiritual conflict that sets angel against angel plays itself out at the heart of our lives as well. Wherever the celestial powers who remain faithful accomplish their mission in the service of our salvation, the angels of darkness rage on in the attempt to render useless the redemption wrought for us by the blood of Christ.
At the center of our spiritual combat, Michael comes to our aid with the might of his arm and extends over us the protection of his radiant wings. At his right stands Gabriel. He comes to reveal for us the benevolent plan of God and to gather up our “Fiat.” At his left Raphaël comes to heal our vices and to take us by the hand, guiding us over the perilous passes along the steep path of salvation.   ■ Pierre-Marie Varennes

29 September
Saint Michael and All Angels
From the gospel according to John (1:47-51)
Third Reading
From a sermon by John Henry Newman (Parochial and Plain Sermons, volume 4, pages 200-204. 207-209)
There are two worlds, "the visible and the invisible," as the Creed speaks, - the world we see, and the world we do not see; and the world which we do not see as really exists as the world we do see. It really exists, though we see it not. The world that we see, we know to exist, because we see it. All that meets our eyes forms one world. It is an immense world; it reaches to the stars. It is everywhere; and it seems to leave no room for any other world.
And yet in spite of this universal world which we see, there is another world, quite as far-spreading, quite as close to us, and more wonderful; another world all around us, though we see it not, and more wonderful than the world we see. For, first of all, he is there who is above all beings, who has created all, before whom they all are as nothing, and with whom nothing can be compared. Almighty God, we know, exists more really and absolutely than any of those fellow-men whose existence is conveyed to us through the senses; yet we see him not, hear him not, we do but "feel after him," yet without finding him.   

  • Angels also are inhabitants of the world invisible. They are said to be "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." No Christian is so humble but he has angels to attend on him, if he lives by faith and love. Though they are so great, so glorious, so pure, so wonderful, that the very sight of them (if we were allowed to see them) would strike us to the earth, as it did the prophet Daniel, holy and righteous as he was; yet they are our "fellow-servants" and our fellow-workers, and they carefully watch over and defend even the humblest of us, if we be Christ's.     

The world of spirits then, though unseen, is present; present, not future, not distant. It is not above the sky, it is not beyond the grave; it is now and here; the kingdom of God is among us. We look, says St. Paul, not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Such is the hidden kingdom of God; and as it is now hidden, so in due season it shall be revealed. Men think that they are lords of the world, and may do as they will. They think this earth their property, and its movements in their power; whereas it has other lords besides them, and is the scene of a higher conflict than they are capable of conceiving. It contains Christ's little ones whom they despise, and his angels whom they disbelieve; and these at length shall take possession of it and be manifested. At the appointed time there will be a manifestation of the sons of God, and the hidden saints shall shine out as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. When the angels appeared to the shepherds it was a sudden appean"'.1Ce, ­Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host. How wonderful a sight! The night had before that seemed just like any other night; as the evening on which Jacob saw the vision seemed like any other evening. They were keeping watch over their sheep; they were watching the night as it passed. They had no idea of such a thing when the angel appeared. Such are the power and virtue hidden in things which are seen, and at God's will they are manifested. They were manifested for a moment to Jacob, for a moment to Elisha's servant, for a moment to the shepherds. They will be manifested for ever when Christ comes at the Last Day in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. Then this world will fade away and the other world will shine forth.

Rev 5:11.12; 12:12
In my vision * I, John, heard the sound of many angels, thousands upon thousands of them, shouting:
­Worthy is the lamb who was slain
to receive power and wealth, wisdom and might, honor, glory, and praise!
Rejoice, heaven, and you that dwell therein.
­ Worthy ... 

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