I arise today...
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels...
The Lorica of Saint Patrick (St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer)
Cherubim… Angels… Archangels…
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
Angels represent one of those aspects of faith that range from mysterious to misunderstood to entirely veiled in fantasy. The cute little baby cherubs from Hallmark, for example, are a far cry from the winged cherubim of Genesis 3 who guard the garden of Eden with flaming swords. We might hear a bell in “It’s a Wonderful Life” when an angel gets wings, but not so much in real life. And while many people might tell us that heaven needed another angel when our loved ones passed away, there is no biblical evidence that humans actually become angels. Rather, we are glorified and restored to the perfect image of God in which we were first created. The same cannot be said for angels.
While we may not fully understand them, angels are entirely different spiritual beings. They often appear in human form such as the messengers who announced to Abraham and Sarah that they would have a child (Genesis 18). They often appear in visions around the throne room of the Most High, though they themselves are not to be worshiped (Isaiah 6, Revelation 22:8-9). Archangels like Gabriel and Michael are explicitly named in extraordinary circumstances (Luke 1:19, Daniel 10:21, 12:1).
With all of the mystery surrounding angels, one thing is clear: God uses them as messengers and servants to communicate with humanity throughout history. Often, their appearance is made known when God requires an extraordinary response of obedience, such as Mary’s willingness to become the mother of the Son of God. This isn’t the kind of message one might entrust to just any ordinary courier post on social media.
Regardless of the form they take, two things are certain about angels. First, as servants of God, they function as an extension of God’s love for us. The cherubim who guarded the garden, for example, prevented Adam and Eve from eating from the tree of life and thereby living forever in their broken state of sin. God had a bigger plan for restoration that required both death and resurrection. Secondly, because angels serve the Lord as an extension of God’s love, their word is always trustworthy and true.
I cannot honestly say that I’ve ever explicitly heard a word from an angel, although there have been seemingly random people who have crossed my path for a short time with a profound word from God for a particular season or situation in life. Perhaps, in this sense, we have all encountered angels. We have all received messages from God, and in the end, this is an angel’s primary function, to deliver messages from heaven.
This seemingly obscure part of St. Patrick’s prayer may be crucial in our journey to become echoes of the whispers of heaven. We must first arise in the love of cherubim, in the obedience of angels and in the service of archangels, that we might hear and discern these messages from heaven and obey them fully on earth.
As we seek to become more aware of the work of angels in our midst, let us simply pray as Mary prayed in response to the angelic host…
I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.
What experience, if any, have you had with angels in your life?
How do you feel about the idea that you may be “entertaining angels unaware?”
In what ways do the presence of angels impact your faith and give you strength?
Our journey through St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer continues next week:
I arise today…
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward…