Last week, we reflected on what it meant for Jesus’ parents to adore Him, not only as their Son, but also as their Lord, and how we are invited into that intimate familial love and adoration of Jesus. This week we’ll look at what it means to adore Jesus from the perspective of another group of beings, the angels. Earlier this year I wrote a piece about the nine choirs of angels and their various roles in the adoration of God and their service in growing His kingdom. For this reflection, however, it is enough to know that angels have a deep knowledge and understanding of who God is, and as a result, remain in constant adoration of God.
Our guardian angels have been working our entire lives to help guide us toward God and away from the temptation of sin – whether we listen or not! Imagine their rejoicing when the time came for the Savior of the World to be born in human flesh as the antidote to our ongoing corruption. For all of time, they have had direct knowledge of the goodness of God and now, we too could have a heightened and more advanced knowledge of that goodness as well. The honor given to St. Gabriel the Archangel to announce to Mary that she would conceive and bear God’s Son, must have been a completely humbling experience, but more importantly, it was an act of adoration through obedience. You see, St. Gabriel adores God so deeply, that it would compel him from the very depths of his being to agree to announce the coming of Jesus to the people of the world, so that they could adore Him as he does. We can imitate St. Gabriel and understand that our obedience to God’s will is an act of adoration, and that by adoring Him through our words and actions, we are announcing His ever-presence in our world.
On the night of Jesus’ birth, there were also the angels who announced it to the shepherds in the field (more on the shepherds next week). Read this verse from Luke, Chapter 2 and try to imagine the scene:
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Imagine countless angels all above and around you, doing nothing but praising and giving glory to God because of the gift of His Son to the world. The word “awesome” comes to my mind. How truly awesome! Again, what is giving glory and praise for the goodness of God, if not an act of adoration? How can we join all of these heavenly hosts in simply praising and glorifying God out of our abundant joy and adoration? Do you praise God in all things and at all times for no other reason than He is our good and gracious God?
Now, as we know, there are fallen angels. How can this be when all angels have a direct knowledge of who God is? The Church teaches that at some point, God tested the angels. We can not be certain of what that test was, at least not until we depart from this world, but there is one strong theory among theologians. This theory says that at some point, God revealed to His angels His plan of salvation for mankind by sending His Son to save the world in human form. The Word made human would rule as king over the heavens and earth. The theory states that Satan (an archangel) and one-third of all the angels, refused to accept and bow down to a lowly human as king and lord. Angels are greater beings than humans and this thought revolted them. Instead of accepting God’s will for creation, they allowed the sin of pride to be their guiding force and they rebelled. For this, they were cast into hell, which is nothing more than the complete absence of the divine, and they will spend all of eternity seeking to make others as miserable as them. These fallen angels refused to adore Jesus in the flesh and are suffering the effects of such a choice. Are there times in our lives when our pride supersedes our acceptance of God’s will for us? When that happens, where does it get us? Do we experience the peace of Christ, or the agony of the absence of God in those moments?
It has been said by several saints that if angels were capable of envy, they would be envious of us humans in two ways. The first is that we have the great privilege of receiving the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus into our bodies. We can consume the flesh of our God into our very own flesh. The angels have no bodies, and therefore that intimate bond in the flesh cannot exist for them. Meditate on that reality and privilege the next time you approach the altar to receive your Lord Jesus in the Eucharist. The other thing we have that angels do not, is suffering. It may seem counterintuitive to think of suffering as a gift to be envious of, but it truly is a gift. Through our suffering, we share in the cross of Jesus. We share in His suffering. We are intimately bound, flesh to flesh, wound to wound, pain to pain, to Jesus by way of the yoke of His cross. We have the privilege of participating in this divine act of love and offering it back to Him out of adoration for Him. What a gift! We all experience pain and suffering in our lives, whether physical, spiritual, or emotional. What makes us different from the rest of the world is our perspective on that suffering. We recognize how it is actually participation in divine salvific work. You can choose to carry your suffering as an act of adoration for the one who suffered for you out of adoration.
We can spend some time meditating on what it means for us to adore God as the angels adore God. Remember the next time you go into an adoration chapel that you are literally surrounded by countless angels who are there to do the exact same thing – adore Jesus in the flesh. How awesome indeed!