Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In The Sight Of The Angels I Will Sing Your Praise, O LORD!

Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels
Reading I
Deuteronomy 7:9-10, 13-14
As I watched:
Thrones were set up
and the Ancient One took his throne.
His clothing was bright as snow,
and the hair on his head as white as wool;
His throne was flames of fire,
with wheels of burning fire.
A surging stream of fire
flowed out from where he sat;
Thousands upon thousands were ministering to him,
and myriads upon myriads attended him.

The court was convened, and the books were opened.
As the visions during the night continued, I saw
One like a son of man coming,
on the clouds of heaven;
When he reached the Ancient One
and was presented before him,
He received dominion, glory, and kingship;
nations and peoples of every language serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not be taken away,
his kingship shall not be destroyed.

Revelation 12:7-12ab
War broke out in heaven;
Michael and his angels battled against the dragon.
The dragon and its angels fought back,
but they did not prevail
and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
The huge dragon, the ancient serpent,
who is called the Devil and Satan,
who deceived the whole world,
was thrown down to earth,
and its angels were thrown down with it.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
"Now have salvation and power come,
and the Kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed.
For the accuser of our brothers is cast out,
who accuses them before our God day and night.
They conquered him by the Blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
love for life did not deter them from death.
Therefore, rejoice, you heavens,
and you who dwell in them."
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Psalm 138
R. In the sight of the angels
I will sing your praises, Lord.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
for you have heard the words of my mouth;
in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple
and give thanks to your name.
R. In the sight of the angels
I will sing your praises, Lord.
Because of your kindness and your truth;
for you have made great above all things
your name and your promise.
When I called, you answered me;
you built up strength within me.
R. In the sight of the angels
I will sing your praises, Lord.
All the kings of the earth shall give thanks to you, O LORD
when they hear the words of your mouth;
And they shall sing of the ways of the LORD
"Great is the glory of the LORD
R. In the sight of the angels
I will sing your praises, Lord.
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John 1:47-51
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him,
"Here is a true child of Israel.
There is no duplicity in him."
Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?"
Jesus answered and said to him,
"Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree."
Nathanael answered him,
"Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."
Jesus answered and said to him,
"Do you believe
because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?
You will see greater things than this."
And he said to him, "Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will see heaven opened and the angels of God
ascending and descending on the Son of Man."
There is a choice of two First Readings. The first is from the Book of Daniel and speaks of a vision that the prophet has of God on his Throne, which is described in graphic and apocalyptic language. Among other things we are told that “thousands upon thousands were ministering to him and myriads upon myriads attended him”. These are the angels who serve at God’s throne.

The second part of the reading is taken in the New Testament to refer to the Christ, the Messiah, the Saviour King of Israel. He is said to be “like a son of man” coming on the clouds of heaven.

"His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.” An image that the Gospel will use to describe the return of the Risen Jesus at the end of time as he calls his people to himself (cf. Matthew 25)

The alternative First Reading is from the Book of Revelation and speaks of Michael defeating Satan and the powers of evil, which was mentioned above. With the defeat of Satan, “salvation and power have come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed (the Christ).”

These angels are symbols of God’s ever-loving relationship with us. It is a two-way communication. We listen to what God tells us and try to make it part of our lives. At the same time, we reach out to him in faith and trust and in a complete surrender of our being.

The Gospel reading from John is the scene in the beginning of the gospel where Jesus meets Nathanael, who has been introduced to him by Philip. Nathanael who had somewhat sneeringly asked if anything good could come from Nazareth must have been somewhat surprised to hear Jesus say to him, “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him.” (Of how many people can that be said – including ourselves?)

Puzzled, Nathanael asks Jesus: “How do you know me?” Rather enigmatically Jesus tells him that, before Philip called him, Jesus saw him under the fig tree. The fig tree was often seen as a symbol of messianic peace. They were words, then, of commendation. Nathanael, deeply impressed, tells Jesus: “You are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.” This declaration is on a par with Peter’s confession and concludes the list of Jesus’ titles which are given in this first chapter of John.

And yet Jesus says he will see much more: “You will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” The allusion is clearly to the dream of Jacob who saw God’s angels-messengers going up and down on a ladder linking Heaven with Earth, God with his People. Jesus, as the Incarnate Son of God is the bridge which links God with his People, he is like a ladder by which God comes to his People and his People go to God.

In a sense Jesus is the Archangel of archangels, the Ultimate Messenger of God’s Truth and Love. Through him God comes to us; through him we go to God.
The Irish Jesuits

1 comment:

Sarah in the tent said...

Sometimes the Bible shows angels performing specific tasks as messengers and helpers. Today's readings remind us of moments when people glimpsed an overall angelic reality that both transcends and is intimately involved in our own perceived reality.

Angels attended Our Lord's birth en masse and served Him following His temptation by Satan in the desert. But subsequently, Jesus only seems to encounter 'evil spirits' and even they seem to have evaporated by the time of the Crucifixion. Earthly politics and intrigue dominate the Crucifixion narrative, although we know that this is actually the high point of divine intervention and the fulfilment of Incarnation itself.

The Cross is a kind of 'Jacob's Ladder'. Maybe Nathanael, who seems to have instantly recognized Our Lord as the Messiah, would have had the vision (like Jacob/Israel and his only truthful son Joseph) to see the transcendent, angelic reality of the Cross. If so, I suppose it must have been a private revelation that gave Nathanael a special confidence to carry him through the short time between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.

After the Resurrection, angels appear at the tomb, then the Ascension, and even help and guide the Apostles directly, but are they around today? Perhaps the silence of angels during the Crucifixion should make us wonder whether, in our own secular age, we might not perhaps be living in a time of intense divine intervention.