Catholic Q&A

Please tell me something about Angels. They appear often in the Bible, as in the case when it was announced to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she was going to become the Mother of Jesus, the shepherds were informed of the birth of Christ, and so on. Do angels really exist?

Having been a Catholic since my childhood belief in the existence of Angels came naturally to me, but for those knowing nothing about Christianity, it may sound like a fairy tale when they hear it for the first time.

Actually the concept of “Angels” or “Messengers of God” is perhaps a product of folk beliefs, for they do not constitute the essence of Christian faith. Viewed from the angle of Religious History the concept of angels seems to have entered Israel at a relatively late date, due to the influence of the surrounding world milieu. It is an anthropomorphic expression of the saving work of God, of his guidance accorded to each of us. Specifically in apocalyptic literature, this world is depicted dualistically as a battlefield, where armies of Angels battle against armies of demons.

Both Jesus and the Israelites of that time were naturally accustomed to such words and ideas, and hence angels appear quite naturally in the narratives of the New Testament, as instruments of the work of God. The intent of the narratives however is to manifest God’s merciful providence and guidance.

Paul emphasizes rather the fact that all are subject to Christ, as opposed to ideas of spiritual powers, authorities, and forces ruling the universe, ideas that were rife in the Hellenistic society of that time. (Romans 8.38, Ephesians 1.21, Colossians 1.16, and others).

Viewed from the setting of the times, it is no cause for surprise that the theory of angels developed from within the tradition of the Church, and that angels were believed to be spiritual creatures superior to mankind. However, Church doctrine has never publicly defined the nature of angels. Compared to salvation through Christ, which happens to be the quintessence of Christian faith, issues like the imagery and piety of angels are secondary. However, religion is not a realm of rationality. We do not have to believe in angels and things of that sort in order to be Christian believers, but if such folk beliefs are totally discarded, Christianity will turn out into becoming a rationalistic and tasteless religion.

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