Creation and the Angels

by Rev. William G. Most

Creation

To create is to make things out of nothing, with no material at all being used. We cannot ask: why did God wait so long before creating the world, because before creation, there is no time. Time is a measure of change on a scale of before and after (Aristotle, Physics 4:11). Therefore when--if we may use that word at all in speaking of eternity--there was no change, there was no time. Time began to be when changing creatures came into being. Time is a restless continuous set of changes. Ahead is a moment we call future--it quickly changes into present--then quickly changes into past.

God could have created an everlasting world, without beginning or end. But he chose to create a world with a beginning--a time "before" which there was nothing. Genesis 1:1 tells us, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." And Christ told His Father :"You loved me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24).

Why did God create? The purpose of the created world is tied up with the purpose of man. St. Irenaeus wrote: "In the beginning God formed Adam, not because He was in need of humans, but so He might have someone to receive His benefits" (Against Heresies 4. 14. 1). So we can say He always loved us, since He always willed us the most basic good, existence. Beyond that, He wills that, "all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). If to will good to another is to love, then this is really love. But when we love, we need a starter, we need to see something good or fine in another. But God loved us when we did not exist.

When we say that He created for His own glory, we must understand these words the way Vatican I meant them: He made a creature that by its very nature would give glory to God, even though God gains nothing by that glory. (We read this in the acts and decrees of Vatican I, found in Collectio Lacensis , VII. 116). Similarly, He wants us to obey because all goodness says creatures should obey their Creator, and because as St. Irenaeus said, He wanted to have someone to whom to be generous in infinite goodness--but we must cooperate to receive his gifts.

God keeps all things in existence by the same power by which He brought them up out of nothing. "And how could anything continue in being if you did not will it?" (Wisdom 11:25). Our dependence on Him for continued existence is like that of the images on the movie screen on the projector.

Angels, Good and Bad

An angel is a pure spirit, that is, an angel has no matter, no body. Each angel is a person, and has a mind and a will like ours, but angels are of a nature higher than ours. They are often sent by God for certain duties on this earth, in fact, the word angel means "one who is sent" or "messenger." The oldest references to angels in the Old Testament might leave us wondering if angels are separate beings--or does the phrase "messenger of God" merely mean God? (cf. Judges, chapter 6). But in the later part of the Old Testament and in the New Testament it becomes entirely clear that they are distinct creatures. We see this by many references to them in Scripture, e.g., Psalms 148:2; 103: 20-21; Matthew 22:30; Luke 1:26; 2 Peter 2:4; Revelation/Apocalypse 5:11.

The angels were not created in heaven, that is, with the vision of God. If they had had that, sin would have been impossible. But God gave the angels some sort of command--we do not know what--and some obeyed, some did not. Those who disobeyed were fixed in evil, and became devils. When we sin, our intelligence is limited by the material part of our intellect, the brain in our heads. For a material brain is much less powerful than the spiritual intelligence our souls have. This means that we seldom see things as fully as possible at once. But an angel has no such limit, and hence sees everything as fully as possible at once. So he cannot go back on his decision, and say: "I see it differently now; I wish I had not done that".

The fallen angels, the devils, still keep the great powers natural to a pure spirit. So they can do things that seem like miracles to us.

The good angels are sent to guide and protect us. They too have great powers. Each of us has a guardian angel. This is implied in Scripture and is found in the constant Tradition of the Church. After Peter was delivered from prison by angel, the disciples said in astonishment: "It was his angel" (Acts 12:15).

Our guardian angels are able to put good thoughts into our minds, and to protect us. Psalm 91:11 says: "He will command His angels about you, to guard you in all your ways." In time of temptation they can give us both light and strength. They never stop praying for us, and they present our prayers before God.

Clearly, it is only good sense to venerate our guardian angel, to cultivate their friendship, to thank them, to ask their help. So God said in Exodus 23:20-21: "Behold, I am sending an angel ahead of you, to guard you and bring you to the place I have prepared. Listen to his voice, and do not rebel against him, for my name is in Him, and he will not forgive."

Because of their disobedience, the wicked angels were condemned to eternal punishment. St. Peter, using poetic language, says: "When the angels sinned, God did not spare them, but consigned them to the pit of hell to be kept for the judgment" (2 Peter 2:4).

As we said, the will of the devil is fixed in evil, and so he tries to seduce people, to harm them spiritually, and even to bring them to hell. He wants to lead us from the faithful service of God. First Peter 5:8-9 advises: "Be calm and watch, for your enemy the devil goes about seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, strong in faith, knowing that your brothers all over the world have the same trial."

God permits the devil to do this as a result of His decision to create spiritual beings, having free will. To thwart that regularly would be to contradict His own natural laws. He does draw good out of evil: temptation gives us the opportunity to show our faith and to trust in Him; it give us the chance to grow in virtue by the struggle. And He has given us a powerful counterforce in our Guardian Angels, and the Blessed Mother, and ordinary Saints.


Taken from The Basic Catholic Catechism
PART TWO: The Apostle's Creed
First Article of the Creed: "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth."

By William G. Most. (c)Copyright 1990 by William G. Most

Electronic text (c) Copyright EWTN 1997. All rights reserved.


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