01. An Invisible World
Upon the thickly-people earth,
In ever ceaseless flow,
Full thrice ten thousand deathless beings
Pass lightly to and fro.
Keepers of mortal men unseen,
In airy vesture dight,
Their good and evil deeds they scan,
Stern champions of the right.
– Hesiod, Works and Days, (V. 252 ff.)
It is somewhat startling to meet with a passage like the above in an old pagan author. It comes so near to expressing the consoling Catholic doctrine on holy guardian angels, that we have good reason to be surprised as we read it. Is it, perhaps, a relic of primitive tradition? It would certainly not be rash to think so. On the other hand, it was so common a thing among the ancient heathen to people all nature with deities of their own invention that we may have here only a particular manifestation of that tendency.
There are people who have felt aggrieved that the dazzling light of Christianity came to dispel the pleasing illusions of paganism, as if the truth were not preferable to error, and far grander too, and more beautiful, even where if offers less material for the imagination to feed upon! For after all, the imagination is an inferior faculty, and the delights of which it is the source are on a far lower plane than the pleasures of intellect; especially, they cannot compare with the pure joys of the mind that is guided and uplifted by faith.
To know the one true God with that clearness and that certainty which have come with the Christian religion; to have been taught the great mysteries of the Holy Trinity and the incarnation of the Son of God is a sublime heritage, and he who has been deemed worthy of it has that within him which is meant to unfold itself little by little until heaven itself opens out into the full and beatifying vision of God.
Meanwhile, besides our certain knowledge of the existence of God, of His inifinite perfection, and of His boundless love for us, we have also the assurance of the presence in the world about us of a multitude of glorious beings, friendly to us, deeply solicitous in our behalf; our elder brethren, in fact, charged by our common Father to watch over us and to lead us safely through a host of danger to our happy home in heaven.
It may not be surprising that we pay to little head to these our zealous guardians – for we find it hard to emancipate ourselves from the thraldom of the sensible world, and correspondingly hard to lift ourselves to higher things – but it surely means some loss to us that we are not more mindful of them, more trustful towards them, and more filled with a sense of grateful appreciation of the loving kindness of our heavenly Father in making such merciful provision for our frailty.
We shall do well, then, to rouse ourselves and to strive to acquire the habit of appealing to them in our needs, and we may be quite sure that the results will more than repay us for whatever our fidelity in this respect may cost us.