One might safely say that there are comparatively few who are well informed in what relates to the holy angels. Probably the knowledge of the great majority of Christians on this subject does not extend beyond the most elementary truths. It is, however, a regrettable fact for more than one reason. For, in the first place, what God has revealed to us in Holy Writ is all meant for our spiritual advantage, and that advantage will surely be greater in proportion as we ponder over the inspired text more seriously and more lovingly, and thus dispose our hearts better for the fruit that is intended to be gathered.
Then, while it may appear that very little has been made known to us concerning those blessed spirits, we must bear in mind that in Holy Scripture a few words often contain an ample fund of truth, and frequently open up a rich vein, which, if it is pursued with diligence and perseverance, will put is in possession of a most precious treasure.
Thus it is that the great Doctors of the Church, and the learned commentators on Holy Scripture are able to expand to such length the inspired utterances of the sacred writers, and to enlarge so much the scope of our knowledge of divine things. To be sure, their conclusions in many instances are not certain with the certainty of faith, but that is no valid objection to them on our part, when we have so often to content ourselves, in the realm of the merely natural sciences, with much that is at best but conjecture and hypothesis.
The subjects which Catholic theology deal with are so sublime that even an incomplete knowledge of them is to be highly esteemed and considered preferable to a much fuller acquaintance with the physical sciences. These latter may serve us for the improvement of our temporal life, but the former is the science of the saints, and should stimulate us to an earnest effort to deserve by daily meditation that supernatural light and guidance which alone can enable us to penetrate within the veil.
Meanwhile it is a great thing for us that we are able to discern even dimly the mysteries of that inner world which is all about us, but of which few have perception. It is much that we can at least stand on the threshold of that mighty temple wherein God shows Himself to the elect in unclouded majesty, and that our eyes, if they may not now behold Him as He is, may yet catch some faint glimpse of “the glory to come that (one day) be revealed to us.”
The following pages are intended to present to the reader, in a systematic way, some clear notions about the angels and their hierarchies. The writer, while aiming at a certain measure of completeness in the handling of his subject, has sought at the same time to avoid any lengthy discussion of questions that might appear too abstruse. One omission, however, which is not justified on that particular ground, may be noted – it is the omission of a separate and detailed treatment of the reprobate angels, and especially of the nature of their punishment and the activities which they are permitted to exercise in this upper world, whether for the chastisement of sinners, or for the trial for the just. Suffice it to say that anything more than a brief and passing reference did not come within the writer’s present purpose, which is mainly the promotion of devotion to the holy angels. If it should seem advisable, however, some chapters dealing expressly with the evil spirits might be added to a future edition of the book. Meanwhile, it only remains for the writer to give expression to the hope that the following pages may awaken in the reader a greater interest in the angels, and may help to beget in him an habitual consciousness of their presence, a certain holy familiarity with them, and a loving confidence in their protection.