10. The Trial of the Angels
The angels being by nature free and masters of their acts, and hence capable of meriting the state of everlasting blessedness, it did not please God to admit them to His kingdom except as the price and recompense of their fidelity in His service. They were elecated to the supernatural state at the moment of their creation, being adorned with sanctifying grace and destined to see God face to face in heaven, but htey must first prove themselves worthy, by standing the test to which their loyalty was subjected. They were en route for heaven; they had not as yet reached their glorious destination: they were viatores, not comprehensores.
What the test was which they were obliged to undergo has not been made known to us. They walked by faith during the period of their probation, and not by sight or intuition. By faith they knew God, and the Blessed Trinity, and Him who was to be the Head of all creation, that is, Christ; but whether the mystery of the Incarnation was distinctly revealed to them we cannoy say. And yet it does seem likely that for the rebel angels, their sin, as many theologians hold, was a refusal to bow down in adoration before the human nature of the Son of God.
We are safe, at least, in saying that it was a sin of pride. They were enamoured of their own surpassing loveliness, their marvellous strength, the amazing breadth and depth of their mental vision and their other splendid attributes, and they did not stop to refer them all to the liberality and munificence of their Creator, but foolishly gloried in them, as though they were in the fullest sense their own; and thus, by these idle thoughts and this empty self-complacency, they lost the solid fruit of being forever established in the love and friendship of their Maker.
The sight of God’s own Son, revealed to them from afar as a tender Babe, swathed in poverty and lowliness, and fed at the breast by an earthly Mother, was a revolving spectacle to these proud spirits, and when the command was intimated to them, “Let all the angels of God adore him” (Hebrews 1:6), they held back in sullen contumacy, and being hurled from heaven for their sin, sank forever into the abyss of hell.
How long they had basked in the light of God’s love and in the magnificence of their own glorious gifts – how long, if measured in units of our time – it is useless to speculate. What may be said with sufficient assurance is that their reprobation followed upon their first deliberate act, just as the good angels reaped in the ecstatic joy of the beatific vision the immediate recompense of their first full and deliberate consecration of themselves to the worship of their Maker.