We now come to the most exalted hierarchy. It is made up of angels whose part it is to form the court of the heavenly King, to stand forever in His presence, and to sing incessantly His praises. They are not occupied with the government of the world, and are not commonly sent as messengers to men. For this reason it is hard for us to say precisely by what they are distinguished one from another, and in what the peculiar excellence and dignity of each consists. We cannot explain these, as in the case of the inferior choirs, by pointing out the part that is assigned to each in the management of human affairs. We can only illustrate them by the relationship in which these mighty spirits stand to God Himself, and as this is something truly sublime, our explanation will necessarily be unsatisfactory and obscure.
There is no doubt that God dwells not only in all the holy angels, but also in all the blessed in heaven, and in all the just on earth, who are His temples through sanctifying grace. For grace effects, as Suarez observes, a sort of substantial union with God, and they into whom He thus enters become, as it were, the seats whereon His Majesty is enthroned.
Nevertheless, the name thrones is not unsuited to serve as a distinctive term whereby to designate one of the highest orders of the holy angels. For, in the first place, the word describes these blessed spirits in their immediate relationship to God and through their union with Him, and thus at once exalts them above all the lower choirs whom we name with reference to this or that external ministry.
Again it sufficiently distinguishes them from the second and third choirs of their own hierarchy. For although the cherubim and seraphim are also the abode of Infinite Majesty, and though God is enthroned in them even more perfectly than in the lowest choir, yet the name thrones, as expressing an habitual rather than an actual perfection, is less apt to denote the excellence of the higher natures, than cherubim and seraphim, terms which imply the exercise of that perfection through the acts of knowledge an dlove. Hence the name thrones is appropriated to the inferior choir.
It expresses, then, a certain aptitude and fitness on the part of those glorious spirits to become the dwelling of the Most High, and the seat of His Majesty. It implies a disposition on their part of wondrous purity and detachment, which prepares them to be as thrones, whereon God sits, and whence His Majesty shines forth, whilst He rules and passes judgement on His creatures.