Thursday, August 5, 2010

Alone With a Crouching Angel

I took a walk this afternoon. Partly to get out in the air and sunshine, partly to take a photo or two for Sunday's Sauk Centre Journal. Partly to find an idea for this blog. I forgot to post yesterday: or, rather, remembered until other, more urgent, tasks crowded the thought away from the front of my mind.

About halfway up the block north of my house, I decided to stop on at Our Lady of the Angels Church. It's a comfortable two-block walk, and it's been a while since I just stopped in for something other than Mass.

A sign on the door said that some carpets were being cleaned. As I rounded the northeast corner of the church, I could hear the whine and thunk of that process. I could have gone inside: but I'd be in the way of the folks who were working at one of God's houses.

So I went past the main entrance and spent time in the Marian garden, between the Our Lady of the Angels church and the rectory.

Our Lady of the Angels' Marian Garden. August 5, 2010.

Looks nice, doesn't it? That's what I saw from the swinging bench. Which is, by the way, a slight challenge to sit down in: if you're a fifty-something man with a cane.

After a minute or so, the church's air conditioner turned on. It's a block of machinery on the other side of the walkway south of the garden, bigger than some cars. Louder, too, when it's working. No problem for me. I find that sort of sound rather soothing. I closed my eyes and listened to the wind and the machinery.

A bee, going about its business by my elbow. August 5, 2010.

I have no sense of smell to speak of, so the odors of the garden are lost on me.

When I opened my eyes, I noticed flowers near my right elbow: and a bee methodically going from one blossom to another.

Then, ahead of me, I saw the crouching angel.

A crouching angel. August 5, 2010.

Crouching Angel

Or, rather, one of the garden's many statues: a little angel, kneeling among the flowers that surround the Madonna and Child centerpiece of the place. What I'd noticed first was part of it's right wing - and, to me, it seemed at first to be crouching.

I wasn't worried or afraid. Obviously, it was a bit of statuary, creatively set among the plantings.

If it had been a real angel: I probably would have felt fear. I've noticed that often one of the first things an angel says to someone is something like 'don't be afraid.' (Luke 1:13, Luke 1:30, Matthew 28:5, Luke 2:10) And, for that matter, God and His Son. (Genesis 15:1, Daniel 10:12, Revelation 1:17)
Why be Afraid of an Angel?
An American, steeped in Western culture, might wonder why anybody would - or could - be afraid of an angel. "Angels" are often represented as cheerfully chubby toddlers with wings, androgynous girls with wings, or too-pretty-to-live boys: again, with wings. Arm one of them with a sword, and you might wonder how they manage to hold it up. Even armed - they just don't look dangerous.

"Spiritual," yes. Again by contemporary American/Western standards. I've written about this before. (April 8, 2010, April 7, 2010, February 15, 2010)

Those are angels, as portrayed in Western art since the Renaissance. Here's an account of a real angel:
"3And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow. The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men."
(Matthew 28:2-4)
That's not exactly the same as accounts in the other gospels: but the apostles weren't Americans; didn't live in the 21st century; and most likely were more concerned with getting their account told in an understandable way, than recording every minute detail. Ever notice how the exact design of the sandal in Ruth 4:7 isn't mentioned?

I'm getting off-topic. The point is that the angel rolled away a substantial piece of rock, looked like lightning, and scared the daylights of out security guards. Not what you'd expect from the demure little angels of popular art.

Angels, Fear, and God

The fact is, we can't make a picture or a statue that shows what an angel really looks like. They don't "look like" anything. They're as real as I am, but they're pure spirit: no bodies.
"As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness.190"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 330)
"Angel" is more of a job description, actually. There's more in the Catechism: 328-330.

When I die, I won't become an angel. I can't: I'm a human being, spirit and matter. Which is another topic. (December 18, 2009)

Should I be afraid of an angel? Depends on which side the creature is on.

Some persons who are the same sort of creature that we call "angels" decided that they didn't want to work with God. We call them demons, and they're not nice people. (Catechism, 391-395)

I might feel fear if I became immediately aware of an angel: a servant and messenger of God. But, assuming that I was not acting against God at the moment, I would not have reason to fear that person.

One of the fallen angels? That's a creature who started out "surpassing in perfection all visible creatures," and who switched sides. Emphatically not the sort of person I want to deal with.
What About God? God is Love, Right?
Right. (Catechism, 2331)

And fear of the Lord is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It helps make sure we have awe and reverence before God. (Catechism, Glossary, F)

Which I think is a good idea. Not that, in this case, it matters much what I think.

Which is another topic - and it's now many hours since I saw that little statue. Time to post this.

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