Monday, February 14, 2011


I have never really paid much attention to angels, or really believed in them.  I guess I have always slotted them into the category of ‘New Age’ flakiness- until recently I read this from Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury:

God had made what we can see and manage and what we can’t see and can never manage, a universe some of which we can get a grasp of and some of which we can’t.  This isn’t a recommendation not to try to understand, but simply a reminder that not everything is going to be made sense of from our point of view.  We don’t get to the end of being baffled and amazed.  I sometimes think that this is the importance of talking about angels in Christian teaching.  Odd as it may sound, thinking about these mysterious agents of God’s purpose, who belong to a different order of being, can be at least a powerful symbol for all those dimensions of the universe about which we have no real idea.  Round the corner of our vision things are going on in the universe, glorious and wonderful things, of which we know nothing.  We’re so used to sentimentalizing and trivializing angels- they are often reduced to Christmas decorations…,But in the Bible angels are often rather terrifying beings occasionally sweeping across the field of our vision; they do God strange services that we don’t fully see; they provide a steady backdrop in the universe of praise and worship.  They are great ‘beasts’, ‘living creatures’, flying serpents burning with flames, carrying the chariot of God, filling the Temple in Jerusalem with bellows of adoration, echoing to one another like whales in the ocean.  These are …anything but Christmas card material.  And sometimes a human form appears to give a message from God and something in the event tells the people involved that this is a moment of terror and truth, and they recognized that they have met an angel in disguise.
            Now whether or not you feel inclined to believe literally in angels- and a lot of modern Christians have a few problems with them- it’s worth thinking of them as at the very least a sort of shorthand description of everything that’s ‘round the corner’ of our perception and understanding in the universe- including the universal song of praise that surrounds us always.  If we try and rationalize all this away, we miss out on something vital to do with the exuberance and extravagance of the work of God, who has made this universe not just as a theatre for you and me to develop our agenda, but as an overwhelming abundance of variety and strangeness.

-from Tokens of Trust, Westminster John Knox Press, 2007, p. 51.

So now I wonder about the angels that are ‘round the corner’ and take comfort in their strangeness and the services they do for God and in the universal song of praise that they sing on behalf of us and on behalf of all of the creation that we can’t imagine and know nothing about.  On this Valentine’s Day I trust that Cupid, the angel of Love, is round the corner, in the service of God, lavishing acts of love on this world in fierce and strange and mysterious ways.  And I hope that we will notice when he comes sweeping across our field of vision.

Blessings on this day,
Lori Megley-Best

1 comment:

  1. Lori, Thanks for this refreshing reflection by Rowan Williams. It makes a bracing antidote to the poisonous reductionism that our materialistic age seems to insist on. Wonderful to read someone who is both a wizard of the English language and has insight into the greater Mystery of Being.