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A Book Review . . . An In-Depth Study Of The Angelic Realm

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The Other World We Live In by Fr. Scott Randall Paine. The book is available at Amazon.com in hardcover and paperback.

We tend not to focus very much on the angels, even our guardian angels, and so The Other World We Live In: A Catholic Vision of Angelic Reality, is a useful corrective to that way of thinking. The book is divided into two parts dealing respectively with the good and evil angels, and the author, Fr. Scott Randall Paine, is a professor of medieval philosophy and Eastern thought. He sees creation in terms of three realms, the physical cosmos, the human world, and the world of the created spirits — the angels.
In this scheme of things, mankind is midway between the purely physical cosmos and the spiritual angelic world, since we are made up of both body and soul. What gives us a special dignity, apart from the fact that we have been created in the image and likeness of God, is that God the Son chose to assume our human nature in becoming man, and in that sense that nature could be said to have been elevated above the angelic realm. But the angels were created before us and are far more powerful than we are.
Certainly, the Church has no doubts about their existence as the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 328), makes clear: “The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls ‘angels’ is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition.”
The word “angel” comes from the Greek angelos, that is “messenger.” Thus, they are God’s messengers to mankind.
The author deals with the Fall of some of the angels, which theologians have argued came about when God revealed His plan for the creation of mankind as well as the fact of the Incarnation — that is, that God should become man in Christ. But despite human nature being lower in the scale of being than the angelic realm, the test for the angels was that they should adore the God-Man.
Many of them — traditionally a third of their number — were not willing to do this and they were thrust out of Heaven by St. Michael and the good angels, to become the Devil and his demonic followers. Their sin was the sin of inordinate pride, summed up in the words of Milton in Paradise Lost, where he has the Devil saying, “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”
Fr. Paine makes the very important point that we should not forget that we stand not only between Heaven and Earth in the order of being, but also between angel and demon in the order of moral choice — that is we are subject to both temptation and moral encouragement, and have to choose the right path.
As the Gospels remind us, the good angels were close to Christ during His earthly life, and He referred to their power and presence. And likewise, in the Gospels we read of the evil spirits being confronted and overcome by Christ. The belief that each person has a personal guardian angel is based on Christ’s words with reference to the dignity of children, as found in St. Matthew’s Gospel, that men should not, “despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in Heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in Heaven” (Matt. 18:10).
Catholic theology and contemplation has determined that the angelic host is made up of nine choirs, ranging from the Seraphim and Cherubim through to the Archangels and Angels. And so the angels we are most familiar with from the Bible are actually amongst the lower choirs of angels, while the Seraphim are the highest choir who are traditionally held to be the “living creatures” of the book of Revelation, who continually cry out in the presence of God: “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev. 4:8).
Fr. Paine highlights the fact that just as the angels were tested, so was man, and the instrument for this testing was a fallen angel, in fact the leader of the fallen angels, the Devil. Satan appeared to Adam and Eve under the form of a serpent and tempted them with idea that they could be like God if only they would disobey Him and eat of the forbidden fruit. The end result was that our first parents were driven from the Garden of Eden, and a Cherub, one of the highest angels, was placed at its entrance with a flaming sword to guard the way to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3).
The angels feature in many places in the Old Testament, such as in the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, where two angels appeared to Lot, Abraham’s nephew, in order to save him, and similarly there are many angelic visitations recorded in the New Testament, including the episode where St. Peter was released from prison by an angel.
And of course, angels have appeared at various times throughout Christian history, and in recent times most notably at Fatima where the Angel of Peace, or of Portugal, appeared three times to the shepherd children in 1916 in order to prepare them for the appearances of our Lady in 1917.
But as Fr. Paine points out, in a chapter dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, it can be said that her connection with the angelic world goes right back to Genesis, and the proclamation from God to the serpent that He would “put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). Here is the prophecy that our Lady would crush the head of the serpent, an event which has been graphically portrayed by so many artists and sculptors over the centuries.
The Annunciation by the Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin, that she would be the Mother of God, is one of the highlights of the Gospels, and it is significant that Man’s redemption effectively begins with this meeting between an angel and a woman.
The second part of the book deals with the fallen angels, and how they influence humanity in a malign way, and includes topics such as exorcism and the way in which human involvement in diabolism, the occult, and so on, is both terribly degrading and also literally soul destroying. It also looks at such topics as temptation, the importance of true discernment, and the way that diabolically influenced minds so easily resort to murder and lies in order to get their way.
The remedies against all this are prayer, the frequenting of the sacraments, and the use of sacramentals such as holy water and the St. Benedict medal. And also, that we should remember, with St. Augustine, that the Devil is like a chained dog: If we practice the above and do our best to keep out of his reach, then he, or his demonic fellow angels, cannot really harm us.
In sum, The Other World We Live In: A Catholic Vision of Angelic Reality, is an in-depth treatment of the angelic realm, one which draws on numerous source materials. It will no doubt be a valuable resource for anyone seeking to know more about the angels, both good and bad, who, without us seeing them, are all around us.

  • + + (Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, and maintains a related website at www.theotokos.org.uk. He has also written two time-travel/adventure books for young people, and the third in the series is due to be published shortly — details can be seen at: http://glaston-chronicles.co.uk)
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