Saturday 20th April 2024

Home » Our Catholic Faith » Currently Reading:

What The Angels Can Teach Us About The Sacred Liturgy

October 22, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


We have all seen the grim statistics of how Mass attendance is dramatically down from what it was half a century ago. Yet there is a sense in which every Mass, even a Mass said by a priest in private, is always “well attended.” For if on the one hand much of mankind has grown deaf to its responsibilities in the sight of God, the angels have not.
The belief that angels not only participate in the liturgy of Heaven as recounted in the Book of Revelation but also in that of Earth is ancient and well attested. Speaking of the confection of the Holy Eucharist, St. John Chrysostom affirms, “In that moment angels are in attendance upon the priest. The space around the altar is filled with the whole order of heavenly powers in honor of him who lies thereon” (The Priesthood: A Translation of the Peri Hierosynes of St. John Chrysostom, trans. W.A. Jurgens, New York, Macmillan Co., 1955, book 6, chapter 4, p. 95).
By way of anecdotal evidence for this, the saint relates a vision experienced by a pious elderly man that he learned of secondhand: “he suddenly saw a multitude of angels, as clearly as his eye could perceive them, clothed in shining garments, standing about the altar, and bowing down, just as soldiers do in the presence of their king” (ibid., pp. 95-96).
In his Dialogues, St. Gregory the Great makes a very similar assertion: “For, who of the faithful can have any doubt that at the moment of the immolation, at the sound of the priest’s voice, the heavens stand open and choirs of angels are present at the mystery of Jesus Christ” (Saint Gregory the Great: Dialogues, trans. Odo John Zimmerman, OSB, Fathers of the Church, volume 39, New York, Fathers of the Church, 1959, book 4, n. 60, p. 273).
The angels are likewise said to be participants in the Divine Office. Citing Psalm 138:1 concerning the praise of God in the sight of the angels, the sixth-century Rule of Saint Benedict enjoins monks to bear in mind “how we ought to behave ourselves in the presence of God and his angels, and so sing the psalms that mind and voice may be in harmony” (The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, ed. and trans. Abbot Justin McCann, London, Burns, Oates and Washbourne, 1952, chapter 19, pp. 67, 69).
Similarly, in the sixth century monastic Rule of the Master, also citing Psalm 138:1, monks are reminded not to act irreverently during the recitation of the office “because there are angels standing in front,” for “we pray and sing psalms in the presence of the angels” (The Rule of the Master: Regula magistri, trans. Luke Eberle, Cistercian Studies Series, n. 6, Kalamazoo, Mich., Cistercian Publications, 1977, n. 48, pp. 207-208).
By their role in the heavenly liturgy the angels set an example for those who celebrate it upon Earth. St. John Chrysostom observes that insofar as priests “imitate the ministry of angels,” it therefore “behooves the bearer of the priesthood to be as pure as if he stood in the very heavens amidst those Powers” (The Priesthood, book 3, chapter 4, p. 31).
For centuries, in traditional Catholic art, angels have generally been depicted in one of two ways — either as manly beings in representation of their superhuman strength and their roles as powerful protectors and ministers of the heavenly liturgy, or as chubby infants (“putti”) or children in representation of their absolute innocence, their total and irrevocable sinlessness. In this the angels remind us to enter upon the sacred liturgy with purity of heart, mind and body.
The faithful angels have all given their once-and-for-all irrevocable Fiat to God, to do His will always and for all eternity. Our participation in the sacred liturgy must also be a Fiat, to come to God and serve Him, to come into His Presence and worship Him, on His terms, not our own.
In his 1709 Essay on Criticism, the English poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744) famously observed, “. . . fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Nowhere is this truer than in the sacred liturgy. With an intellect unclouded by original sin, the angels perceive unerringly and far more clearly than we the infinitude of difference between the Creator and His creatures, that although we are made in His likeness and image He nonetheless infinitely transcends His creatures.
Ironically the angels who are utterly superior beings to us never forget who God is, whereas we all too often take liberties with God that no angel would dare to.
Isaiah in his vision of God “sitting upon a throne” describes the Seraphim as reverently “veiling” Him: “Above him stood the seraphim; each had two wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew” (Isaiah 6:1-2). It is a key question of interpretation here as to whose face and feet are being concealed by the wings of the Seraphim: Is each Seraphim concealing his own face and feet, or are they concealing the face and feet of God? St. Jerome (347-420) asserts that they are veiling the face and feet of God:
“They covered not their own but God’s face. For who can know His beginning…? ‘And with two they covered His feet’: not their own but God’s. For who can know His bounds?” (letter 18a, to Damasus, in The Letters of Saint Jerome, trans. Charles Christopher Mierow, Ancient Christian Writers, n. 33, Westminster, Md., Newman Press, London, Longmans, Green and Co., 1963, p. 86).
Modern exegesis favors the explanation that the Seraphim are veiling their own eyes from the sight of God, out of reverence. Either way, what is being expressed here is the creature’s reverence for God, a veil of reverence set between God and His creatures. The Seraphim interpose their wings to veil the sight of God not because they do not enjoy the beatific vision, but rather to teach us reverence for God.
Isaiah’s vision serves to remind us that our Lord often teaches us reverence by drawing a curtain round about those things that most command our reverence. He conceals such things from our earthly vision that we might behold them with the deeper vision of reverence. Reverence puts a bit of distance between us and what we are reverencing, but in so doing, we actually see more clearly.
Think for example of a great mountain. Viewing it extremely close by standing upon its summit and staring directly down at the patch of earth beneath our feet, the mountain seems like nothing special, no different from any other patch of earth. It is rather when we view the mountain from afar, off in the distance, that we truly come to recognize and realize how very tall and majestic it truly is.
Unlike sinful, self-centered, fallen mankind, the angels are not “conflicted” as to whether God is greater than themselves — they know He is, that He is infinitely greater than themselves, and they respond accordingly. This is beautifully expressed in traditional artistic representations of angels, in which their faces almost universally convey a disposition of awe, wonder, and breathless admiration as they gaze upon God or our Lady.
When the Archangel St. Raphael reveals his identity to Tobit and his son Tobias, he begins by exhorting them to divine worship, telling them, “Praise God and give thanks to him; exalt him and give thanks to him in the presence of all the living for what he has done for you. It is good to praise God and to exalt his name, worthily declaring the works of God. Do not be slow to give him thanks” (Tobit 12:6).
This is divine worship that is all about God rather than ourselves — thanking Him, praising Him, exalting Him, not for what we have done, but for what He has done. The works of the Lord are to be declared “worthily,” i.e., in a worthy, fitting manner, implying that divine worship is to have a decorum proper to it. It has a sacral language, and sacral postures, gestures, actions, and furnishings proper to it.
To say that God is to be “exalted” is to say that He is praised in a way that sets Him utterly above ourselves — that our praise for Him most certainly should be “over the top.”
The angels praise God antiphonally: “And one [Seraphim] called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory’” (Isaiah 6:3). The angels are not afraid to repeat themselves, saying, “Holy, holy, holy.” Nor should we, when worshipping God, for what is well said of God and to God bears repeating. It is not monotonous to repeat a fitting prayer to God, for with each repetition of a prayer a new moment of time is consecrated to Him, a new act of worship is offered to Him.
God does not need variety from us, nor does He need to be entertained. We are hard-wired for repetition, our lives sustained by one heartbeat after another, one breath after another. And the natural world in which God has placed us is full of repetition, with the same four seasons returning each year, animals of the same species having the same features, and so on. Why do we think we need constantly to change worship offered to an unchanging God?

The Eyes Of The Angels

The Book of Revelation speaks of “the seven angels who stand before God” (Rev. 8:2). Our Lord says of the guardian angels of children: “their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 18:10).
From the angels we learn that our worship of God must have a distinct orientation to it that turns us toward God rather than toward ourselves or each other. It has an upward thrust that leaves the world behind and below. The ad orientem tradition in the sacred liturgy expresses not only a turning toward God but also a turning way from worldliness and from the Prince of this world, the Devil.
The Armenian Bishop John Mandakuni (late fifth century) asserted, “Do you not know that in the moment when the Blessed Sacrament comes upon the altar, heaven above opens up and Christ descends and is here; that the angelic hosts move down from heaven to earth and surround the altar where the Blessed Sacrament of the Lord is?” (quoted in Eric Peterson, The Angels and the Liturgy, New York, Herder and Herder, 1964, pp. 34-35).
Let us all strive to see the Holy Eucharist and the entire sacred liturgy through the eyes of the angels, that we like them may worship with reverence, wonder, and awe.

Share Button

2019 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Vatican and USCCB leave transgender policy texts unpublished

While U.S. bishops have made headlines for releasing policies addressing gender identity and pastoral ministry, guidelines on the subject have been drafted but not published by both the U.S. bishops’ conference and the Vatican’s doctrinal office, leaving diocesan bishops to…Continue Reading

Biden says Pope Francis told him to continue receiving communion, amid scrutiny over pro-abortion policies

President Biden said that Pope Francis, during their meeting Friday in Vatican City, told him that he should continue to receive communion, amid heightened scrutiny of the Catholic president’s pro-abortion policies.  The president, following the approximately 90-minute-long meeting, a key…Continue Reading

Federal judge rules in favor of Gov. DeSantis’ mask mandate ban

MIAMI (LifeSiteNews) – A federal judge this week handed Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis another legal victory on his mask mandate ban for schools. On Wednesday, Judge K. Michael Moore of the Southern District of Florida denied a petition from…Continue Reading

The Eucharist should not be received unworthily, says Nigerian cardinal

Priests have a duty to remind Catholics not to receive the Eucharist in a state of serious sin and to make confession easily available, a Nigerian cardinal said at the International Eucharistic Congress on Thursday. “It is still the doctrine…Continue Reading

Donald Trump takes a swipe at Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him

Donald Trump complained about Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him in 2020. The former president made the comments in a conference call featuring religious leaders. The move could be seen to shore up his religious conservative base…Continue Reading

Y Gov. Kathy Hochul Admits Andrew Cuomo Covered Up COVID Deaths, 12,000 More Died Than Reported

When it comes to protecting people from COVID, Andrew Cuomo is already the worst governor in America. New York has the second highest death rate per capita, in part because he signed an executive order putting COVID patients in nursing…Continue Reading

Prayers For Cardinal Burke . . . U.S. Cardinal Burke says he has tested positive for COVID-19

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke said he has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. In an Aug. 10 tweet, he wrote: “Praised be Jesus Christ! I wish to inform you that I have recently…Continue Reading

Democrats Block Amendment Banning Late-Term Abortions, Stopping Abortions Up to Birth

Senate Democrats have blocked an amendment that would ban abortions on babies older than 20 weeks. During consideration of the multi-trillion spending package, pro-life Louisiana Senator John Kennedy filed an amendment to ban late-term abortions, but Democrats steadfastly support killing…Continue Reading

Transgender student wins as U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs bathroom appeal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to a transgender former public high school student who waged a six-year legal battle against a Virginia county school board that had barred him from using the bathroom corresponding…Continue Reading

New York priest accused by security guard of assault confirms charges have now been dropped

NEW YORK, June 17, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A New York priest has made his first public statement regarding the dismissal of charges against him.  Today Father George W. Rutler reached out to LifeSiteNews and other media today with the following…Continue Reading

21,000 sign petition protesting US Catholic bishops vote on Biden, abortion

More than 21,000 people have signed a letter calling for U.S. Catholic bishops to cancel a planned vote on whether President Biden should receive communion.  Biden, a Catholic, supports abortion rights and has long come under attack from some Catholics over that…Continue Reading

Bishop Gorman seeks candidates to fill two full time AP level teaching positions for the 2021-2022 school year in the subject areas of Calculus/Statistics and Physics

Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Regional Catholic School is a college preparatory school located in Tyler, Texas. It is an educational ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Tyler led by Bishop Joseph Strickland. The sixth through twelfth grade school provides a…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.

  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1


Today . . .

Kamala Harris Heads to Arizona to Promote Abortions Up to Birth

Kamala Harris is visiting Arizona today to showcase the Biden-Harris Administration’s radical support of unlimited abortion. “Kamala Harris has become the abortion czar of the Biden Administration,” said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee. “Instead of joining with the pro-life movement to build programs and safety nets to help promote real solutions for women and their preborn children, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have engaged in fearmongering and propaganda,” Tobias continue

May Everyone Have a Blessed and Joyful Easter

Is Easter being replaced with the ‘Transgender Day of Visibility’?

Two observances — Easter and the recently contrived “International Transgender Day of Visibility” — fall on Sunday, March 31 this year, causing some to wonder “Is Easter being replaced with the ‘Transgender Day of Visibility?’” It’s a valid question. For more than a few, it certainly will. Others might dismiss this as nothing more than a coincidence. That would be a mistake. On the last day of this month, we will witness a clash of religions as…Continue Reading

Abortion Advocates No Longer Consider It “A Necessary Evil,” They Celebrate Killing Babies

Last week, Kamala Harris became the first vice president in U.S. history to make a public visit to an abortion clinic. Though the Democratic party’s support for abortion is nothing new, Harris’ Planned Parenthood appearance does illustrate how that support has become a flagrant celebration of abortion as a public and personal good, essential to both “freedom” and to “healthcare.” At the appearance, Harris proclaimed,  It is only right and fair that people have access…Continue Reading

Wisconsin Supreme Court says Catholic charity group cannot claim religious tax exemption

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that a major Catholic charity group’s activities were not “primarily” religious under state law, stripping the group of a key tax break and ordering it to pay into the state unemployment system. Catholic Charities Bureau (CCB) last year argued that the state had improperly removed its designation as a religious organization.  The charity filed a lawsuit after the state said it did not qualify to be considered as an organization…Continue Reading

The King of Kings

Cindy Paslawski We are at the end of the Church year. We began with Advent a year ago, commemorating the time awaiting the coming of the Christ and we are ending these weeks later with a vision of the future, a vision of Christ the King of the Universe on His throne before us all.…Continue Reading

7,000 Pro-Lifers March In London

By STEVEN ERTELT LONDON (LifeNews) — Over the weekend, some seven thousand pro-life people in the UK participated in the March for Life in London to protest abortion.They marched to Parliament Square on Saturday, September 2 under the banner of “Freedom to Live” and had to deal with a handful of radical abortion activists.During the…Continue Reading

An Appeal For Prayer For The Armenian People

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke on August 29, 2023, issued this prayer for the Armenian people, noting their unceasing love for Christ, even in the face of persecution.) + + On the Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, having a few days ago celebrated the…Continue Reading

Robert Hickson, Founding Member Of Christendom College, Dies At 80

By MAIKE HICKSON FRONT ROYAL, Va. (LifeSiteNews) — Robert David Hickson, Jr., of Front Royal, Va., died at his home on September 2, 2023, at 21:29 p.m. after several months of suffering and after having received the Last Rites of the Catholic Church. He was surrounded by friends and family.Robert is survived by me —…Continue Reading

The Real Hero Of “Sound of Freedom”… Says The Film Has Strengthened The Fight Against Child Trafficking

By ANA PAULA MORALES (CNA) —Tim Ballard, a former U.S. Homeland Security agent who risked his life to fight child trafficking, discussed the impact of the movie Sound of Freedom, which is based on his work, in an August 29 interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. “I’ve spent more than 20 years helping…Continue Reading


Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: This lesson on medical-moral issues is taken from the book Catholicism & Ethics. Please feel free to use the series for high schoolers or adults. We will continue to welcome your questions for the column as well. The email and postal addresses are given at the end of this column. Special Course On Catholicism And Ethics (Pages 53-59)…Continue Reading

Color Politics An Impediment To Faith

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The USCCB is rightly concerned about racism, as they should be about any sin. In the 2018 statement Open Wide Our Hearts, they affirm the dignity of every human person: “But racism still profoundly affects our culture, and it has no place in the Christian heart. This evil causes great harm to its victims, and…Continue Reading

Trademarks Of The True Messiah

By MSGR. CHARLES POPE (Editor’s Note: Msgr. Charles Pope posted this essay on September 2, and it is reprinted here with permission.) + + In Sunday’s Gospel the Lord firmly sets before us the need for the cross, not as an end in itself, but as the way to glory. Let’s consider the Gospel in three stages.First: The Pattern That…Continue Reading

A Beacon Of Light… The Holy Cross And Jesus’ Unconditional Love

By FR. RICHARD D. BRETON Each year on September 14 the Church celebrates the Feast Day of the Exultation of the Holy Cross. The Feast Day of the Triumph of the Holy Cross commemorates the day St. Helen found the True Cross. It is fitting then, that today we should focus on the final moments of Jesus’ life on the…Continue Reading

Our Ways Must Become More Like God’s Ways

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Twenty-Fifth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR A) Readings: Isaiah 55:6-9Phil. 1:20c-24, 27aMatt. 20:1-16a In the first reading today, God tells us through the Prophet Isaiah that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. This should not come as a surprise to anyone, especially when we look at what the Lord…Continue Reading

The Devil And The Democrats

By FR. DENIS WILDE, OSA States such as Minnesota, California, Maryland, and others, in all cases with Democrat-controlled legislatures, are on a fast track to not only allow unborn babies to be murdered on demand as a woman’s “constitutional right” but also to allow infanticide.Our nation has gotten so used to the moral evil of killing in the womb that…Continue Reading

Crushed But Unbroken . . . The Martyrdom Of St. Margaret Clitherow

By RAY CAVANAUGH The late-1500s were a tough time for Catholics in England, where the Reformation was in full gear. A 1581 law prohibited Catholic religious ceremonies. And a 1584 Act of Parliament mandated that all Catholic priests leave the country or else face execution. Some chose to remain, however, so they could continue serving the faithful.Also taking huge risks…Continue Reading