Saturday, 26 January 2013

St Paul and angels: the conversion of St Paul

Fra Angelico - conversion of St. Paul
Paul's references to angels shows that they have a central role in understanding what is for Teilhard the cosmic dimension of the Heart of Christ.  Yesterday, when the Church remembered the conversion of St. Paul, prompts us to reflect once again on the presence of the angels in the icon.  They do make their appearance in some images of the Sacred Heart, but they are, for the most part, chubby little cherubs - putti- rather than the kind of angels as represented in the icon.  Perhaps there was a good reason why we find Paul frequent references to angels in his writings: Acts record that he 'belonged to and served an angel.  On board the ship during his voyage to Rome it says that :

 .. after long abstinence from food, .. Paul stood in the midst of them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me.  However, we must run aground on a certain island.”( Acts, 27: 21-26)

Thus for Paul angels were no mere metaphor.  Jesus is the son of the Lord of Hosts. His references to angels is, therefore, to remind us that Christ as the Son of the Lord of Hosts has command of all creation: the angelic and material worlds.   The mention of angels in the gospels  serves to illustrate the extent to which God was humbling Himself.  The Lord of Hosts chooses to allow his Son  to suffer  at the hands of men.  On his arrest, for example, Jesus says to his disciples:

"'Put your sword back in its place,'" ...'for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?" (Matthew 26:52-54).

It is an angel, not a human who comforts him in his agony in the garden. (Luke, 22; 43)

Angels feature prominently in the  resurrection accounts in all four Gospels. An angel rolled back the stone and told the women that Jesus was risen (Matthew 28:2-5). The women saw angels inside the tomb (Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4, 23; John 20:11).  And, on His return, angels will come with him and will gather the elect for salvation and evildoers for destruction (Matthew 13:39-49; 24:31).

Thus, by including angels in an image of the Sacred Heart the icon is serving to connect the devotion with its scriptural or theological context.  In this regard it is very much in keeping with the re-instatement  of the Lord of the Hosts in the new translation of the Mass.  Out goes, 'Lord of power and might', and back comes ' Lord God of Hosts' in the Sanctus.  The presence of the angels serves to remind us of the fact that the Sacred Heart - as the symbol of God as Love - is the very centre and driving power  and energy which fills all creation: the Lord of Hosts is the God of the Universe.  And the wounded and loving heart of Christ is at its very centre.

No comments:

Post a Comment