Illustration: Angel c 1295-1300 Pietro Cavallini courtesy of The Yorck Project.
Working for G. You want to keep Him happy.
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST RUTH FARMER
Related column The Question of Angels
I have this image of Heaven as a very staid and boring place.
After years of conflict – emotional, physical, whatever. After not knowing what is beyond the Beyond. After going through all kinds of unpleasantness interspersed with periods of happiness, would you be happy with endless days of contentment?
Wouldn’t the muscles you develop as a result of making it, surviving, ascending over the vicissitudes of life make you want to have an eternity that is more than bright light, singing, and glorifying the most High? I want something more colorful in the Afterlife.
Illustration: Angel c. 1110 courtesy of The Yorck Project.
From the Angels’ perspective
For me, Dante’s Paradiso is the least effective, least interesting installment of The Divine Comedy. Perhaps it was for Dante as well, judging by the intensity of Inferno and Purgatorio compared to blandness of Paradiso. Even this great poet couldn’t make Heaven compelling.
I’m not saying that I would prefer Hell or Purgatory to Heaven. Who would? I would simply like to imagine Heaven being a more dynamic existence. Instead I have this:
From the Angels’ perspective, Heaven is one long staff meeting interspersed with choir practice. The only relief is when they are in the field. If you believe in Guardian Angels, the Angels tasked with the district called Earth must be especially busy.
Or, they are very bad at their jobs since humans are always in trouble, always in need.
Guardian Angels must be extremely jaded after millennia of thankless tasks. You pull one human out of the fire and there are millions more to help; sometimes the same ones are pulled out of the same fire. It’s probably pretty monotonous.
No “Blackberry under the table” at this meeting
I have this image of God and his Angels sitting around an oval conference table. He is tapping His fingers, arrhythmically. The Angels are trying to look interested and awestruck and doing a damn fine job of it. They’ve had thousands of centuries to practice. Whenever an Angel is given an assignment, he knows he must look neutral – not upset, not happy, no emotion, just neutral. If they were corporeal Beings they would have ulcers from constant containment of their emotions.
If you were an Angel, would you have wanted to tell Mary she’d have to explain to Joseph that she was bearing someone else’s child? I don’t think so. Yet, it would have been important to you not to upset G.
Despite His demanding personality, He’s a Good Guy. You want to keep Him happy. After all, you could have a worse Boss.
Illustration: Angel c.1304-1306 Giotto di Bondone courtesy of The Yorck Project.
I imagine Gabriel sitting at the conference table, impassive face masking his concentration on the tone poem he is supposed to lead at the next choir practice. He focuses on the meeting just long enough to hear G outlining a major project – something to do with the Son who will blah blah blah … Gabriel tunes out. (He is considering the atonal nature of a section of his composition. Is it too radical?).
He becomes conscious of G’s voice detailing what He wants done. Gabriel focuses just long enough to think: I feel sorry for the poor guy who gets this …
The annoyance, the misery, perhaps even anger and self-pity that fleets across his face.
Perfection or distraction
Gabriel presents a perfect demeanor when he arrives on Earth to complete the assignment. He has shed all doubt and dismay. He has a job to do. When he speaks to Mary he is fierce with commitment to this worthy cause. Mary has been chosen. She should feel honored.
In the back of his mind, he’s thinking about something else, someplace else, someone else he’s got to get to. Mary is not that important, no matter what he is telling her. This is just the beginning of a long project and her part will be relatively small comparatively speaking. If you think you’ve got it hard, Mary, well … don’t. Things get a lot worse for other people, he says. On the inside.
Angels are merciless.
They have to be to keep the Universe in order. And that is their job, isn’t it? Even the fallen ones have fallen because their concept of the Universe’s order differed from God’s.
Illustration: Angel, not later than c. 1014, courtesy of The Yorck Project.
When I went on a search for information about Angels, I found numerous hits on the internet (the list of fallen Angels is impressive).
In addition to discovering that loads of people are interested in Angels, I learned a new word: “angelology,” a term I need not define. Every subject has someone who specializes in it, and that specialist has a technical sounding name. I am not an angelologist, nor would I be, seeing as the very thought of Angels gives me heart palpitations.
I’m just a woman who thinks that Angels exist but who is not comfortable with this thought.
The real deal
Angels are the scariest supernatural Beings in or near the planet. Forget vampires and werewolves and ghosts. Angels are the real scary deal.
Imagine something coming into your bedroom and looking down on you backlit, winged (or not), unsmiling – or worst – placid humanoid smile like Sonny in I, Robot. It just appears out of nowhere and it’s not speaking about anything you really want to hear. Got it? No?
Imagine that this Being is actually not speaking, but communicating anyway.
Nowadays, we are more sanguine about these encounters, whether we’ve experienced them or not. After all, we have angelologists, Ufologists, and other –ologists that explain phenomena using scientific terminology. Back in Mary’s time, people were … less sophisticated, closer to the bone. More likely to think that a burning bush had a spiritual reason for talking.
More likely to believe that Gabriel actually was delivering a message from God.
Illustration: Angel c.1304-1306 Giotto di Bondone courtesy of The Yorck Project.
Visited by dream
Imagine feeling guilty for being scared or angry about this thing imposing itself into your life. You are actually supposed to feel special. After all, out of the billions of people on the planet God chose you to do this favor for Him. Saying that Angels are asking humans to do favors for God might seem offensive to some. But is it inaccurate?
How often does an Angel appear just to hang out? Or to give you something without wanting something in return? If you’re going to scare someone because of your sudden – and often freakish – appearance, shouldn’t you maximize the effort?
I’ve never seen an Angel in real life. I’ve seen ghosts and spirits and I swear that some people I’ve met are vampires and werewolves. I’ve had faceless, quiet, relentless creatures visit me in dreams. Their presence and sometimes their words have touched my life, forced me to question my waking actions.
I do not relish burning bush revelations.
I am not that strong and I know that Angels are in no mood to put up with my fears. I am grateful that they – if they were Angels – showed some compassion: They conveyed their messages without scaring the crap out of me; and by coming in a dream, they let me choose if I wanted to believe.
Faceless, quiet, relentless creatures
A few nights ago I said to shadows wandering in my home: “I banish you from my house!”
There were three of them, and I was asleep. Their presence made me feel uncomfortable, as if a nosy neighbor walked into my home without knocking, simply because the door was unlocked. So I spoke the words that people have spoken for centuries in an effort to gain some control over their lives.
The three glided from room to room inexorably moving in the direction they were headed anyway. From the calm way the three sauntered out the front door, they weren’t impressed by my courageous confrontation.
If they were Angels, they probably left because they were keeping to a schedule. I expect to see them again.
I hope to be asleep then, as well.
Illustration: nineteenth century Angels in Russian icon painting.
Take me by the hand
The other day, I was walking in the fields with my partner and our two dogs. I was not feeling the joy of walking with my family that we are surely supposed to feel. In fact, I was feeling downright blue… no gray is a better descriptor.
I thought to myself, What if I reach out and take the hand of … whatever.
And I did and felt the energy of taking the hand of a Being walking beside me. Was it an Angel? I don’t know. Maybe it was God. Maybe it was Me taking ahold of Myself. Getting a grip, as it were.
Whatever it was, my mood lifted. I suppose I needed the illusion of some Being helping me. Or … some Being really did help me.
If you believe in this sort of thing, an Angel held my hand and eased my stress. No harm. At least I was still walking on my own two legs.
And the Angel didn’t ask me for anything.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.