“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those he loves.” This verse from the Gospel of Luke inspired the famous traditional song “Angels in our fields” which resounds in many churches during Christmas time. Advent, a privileged period to examine the precise and crucial role of angels in the coming into the world of the Saviour. Interview with the writer Anne Bernet, who signs an “Enquiry into the Angels”, a work republished by Artège in October 2022.
Interview conducted by Delphine Allaire – Vatican City
What is the place of angels in the Holy Scriptures of Advent?
Their place is important there as in all liturgical times. Throughout Advent, we are called to share the joy of celestial spirits in the face of the prodigious mystery of the Nativity. This mystery, so immense and incomprehensible, of the Incarnation of God, which takes on our human nature. This incarnation was the stumbling block over which some of the celestial spirits stumbled, turned into demons by revolt, for having refused to adore the second person of the Trinity made man.
All the texts of the liturgy revolve around this incredible news: God becomes man, he descends to Earth in the form of a child. We are invited to share heavenly joy as we share it on Christmas Eve when we hear the angels proclaiming the birth of Christ before the shepherds and asking them to go and worship him.
What is their function, their role, in the coming into the world of Christ?
The angels are there to try to keep the chosen people in faithfulness to divine law and to try to enlighten the pagans of good will. Now, no matter how hard they try, we see throughout the Old Testament or ancient history how angelic efforts do not pay off. It is therefore necessary for Christ to become incarnate and descend; that the Son of God himself comes to assume the Redemption since angelic efforts cannot achieve it.
In the Old Testament the angels are there primarily to keep the faithful core of Israel in the right course, to protect the chosen people as seen in the Old and New Testaments, and to try to prepare the ground also among the pagans.
With the Nativity, now the angels will be able to guide us as they have never been able to do before.
The voice of the angels also turns into song to announce this great joy…
It is the demonstration that even before enjoying celestial bliss, we are invited to associate ourselves with the blessed spirits who sing, incessantly and eternally, the divine praise. Through the feast of Christmas, we share this unspeakable joy. This is the message of the angels: “Glory to God and Peace on Earth to men who love Him”. They are there to proclaim this great news and above all to announce that in a way their mission is over. From the moment when Gabriel went to find Mary to announce that she is the Mother of the Saviour, and that she accepts him, at that moment, the role of the angels gives way to that of Christ. They know that the mission of saving humanity is going to be carried out by someone more likely than them to achieve it.
Nativity scenes, paintings… What meaning do the representations of angels have during Advent and at Christmas?
There is always a need to show the presence of the angelic court around the nativity scene. This shows the extraordinary contrast between this humiliation of the Son of God in a stable, he who is going to be born on straw, and this joy of the celestial world which will show how much God lowered himself for love for us. It is therefore necessary to represent this joy, this greatness of the whole Creation which is held near the cradle of the child.
How to pray to the angels during Advent?
We can ask them to prepare us for the graces of the Nativity, that we better understand the extent of the mystery and the abasement of Christ, and that we are desirous of making a greater and greater place for him in our lives. In this, we can ask them to celebrate Christmas with dignity, as this holiday deserves.
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Advent: the angels, guides to the mystery of the Nativity – Vatican News
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