But in fact, how many angels are there? Some would say: a strange question. However, angels have a fundamental place in Christianity. So what number is it really? Explanation.
Attempting to answer the question about the number of angels may surprise. However, this question has long held the attention of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. When we embark on research, some answers emerge in particular in the Bible and in the writings of the great saints. The Scriptures depict huge “armies of the Lord”. In a vision, the prophet Daniel sees the Eternal accompanied and served by millions of celestial spirits:
“Thousands of thousands served him, myriads of myriads stood before him. » (Dn 7, 10).
When, on the evening of Maundy Thursday, Christ orders Peter to put back his sword and his scabbard, he refers to the twelve legions of angels:
“Do you think I cannot call on my Father? He would immediately put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels. » (Mt, 26.53)
As Anne Bernet points out in her book investigation of angels (Artège) Saint Jerome would have estimated the help in question at some seventy-two thousand angels. Of course, these are symbolic figures that represent the incalculable. However, with this precision of Saint Gregory the Great: it is a question of “a finite number in the eyes of God, but infinite in the eyes of man”.
The multiplication of God’s masterpiece
Nicknamed the “angelic doctor”, Saint Thomas Aquinas left luminous theological thought on angels, personal guardians, as he describes them in his Summa theologica. He explains their multitude there by a few arguments. For him, there are three main types of creatures. First, those of the cosmos: material creatures. Then come the angels: the spiritual creatures. Finally the man, who is at the crossroads of the two. If the existence of angels is obvious to him, Saint Thomas argues that without spiritual creatures, creation would not be complete. Angels being perfect creatures, and it is in perfection that God delights, he was therefore pleased to “multiply his masterpiece and to make many more angels than material or material creatures and spiritual at the same time”.
The great mystics, underline in their stories “innumerable flamboyant troupes”.
Another key argument of the Dominican master touches on divine justice. This “cannot admit that the number of the accursed is greater than that of the elect, foreseeing both the defection of the demons and the loss of the men whom they would drag after them to hell”, explains Anne Bernet. Other saints, in particular the great mystics, underline in their accounts “innumerable flamboyant troops”. Padre Pio even affirms that “what seems empty to us is actually filled with angels”.
Nine angelic choirs
Despite the large number of angels, this does not in any way cause confusion between them, as often happens among human beings. On the contrary, the greater order prevails. God, to whom the angelic multitude is a glory, has established an admirable harmony. There are nine celestial spirit choirs. They are divided into three hierarchies, each of which is subdivided into three separate orders. The first hierarchy includes seraphim, cherubim and thrones; the second hierarchy includes dominations, powers and virtues; and the third hierarchy includes superiors, archangels and angels.
Each choir is distinguished from the others by its particular ministry and by the degree of excellence and grace that is specific to it.
If the Scriptures do not mention the order of their dignity, and if all the Fathers of the Church have not adopted a uniform classification of the celestial choirs, theologians are unanimous in classing them in the aforementioned order, to which the Church subscribes. Each choir is distinguished from the others by its particular ministry and by the degree of excellence and grace that is specific to it. The primary vocation of the choirs is to manifest the splendor of the Being of God, their fundamental mission is to lead men to Heaven, to prepare the encounter of their souls with God. These innumerable guardians of order, intelligent and free messengers between God and men, protect and pray for men, they encourage souls towards holiness.
Also discover the twelve thoughts of the great saints on guardian angels:
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How many angels are there really?
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