Transcript of Interview with Mike Aquilina about Angels of God. This interview and others like it can be found at http://www.catholicspotlight.com
Listen Now to the audio version of the show.
Angels of God at The Catholic Company.
Welcome to the Catholic Spotlight
Chris:Â This is the Catholic Spotlight, the show where we talk about what’s new, cool and exciting in the Catholic marketplace.Â I’m your host Chris Cash, director of E-Commerce for CatholicCompany.com, your source for all your catholic needs and today in the spotlight, we have Mike Aquilina, we’re talking about Angels of God, the Bible, the church and the heavenly host, welcome Mike.
Mike Aquilina:Â Great to be here Chris, thanks for having me.
Chris:Â Yes, and we got through the technical difficulty we were just having with the theme music so everything seems to be going alright now.Â This is show number 102 by the way for those of you who keep count of such things.Â Yay, we’re still going and it’s always such a big deal when you get to show 100, I’m not quite sure why butâ€¦â€¦
Mike Aquilina:Â Well you got angels on your side.
Chris:Â That’s right, now I guess people start thinking that you’re really legit once you get past that 100 point.
Mike Aquilina:Â Well, congratulations.
Chris:Â So Angels of God, so Mike, tell us a little bit about this book and what inspired you to write it?
Mike Aquilina:Â A little bit about the book, well, it’s about angels, it’s about angels, the holy angels and specifically what they
Chris:Â Go figure, did you get that off the cover?
Mike Aquilina:Â What’s that?
Chris:Â I said go figure, did you get that off the cover?
Mike Aquilina:Â I did, I did, and well I’m trying to get everything through the funnel here Chris.Â It’s a book about the angels and how they’ve, how they’ve appeared in history, in salvation history specifically and in the Old Testament, in the New Testament and Christian Worship, what the Saints have said about them and what the church teaches about them.Â I tried to stick to the meat and potato stuff, there are lots of really good books out there that tell you stories about angelic visitations in modern times and apparitions of angels that may or may not of happened and stories that are circulating and boy, I get them often enough in my email box, spammed to me from any number of people, but I tried to steer clear of those things andâ€¦â€¦
Chris:Â Yeah, you’ll probably get more of those spams now that you’ve got a book on it.
Mike Aquilina:Â That’s right if they can track me down, I’m not too tough to track down, but I tried to
Chris:Â That’s MikeAquilina.com, right?
Mike Aquilina:Â That’s right, I tried to stick to the basics, to the meat and potatoes to what the church clearly teaches, what the record clearly shows in the Old Testament and the New Testament and what the canonized Saints have said, especially the Saints we call the Fathers of the Church because they’ve been a special interest of mine for many years.
Chris:Â Okay, well I guess the good question is, what was it that kind of inspired you to make this, what is it that’s different about this book than all of these other books and writings that are out there?
Mike Aquilina:Â Â I would say there are two things that work, one is as I’ve said before, I’ve written a lot of books about the fathers of the church, about the early Christians, the Christians of those first four centuries, first six centuries, and one thing I noticed as I read the Father’s of the Church is their love for the angels, their devotion to the angels and how close they felt to the angels at all times, but especially when they celebrated the holy mass.Â You know when they were there at mass, they knew the presence of the angels, but also you know, when they were in trouble they knew the help of the angels and they learned all this from reflecting on the New Testament and on the Old Testament and seeing how angels played pivotal roles in the lives of the Apostles and even the lives of the Patriarchs, the life of Moses, and David and so many of the figures of the Bible.Â That was one strain that kind of kept nudging me in this direction, if the Father’s loved the angels so much, if the early Christians knew the presence of the angels so much and knew the help of the angels so much, what we are missing today, why don’t we talk about the angels as much as they do.Â That was one thing, the other thing was that I’m a dad, you know I’m a father to 6 kids, and gradually over time I learned the devotion to the Guardian Angels, my own Guardian Angel for help in day to day stuff in the house, just relations with my wife, relations with each of my children because they’re all unique individuals and they all have particular quirks andÂ likes and dislikes and sensitivities and what I found is that if I ask my Guardian Angel for help, things tend to go well, and if I get to know the Guardian Angels of each and every one of my children and the Guardian Angel of my wife, things tend to go pretty well.Â If I go to them and I say hey, help me out on this, so in human relations there’s a very practical benefit to knowing about the devotion to the angels and calling the angels to assistance for the things of everyday life, you know, greeting the Guardian Angel of a child when that child walks into the room, especially if the child is troubled about anything, asking the angels for guidance, in any human situation we can have, we can have supernatural help on our side, super human help, and a lot of it because we have our own Guardian Angels as well as the Guardian Angels of our spouse and our children.
Chris:Â Now, what exactly is an angel, for those of us who might not be so theologically inclined to have an accurate understanding of what an angel is?
Mike Aquilina:Â Â Well, an angel is a chubby thing that looks like a baby, and it’s got stubby wings.
Mike Aquilina:Â I’m just kidding, just kidding, just kidding, but that’s how we see them in arts.Â That’s how we seen things in art, when we look at artworks, we can see all different depictions of the angels and the artists are always trying to tell us something, but the angels we see in art usually have something like a human form.Â Now angels have appeared with the likeness of human beings when they’ve wanted to deliver a message to us without scaring us, but that’s not how angels are, angels actually do not have bodies.Â What are angels?Â Angels are pure spirits, pure spirits.Â Now we’re spiritual beings, but we’re not pure spirits, we’re a composite of spirit and matter, of the spiritual and the material, we have a spiritual soul but we also have this fleshly body that is united with the spiritual soul.Â It’s hard for us to conceive of a pure spirit, pure matter we can conceive of, like when we look at rocks, it’s pure matter, it doesn’t have a spiritual component, so it’s like a body without a mind, but it’s hard for us to think of angels as they are because they’re pure, purely spiritual.Â The philosopher Mortimer Adler came up with the phrase that I found very helpful, he referred to them as “minds without bodies”, minds without bodies, now that too for us is hard to conceive of because so much of what enters our mind, in fact all of what enters our mind, enters it by way of the senses, by way of the senses, and unless we have infused knowledge of some sort from God that the knowledge we have, we’ve gained by way of the senses, well the angels don’t gain knowledge that way, they are pure intellect andÂ that’s a remarkable thing, their mighty intellects, they are not bound by the same limitations we are, so they are able to give us enormousÂ help, they’re also very sensitive to the things in our lives andÂ they have a certain understanding of our life that’s much greater than our own.Â They can always take the big picture, they can always see the long view and help us in ways that we can’t even begin to help ourselves.Â So I guess the short answer is an angel is a pure spirit, it’s a mind without a body and it’s a heavenly being who knows constantly the presence of God.
Chris:Â Now why would such a heavenly, pure mind, pure spirit being take any interest at all in humans, especially to the extent that we have Guardian Angels and such?
Mike Aquilina:Â Oh my, well that’s a great question and it’s a , it can beÂ exhilarating becauseÂ they have that interest in us becauseÂ they were created for that purpose, God created a great number of spiritual beings to maintain the everyday operation of the cosmos, the universe but heâ€¦.
Chris:Â Some of us refer to those things as quarks.
Mike Aquilina:Â Well, even the quarks have to have someone behind it, it’s interesting that you bring that up because a number of philosophers from Aristotle down to Isaiah Berlin, who had not been Christian believers or believers in Judaism really, they came to a belief in angels just by way of reason, by way of philosophy, so all of the Religions of the world, or most of the Religions of the world, and many philosophers have this, have come to this doctrine of angelic beings who keep the world running, these pure spirits who are kind of the reason, the engine of reason in the world, the reason why the world is orderly when we experience it, and God created them for this running of the world and for this help in our lives.Â When our Lord was telling the Disciples to let the children come to him, he pointed out to them that these little children have Guardian Angels who see the face of God.Â Well this is something interesting because they see the face of God and yet their watching over even little children, and remember little children didn’t count for a whole lot in the ancient world.Â They didn’t have all kinds of marketing plans geared toward them in the ancient world the way they do today, there was no guarantee they were going to survive to adulthood, and childhood mortality was pretty high back in those days.Â But God watched out for them and gave each and every one of them a Guardian Angel.Â Well, when we think about it, that shows us tremendous dignity, you know, if my wife came home and said, hey I bought you this expensive sports car, here’s the key, I would see that as a tremendous act of love as something that she did for me in giving me something so wonderful by worldly standards.Â Well, think about it, God has created these heavenly beings, who are great by every standard and just given them to us lavishly for our good, he has created them for our good, he has created these giant intellects, probably the loneliest angel is, has a far greater intellect then 22 Albert Einstein’s, and yet God created each of those angels to, for our sake, to show his love for us, they’re that gift, an expression of love and it’s also an indication of the dignity he gives us, it’s mind blowing when you think about it, that this has all been done for, for me, for me, it’s an expression of God’s love for me.Â So, anyway, we have these great Guardian Angels, we should be aware of them, now if my wife brought home that sports car, handed me the key, put it in the driveway and I never even took it out of the driveway, never turned the key in the ignition, I think she’d be a little offended, so God created these angels for us and he wants us to get to know them, he wants us to call upon their help, because he’s given them to us, that’s how we show love, we show love not only by receiving the gift, but by showing how much we appreciate the gift.
Chris:Â So why is it that you think that our current society seems to talk less and less about angels?
Mike Aquilina:Â Well, it’s funny that we talk less about angels even as we sing more about them, because if you listen to popular music, popular music talks about angels a lot, you know the angels appear in songs, somebody once ran the numbers and claimed that something like 10% of the popular songs that were written in the 60’s and 70’s and 80’s talked about angels or compared their loves to angels, so this comes up a lot, we also find angels in artwork, we find angels in new age spirituality, so people gravitate towards these things but they make them into something they’re really not.Â They like to think of them as comfort food, as something that’s kind of a lesser God really, it’s a Pagan idea of angels that’s been revived through the new age movement that was active in some ChristianÂ Heresies in the early centuries and it’s finding new life in the new age some 2000 years later.Â Well, we’ve got to shy away from that kind of thing, but we needed go to the other extreme, where say mainstream Christianity seems to be in the last century or so where we don’t talk about angels as much, we’re almost embarrassed by the idea of them, you know we embarrassed by the fiacre and holy cards that show an angel helping a little child over a bridge, you know we dismiss that stuff as sentimentality.Â Well, it might have, you know, crossed the lines in terms of esthetic taste every now and then, but that’s life you know, that’s the way things go, but we should not, we should not eliminate the doctrine of the angels from our practice of Christianity because if we do that then we’re not practicing a biblical faith, we’re not following in the tradition of our ancestors in the Christian church.Â Because the angels are everywhere in Christian life and in Christian tradition, they’re throughout the Old Testament, not only as bit players in these things, but they’re everywhere and they’re major actors in the drama of salvation that plays out through the covenance of the Old Testament.Â They’re there in Genesis at the very beginning, when we see that God created the heavens and the earth in the first line in the Book of Genesis.Â Well, when it said that God created the heavens, it’s not talking about the sky or the bodies in the sky like the sun and the moon, that actually comes later in the narrative, the heavenly beings, the heavenly beings, the angels, and then we encounter one of those angels, the Fallen Angel in the form of the snake in the garden, and then at the end of the story of Adam and Eve, we encounter more angels because we find that God placed an angel at the gate of the Garden of Eden to protect it from defilement in the future.Â So there from the beginning Book of Genesis, we see that angels play a major role in the working out of salvation history.Â Then we encounter angels in the life of Abraham and it was an angel who stayed his hand when he was going to sacrifice his son Isaac, we find angels going up and down on the Stairway to Heaven in the story of the Patriarch Jacob, we find angels in, delivering the law to Moses, we find angels in the worship of Solomon’s Temple, we find angels in theÂ Visions of the Prophets like Ezekiel, they’re everywhere in the story of the Old Testament and then there’s an explosion of angelic activity in the New Testament.Â If we distance ourselvesÂ from that, then we’re distancing ourselves from what Christianity is, we’re distancing ourselves from biblical faith because the way that we encounter the faith in the bible, it’s a faith that’s attended by angels at all times.
Chris:Â Okay, well we’re going to take a short break to hear from our sponsor but when we come back we’llÂ be talking more with Mike Aquilina about Angels of God, the Bible, the church and the Heavenly Host, this is the Catholic Spotlight.
Chris:Â And we’re back on the Catholic Spotlight with Mike Aquilina talking about Angels of God, the Bible, the Church and the Heavenly Host.Â So you mentioned earlier about how the angels were present in the mass.Â You want to talk a little bit about how they’re present and what their role is there?
Mike Aquilina:Â Â Well that’s a great question because angels are always attending at worship in the Old Testament when the Israelites made the tabernacle of God, the tent of the presence of God, they fashioned images of angels for the holy of holy’s there, and when they built the temple, when Solomon built the temple, once again he put images depicting angels in the holy of holy’s.Â So we see that there’s always this angelic presence wherever God is and wherever men and women worship God, so that is picked up in the New Testament actually and we always find Jesus attended by angels, when he’s in the wilderness, well actually if you back up from the moment of his conception, the events of his conception and his birth, are attended by angelic activity from the very first moment when the angel Gabriel appeared beforeÂ the Blessed Virgin MaryÂ and then again we find these angels attending him in the wilderness, when he’s tempted we find angels attending him in the Garden of Getsemity, and he often refers to angels as well.Â So angels are always there with God, they’re always worshipping before God andÂ the people of Israel believed that the angels worshipped God their way in heaven, with their heavenly liturgy, with their heavenly worship, their heavenly ritual, and that the worship in the Tabernacle and then in the temple was an imitation of the heavenly worship.Â That an idea that recurs throughout the Old Testament, that the worship of God’s people on earth reflect in some way the worship of the angels in heaven.Â Well what we find in the New Covenant, with the incarnation of our Lord, when God becomes man, he units earth and heaven so that there’s no longer the liturgy of heaven and the liturgy of earth, but there’s one liturgy, and that’s the way we experience liturgy today.Â It’s the heavenly, earthly liturgy and it’s Jesus Christ uniting earth and heaven, so from the beginning of the mass, we start praying as if we’re in the company of the angels because we are in the company of the angels.Â You know when we say the *** [00:21:23], we say it as we’re talking; we’re making this confession of our sins in the presence of all the angels and saints.Â That’s what we say, all the angels and saints because all the angels and saints are present there with us in heaven on earth, which is the mass.Â Now later on in the Sunday mass we sing the glory of, Glory to God in the Highest, now where did we get that hymn, where did we get that song, well we got it from the angels, they taught it to human beings on the first Christmas, when Jesus was born, they sang that song and from the earliest times it’s said that that was part of the Roman liturgy every since the first century, that Christians sang the Glory during the mass.Â So the Glory is another angelic song.Â And then we move on in the mass and in most of the prefaces we have a line that goes something like, and so with all the choirs of angels in heaven we sing, and then we go on to sing that song, that we find the angels singing in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, in the Book of Isaiah and in the Book of Revelation, we find the angels singing Holy, Holy, Holy, that thrice holy hymn which we sing right before the Eucharistic prayer.Â So you see this happening again and again, that we’re invoking the angels, we’re acknowledging that they’re around us and that they’re worshipping with us before the throne of Almighty God, in the liturgy.Â And then of course there are references to the angels as we go to, as we get into theÂ Eucharistic prayer, you know, we, the priest asks that the angel may take the sacrifice to the alter in heaven, well, this is all part of acknowledging the same thing, that the angels are not only attending theÂ liturgy but their active in it, you know, just as they were active in that moment, that visionary moment that Jacob had when the angels were going up and down on that ladder, well, it’s happening in the mass, this is Jacob’s ladder at work.Â As we go on in the mass we get to the Our Father, and we pray that God’s will be done earth as it is in heaven, on earth as it is in heaven, well what does that mean.Â How God’s is will expressed in heaven, we should ask ourselves that. St. Augustan points out that it’s expressed in the work of the angels, we’re not speaking there again, about the heavenly bodies, about the movement of the sun or of the moon or anything like that, and we’re talking about God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven.Â So once again, whenever we utter these prayers, we’re praying with the angels, we’re praying beside the angels, we’re praying about the angels, we have to recognize this and in a sense see it around us.Â Well, we can’t see it with our physical eyes, because again, we’re talking about pure spirits, minds without bodies as I said earlier, so we can’t see it with those eyes but we can see it with the eyes of our spirit just as we see all the other objects of faith.Â You know in the ancient church, St. John *** [00:24:42] speaks of a man he knew, and many people think that it’s, he’s really talking about himself, but a man he knew, who was a priest of the church, who was given a vision of all the angels attending at the liturgy and whenever he said the liturgy, he could see the angels before him. Well we don’t know what that means in terms of you know, being given a bodily vision, perhaps it’s something like the visions of angels that we encounter in the pages of the Old Testament and the New, but St. John ***[00:25:09] certainly believed it was possible and he probably experienced it as a reality, so this idea of the angels worshipping with us at mass has been there in Christianity since the earliest times, it’s still something that’s vital today and it’s something we need to plug into.Â That’s one thing that I tried to emphasize in my book, by showing the continuity between the early church and then the church fathers and how there’s that thread that runs from their experience down to our own in a typical parish today.
Chris:Â One last question for you, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
Mike Aquilina:Â Angels don’t occupy space so it’s a non-question, it’s a non-sensical question, and I should point out that that question, which is often used to make fun of medieval theologians was actually never posed in the middle ages, there’s no evidence that it was ever posed in the middle ages and it’s a modern idea of what medieval’s thought and it’s trying to make fun of us for theologizing about angels, to make fun of Christians and specifically Catholics for talking about angels in any kind of detail, but it’s a non-sensical question.Â If everybody has a guardian angel and all those guardian angels are in heaven, and we confess that all the angels are with us at mass, well then there are billions and billions and billions of angels with us in my powers church every Sunday at mass and they don’t occupy space, not even the head of a pin, so it’s a non-sensical question, there’s really no answer to that.
Chris:Â But it is kind of fun to think about though.
Mike Aquilina:Â It is, it is and it brings out these details about angelology, the study of the angels.
Chris:Â Now, did you have anything else you wanted to share with our listeners before we finish up here?
Mike Aquilina:Â No, except that it is a very practical thing, you know we think about angels as being an ornament on our religion, but it’s not, it’s something that really is the main current, it’s part of the main current of revelations for the Old Testament and the New Testament, through our experience of prayer and worship, all the songs we sing in the liturgy and the prayers we pray everyday, like the Hail Mary for example for example was given to us by an angel, all of these things are just the meat and potatoes of Christian life and so it helps us to get to know the angels better and it’s a great practical help for family life, so I’d recommend that people grow in their knowledge of angels and in their relationship with angels, and I guess my book is as good a place to start as any.
Chris:Â Well, thank you very much Mike for coming on and sharing with us.Â All of you listeners out there to the Spotlight and other Catholic podcasts around the net, please go on over to CatholicSpotlight.com/vote and join our mailing list to get the beginning of the month notices, when it’s time to go over and vote at Podcast Alley, help us all to get up onto the listings at Podcast Alley and help to spread the Gospel in some ways to people who may not have the Gospel in front of them on a regular basis.Â Mike. It is always a pleasure to have you on the show so thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day over at the St. Paul Biblical
Mike Aquilina:Â St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology.
Chris:Â There you go, not quite a tongue twister but not, it’s hard if you don’t have it sitting in front of your face.
Mike Aquilina:Â Find us online at Salvationhistory.com.
Chris: Absolutely, and of course MikeAquilina.com, correct?
Mike Aquilina:Â That’s right and FathersoftheChurch.com.
Chris:Â FathersoftheChurch.com, now you know; now you all know where to send your angel stories, right now.
Mike Aquilina:Â I’ll be waiting.
Chris:Â Alright, have a great day God Bless.
Mike Aquilina:Â You too Chris.
Transcript of Interview with Mike Aquilina about Angels of God. This interview and others like it can be found at http://www.catholicspotlight.com
Listen Now to the audio version of the show.
Angels of God at The Catholic Company.