Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Homosexuality and the Synod on the Family

Homosexuality and the Synod on the Family

Posted By 
 on Oct 5, 2015
The Ordinary Synod of the Bishops on the Family opened today to address the theme of “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the modern world.”
The world’s media will be watching the bishops very closely, expecting them to ratify “changes” to the Church’s teaching on divorced Catholics and hoping for “changes” to the teaching on homosexuality. Journalists conveniently forget, what most of them know, that the core of Church teaching does not change. However, some of the bishops want to discuss precisely what this “core” really is. And that is unsettling.
The issue of homosexuality was raised by Pope Francis himself when he declared early in his papacy, ““If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?,” deliberately using the English word, “gay.”
Monsignor Krzystof Charamsa and his "partner."
Monsignor Krzystof Charamsa and his “partner.”
This remark released an avalanche of comment both from within the Church and out that has continued unabated since it was made July 29, 2013. And to ensure this issue is brought before the synod, Monsignor Krzystof Charamsa, a member of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith since 2003, “came out” by declaring to an Italian newspaper that he was an active homosexual and living with a “partner.”
Monsignor Charamsa explained his reason for giving the interview:
“The timing is not intended to pressure anyone, but maybe a good pressure, in fact a Christian participation, a Christian voice that wants to bring to the synod the response of the homosexual believers to the questioning of Pope Francis.”
Within 24 hours, Monsignor Charamsa was fired from his Vatican post and told by his Polish ordinary that he may well be stripped of his priestly faculties.
It’s important to remember that when the US bishops released their Bennett_cover 2004 report on the priest’s pedophile crisis, the report itself revealed it was not pedophilia that was the problem but homosexual priests having sexual contact with post-pubescent boys and teenagers. Though 90% of the 400 victims listed in the report were post-pubescent, both the bishops and the media ignored the significance of this finding.
When the report was released at the National Press Club, I asked then USCCB president, Bishop Wilton Gregory, why the ramifications of this statistic were not highlighted in the report. The bishop acknowledged the statistic and then asked for another question.
Bishop Gregory’s determination to look away from the problem is not unique — it appears most of the leadership and laity in the Church have wanted to ignore it as well. Why? Because it would force them to ask, just what percentage of Catholic clergy are homosexual? And, how many of those homosexual priests are active? Most importantly, they would be led to ask whether or not either answer makes any difference to them.
Some years ago I surveyed all the available data on the percentage of homosexuals in the priesthood. When I published my findings and reported on them at a meeting of DC conservatives, I was castigated in a way that totally surprised me. Even my friends at the meeting told me I was out of line, in spite of the fact that I done the research. I will not repeat my findings here, rather I will only state the obvious: The percentage of homosexual priests in the Catholic Church is substantial, so substantial that the drama now underway at the Vatican synod was inevitable.
The July, 2013 comment of Pope Francis pricked a balloon that was ready to burst, and now we are watching as the air which came out slowly at first is forming a wind sweeping through the Church.
Here is what most Catholics know about the Church’s teaching on homosexuality:
  1. Homosexuality is an “objective disorder” of the human person (CCC #2358).
  2. Homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered” and, therefore, always sinful (CCC #2357).
  3. Homosexual attraction, in itself, is not sinful, but is evidence of an “objective disorder” (CCC #2358).
  4. Homosexuals are “called to chastity” (CCC #2359).
  5. Homosexual men with “transitory” homosexual desire may be ordained deacons after three years of prayer and chastity.
  6. Homosexual men with “deeply rooted homosexual tendencies” or who are sexually active cannot be ordained.
Since the Church’s policy toward the ordination of homosexual men is an “Instruction,” it is subject to change, which I am sure is on the mind those bishops hoping for “changes,” led by Cardinal Kasper, at the synod. However, the Church cannot, and will not, change its teachings on #1-4, a fact which I am confident Pope Francis will confirm at the synod.
It’s important to notice the prudential nature of the Church’s instruction regarding the ordination of homosexuals. The matter is not presented as black and white, the Church recognizes that the individual circumstances of each man should be respected, and any decisions regarding suitability for ministry should be based upon the individual, not caricatures of homosexual lifestyles.
I’m sure I am not the only Catholic who knows holy priests who have received the grace of chastity and have served the Church both generously and sacrificially. Thus, I would oppose any attempt to bar all men with homosexual tendencies from the priesthood. This would not only deny the heroism of countless priests but also the grace of God available to all of us to govern sinful desire.
Cardinal Walter Kaspar
Cardinal Walter Kaspar
But it’s clear, at least to me, that Cardinal Kasper and his co-conspirators are pressing for changes to the unchangeable, namely, the nature of homosexual desire, the moral state of homosexual acts, and, finally, the licitness of homosexual unions.
I doubt if Pope Francis realized his common sense call to charity and compassion towards homosexuals would bring him to face to face with his bishops over the fundament of Church teaching. I, for one, believe the Pope will do exactly what his role as Vicar of Christ calls for — to protect and promulgate the “sacred deposit” of Church teaching.

Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D., publisher & editor of The Christian Review, is president of the Morley Institute for Church and Culture and formerly publisher & editor of Crisis Magazine; Dr. Hudson's latest book is "Onward Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States (Simon and Schuster, 2010).

Thursday, October 1, 2015

“God, or Nothing!”: Exclusive Interview with Cardinal Robert Sarah

“God, or Nothing!”: Exclusive Interview with Cardinal Robert Sarah

Talking about mercy, sin, participation in the Church, and the urgent need to respect the Holy Eucharist

ROME — The prodigal son left home in order to say, “I’m independent, I’m autonomous from my father,” and his father wants to forgive him. But if he doesn’t return home, he can’t be forgiven. And returning home means leaving sin behind.
This was just one thought shared by Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, who spoke exclusively to Aleteia at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia last week.

Appointed Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 2014, he was one of the first priests to be ordained in the West African nation of Guinea, and attributes his own faith to the generosity of the Spiritan missionaries, who came to his village in 1912.

Cardinal Sarah was one of the keynote speakers at last weeks World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. He delivered a well received address entitled: The Light of the Family in a Dark World.

In this interview, he discusses his new book God or Nothing, the scope of papal authority, and why authentic mercy depends on a “break” from evil, and repentance of sin.

 Your Eminence, your new book is entitled ‘God or Nothing’. Why did you choose this title, and what is the heart of the message of your book?

As you know, from the time just before the Second Vatican Council until now, God has been disappearing more and more; [for many] he no longer exists. No one is interested in Him, especially in the West. Already at the Council, they wanted to help the world to rediscover God.

The main idea of my book is how do we give God the first place in our thoughts, in our daily actions, and in our being, so that God truly returns to being our Father.

The economy is important, politics are important, many things are important, but if we lose God we are like a tree without roots: it dies. And therefore, the heart of the book is to put God first in my mind, in my daily actions, and in my being. In this way, man will not lose his roots.

Already in the Western culture, they say: “We don’t have Christian roots.” This is illogical. The culture, the architecture, the art: It’s all Christian. To deny what is clearly obvious is suicide.

I came to know God through the missionaries. Many of them died after one year on mission, or two, or three. They never survived longer than three years. They died of malaria, or some other illness. They sacrificed so much to proclaim God. And so I thought: If so many of them died, and if still today there are so many martyrs, it means that God is important in life.

Therefore, the heart of my book is this: How do we find God in what we are, in what we do, and in what we think?

But I also touch upon many issues and problems in the world today: issues and problems in the Church, issues in marriage, in the priesthood. All current issues that affect the life of the Church: mission, the Pope …

The Pope? In what sense?

I examine the role of the Pope. There is a chapter in which I talk about Pope Pius XII until Francis. The Pope’s role is to be the one to whom the Lord has entrusted the keys and the Church. “You are rock, Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.”

Therefore, the Pope must be “Christ on earth” and protect the faith of Christians. He must help to preserve the faith, to safeguard and preserve what the Church has always lived from the beginning until now. He is the rock. If the rock isn’t solid, it can be difficult for Christians because they don’t have any protection. Until now, all of the popes have sought to secure and safeguard the faith of Christians.

Pope Francis often speaks about the economy, the environment, immigration, etc. How should the faithful rightly understand a pope’s statements on these matters?

If the Pope speaks about the economy or politics, it is not his field of expertise. He can offer his vision or opinion, but it’s not dogma. He can err. But what he says about Christ, about the Sacraments, about the faith must be considered as sure.

If he speaks about the environment, the climate, the economy, immigrants, etc., he is working from information that may be correct, or mistaken, but [in these cases] he is speaking as Obama speaks, or another president. It doesn’t mean that what he says on the economy is dogma, something we need to follow. It’s an opinion.

But, if what he says is illustrated and illumined by the Gospel, then we ought to regard it seriously. “God wills this; this is what the Bible says”. Or “God wills that; this is what the Gospel says”. Thus politics is illumined, the economy is illumined by the Gospel. That, too, has some surety because it is not his own thought. It is the thinking of the Bible, the mind of God.

For me, it’s clear that the Pope cannot not speak about these issues. But when he does, he is saying what any Head of State can say without it being the Word of God. We need to distinguish.

Here at the World Meeting of Families, you delivered a keynote address entitled ‘The Light of the Family in a Dark World’. You spoke about the threats the family faces, from both outside and within the Church. Regarding the latter, you said: “Even members of the Church can be tempted to soften Christ’s teaching on marriage and the family, and to curious and varying degrees the idea that would consist in placing the Magisterium in a pretty box and separating it from pastoral practice, which could involve, according to circumstances, fashions and impulses is a form of heresy, a dangerous schizophrenic pathology.” Can you clarify what you mean?

For example, some bishops say that — regarding marriage — when two people have separated, we need to see if we can give them Holy Communion even if, for example, they have entered into a second marriage. This isn’t possible, because God has said there can be only one marriage. If they are separated, they can’t enter into another marriage. If they do so, they cannot receive Communion.

But now, some are saying, that this may be done in order “to care for them pastorally, to heal them …,” but we can’t heal someone without truly curing him, without reconciling him with God.

If someone has already entered into a second marriage, it’s difficult to cure him. We cannot abandon him; certainly we can accompany him, saying: you should continue to pray and go to Mass; you must form your children in the Christian faith; you can participate in parish activities and charitable service. But you can’t receive Communion.

That is why I say we mustn’t separate doctrine from pastoral practice, thereby claiming to bring healing, because one can’t bring healing in this way.

Some prelates argue that allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion would be an act of mercy. Why in your view would allowing those who are divorced and remarried to receive Holy Communion not be an act of mercy?

Because mercy requires repentance. If I’ve done something wrong, I repent. If I did something wrong, in order to repent I have to break with the evil I’ve done. This is mercy.
Take the prodigal son, for example. He left home in order to say, “I’m independent, I’m autonomous from my father”. The father wants to forgive him, but if the prodigal son doesn’t return home, he can’t be forgiven. To be forgiven, he has to renounce his life and return home. This is mercy. If he remains far from home, he can’t receive mercy. Therefore, in order to receive mercy, one has to break with sin.

And why can’t the father go out and live with the son where he is?

Because the house is here; not somewhere out there. The son has to return home. If he returns home, he has left his independence, his sin. In the Gospel, the son returns home, saying: “I am your son, I am not worthy, but take me as a servant.” This is repentance. If there’s no repentance, there’s no mercy.

The same is true when Jesus went to the house of Zaccheus. He was a tax collector for the Romans. Jesus goes to his house, because he was there and wanted to see Jesus, and he humbled himself, climbing a tree. Jesus sees him. He sees that Zaccheus is looking for something, not only money. And Jesus says to him: “Come down, for today I want to come and stay in your home”.

The people say: “What? he’s going to stay in the house of a sinner,” but Zaccheus responds: “Yes, I stole lots of money, but today what I stole I’ll give back three and fourfold.” He repented. He doesn’t steal anymore, and that’s not all: he gave back what he’d stolen. This is mercy. The same is true for the Samaritan.

Jesus entered into Zaccheus’ home because he knew he had repented, and he thereby confirmed his repentance. What Zaccheus did wasn’t insignificant. Only children climb trees; he humbled himself in climbing the tree.

If we wish to analyze this more deeply, he climbed the tree of the Cross; that is, the tree that destroys sin.

Zaccheus ascended the tree of the Cross?

Yes, he ascended the Cross, because he was seeking a Savior. He didn’t need to climb the tree to see Jesus. It’s said he was short in stature, well and good. But symbolically, this point is very significant. He climbed the tree of salvation, and Jesus went to his house in order to confirm this.

Zaccheus repented. Then Jesus entered into his home. May we also say then, in a similar way, that before receiving Holy Communion, we have to repent, and then the Lord enters into us?

Yes. If we don’t leave behind our sin, how can we receive Communion? God and sin cannot abide together. It’s not harsh. It’s for the sake of bringing true healing. We need to truly help people. If someone is wounded, it’s not enough to put a salve on his hand. He needs to be cured.

And if someone does receive Holy Communion in a state of grave sin?

St. Paul says that he eats unto his own condemnation. If he does so knowingly, and does it of his own will, he eats unto his own condemnation.

We are all sinners, but we go to Confession and we don’t want to remain in sin. A marriage is something firmly established. If I have entered into a second marriage, and I’m there for life, it’s a firmly established sin. I can’t then claim to be able to receive Holy Communion.

****Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.

SNAP - FRAUD - Blatantly happens with 99% of the recipients!

Immigrant racks up millions in food stamp fraud; ‘The first million didn’t trigger any alarms?’

Vida Ofori Causey
Vida Ofori Causey photo credit
Proving just how inept the government can be when it comes to entitlement fraud — and how easily even immigrants can learn to game the American system — one Massachusetts woman was able to single-handedly defraud the government for millions.
Vida Ofori Causey, an immigrant from Ghana, who owns a convenience store owner in the city of Worcester, pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to defrauding the food stamp program to the tune of more than $3.6 million, the Daily Caller reported.
Causey bought the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits from her customers for half of their actual value from 2010 – 2014, according to authorities.
“Causey purchased the benefits at a discounted value of approximately fifty cents for every SNAP dollar,” according to a press release from the Department of Justice. “By so doing, Causey caused the USDA to electronically deposit into a bank account controlled by her the full face value of the SNAP benefits fraudulently obtained.”
The transactions provided her customers with cash so they were able to purchase items that would normally be restricted by the SNAP program, which is run by local and federal agencies and overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Social media users were astounded by the case, which garnered Causey an angry news item on
One asked the obvious question: “The first million didn’t trigger any alarms?”

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Pope Benedict was right about Islam at Regensburg. The world owes him an apology.

Pope Benedict was right about Islam at Regensburg. The world owes him an apology.

As I write, the headlines and my various news feeds are filled with images of some of the most loathsome barbarities we have seen since the end of World War II. The horrific images invading our internet space from Syria and (the country formerly known as) Iraq: Mass murders, crucifixions, beheadings – even of tiny children – torture, and systematic gang rapes; women and girls abducted en masse and sold into slavery; thousands chased out of their homes in terror, allowed to carry nothing with them; homes, ancient churches, monasteries and shrines looted and burned…
Beyond horrific, the images and the news they depict are bizarre and surreal, as though the violent chaos of the 7th century had burst insanely into a quiet Midwestern suburb. We are being shown, in graphic detail on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Google, some hint of what the Islamic conquest of those ancient Christian lands we now call the Middle East must have looked like. We are reminded now of the long centuries of darkness, of misery and oppression of non-Muslim indigenous populations by their Islamic overlords, that spurred Christendom to attempt their rescue in the Crusades.
We are close today to the 8th anniversary, September 12th, of the address given by Pope Benedict XVI at the University of Regensburg in 2006, in which he quoted a long-dead Christian emperor who was facing similar reports. About a week ago, an editorial writer for the Catholic Italian newspaper Il Foglio, Camillo Langone, wrote that the world owed Pope Benedict – and Emperor Paleologus – an apology over their reaction to that speech. 
“Today, when the news from ex-Iraq is once more making history, and is showing to anyone who has eyes to see what the Koran translated into action truly is, they need to apologize to both of you.” But, Langone said, with obvious disgust, the modern secularized European “won’t do it”. Such a man, he wrote, “doesn’t believe in sacred texts…doesn’t believe in the Gospel.”
“For a European to believe that someone believes in religion is impossible… One who is no longer able to believe in God is not even capable of believing in reality, [and] does not even recognize a sword when it is pressing into his neck.”
Returning to that address with our current more graphic knowledge, it is hard to imagine a more mild response to Islamic extremism. Pope Benedict spoke about a discussion, a dialogue, “carried on - perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara - by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus” on the subject of Islam, the threat of which, in the form of the Ottoman Empire, was forcefully before him.
It is recorded that the Emperor, whom Pope Benedict described as “an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam,” asked, “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
The pope noted that the comment was recorded sometime “during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402.” The pope also noted that the Emperor spoke with “startling brusqueness, a brusqueness that we find unacceptable.” But it is obvious that the emperor was also a man in a position to speak from personal experience.  
Since his talk, Pope Benedict has heard the constant accusations, endlessly repeated by the western press, that his “offensive” remarks, his “blunder” about Islam, caused the violence that followed.
But what did he say? He called quietly for a return to the supremacy of reason in religious discourse, and he politely asked Muslims to abjure violence.
The smug western secular media, busy with their attacks on one of their favorite targets, failed to quote the rest of the paragraph. But there can be found the thesis not only of Pope Benedict’s lecture, but of Christianity’s real response to both the uncontrolled violence of Islamism and to our own intellectually impoverished pleasure-obsessed libertinism: reason and faith, “fides et ratio” and their harmonious collaboration to create a moral and just civil order.
“The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul,” Pope Benedict said.
He quoted Paleologus: “God…is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...”
Given the images burning like acid into our minds now, how mild, how utterly calm and reasonable do the words now seem. And how plainly wicked the demands that he retract and apologize because of the “offence” they had caused Muslims: how feigned and deceitful, how self-serving the manufactured “outrage”.
When we can work up the nerve to look at these images coming from the new Islamic State, the new “Caliphate”, we are stunned and overwhelmed, and wonder if indeed this could possibly be happening in the age of near global market saturation of western consumables. How can this be happening in a “globalized” world? What has happened to our “global village”? Hasn’t modernity, with all its comforts and distractions, friendly, western secular Coca Cola imperialism, succeeded in civilizing everyone and taming the whole world?
One photo stands out this week, of a boy, about eight years old, reported to be the young son of one of the “Islamic State” terrorists, dressed in a blue Polo For Kids t-shirt, plaid checked summer trousers, what look like Birkenstocks and baseball cap, proudly holding up a decapitated head. Heads must be heavy, since the little boy needs two hands to hold it up by the hair. The Sydney Morning Herald, that carried the photo, with the boy’s face pixeled out, ran the caption, “A boy believed to be Australian Khaled Sharrouf’s son holds the decapitated head of a soldier.  From Khaled Sharrouf's Twitter account.” One does not usually imagine an apocalyptic dystopia featuring so many name brands.
In the face of this terrifying modern resurgence of the ancient threat, of such gross and unnatural barbarities, it is getting harder for western intellectual liberals to continue echoing the old mantras. The hard truth must be faced eventually, even by the most determined; not everyone in the world thinks the same way we do, holds the same values, has the same goals. Not every culture is of equal value. Not all men are equally “right” in what they believe.
And if the message of the photos and videos were not getting through our thick western skulls, we have today a direct warning from the leader of the ancient Christian community that has been decimated by ISIS. The Chaldean Catholic Church traces its heritage to St. Thomas, the doubting Apostle of Christ. A few days ago, we all saw the headline saying that, for the first time in 1600 years, Mass was not being said in the ancient Christian town of Mosul because all the Christians, all the Chaldean Catholics, had been either killed, expelled or kidnapped, to be sold later into chattel slavery.
Speaking from his exile in the dubious and perhaps temporary safety of the northern Iraqi town of Erbil, the head of this lost and grieving community, Archbishop Amel Nona, the Chaldean Catholic Archeparch of Mosul, told us quite bluntly, and without the niceties required by Pope Benedict’s civilized academic audience, that the time for indulging our comfortable liberal fantasies is over.
“Our sufferings today are the prelude of those that you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future,” said the archbishop in an interview with Corriere della Sera. “I lost my diocese. The physical setting of my apostolate has been occupied by Islamic radicals who want us converted or dead. But my community is still alive.
“Please, try to understand us. Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims.”
He warns us, “Also, you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles.”
Erbil is 55 miles east of Mosul, in territory currently holding off IS attackers, but it is certainly in their path. Corriera della Sera reports that the bishop has asked for material aid for the exiles huddling in shock there. “8,000 people, many elderly, a disproportionate number (for us Westerners) of children, babies of a few months, many dehydrated with diarrhea. A septuagenarian asks for insulin. Others write on scraps of crumpled paper the names of medicines that nobody knows where to find. 
“Tens of rusty wheelchairs were donated by humanitarian organizations for the sick and are used as chairs for the old. The local Christian organizations together with UN agencies have improvised a canteen service that distributes white rice, bread, bottled water. The toilets are almost useless.”
The archbishop continues: “You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home.”

The Angels and the Spiritual Life

The Angels and the Spiritual Life

The Angels and the Spiritual Life

Angels and the Spiritual Life
The assistance of the angels that is given to the soul at Baptism is to continue throughout the whole course of its life. Not even sins can suppress it. They can only sadden the angel of the soul. But angels do not merely protect the soul against the attacks of the Devil; they also try to make it progress in the spiritual life. This is the first aspect under which the spiritual life appears in relation with the angels. On the other hand, following a teaching that has its source in the Gospel itself, the spiritual life appears as an imita­tion of the life of the angels and a participation in their life. It re­introduces the soul into the angelic creation. But the fact remains that the ascension of the soul leads it even higher than the angels. The Christian mystery is the exaltation of humanity above the sphere of the angels. This mystery, which is true first of all of Christ Himself, is true of the whole of human nature, which He leads along with Him as a retinue.


This article is from a chapter in The Angels and Their Mission. It is available from Sophia Institute Press.
Gregory of Nyssa applies a verse of the Canticle of Canticles to this activity of the angels: “The guards who go about the city struck me.” These guards, he says, are the ministers of the one who watches over Israel. The blows they strike the soul, and the veil they lift from it are a figure of the purifying operations they accomplish in it. Gregory compares the verse of the Canticle to the passage in Isaiah: “Just as here the bride says that she is struck and wounded by the guards and robbed of her veil as well, there, in the same manner, in place of the veil, it is the heavenly lintel that is drawn up so that the realities in the sanctuary can be contem­plated without obstruction. In place of the guardians, there is men­tion of the Seraphim. Instead of a rod, there are burning coals; instead of blows, a bright fire.”
Pseudo-Dionysius likewise describes this purifying activity, con­necting it with the Seraphim; but, in conformity with his hierar­chical view, he explains that it is through the intermediary of lower hierarchies that the Seraphim perform this activity. “The theologian learned that purification and all the functions of the divine Lordship, reflected through the degrees of higher essences, are shared by all the other essences in proportion to the part each of them plays in the divine work. . . That is why he attributes the property of purifying by means of fire first of all after God Himself to the Seraphim.” The purifying operations come from God as their one source; but the principal ministers are the Seraphim, who perform the purifications through the lower angels.


United to the function of purification is that of illumination. This role of the angels is particularly dear to St. Thomas Aquinas, who studies the modalities in it. Before him, Gregory Nazianzen had described it. It is in his writings that the role of light receives a position of importance:
God is the supreme light, inaccessible and ineffable, incom­prehensible to the mind, unspeakable by any word, illumi­nating all of the spiritual creation. He is in the world of intelligibles what the sun is in the visible world. The more we purify ourselves, the more we know Him; and the more we know Him, the more we love Him. . . The second in the order of light is the angel, an emanation or participation of the first light, illuminated by turning toward it and follow­ing it. It shares in this illumination, according to the degree of its nature, unless perhaps the degree of its nature is deter­mined by its illumination. The last sentence marks his hesitation between Origen’s conception of hierarchy ac­cording to grace and the conception that will prevail in Pseudo-Dionysius of a hierarchy of natures.
Now, illuminated by God, after having turned toward Him, the angelic powers illuminate in their turn those who are lower than they. If someone were to say something in praise of the angels, he might say that they are illuminated from on high by a most power­ful illumination, each in his own manner, in accord with his na­ture and rank. They are so informed and imprinted by the source of all beauty that they themselves become lights and thus illumi­nate others with the light that is derived and communicated to them from the first light; for they are servants of the divine will and penetrate forcefully everywhere both by nature and by grace, leading all to unity under the sole command of the Creator of all.292 In these texts, a descending hierarchical order can be observed, in accordance with which the light of the Trinity is communicated through the various angels to man. That is the doctrine Pseudo-Dionysius develops at length.
What he really does is systematize this concept more vigor­ously and in particular set it in relation with the doctrine of the nine choirs of angels. Here the whole Celestial Hierarchy could well be quoted, but there is one passage that sums up its teaching:
The oldest rank among the intelligent beings who surround God, initiated into the mysteries by means of illuminations that have come to them from the Source and Principle of all illumination and toward whom they rise without the of­fice of any intermediary, receive the office of purifying, illu­minating, and finishing. After them, in proportion to the nature of each, the second order, and after the second the third, and after the third the hierarchy of men, in accord with a divine system of proportions, each rises hierarchi­cally toward the Source and Goal of all harmony. These or­ders are each to serve as revealers and messengers for the orders that precede them.


Through these purifications and illuminations, the angels lead the soul to the peaks of the spiritual life. In revealing the beauty of God, they awaken in the soul a more burning thirst for union with Him. Thus, they are the friends of the Bridegroom in a new sense, leading the soul to the wedding chamber where it will celebrate its mystical marriage with the Word. It is these angels that Gregory of Nyssa sees in the Canticle of Canticles: “After having testified to the beauty of the soul, the friends of the Bridegroom who make ready His spotless wedding chamber and form the escort of the pure Bride, show her the beauty of the royal couch to stir up in her an even greater desire for a divine life and a holy union with Him.” Thus, the activity of the angels accompanies the soul all during its ascent. “The souls make their way toward the Almighty in happiness and joy, protected and escorted by the angels.”
spiritual life assimilates it to the life of the angels. This theme can be found already in the Gospel, where it is said that the “elect will be like the angels of God in heaven.”296 The perfect life is an antic­ipation of this final eschatological transformation. The spiritual life reintroduces the soul into heavenly familiarity with the an­gels. Thus, Origen writes, “But set forth, nor be afraid of the desert solitude. Soon even the angels will come to join you.298 This theme is developed by Methodius of Olympia in the Banquet of the Twelve Virgins and is taken up again by Gregory of Nyssa. For him, the spiritual life makes the soul enter into the world of the angels. Thus he writes of his sister Macrina: “Living in the flesh, she was not held down by the weight of the body, but her life was light and ethereal, and she walked upon the heights with the Powers of heaven.”And likewise of his brother Basil: “Having risen above the zone of this sensible universe, he would abide in the world of intelligibles and converse with the Powers of heaven, without any carnal weight to impede the progress of his spirit.”

Our participation in the life of the angels

But this return to a place among the heavenly Powers signifies a participation in their being. The soul that rises toward God is declared to be like to the angels. “The beauty of the soul is likened to the cavalry that defeats the Egyptians — that is, the army of the angels [Cant. 1:8].” And elsewhere, commenting on the com­parison between the Bride and an army drawn up in battle array, he writes, “These armies in battle array are those where the Powers are in perpetual sway, where the Dominations rule forever, where the Thrones are established, never to be changed, where the Prin­cipalities abide independent. Since these powers have been or­dained by God and since the order of the powers above this world always remains without confusion, with no evil ever attacking their good order, the soul, in their image, does everything with moderation and thus provokes as much admiration for her as the orderly battle array.”
What allies the soul to the angels is its detachment from the life of sense. “Scripture admonishes our souls to contemplate the stable nature of the angels, so that our stability in virtue will be fortified by their example. For since it has been promised us that the life after the resurrection will resemble the condition of the angels — and He who made that promise does not lie — it follows that already our life in this world should be in conformity with that which will follow, so that living in the flesh and finding our­selves upon the battlefield of this world, we ought not to live ac­cording to the flesh and join forces with this world, but we should already begin to conform with the life we hope for after that of this world. That is why the Bride exhorts the souls to turn toward the powers of heaven, in imitation of their detachment, to attain to the purity of the angels.”
This is the whole of the doctrine. Men are destined to partici­pate after death in the life of the angels; the spiritual life makes them anticipate this condition; finally it is the apatheia (impassi­bility) that constitutes the imitation of the angelic purity. This oc­curs again and again in Gregory. One more image expresses this return to the angelic nature: that of the night-watch, which makes man like those angels whom Scripture calls night-watchmen. “The soul illuminated by the Word becomes a stranger to the slumber of illusion. It is a type of angelic life to which He thus in­troduces us.”
More particularly, virginity is an anticipation of the life of the angels. The idea is developed by Methodius of Philippi: “The wings of virginity lead to the borders of angelic life.” Gregory of Nyssa repeats it: “Since the Lord has told us that life after the res­urrection is like that of the angels and since a characteristic of an­gelic life is that it knows nothing of marriage, those who practice virginity are already imitating the incorporeal beings.”
In those authors in whom the theme of an angelic hierarchy appears, this idea of an assimilation to the life of the angels takes on the form of a successive assimilation to the different orders of the angels. The soul takes on the form of each of them in the mea­sure that it rises in the hierarchy. This doctrine appears in Clem­ent of Alexandria; according to his curious conception of things, the soul is instructed first of all by the angel who is immediately above it, then it takes on the nature of that angel and is instructed by the next angel of a higher rank. Under this form, the doc­trine cannot be held, since it supposes that natures are not fixed. St. Thomas, however, keeps the idea of an “assumption” of the soul into the various angelic orders, on the plane of grace. Actu­ally, according to his doctrine, the grace of the angels is propor­tionate to their nature, whereas that of men is not.308 The grace of any man, therefore, can lead him first to the degree of grace of one angelic order and then to that of a higher order.
Thus, the angels accompany the soul throughout the length of its spiritual life. Still, this should not obscure one final point: namely, that their role remains above all one of preparation. They lead the soul toward Christ, but leave it there alone with Him. They are the friends of the Bridegroom who withdraw when the Bridegroom is there. Origen was the first really to emphasize this characteristic of the action of the angels, the fact that it is con­cerned with the beginnings of the spiritual life: “Look and see if it is not above all the children, led by fear, who have angels; and if in the case of the more advanced, it is not the Lord of the angels who says to each of them, ‘I am with you in tribulation.’ To the extent that we are imperfect, we have need of an angel to free us from evils. But when we are mature and when we have passed the time for being under teachers and masters, we can be led by Christ Himself.”
Here Origen stresses a general aspect of the doctrine of the an­gels: their relation with beginnings and preparations. It is they who prepared the path of Christ in the Old Testament; they are the friends of the Bridegroom whose joy is perfect when they hear the voice of the Bridegroom and who leave the Bride alone with Him; it is they who, as the Gospel teaches, have a particular rela­tionship with children. So their role remains connected with the beginnings of the spiritual life. They draw the soul to good by no­ble inspirations, and they give it a horror of sin. Thus, they dispose it to receive the visitation of the Word. But they withdraw before Him. In the course of its spiritual ascent, the soul passes first of all through the angelic spheres, but it goes beyond in order to arrive at the realm of God. The whole mission of the angels is to lead souls to the King of the angels and then to disappear before Him.
This idea that the soul, after having entered into the sphere of the angels, goes through it and passes beyond it, appears in a beau­tiful extract from Clement of Alexandria, who recalls the role of the angels as friends of the Bridegroom whose only duty is to lead the soul to the threshold of the wedding chamber:
The priest, upon entering within the second veil, would take off his mitre beside the altar of incense. He himself would enter further in silence, with the Name engraved upon his heart. Thus, he showed that the setting aside of the golden mitre which had become purified and light by the cleansing, as it were, of the body, was really a setting aside of the heaviness of the soul. . . He puts aside this light mitre when he has come with it inside the second veil in the world of the intelligible, that is, the second veil, along­side the altar of incense, beside the ministers of the prayers that are being offered, the angels. Then the naked soul, having become in reality a high priest, is thereafter moved directly by the Word. . . Passing beyond the teaching of the angels, she goes on to the knowledge and understanding of things, no longer merely betrothed but dwelling with the Bridegroom.”
This beautiful text is a fine résumé of the doctrine: the soul, having entered into the angelic world through the illuminative life, then passes through it and enters into the unitive life, which is that of the Bride, and there it is moved directly by the Word. Gregory of Nyssa develops the same theme, but in relation to a dif­ferent image: that of the Bride in the Canticle, who begs each of the guards of the city, the angels, for her Bridegroom: “In spirit she runs through the intelligible world of the Principalities, the Pow­ers, and the Thrones to see if her Beloved is among them. But they keep silent. Then, leaving all that she has found, she recognizes Him whom she is seeking.”311 It is after having left the angels be­hind that the soul takes hold of God. Beyond the images that they leave upon her, she reaches Him as He really is, in the darkness of faith, through the grasp of love.
That is how the angels assist in the ascent of the soul. They see it leaving behind the darkness of sin, rising up to them by the life of grace, ascending even beyond them in the glory that the Word of God conferred on humanity when He united Himself to it. Greg­ory of Nyssa, commenting on this verse of the Canticle, describes their admiration:
Could it be that we, too, shall rise with the perfect dove who goes up toward the heights and that we, too, shall hear the voice of the friends of the Bridegroom admiring the beauty of her who comes up from the desert? What seems to me to cause the astonishment of the friends of the Bridegroom is that first of all they had seen this beautiful soul, but beauti­ful insofar as it was among women, and that, after having thus compared her beauty to gold set with silver stipples, now they admire her as a column of incense smoke rising from the desert. The very fact that they inquire among themselves about her always appearing under a different form from the one she formerly had is the greatest praise for the soul that progresses in holiness.”
So the soul rises, from transformation to transformation, up to union with God, amid the worlds of angels who cry out in their amazement. “Quae est ista? Who is this soul?” Christ rose toward His Father in the same way, amid the choirs of angels, who said one to another in admiration and amazement, “Quis est iste? Who is this man?” In reality it is the selfsame mystery. The ascension of the soul is a form of the Ascension of Christ. St. Ambrose, we re­call, pictures the angels wondering at the ascent of the newly bap­tized from the baptismal pool and crying out, “Quae est ista? Similarly, the angels who assist at the ascension of a martyr cry out, “Quis est iste?” Throughout all the planes of the Christian mystery, therefore, there is one same ascension through the midst of all the choirs of the angels.
Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in The Angels and Their Missionwhich is available from Sophia Institute Press. 
Jean Danielou


Jean Cardinal Daniélou was a French theologian, historian, and author. Ordained a priest of the Society of Jesus in 1938, Father Daniélou went on to gain great renown as a scholar, particularly in the field of Patristics. Apart from his scholarly research and writing, Father Daniélou also penned many books, making his theological ideas- about prayer, worship, the early Church, the loving self-revelation of God through human history - accessible to a lay audience.