St. Thomas Aquinas
The Summa Theologica
(Benziger Bros. edition, 1947)
Fathers of the English Dominican Province
THE WILL OF THE Holy ANGELS AND THEIR ROLE AS GUARDIANS
Whether there is will in the angels?
Mind that, since all things flow from the Divine will, all things in their own way are inclined by appetite towards good, but in different ways. Some are inclined to good by their natural inclination, without knowledge, as plants and inanimate bodies. Such inclination towards good is called “a natural appetite.” Others, again, are inclined towards good, but with some knowledge; not that they know the aspect of goodness, but that they apprehend some particular good; as in the sense, which knows the sweet, the white, and so on. The inclination which follows this apprehension is called “a sensitive appetite.” Other things, again, have an inclination towards good, but with a knowledge whereby they perceive the aspect of goodness; this belongs to the intellect. This is most perfectly inclined towards what is good; not, indeed, as if it were merely guided by another towards some particular good only, like things devoid of knowledge, nor towards some particular good only, as things which have only sensitive knowledge, but as inclined towards good in general. Such inclination is termed “will.” Accordingly, since the angels by their intellect know the universal aspect of goodness, it is manifest that there is a will in them.
Whether there is free-will in the angels?
Some things there are which act, not from any previous judgment, but, as it were, moved and made to act by others; just as the arrow is directed to the target by the archer. Others act from some kind of judgment; but not from free-will, such as irrational animals; for the sheep flies from the wolf by a kind of judgment whereby it esteems it to be hurtful to itself: such a judgment is not a free one, but implanted by nature. Only an agent endowed with an intellect can act with a judgment which is free, in so far as it apprehends the common note of goodness; from which it can judge this or the other thing to be good. Consequently, wherever there is intellect, there is free-will. It is therefore manifest that just as there is intellect, so is there free-will in the angels, and in a higher degree of perfection than in man.
Whether there is natural love or dilection in an angel?
Love results from knowledge; for, nothing is loved except it be first known, as Augustine says. But there is natural knowledge in the angels. Therefore there is also natural love.
We must necessarily place natural love in the angels. In evidence of this we must bear in mind that what comes first is always sustained in what comes after it. Now nature comes before intellect, because the nature of every subject is its essence. Consequently whatever belongs to nature must be preserved likewise in such subjects as have intellect. But it is common to every nature to have some inclination; and this is its natural appetite or love. This inclination is found to exist differently in different natures; but in each according to its mode. Consequently, in the intellectual nature there is to be found a natural inclination coming from the will; in the sensitive nature, according to the sensitive appetite; but in a nature devoid of knowledge, only according to the tendency of the nature to something. Therefore, since an angel is an intellectual nature, there must be a natural love in his will.
Whether an angel by natural love loves God more than he loves himself?
All the moral precepts of the law come of the law of nature. But the precept of loving God more than self is a moral precept of the law. Therefore, it is of the law of nature. Consequently from natural love the angel loves God more than himself.
Consequently, since God is the universal good, and under this good both man and angel and all creatures are comprised, because every creature in regard to its entire being naturally belongs to God, it follows that from natural love angel and man alike love God before themselves and with a greater love. Otherwise, if either of them loved self more than God, it would follow that natural love would be perverse, and that it would not be perfected but destroyed by charity.
Whether the angels were created in the empyrean heaven?
As was observed, the universe is made up of corporeal and spiritual creatures. Consequently spiritual creatures were so created as to bear some relationship to the corporeal creature, and to rule over every corporeal creature. Hence it was fitting for the angels to be created in the highest corporeal place, as presiding over all corporeal nature; whether it be styled the empyrean heaven, or whatever else it be called. So Isidore says that the highest heaven is the heaven of the angels, explaining the passage of Dt. 10:14: “Behold heaven is the Lord’s thy God, and the heaven of heaven.”
Whether the angels receive grace and glory according to the degree of their natural gifts?
It is reasonable to suppose that gifts of graces and perfection of beatitude were bestowed on the angels according to the degree of their natural gifts. The reason for this can be drawn from two sources. First of all, on the part of God, Who, in the order of His wisdom, established various degrees in the angelic nature. Now as the angelic nature was made by God for attaining grace and beatitude, so likewise the grades of the angelic nature seem to be ordained for the various degrees of grace and glory; just as when, for example, the builder chisels the stones for building a house, from the fact that he prepares some more artistically and more fittingly than others, it is clear that he is setting them apart for the more ornate part of the house. So it seems that God destined those angels for greater gifts of grace and fuller beatitude, whom He made of a higher nature.
Secondly, the same is evident on the part of the angel. The angel is not a compound of different natures, so that the inclination of the one thwarts or retards the tendency of the other; as happens in man, in whom the movement of his intellective part is either retarded or thwarted by the inclination of his sensitive part. But when there is nothing to retard or thwart it, nature is moved with its whole energy. So it is reasonable to suppose that the angels who had a higher nature, were turned to God more mightily and efficaciously. The same thing happens in men, since greater grace and glory are bestowed according to the greater earnestness of their turning to God. Hence it appears that the angels who had the greater natural powers, had the more grace and glory.
Whether an inferior angel can enlighten a superior angel?
The ecclesiastical hierarchy imitates the heavenly in some degree, but by a perfect likeness. For in the heavenly hierarchy the perfection of the order is in proportion to its nearness to God; so that those who are the nearer to God are the more sublime in grade, and more clear in knowledge; and on that account the superiors are never enlightened by the inferiors, whereas in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, sometimes those who are the nearer to God in sanctity, are in the lowest grade, and are not conspicuous for science; and some also are eminent in one kind of science, and fail in another; and on that account superiors may be taught by inferiors.
Whether the superior angel enlightens the inferior as regards all he himself knows?
Every creature participates in the Divine goodness, so as to diffuse the good it possesses to others; for it is of the nature of good to communicate itself to others. Hence also corporeal agents give their likeness to others so far as they can. So the more an agent is established in the share of the Divine goodness, so much the more does it strive to transmit its perfections to others as far as possible. Hence the Blessed Peter admonishes those who by grace share in the Divine goodness; saying: “As every man hath received grace, ministering the same one to another; as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Pt. 4:10). Much more therefore do the holy angels, who enjoy the plenitude of participation of the Divine goodness, impart the same to those below them.
Nevertheless this gift is not received so excellently by the inferior as by the superior angels; and therefore the superior ever remain in a higher order, and have a more perfect knowledge; as the master understands the same thing better than the pupil who learns from him.
The knowledge of the superior angels is said to be more universal as regards the more eminent mode of knowledge.
The Master’s words are not to be understood as if the inferior angels were entirely ignorant of the Mystery of the Incarnation but that they did not know it as fully as the superior angels; and that they progressed in the knowledge of it afterwards when the Mystery was accomplished.
Till the Judgment Day some new things are always being revealed by God to the highest angels, concerning the course of the world, and especially the salvation of the elect. Hence there is always something for the superior angels to make known to the inferior.
Whether an angel speaks to God?
The angels are ever speaking to God in the sense of praising and admiring Him and His works; but they speak to Him by consulting Him about what ought to be done whenever they have to perform any new work, concerning which they desire enlightenment.
Whether there are several orders in one hierarchy?
The Apostle says (Eph. 1:20,21) that “God has set the Man Christ above all principality and power, and virtue, and dominion”: which are the various orders of the angels, and some of them belong to one hierarchy, as will be explained.
As explained above, one hierarchy is one principality—that is, one multitude ordered in one way under the rule of a prince. Now such a multitude would not be ordered, but confused, if there were not in it different orders. So the nature of a hierarchy requires diversity of orders.
This diversity of order arises from the diversity of offices and actions, as appears in one city where there are different orders according to the different actions; for there is one order of those who judge, and another of those who fight, and another of those who labor in the fields, and so forth.
But although one city thus comprises several orders, all may be reduced to three, when we consider that every multitude has a beginning, a middle, and an end. So in every city, a threefold order of men is to be seen, some of whom are supreme, as the nobles; others are the last, as the common people, while others hold a place between these, as the middle-class [populus honorabilis]. In the same way we find in each angelic hierarchy the orders distinguished according to their actions and offices, and all this diversity is reduced to three—namely, to the summit, the middle, and the base; and so in every hierarchy Dionysius places three orders (Coel. Hier. vi).
All things are possessed in common by the angelic society, some things, however, being held more excellently by some than by others. Each gift is more perfectly possessed by the one who can communicate it, than by the one who cannot communicate it; as the hot thing which can communicate heat is more perfect that what is unable to give heat. And the more perfectly anyone can communicate a gift, the higher grade he occupies, as he is in the more perfect grade of mastership who can teach a higher science. By this similitude we can reckon the diversity of grades or orders among the angels, according to their different offices and actions.
The inferior angel is superior to the highest man of our hierarchy, according to the words, “He that is the lesser in the kingdom of heaven, is greater than he”—namely, John the Baptist, than whom “there hath not risen a greater among them that are born of women” (Mt. 11:11). Hence the lesser angel of the heavenly hierarchy can not only cleanse, but also enlighten and perfect, and in a higher way than can the orders of our hierarchy. Thus the heavenly orders are not distinguished by reason of these, but by reason of other different acts.
Whether there are many angels in one order?
It is written: “The Seraphim cried to one another” (Is. 6:3). Therefore there are many angels in the one order of the Seraphim.
Whoever knows anything perfectly, is able to distinguish its acts, powers, and nature, down to the minutest details, whereas he who knows a thing in an imperfect manner can only distinguish it in a general way, and only as regards a few points. Thus, one who knows natural things imperfectly, can distinguish their orders in a general way, placing the heavenly bodies in one order, inanimate inferior bodies in another, plants in another, and animals in another; whilst he who knows natural things perfectly, is able to distinguish different orders in the heavenly bodies themselves, and in each of the other orders.
Now our knowledge of the angels is imperfect. Hence we can only distinguish the angelic offices and orders in a general way, so as to place many angels in one order. But if we knew the offices and distinctions of the angels perfectly, we should know perfectly that each angel has his own office and his own order among things, and much more so than any star, though this be hidden from us.
All the angels of one order are in some way equal in a common similitude, whereby they are placed in that order; but absolutely speaking they are not equal. Hence Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. x) that in one and the same order of angels there are those who are first, middle, and last.
That special distinction of orders and offices wherein each angel has his own office and order, is hidden from us.
Whether angels can work miracles?
It is written of God (Ps. 135:4): “Who alone doth great wonders.”
A miracle properly so called is when something is done outside the order of nature. But it is not enough for a miracle if something is done outside the order of any particular nature; for otherwise anyone would perform a miracle by throwing a stone upwards, as such a thing is outside the order of the stone’s nature. So for a miracle is required that it be against the order of the whole created nature. But God alone can do this, because, whatever an angel or any other creature does by its own power, is according to the order of created nature; and thus it is not a miracle. Hence God alone can work miracles.
Some angels are said to work miracles; either because God works miracles at their request, in the same way as holy men are said to work miracles; or because they exercise a kind of ministry in the miracles which take place; as in collecting the dust in the general resurrection, or by doing something of that kind.
Whether the angels are sent on works of ministry?
It is written (Ex. 23:20): “Behold I will send My angels who shall go before thee.”
From what has been said above it may be shown that some angels are sent in ministry by God.
Yet the action performed by the angel who is sent, proceeds from God as from its first principle, at Whose nod and by Whose authority the angels work; and is reduced to God as to its last end. Now this is what is meant by a minister: for a minister is an intelligent instrument; while an instrument is moved by another, and its action is ordered to another. Hence angels’ actions are called ‘ministries’; and for this reason they are said to be sent in ministry.
Whether all the angels are sent in ministry?
Gregory says (Hom. xxxiv in Evang.), quoting the statement of Dionysius (Coel. Hier. xiii), that “the higher ranks fulfil no exterior service.”
As appears from what has been said above, of Divine Providence has so disposed not only among the angels, but also in the whole universe, that inferior things are administered by the superior. But the Divine dispensation, however, this order is sometimes departed from as regards corporeal things, for the sake of a higher order, that is, according as it is suitable for the manifestation of grace. That the man born blind was enlightened, that Lazarus was raised from the dead, was accomplished immediately by God without the action of the heavenly bodies. Moreover both good and bad angels can work some effect in these bodies independently of the heavenly bodies, by the condensation of the clouds to rain, and by producing some such effects. Nor can anyone doubt that God can immediately reveal things to men without the help of the angels, and the superior angels without the inferior. From this standpoint some have said that according to the general law the superior angels are not sent, but only the inferior; yet that sometimes, by Divine dispensation, the superior angels also are sent.
It may also be said that the Apostle wishes to prove that Christ is greater than the angels who were chosen as the messengers of the law; in order that He might show the excellence of the new over the old law. Hence there is no need to apply this to any other angels besides those who were sent to give the law.
According to Dionysius (Coel. Hier. xiii), the angel who was sent to purify the prophet’s lips was one of the inferior order; but was called a “Seraph,” that is, “kindling ” in an equivocal sense, because he came to “kindle” the lips of the prophet. It may also be said that the superior angels communicate their own proper gifts whereby they are denominated, through the ministry of the inferior angels. Thus one of the Seraphim is described as purifying by fire the prophet’s lips, not as if he did so immediately, but because an inferior angel did so by his power; as the Pope is said to absolve a man when he gives absolution by means of someone else.
A manifold grade exists in the Divine ministries. Hence there is nothing to prevent angels though unequal from being sent immediately in ministry, in such a manner however that the superior are sent to the higher ministries, and the lower to the inferior ministries.
Whether all the angels who are sent, assist?
Gregory says, on Job 25:3: “Is there any numbering of His soldiers?” (Moral. xvii): “Those powers assist, who do not go forth as messengers to men.” Therefore those who are sent in ministry do not assist.
The angels are spoken of as “assisting” and “administering,” after the likeness of those who attend upon a king; some of whom ever wait upon him, and hear his commands immediately; while others there are to whom the royal commands are conveyed by those who are in attendance—for instance, those who are placed at the head of the administration of various cities; these are said to administer, not to assist.
We must therefore observe that all the angels gaze upon the Divine Essence immediately; in regard to which all, even those who minister, are said to assist. Hence Gregory says (Moral. ii) that “those who are sent on the external ministry of our salvation can always assist and see the face of the Father.” Yet not all the angels can perceive the secrets of the Divine mysteries in the clearness itself of the Divine Essence; but only the superior angels who announce them to the inferior: and in that respect only the superior angels belonging to the highest hierarchy are said to assist, whose special prerogative it is to be enlightened immediately by God.
Satan is not described as having assisted, but as present among the assistants; for, as Gregory says (Moral. ii), “though he has lost beatitude, still he has retained a nature like to the angels.”
All the assistants see some things immediately in the glory of the Divine Essence; and so it may be said that it is the prerogative of the whole of the highest hierarchy to be immediately enlightened by God; while the higher ones among them see more than is seen by the inferior; some of whom enlighten others: as also among those who assist the king, one knows more of the king’s secrets than another.
Whether all the angels of the second hierarchy are sent?
Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. viii) that the “Dominations are above all subjection.” But to be sent implies subjection. Therefore the dominations are not sent to minister.
As above stated to be sent to external ministry properly belongs to an angel according as he acts by Divine command in respect of any corporeal creature; which is part of the execution of the Divine ministry. Now the angelic properties are manifested by their names, as Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. vii); and therefore the angels of those orders are sent to external ministry whose names signify some kind of administration. But the name “dominations” does not signify any such administration, but only disposition and command in administering. On the other hand, the names of the inferior orders imply administration, for the “Angels” and “Archangels” are so called from “announcing”; the “Virtues” and “Powers” are so called in respect of some act; and it is right that the “Prince,” according to what Gregory says (Hom. xxxiv in Evang.), “be first among the workers.” Hence it belongs to these five orders to be sent to external ministry; not to the four superior orders.
The Dominations are reckoned among the ministering angels, not as exercising but as disposing and commanding what is to be done by others; thus an architect does not put his hands to the production of his art, but only disposes and orders what others are to do.
Whether men are guarded by the angels?
It is written (Ps. 90:11): “He hath given His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”
According to the plan of Divine Providence, we find that in all things the movable and variable are moved and regulated by the immovable and invariable; as all corporeal things by immovable spiritual substances, and the inferior bodies by the superior which are invariable in substance. We ourselves also are regulated as regards conclusions, about which we may have various opinions, by the principles which we hold in an invariable manner. It is moreover manifest that as regards things to be done human knowledge and affection can vary and fail from good in many ways; and so it was necessary that angels should be deputed for the guardianship of men, in order to regulate them and move them to good.
By free-will man can avoid evil to a certain degree, but not in any sufficient degree; forasmuch as he is weak in affection towards good on account of the manifold passions of the soul. Likewise universal natural knowledge of the law, which by nature belongs to man, to a certain degree directs man to good, but not in a sufficient degree; because in the application of the universal principles of law to particular actions man happens to be deficient in many ways. Hence it is written (Wis. 9:14): “The thoughts of mortal men are fearful, and our counsels uncertain.” Thus man needs to be guarded by the angels.
As men depart from the natural instinct of good by reason of a sinful passion, so also do they depart from the instigation of the good angels, which takes place invisibly when they enlighten man that he may do what is right. Hence that men perish is not to be imputed to the negligence of the angels but to the malice of men. That they sometimes appear to men visibly outside the ordinary course of nature comes from a special grace of God, as likewise that miracles occur outside the order of nature.
Whether each man is guarded by an angel?
On the text, “Their angels in heaven,” etc. (Mt. 8:10), Jerome says: “Great is the dignity of souls, for each one to have an angel deputed to guard it from its birth.”
Each man has an angel guardian appointed to him. This rests upon the fact that the guardianship of angels belongs to the execution of Divine providence concerning men. But God’s providence acts differently as regards men and as regards other corruptible creatures, for they are related differently to incorruptibility. For men are not only incorruptible in the common species, but also in the proper forms of each individual, which are the rational souls, which cannot be said of other incorruptible things. Now it is manifest that the providence of God is chiefly exercised towards what remains for ever; whereas as regards things which pass away, the providence of God acts so as to order their existence to the things which are perpetual. Thus the providence of God is related to each man as it is to every genus or species of things corruptible. But, according to Gregory (Hom. xxxiv in Evang.), the different orders are deputed to the different “genera” of things, for instance, the “Powers” to coerce the demons, the “Virtues” to work miracles in things corporeal; while it is probable that the different species are presided over by different angels of the same order. Hence it is also reasonable to suppose that different angels are appointed to the guardianship of different men.
A guardian may be assigned to a man for two reasons: first, inasmuch as a man is an individual, and thus to one man one guardian is due; and sometimes several are appointed to guard one. Secondly, inasmuch as a man is part of a community, and thus one man is appointed as guardian of a whole community; to whom it belongs to provide what concerns one man in his relation to the whole community, such as external works, which are sources of strength or weakness to others. But angel guardians are given to men also as regards invisible and occult things, concerning the salvation of each one in his own regard. Hence individual angels are appointed to guard individual men.
As above stated , all the angels of the first hierarchy are, as to some things, enlightened by God directly; but as to other things, only the superior are directly enlightened by God, and these reveal them to the inferior. And the same also applies to the inferior orders: for a lower angel is enlightened in some respects by one of the highest, and in other respects by the one immediately above him. Thus it is possible that some one angel enlightens a man immediately, and yet has other angels beneath him whom he enlightens.
Although men are equal in nature, still inequality exists among them, according as Divine Providence orders some to the greater, and others to the lesser things, according to Ecclus. 33:11,12: “With much knowledge the Lord hath divided them, and diversified their ways: some of them hath He blessed and exalted, and some of them hath He cursed and brought low.” Thus it is a greater office to guard one man than another.
Whether to guard men belongs only to the lowest order of angels?
In the Psalm (90) the guardianship of men is attributed to the angels; who belong to the lowest order, according to Dionysius (Coel. Hier. v, ix).
As above stated), man is guarded in two ways; in one way by particular guardianship, according as to each man an angel is appointed to guard him; and such guardianship belongs to the lowest order of the angels, whose place it is, according to Gregory, to announce the “lesser things”; for it seems to be the least of the angelic offices to procure what concerns the salvation of only one man. The other kind of guardianship is universal, multiplied according to the different orders. For the more universal an agent is, the higher it is. Thus the guardianship of the human race belongs to the order of “Principalities,” or perhaps to the “Archangels,” whom we call the angel princes. Hence, Michael, whom we call an archangel, is also styled “one of the princes” (Dan. 10:13). Moreover all corporeal creatures are guarded by the “Virtues”; and likewise the demons by the “Powers,” and the good spirits by the “Principalities,” according to Gregory’s opinion (Hom. xxxiv in Ev.).
Chrysostom can be taken to mean the highest in the lowest order of angels; for, as Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. x) in each order there are first, middle, and last. It is, however, probable that the greater angels are deputed to keep those chosen by God for the higher degree of glory.
Not all the angels who are sent have guardianship of individual men; but some orders have a universal guardianship, greater or less, as above explained.
Even inferior angels exercise the office of the superior, as they share in their gifts, and they are executors of the superiors’ power; and in this way all the angels of the lowest order can coerce the demons, and work miracles.
Whether angels are appointed to the guardianship of all men?
The authority of Jerome quoted above for he says that “each soul has an angel appointed to guard it.”
Man while in this state of life, is, as it were, on a road by which he should journey towards heaven. On this road man is threatened by many dangers both from within and from without, according to Ps. 159:4: “In this way wherein I walked, they have hidden a snare for me.” And therefore as guardians are appointed for men who have to pass by an unsafe road, so an angel guardian is assigned to each man as long as he is a wayfarer. When, however, he arrives at the end of life he no longer has a guardian angel; but in the kingdom he will have an angel to reign with him, in hell a demon to punish him.
Christ as man was guided immediately by the Word of God: wherefore He needed not be guarded by an angel. Again as regards His soul, He was a comprehensor, although in regard to His passible body, He was a wayfarer. In this latter respect it was right that He should have not a guardian angel as superior to Him, but a ministering angel as inferior to Him. Whence it is written (Mt. 4:11) that “angels came and ministered to Him.”
In the state of innocence man was not threatened by any peril from within: because within him all was well ordered, as we have
said above peril threatened from without on account of the snares of the demons; as was proved by the event. For this reason he needed a guardian angel.
Whether an angel is appointed to guard a man from his birth?
Jerome says (vide A, 4) that “each soul has an angel appointed to guard it from its birth.”
That he is appointed at the time of birth is the opinion Jerome approves (vide A, 4), and with reason. For those benefits which are conferred by God on man as a Christian, begin with his baptism; such as receiving the Eucharist, and the like. But those which are conferred by God on man as a rational being, are bestowed on him at his birth, for then it is that he receives that nature. Among the latter benefits we must count the guardianship of angels, as we have said above. Wherefore from the very moment of his birth man has an angel guardian appointed to him.
Angels are sent to minister, and that efficaciously indeed, for those who shall receive the inheritance of salvation, if we consider the ultimate effect of their guardianship, which is the realizing of that inheritance. But for all that, the angelic ministrations are not withdrawn for others although they are not so efficacious as to bring them to salvation: efficacious, nevertheless, they are, inasmuch as they ward off many evils.
Guardianship is ordained to enlightenment by instruction, as to its ultimate and principal effect. Nevertheless it has many other effects consistent with childhood; for instance to ward off the demons, and to prevent both bodily and spiritual harm.
As long as the child is in the mother’s womb it is not entirely separate, but by reason of a certain intimate tie, is still part of her: just as the fruit while hanging on the tree is part of the tree. And therefore it can be said with some degree of probability, that the angel who guards the mother guards the child while in the womb. But at its birth, when it becomes separate from the mother, an angel guardian is appointed to it; as Jerome, above quoted, says.
Whether the angel guardian ever forsakes a man?
The demons are ever assailing us, according to 1 Pt. 5:8: “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about, seeking whom he may devour.” Much more therefore do the good angels ever guard us.
As appears above, the guardianship of the angels is an effect of Divine providence in regard to man. Now it is evident that neither man, nor anything at all, is entirely withdrawn from the providence of God: for in as far as a thing participates being, so far is it subject to the providence that extends over all being. God indeed is said to forsake man, according to the ordering of His providence, but only in so far as He allows man to suffer some defect of punishment or of fault. In like manner it must be said that the angel guardian never forsakes a man entirely, but sometimes he leaves him in some particular, for instance by not preventing him from being subject to some trouble, or even from falling into sin, according to the ordering of Divine judgments. In this sense Babylon and the House of Israel are said to have been forsaken by the angels, because their angel guardians did not prevent them from being subject to tribulation.
Although an angel may forsake a man sometimes locally, he does not for that reason forsake him as to the effect of his guardianship: for even when he is in heaven he knows what is happening to man; nor does he need time for his local motion, for he can be with man in an instant.
Whether angels grieve for the ills of those whom they guard?
Where there is grief and sorrow, there is not perfect happiness: wherefore it is written (Apoc. 21:4): “Death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow.” But the angels are perfectly happy. Therefore they have no cause for grief.
Angels do not grieve, either for sins or for the pains inflicted on men. For grief and sorrow, according to Augustine (De Civ. Dei xiv, 15) are for those things which occur against our will. But nothing happens in the world contrary to the will of the angels and the other blessed, because they will cleaves entirely to the ordering of Divine justice; while nothing happens in the world save what is effected or permitted by Divine justice. Therefore simply speaking, nothing occurs in the world against the will of the blessed. For as the Philosopher says (Ethic. iii, 1) that is called simply voluntary, which a man wills in a particular case, and at a particular time, having considered all the circumstances; although universally speaking, such a thing would not be voluntary: thus the sailor does not will the casting of his cargo into the sea, considered universally and absolutely, but on account of the threatened danger of his life, he wills it. Wherefore this is voluntary rather than involuntary, as stated in the same passage. Therefore universally and absolutely speaking the angels do not will sin and the pains inflicted on its account: but they do will the fulfilment of the ordering of Divine justice in this matter, in respect of which some are subjected to pains and are allowed to fall into sin.
These words of Isaias may be understood of the angels, i.e. the messengers, of Ezechias, who wept on account of the words of Rabsaces, as related Is. 37:2 seqq.: this would be the literal sense. According to the allegorical sense the “angels of peace” are the apostles and preachers who weep for men’s sins. If according to the anagogical sense this passage be expounded of the blessed angels, then the expression is metaphorical, and signifies that universally speaking the angels will the salvation of mankind: for in this sense we attribute passions to God and the angels.
Both in man’s repentance and in man’s sin there is one reason for the angel’s joy, namely the fulfilment of the ordering of the Divine Providence.
The angels are brought into judgment for the sins of men, not as guilty, but as witnesses to convict man of weakness.