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Are Angels Real? A discovery and an outline for understanding

October 1, 2012 - 4:02 pm 14 Comments

Are Angels Real?

An Exploration and a Discovery!

Kailo Interfaith Community

September 30, 2012

The Rev. Fr. Peter E. Lanzillotta, Ph.D.

Some years ago, on a Christmas Eve, I delivered a homily on angels that I did not quite believe… On, it was a fine piece of religious journalism, well crafted but devoid of anything but an intellectual understanding. This disconnect between the mind and the heart has always challenged me, and has repeatedly led me deeply into other meanings and possibilities for  ministry and for affirming and understanding the spiritual dimensions of life.

You see, one of my parishioners at the time, ironically, a man named Michael, said that he did not agree with me when I had said that angels are flashes of perception or impulses towards creativity. So I listened, and it began a reinvestigation that prodded me towards a wider and deeper awareness of the inner or spiritual world that is hidden from the obvious; disguised among the ordinary; and that has within it a stream of consciousness and awareness one can only describe as the holy or the sacred that flows through our world, and can become active within us.

Another irony… With this man’s question, it started me on a five year journey into the world of the angelic so that know I can confidently and knowingly say that angels are real!

Some background on the subject, and I promise not to be obtusely theological if I can help it- for example, I will not get into describing the heavenly hierarchy of angelic beings as laid out in the Early Church by the philosopher Pseudo-Dionysis… Well, maybe some day I will do that for you…

Similarly, if there was enough interest in learning how to embody the angles or practice angelic approaches to healing, those topics are also possible.

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All the great and timeless religions contain references to angels: They each refer to them as beings who can influence our hearts and minds through a change of perception, and some refer to angels as possessing the presence and the power to shift or change lives on a larger, more complete scale.

Angels are an experiential part of the super conscious Mystery, part of the Mythology of God’s universe that is far more complex and far more grand in its scale and scope that most of us can realize! Angels can best be understood as the quanta of energy that constantly flows through the universe and that symbolically is understood as a source of energy that can beneficially influence the natural world as well as the lives of individuals.

Some approaches to the whole study and spiritual dimension called angels will confidently postulate that angels have within their possibilities and potentials, to declare that there is nothing that exists that does not have an angelic signature or influence that can be associated with it.

From that viewpoint, we have the mystical teaching that says that every person, every city, every country, every national group can have a guiding angelic being or for that matter, a demonic influence associated with it. While this idea might sound preposterous to some of you, or at least unlikely, the deeper I go into metaphysical teachings, the broader and wider my understanding reaches.

Let me remind you that many famous and highly intelligent people have professed a belief in angels: From Lincoln to Longfellow; And as far as challenging the so called absurdity of this idea, the world renown scientist and astrophysicist Robert Jastrow believes that the Biblical event of Ezekiel’s fiery wheels could refer to extraterrestrial visits! So my claims are pale!

First let’s begin with some definitions:

Angels are universally known as messengers of God, the divine or what is considered to be sacred or holy. These messages can include flashes of insights, spurts of creativity, and various intuitions that can come to us-

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Whether it is through meditation, deep relaxation, times of ecstasy, or even during during stressful episodes in our lives. These angelic visitations do not often appear consciously or in any knowing way during ordinary states of waking and working consciousness.

According to classical religious thought, the office of an angel is the task or role that express the spirit of guidance or is a functional expression of wisdom and compassion. It is taught that each of the angels has, as their distinct charge or a certain kind of task. Accordingly, each angel has its own power, ability or responsibility. (St. Augustine)

Symbolically, the clues to these tasks and powers can be found in looking at their halos, their clothes, the objects they are carrying, and their weapons, usually a kind of sword… If you prefer a more psychological description, angels are archetypal energies, myths of the collective unconscious, and act as metaphors for how God’s presence and influence can be experienced or understood within our psyches and within our societies. Simply put, angels are divine translations of the gracious and the holy; they are sources of healing energy for people, places, and planets.

Without getting too deeply into ancient theology and its metaphysical speculations ( but I do confess that I find a lot that stuff quite fascinating!)

Angles are present in every holy religious tradition- in different images, grab, style, or depiction to be sure, but they are present as messengers and teachers. In our Western Scriptures, we see the prominent role of angels in the genesis story, in Jesus’ birth narrative, in the books of the Apocrypha such as Tobit, and finally having a leading role in the visionary book of Revelations. Angels reserved an ongoing importance throughout the creation of the Christian story from the early Church through the Middle Ages. Not until the Age of Enlightenment and the advent of empirical, matter based, left brain science did we begin to discard them or at least dethrone them.

I would say that we reduced them to sentiment and fantasy…

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After all, from a strictly scientific world view anything that cannot be logical or scientifically measured could not be taken seriously. ( Can you name some things we cannot see, that we take seriously today?)

With the advent of cosmology and new physics, as the seemingly disparate worlds of astronomy and theology begin to merge, with the theories on the origins of life and the universe sounding a lot like mysticism, energies that were hidden from ordinary sight or removed from ordinary awareness and gaining credence- developing a following again!

Needless to say, any reductionist approach to life, religion, society and self will have difficulty with any labeled spiritual, and so could have some disdain for the concept of angels, too. Protestants, as a whole, have discounted the importance of angels… They have made their churches into an almost exclusively Jesus centered religion, not regarding or acknowledging that the world view in which the Bible was written was a deeply mystical and metaphorical one.

Today, in our overtly secular and commercial world, even the Christmas story suffers when angels are relegated to greeting cards and on St. Valentines, the only angels you see are asexual cherubs- both holidays dripping with insipid caricatures of who and what angels truly are…

As you already know, whenever there is a difficult subject for a person or a society to accept, work through or understand, then one of the best ways to quickly rid yourself of its possible importance is to make it into a hollow sentimental contrivance, an intellectual joke.

My best definitions of the reality and the function of angels goes like this: Angels are celestial beings of light, and Rupert Sheldrake and Matthew Fox calls angels, those quanta of energy

That reveal to us the intention of God.

Their influence on us and among us becomes increasingly available when we intentionally practice opening up our awareness and clearing out our obstacles to “entertain angels” or welcomes those insights, wonders, and inspirations. First, it takes a willingness to reduce our egos, so we make room from the angelic energies to be present to us, or to welcome their presence or messages for us.

Angels come to us in many ways- sometimes subtle and gentle, other times more directly and even forcefully as if to teach a dramatic lesson.

As an agent of the Holy Spirit, angels provide us with their wisdom and can open our hearts to this previously unknown source of joy, comfort, and hope through our prayers, our meditations, our spiritual disciplines and intense practices or spiritual studies. They can also visit us unawares or present themselves during critical or unexpected times- when experiences or events in our lives seem to have no “rhyme or reason” and the importance of what they say or teach doesn’t easily occur or make sense to us.

When I look back on all the experiences I have had or that I have read about concerning angelic visits, angels bring forth intuitive wisdom, they incite moral reform, they encourage forgiveness, and foster the development of virtues, strengths, faith, and humility.

Sometimes, as I have been told by people who have come to see me about things that are spiritual and sometimes religious, that angels appeared to them as a thought, feeling or energy that rescued them! They do not know why they were saved or spared, but they were! The results of those experiences have been incredible and dramatic such as the ability to overcome an addiction or the find release from any imprisoning idea, illness, belief, or relationship. Similar to the symbolic episode in the Epistles, where Timothy and Paul were put into jail, with no seeming way out, an angel came and broke down the walls, bent the bars, and set them free! Some authors include feelings of being protected or guided to do or say something that

would ordinarily be unusual, even astonishing! Angels are said to be present whenever we feel safe, secure, protected; whenever we are grateful to be alive, whenever we feel grateful to be loved. Angels are those inner experiences or realities that give proof and credence to God’ s inexhaustible care for us. We are never outside of God’s love and compassion- we are never beyond the reach of the angels…

The Lover’s Saint? St. Valentine

February 8, 2011 - 9:15 am 75 Comments

The Lover’s Saint? Looking at the Origins of St. Valentine’s Day

Poor old Valentine! He was a third century priest who was crushed and then beheaded on February 14th, 270 ACE. He would certainly be surprised to find that we moderns consider him to be the saint of lovers, and that his day would be known as the time when lovers would exchange their sentimental gifts and greetings…. Yet, there are two plausible reasons for the evolution of this sentimental holiday …

First, the saint himself- He was a very caring and empathetic person, and Christians from all over the Empire would write to him, asking for his guidance as they struggled with the issues of daily life and the role of faith in their lives. ( similar to a later saint, the other St. Francis, Francis de Sales) He would write back to them offering them encouragement, inspirations, along with his guidance in spiritual problem solving. Often, in the margins of his letters, he would make simple drawings of the symbols of faith, hope, and love as the most important virtues. Most commonly the shell stood for faith, the anchor for hope, and the heart for love…

After he had been put to death for his disobedience (He continued to marry young couples against the express orders of the Emperor who wanted to end the spread or the future growth of Christianity by forbidding marriage and therefore children…) His neighbors saw some of the unfinished notes he was writing and they noticed the simple, inspirational symbols. They mailed the remaining notes from him, and told others about how Valentine would adorn his stationary with these designs. A short while after, other Christians began adding little drawings to their notes, and the idea of some embellishments on stationary began…

The second plausible reason echoes from how the Catholic Church tried so vehemently and persistently to convert/subvert all the loca pagan customs and turn their celebrations into a more reserved or somber sacred day or Holy-day/holiday. In February, or the time of the ancient calendars that marked devotion to Juno Februata, the goddess of fever and desire which became merged with the festival of Lupercalia. The prudish church became intent on wiping out a rather bawdy and sensual festival.

Lupercalia or the festival of the Wolf Moon – or the full moon of the wandering wolves- was originally a mating/pairing off or time for condoning prostitution. ( there may be some historical connection to legends of the Wolf-Man during these moon cycles- seems quite possible!) For the Pagans of Indigenous European or the Continental witches who lived in Southern Europe ( In the Wiccan or among the Celtics because they lived in the colder north, it was May 1st or Beltane ) this was a time to honor one’s sensual and sexual desires, and the church would have none of it! The best compromise the church could muster and carry off was that this time of the year was appropriate for expressing fidelity and romance within marriage.

The pagan festival included a ceremony where the girls of the community would put their names in a decorated box, and then the boys would draw those names, and the two would become full partners for a whole year- or until the next Lupercalia when the boys would pick someone new!

To discourage this promiscuous practice, the church began to substitute the names of the saints for the young women, as their spiritual companion, and told them that they had to adopt the virtues of that saint during the coming year… And that switch had a rather limited appeal!

With the Middle Ages and with the invention of courtly love and romance, the chivalrous approach to women was instituted and the roles became somewhat reversed! The girls took possession of the box, and they would draw out the name of a boy and then write to him. In this note, she would invite his honorable and romantic intentions- encouraging him to pay attention to her, and ultimately marry her as the final goal!

There is one more legend to consider… The last Valentine legend states that there is a power in gift giving that could soothe or lessen a woman’s wounded affections… That somehow a gift could do wonders in resolving a “lover’s spat” or ending a domestic quarrel. It this is true, particularly in our materialistic age, its the easiest assignment ever given to a saint! However, in this account, there is a twist…

Somehow, this Valentine was also associated with being a healer or someone who possessed the cure for epilepsy, for lunacy, for fainting or swooning, and any falling disease! It makes me wonder… Could this be the reason why we call the process of finding a partner “falling in love?”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

George Washington’s Rules of Civility

October 19, 2010 - 11:34 am 58 Comments
Excerpts from Rules of Civility
 

1st Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.

2d When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usually Discovered.
 
3d Shew Nothing to your Friend that may affright him.
12th Shake not the head, Feet, or Legs rowl not the Eys lift not one eyebrow higher than the other wry not the mouth, and bedew no mans face with your Spittle, by approaching too near him when you Speak.
43d Do not express Joy before one sick or in pain for that contrary Passion will aggravate his Misery.

50th Be not hasty to beleive flying Reports to the Disparagement of any.

89th Speak not Evil of the absent for it is unjust.

51st Wear not your Cloths, foul, unript or Dusty but See they be Brush’d once every day at least and take heed that you approach not to any Uncleaness.

54th Play not the Peacock, looking every where about you, to See if you be well Deck’t, if your Shoes fit well if your Stokings sit neatly, and Cloths handsomely.

56th Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad Company.

76th While you are talking, Point not with your Finger at him of Whom you Discourse nor Approach too near him to whom you talk especially to his face.

80th Be not Tedious in Discourse or in reading unless you find the Company pleased therewith.

90th Being Set at meat Scratch not neither Spit Cough or blow your Nose except there’s a Necessity for it.

100th Cleanse not your teeth with the Table Cloth Napkin Fork or Knife but if Others do it let it be done wt. a Pick Tooth.

105th Be not Angry at Table whatever happens & if you have reason to be so, Shew it not but on a Chearfull Countenance especially if there be Strangers for Good Humour makes one Dish of Meat a Feast.

110th Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celestial fire Called Conscience.


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