St. Augustine addresses the question of whether angels appear to humans by taking on material bodies, or by manipulating their own spiritual essences. But he addresses it only to dismiss it. Some things cannot be known with certainty, and the speculation might distract us from something more important.
But I admit that it would be beyond my purpose here to ask these ques- tions. It may be that the angels, working in secret by the spiritual quality still in their bodies, take on something from the lower and more bodily elements, and fit them to themselves, so that they can change it like clothes into whatever bodily shape they like. In that case, those appearances would be real, in the same way that real water was changed into real wine by our Lord. On the other hand, it may be that they transform their own bodies into whatever they like, to fit themselves to their particular work. But it does not matter in this case which one is true.
As a man, I cannot understand these things by actual experience in the same way that the angels do when they do them. They know these things better than I do. I do know how my own body changes by the working of my will, both by my own experience and by the experiences I have gathered from others. But there is no need to decide which of the alternatives I should believe on the authority of Holy Scripture. I do not wish to be forced to prove it, and make a long digression from our current question. –St. Augustine, On the Trinity, 3.2
Do I tend to get bogged down in details when I try to learn about angels or other Christian truth? How do I decide what’s really important?
Guardian Angel, I know that I do not perfectly understand your nature; but always remind me to put love of God first, before my own curiosity.
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