Angels in the Making?

Angels in the Making? May 1, 2013

{This post is part of a roundtable conversation on the new book In the Presence of Angels, by Andrea R. Garrison.}

In the Presence of Angels and the Way of Blessing

Andrea Garrison presents the vision of an enchanted and inspired universe in her delightful text, In the Presence of AngelsAs I sat at my local coffee house, enjoying a sunrise cup of coffee, I was enchanted by the reading of Garrison’s book. She reminds us that life is more than meets the eye and that each of us, whether we know it or not, are more than we imagine. Each of us has a divine origin and a divine destiny. We are constantly being inspired by God through insights and synchronous encounters, but more than that, each of us is evolving, sometimes slowly and unconsciously, other times intentionally and consciously. Life is transformed when we see ourselves and others as we truly are, holy, beautiful, and everlasting companions of God, whose vocation is to be lovers, healers, and guides to others.

We live in an angelic universe, Garrison claims, and more than that “we are in essence angels in training preparing for a higher level of service. As angels in training, we are constantly placed in situations and given distinct opportunities in which we can serve the whole and the divine by doing good work and performing good deeds for ourselves and others.” (In the Presence of Angels, 10) We live in a universe abounding in meaningful coincidences or synchronicities in which are presence can bring greater wholeness to ourselves and others.

Although I am not a Swendenborgian, I have an affinity with Garrison’s perspective. As I walked home from the coffee house, I pondered my encounters with passersby and with the checkout clerk at the market where I just purchased groceries as holy persons; I also pondered my role in bringing beauty and joy into their lives. I call this process walking the “way of blessing,” not unlike the Navajo blessing way that proclaims:

In beauty may I walk.
All day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk.
With dew about my feet may I walk….
With beauty before me, may I walk.
With beauty behind me, may I walk.
With beauty above me, may I walk.
With beauty below me, may I walk.
With beauty all around me, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.
It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty.

To practice the way of blessing is to wish the people you meet love, energy, joy, and happiness. The way of blessing is similar to the Bodhisattva vow to work for the liberation, relief of suffering, and joy of all beings. It also shares in the wisdom of Matthew 25, “as you have done unto the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you have done unto me.” All of these spiritual paths, along with Garrison’s vision of our vocation as angels in training invite us to experience the holiness of all things and to promote beauty everywhere.

The world is transformed when we live In the Presence of Angels. We realize, without the burden of having to be perfect or to control the outcome of our actions, that we can bring holiness to every moment. I believe that although the universe and each moment emerge from the interplay of freedom, intention, and change, we are not here in this particular time, encounter, or place accidently. There is a gentle and non-coercive providence that moves through our lives. It does not control, but invites; it inspires more rather than less freedom and creativity. We are here in God’s presence: God presents us with visions and possibilities for each moment of existence. These possibilities are always contextual in nature: they come through us and to us. These divine possibilities always come with the invitation, as Mother Teresa proclaims, to do “something beautiful for God.”  In the call and response of divine invitation and personal creativity and freedom, we can make a difference and that is our vocation – to bring greater joy, beauty, and justice to the world.

Being an angel in training is not naval gazing or passivity in relationship to the events of our lives.  If all creatures are holy, then our calling is to work for justice for every creature so that each creature has a better chance of experience its holiness – this involves both personal relationships and political involvement.  Aware of the holiness of life, we must become partners in insuring that every human receives adequate nourishment, shelter, health care, access to decision-making, and the opportunity for good work.  This requires both personal and political will.  There are no rugged individuals; we are all in this together, shaping each other’s present and future adventures.

Moreover, we live in an enchanted and angelic universe in which the heavens declare the glory of God and all creation can praise the holy one. This invites us to minimize our harm and  maximize the well-being of the non-human world. In an angelic and enchanted world, blessing extends beyond humankind and our intention to bless places the non-human and human creation’s worth above economic advantage and property ownership.

On the blessing way, we can awaken to the holiness of every encounter; we can promote the angelic in every person; and we can see our lives as part of a larger tapestry in which all creation moment by moment and into eternity emerges in relationship to a dynamic and lively God. We can bless the world, enabling it to reflect on earth God’s “heavenly” intention.

Visit the Patheos Book Club for more on In the Presence of Angels.

Bruce Epperly is a theologian, spiritual guide, pastor, and author of twenty four books, including Process Theology: A Guide to the Perplexed, Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living,  Philippians: An Interactive Bible Study, and The Center is Everywhere: Celtic Spirituality for the Postmodern Age.  His most recent text is Emerging Process: Adventurous Theology for a Missional Church. He also writes regularly for the Process and Faith lectionary.  He recently served as Visiting Professor of Process Studies at Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Lincoln University.   He may be reached at for lectures, workshops, and retreats.  His latest book is Healing Marks: Healing and Spirituality in Mark’s Gospel(Energion).

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