It would be fool hearted to believe that angels are no longer active in our lives. To be certain, God and Gods messengers continue to minister, reveal, and appear to us. With this reality we must also understand that not all angels are holy or elect. The reality is we can encounter the non-elect angels, known, as demons, as well. We must shake the idea that the supernatural is mythical only and understand it is a reality. The fact is that elect and non-elect angels are involved with and move in the world we live in. In the modern time of rationalism, angelic beings have been largely ignored and even denied in the western faith.
Angels are a Very Real Part of Christian Theology
It is almost as if the belief in the angelic is similar to the belief in Greek or Norse gods. A relic of the religious past. Being considered almost embarrassing to discuss, the modern western Christian almost is required to leave this “myth” behind in favor of a more scientific faith. This was and is not the concept of those who view our faith from the Celtic perspective. Angelic activity is an important part of spiritual life.
“The angels…are spirits who serve God and are sent by him to keep those who are to receive salvation.” (Hebrews 1:14)
Ray Simpson has stated that “the reason angels seemed to have disappeared is because Christians, like everyone else, have lost the necessary faculty of perception. (Simpson, 1994) It is also fair to say the current Christianity does not only lack the perception to comprehend angels, there is also no desire for it. Having it may lead other western Christians to believe they are becoming “cultish”. In modern Christianity there is a strong desire to ignore the supernatural in favor of looking sleeker and more refined to western culture.
Because of this desire to look a certain way, angels or anything spiritual have been ignored as a passé part of our faith that we do not want to discuss. For the Celt, this is part of the fascination and mysticism of a mighty God. David Adam stated “Somehow, the Celtic peoples, due to their history, have been able to keep an awareness of the “other” far more easily than most other peoples.” (Adam, 1994)
In medieval times, the church often portrayed angels as these highly romanticized beings, with human form only and a tinge of hyper sexualization. But within scripture, there lies a very rugged, earthly portrayal of these beings the Celts held on to.
In Celtic tradition angels’ purposes were broken down into four basic roles
- They Shield
- Daniel 3:28- Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.
- At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people-everyone whose name is found written in the book-will be delivered.
- They Reveal Gods Message
- Matthew 1:20-And on his thinking of these things, lo, a messenger of the Lord in a dream appeared to him, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, thou mayest not fear to receive Mary thy wife, for that which in her was begotten is of the Holy Spirit…
- They Heal
- Tobit 3:17-And Raphael was sent to heal the two of them: to scale away the white films from Tobit’s eyes…
- They Escort Souls at Death
- Luke 16:22- “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.
- All Children are Assigned a Guardian
- Matthew 18:10- See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.
Celtic Searching and Understanding of Angels
It is these facets of the angelic host that the Celtic peoples of antiquity and those searching in the Celtic tradition today that are the most strongly related to. This was easy for the ancient Celts of Britain and Ireland to comprehend, mainly because their culture was already primed to understand spiritual beings and their realm. Celtic society in their former religion, had fairies, tricksters and banshees that had “done these things” so to speak in their old religion. Upon accepting the faith of Christ, it was easy for them to understand these were angelic beings that were actually accomplishing these things.
Celtic Saints and Angels
St. Patrick was said to have a conversation with angels every seventh day “as one man talks to another.” (Simpson, 1994) Columba. In his biography also recounts angel interaction. “He was often aware of their comings and goings, especially to protect someone in danger or to escort a departing soul heavenward.” (Simpson, 1994). At another point on Iona, Columba commanded his brothers to let him go alone to a place called Machair. There on a little hill, he was met by angelic beings who were clothed in white and flew. This place is still recognizable on Iona today. (Simpson, 1994)
Interaction with angels, in the Celtic understanding still, very much, occurs today. In the age of occultism, the desire to understand a biblical concept of the supernatural, especially angels is in high need. Hope MacDonald wrote:
“As the popularity of the occult has increased, our eyes have been blinded the great biblical truth, and reality of angels” (MacDonald, 1994)
Also, the peoples of the Scottish Highlands firmly believed Scotland, and other nations had a Guardian Angel. (Carmichael, 1900)
Faith or Myth?
We must be careful not to allow our faith to become a myth. The biblical truths that root the traditions of our dealings with the spiritual, including angels. Using modern rationalism to understand or deal with spiritual things can lead to a hollow faith with no mystique. Its in the mystery the Celtic faith finds its strength. Strength is not in trying to shy away from the mystical aspects of our faith. As important is the created world to the Celtic Christian, so too must be the mystery of angels. Without mystery, we truly do not have a Christian faith.