Far from cutesy Christmas tree toppers, Guardian Angels are presented biblically as warriors — fearless fighters for God who are sent to battle evil. We've "domesticated" angels, and often to deleterious effect. Father Steve Grunow shares his homily for today to help us to revere angels for precisely what they are: courageous soldiers for the Lord of Hosts.
The Old Testament scripture that the Church assigns to be proclaimed at Mass for the memorial of the Guardian Angels is an excerpt from the 23rd chapter of the Book of Exodus. In this scripture passage, the God of Israel assures his people that his angel will go before them and “bring you to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, Jebusites; and I will wipe them out.”
If this does not provoke an experience of cognitive dissonance one is likely not listening all that attentively.
The warrior angel of Book of Exodus is perhaps not the kind of angel to which the popular culture is all that familiar. Angels have become for many blithe spirits more akin to the good fairy than to the fierce creatures that are described in the Bible. The dissonance between the angel of Exodus and the angels of our imaginations is pronounced.
All this called to mind the work of folklorist Diane Purkiss, who years ago wrote an interesting book titled “At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Faeries, Hobgoblins and Other Troublesome Things.” Purkiss’s book is an examination of how beliefs regarding supernatural entities have shifted with cultural trends. Creatures such a faeries, gnomes and elves were at one time presented as things to be feared and avoided. This is in contrast to their presentation in much of the popular culture that imagines such beings to be winsome, beautiful and even cuddly.
What happened? It is complicated. Frightening thoughts are often dealt with through a kind of domestication of the object of our fears so as to render the fearsome innocuous or even friendly. The ancients would have considered such domestication to be foolhardy. Our culture considers this approach to be therapeutic...