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Archive for the ‘Angels’ Category

(Editor’s Note: WordPress has been acting up lately. I have notified customer service, but until they can fix the strange editing mis-haps that I cannot, you may find some unusual things in the posts, such as periods to separate paragraphs that are otherwise insisting on bunching together. My apologies!)

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It was night in Rome. The stars were shining in the sky above, the air was cool and crisp, my i-Pod was singing sweetly to me alone, and the sparkling water of the Tiber was running ever onwards to the sea. As I made my way across the famous Bridge of Angels, the illuminated Vatican glowing in the distance, I felt at peace and deeply happy.
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Pausing on the cobbled pavement of the famous bridge, I gazed up at the angelic figure who so kindly gazed back at me. The soft white of the wings against the twinkling stars and romantic black sky made me almost feel as if I was gazing upon a real angel who had traversed the universe just to be here tonight. The moment seemed surreal, like something out of a dream or a fantasy (and this was a bridge I have crossed many times in the 10 years I have been visiting Rome). Tonight was different in some way.
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I passed the angels one by one, contemplating the treasures that they held. They seemed to be imploring for me to consider what each one meant; to unlock the symbolism before me.

The first angel on the left holds the whips

First the pillar of Christ’s passion on the right, and the whips used at the scourging on the left. I smiled at the angels and silently replied, “yes, I see what you are suggesting.” I responded to their call by contemplating the scourging of Christ, particulary in the items represented.

Next, two angels on each side displayed the crown of thorns and Veronica’s veil. I nodded in understanding; “I am moving along through the passion of Christ.” I considered the sufferings from the crown and the bloody results that would have left him barely able to see until Veronica so kindly wiped his face.
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Stepping to the third pair of angels hovering over me on the moon-lit bridge, my eyes fall upon two more items to consider. One was the nails. Another was the clothing that was stripped from Christ before the crucifixion and the dice that the soldiers used to roll for the fabric. The angels were leading me through time, asking me to meditate upon the moments before Christ was crucified.
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Further along the bridge, the next set of angelic figures presented the cross and the sign that read “Jesus, King of the Jews” which was nailed to the top of the beams. Now I was mentally at the crucifixion, through the items that were used in those hours.

The last angel on the right holds the lance that was used to pierce Christ's side after his death

Nearing the end of the bridge, I gazed up at the last pair. On one side, an angel held the sponge tainted with vinegar that was pressed to Christ’s lips when he cried out in thirst. On the other side, an angel held the lance that had pierced his side after he had passed away.  These were the final cruel instruments used against him, in his final moments and even after his death. The journey was complete; both of his passion and life, and mine across the bridge.

The angels all smiled at me in silent witness. They joyfully knew that I was about to know what they knew…

I stepped onto the northern bank of the Tiber, and in the cool night air I gazed back at where I had journeyed from and what I had journeyed through. Turning, I looked at the direction ahead; Saint Peter’s basilica glowing in the distance. That was when I realized something I had never caught before.
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I had just journeyed through time. What now lay behind me was the foundation of what lay before me, both physically and historically. All that Christ had suffered during his sorrowful passion, as represented by the items that the angels carried, had provided a bridge across time to a new civilization and a new faith. St. Peter’s Basilica standing triumphantly in the distance was the physical manifestation of the goal Christ had achieved; the Church of Christ on earth. The Roman Catholic faith. Christianity. Salvation from destruction through suffering.
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It was a physical journey accompanied by a historical one all via the angels gently calling upon the viewer to remember…just to remember.
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It was brilliant! I hurried back to the beginning of the bridge. Who was there, guarding the way? Saints Peter and Paul! The very same saints who stand in the same positions before St. Peter’s Basilica! They greet and guard the beginning of the journey across the bridge and to the Vatican, and welcome home at the end, for they are the first great protectors of the faith who gave their lives so that it would not be forgotten.
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Now I understood how this would have all played out centuries before. When instead of tourists snapping too many photos there would have been devout pilgrims in prayer, and this was the route that would have been laid out for them to cross.

View of the Bridge of Angels from across the street. Saint Peter is on the left and Saint Paul is on the right.

As they approached the Bridge of Angels, they would have seen Peter and Paul greeting them while guarding the path. The great gatekeepers of the message of Christianity had something to tell them, something they wanted them to consider and see. It was the message of Christ that lead to the Church that they  helped establish.

Stepping onto the bridge, the pilgrims would have passed the five sets of angels, two by two, and perhaps meditated on the passion of Christ through the instruments of the passion that the angels carried, just as I had. Crossing the river, they would have perhaps also felt the sense of crossing through the passion, through time, to the other side where the present glory awaited. The glory of the Church, of their faith.
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Arriving at Saint Peters, would they have thought, as I did, “yes, all that suffering grew into something so great! And here is the witness before me!”?
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How would they have felt about their own sufferings, seeing first hand what had grown in splendor from those of one man who bore his own sufferings in simple love and humility?
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As I walked towards the Vatican that night, under the beautifully clear Roman night sky, I felt as though my journey was suddenly enriched. I was not just walking across a bridge with pretty angels and then heading down a street to an amazing basilica, but if I listened, I was journeying across time. From the Passion of Christ and the guardians of his message to the triumph of that passion and those who had protected it; this was the deep message I had discovered on one famous bridge.
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And my simple walks to Saint Peter’s Basilica have never been the same again.

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Right now, there is someone looking over your shoulder as you read this.

Turn around and you cannot see them. Flip on the lights and they appear to not be there. But they are, and always have been.

Educated and Illuminated

To the modern mind, the subject of angels can seem like an irrational, uneducated, new-age topic. Yet for all the stigma that has been placed upon such beings, the historical concept of angels is anything but childish, whimsical, or related to the new-age movement in any way (despite the claims made).

The grail knight Sir Galahad is guided by angels

Rewind through history and you will discover that angels were powerful forces with deeply theological natures that even the most educated of minds would ponder over in fascination. They were everywhere, and their unseen presence spilled over into visual reality in practically every European town, artistically blanketing the cultural landscape as a witness to common belief.

Take a stroll through any major European city and you will discover an angel somewhere, calling you to remember their presence. They decorate churches, shout from political monuments, and crown civic embellishments. It would be hard to imagine that they found such positions of religious and civic prominence through educated, wealthy, even secular patrons, if all they could offer was a disrespected, “airy-fairy” daydream on a lazy, misty morning.

Even a walk through New York City, the great unofficial capital of an increasingly atheistic world, will encounter an angel or two. (Try Columbus Circle on the south-west side of Central Park for one good example. Notice what the angel is doing; protecting the world. Hardly the activities of a “wishy-washy” being.)

Given the vast flourishing of angelic representations, and the historical documentation of cultural belief, it could be hard to deny that for centuries upon centuries, many people just knew that angels existed. There were angels for countries, cities, towns, rulers, endeavours, and even one for them.

The knight Galahad is warned by angels to turn back

Never Alone

Since the earliest Christian times it was believed that each individual human being had a guardian angel watching over them. This protector was chosen for them from the moment their existence was first conceived in the mind of God, and was the closest match to their personality, temperament, interests, likes and dislikes than any other angel. Their guardian was the angelic spirit that most “got” them, to use modern slang, and could relate to them better than any other member of the angelic realm.

Being their guardian also made them their guide, and this perfectly matched being was responsible for tending to their beloved charges at every moment. Their eyes were all always upon them – laughing when they laughed, crying when they cried, turning away when they were offensive, and praying for them when requested. They encouraged them to the right course of action, and lamented when their still, silent promptings were ignored or even unable to be heard anymore by a cold, hardened heart. Yet they remained to the end, ever the faithful friend.

Angels Everywhere

Such beliefs were not disrespected nor were they just for the “common” citizen. The most theologically advanced and structurally profound understanding of angels was developed within the Catholic faith by some of the greatest thinkers, particularly in regards to the spiritual life. People from every social status, all the way up to kings and queens, believed in them without hesitation.

The concept of angelic assistance even found its way into Catholic art and literature, where angels were often portrayed as guarding, protecting, or warning. The Holy Grail was watched over by angels, for example. Legendary saints encountered them and were comforted by them as portrayed in frescoes and statues. Even Christ Himself had an angel minister to Him in the Garden of Gethsemane before His trial and death.

Angels guard the Holy Grail

Finally, Guardian Angels were noble warriors who were quick to descend from heaven wielding the sword of their faith against the enemy. They were direct participants in the unseen spiritual warfare of the earthy journey.

Angels were therefore everywhere, both spiritually and visually (with one for every human being alive, and then some, it would be hard for them not to be). From political monuments to educated scholars, wealthy benefactors to common peasants, literature to dazzling frescoes and church facades, angels were celebrated, studied, invoked, and represented.

The entire landscape of the old world was blanketed in angels and such a phenomenon was highly respected for the intelligent, powerful beings that they represented. The old world unabashedly reminded and encouraged people to call upon angels who were always amongst them.

A True Friend

For those of us embarking upon a spiritual journey of any kind, drawing close to our angelic guardians should not be something that is considered as superstitious, flaky, irrational, unnecessary, uneducated or even remotely related to the new age movement. Instead, we should not hesitate to consider that it would be uneducated and irrational to do otherwise than ask for the assistance of a being given to us by God himself for our own protection and assistance along the journey of life.

Angels are literally everywhere. The old world was simply more talented and prolific when it came to reminding and inspiring people to remember that they are never alone.

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