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Luke and St. John, we read of two angels: "Two men stood by them in shining garments." "But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the Body of Jesus had lain." Thus
are the holy angels present at the holy sepulchre, present to awe and alarm the enemies of Jesus Christ, present to speak peace and comfort to His disciples, present to guard the sacred spot in which His blessed Body had lain.
And, again, at the Ascension, are the holy angels present, with a message of peace and comfort to the bereaved and sorrowing disciples.
'And, while they looked stedfastly toward heaven, as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven."
Such was the work and ministry of the holy angels during the time of our blessed Lord's sojourn here upon earth. Nor did their work and ministry cease when our Lord had ascended up into heaven. We still read of them as present to
deliver, to guide, to comfort the apostles and early disciples.
Thus, in the Acts of the Apostles, chap. iv., we read that, when "the high-priest and all they that were with him . . . . had laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison, the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life;" and again, in chap. xii., when "Herod the king prehended Peter, he put him in prison, prayer was made without ceasing of the Church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison; and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell
And they went out,
and passed through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath sent His angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod."
And not only to deliver from prison, but also to make known to them His will, was God pleased to use the ministry of His holy angels. Thus, when it was His will that the eunuch of Ethiopia should hear the gospel by the preaching of Philip the deacon, we read, chap. viii., that it was by the message of an holy angel that Philip was sent to meet him on his journey: "And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise and go toward the south, unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza." And in chap. x., in the conversion of Cornelius, the first-fruits of the Gentile Church, the angel of the Lord appears to him to warn him to send for the apostle, from whom he was to hear God's message of grace and mercy to him. "Cornelius," we read, " a devout man, and one that feared God, with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway, saw in a vision, evidently about the ninth hour of the day, an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius,
Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter. He shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do." And again, in chap. xxvii., when St.
Paul and his company in the ship were in great danger of shipwreck, it was by His holy angel that God gave to him the assurance of safety:
Paul stood forth in the midst of them and said, there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Cæsar: and, lo, God hath given thee all those that sail with thee."
Such was the visible work and ministry of the holy angels in the early Church, and among the first disciples of our Lord, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles. And that work and ministry still continues. Although unseen by the eye of man, the holy angels of God still do their work of love, still minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation. Still the youngest baptized child has a power and presence with him of God's holy angels, to guard and keep him from sin and danger. Still, day by day, the promise is fulfilled to us and to our children: "He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee in their hands, that thou dash not thy foot against a stone."
Surely, then, to meditate on the holy angels, on their nature, on the dutiful service which they
render unto Almighty God in the ministry of love which they exercise for us, may well fill us with devout and awful thoughts of God's greatness, and with grateful thoughts of God's goodness; may well move us to imitate their obedience, that so God's holy and blessed will may be so done by us men on earth, as it is done, sincerely, truly, perfectly, by the holy angels in heaven. Nor is this all: to meditate on the holy angels may well stir up and move our hearts to love one another, may well kindle in us the pure and holy flame of Christian charity; for shall the blessed spirits of heaven feel for us and with us in all our joys and sorrows, and shall not we feel one for another? Shall not each member of Christ's body feel for and with each and every member of the body in weal or in woe? Then, again, to meditate on the holy angels, how may it not cheer and encourage us to resist sin, to be pure and holy in our lives, not to be cast down when we are in danger or trial, but to take courage from the thought that they that are with us are more and stronger than they that are against us; that the holy angels of God are with us to strengthen us against Satan and his evil angels. Surely, so to meditate upon the holy angels of God, whether as they "do God service in heaven," or as