These past weeks, we’ve had a couple of feast days dedicated to angels. Sept. 29 was the feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael; Oct. 2 was the feast of the Guardian Angels. You might wonder what is the difference between types of angels. Is Archangel just a fancy title? What do they do that other angels don’t? The answer is there is a difference in rank and purpose, but it doesn’t stop with those two categories. Angels and Archangels are just two of the nine choirs, or kinds, of angels, according to Catholic tradition. Contrary to popular thought, angels are not the souls of departed loved ones who have gone to heaven; those are called saints. Angels are different from humans, just as humans are different from plants and animals. Angels are all created to serve specific purposes in how they serve God; this variety is what forms the choirs. Let’s take a brief look at them. Please note there is little revealed information about the higher choirs, but here are the basics of what we currently know.
These are the highest choir of angels; they are closest to God Himself–surrounding His throne. While there is little record of angels of higher orders interacting with people, the prophet Isaiah did have an encounter with them in Isaiah 6:1-7. One of them touched Isaiah’s lips with a live coal from the altar, cleansing him from sin. Seraphim are described as having six wings, two covering their faces, two covering their feet, and two for flying, although this is probably only a visual representation of their true spiritual grandeur.
Cherubim are the second highest choir of angels. They are guardians of God’s glory, have an intimate knowledge of God, and continually praise Him. They are depicted as being manlike in appearance and double-winged. In the book of Revelation, they are described as celestial attendants in the Apocalypse (Revelation 4-6).
Thrones are angels that are the essence of pure Humility, Peace and Submission. They are living symbols of God’s authority over all creation.
Dominions are angels of Leadership. They regulate the duties of the other angels, making known the commands of God.
Virtues are the angels in charge of miracles and are providers of courage, grace, and valor.
Powers are considered warrior angels, specializing in fighting against evil and defending the cosmos and the souls of humans, to prevent them from becoming vessels for evil.
These are the angels that guide and protect nations, or groups of peoples, and institutions such as the Church. The Principalities preside over bands of angels and charge them with fulfilling the divine ministry.
Now we come to Archangels. The members of this choir are the most frequently mentioned in the Bible. They have a unique role as God’s messengers to the people, at critical times in the history of salvation — at times like The Annunciation and The Apocalypse. This is the choir that Micheal, Gabriel, and Raphael belong to.
Finally, we come to the more well-known Angels. These beings are closest to the material world and human beings. One of their primary roles is being Guardian Angels; one is assigned to each individual person. They bring our prayers to God and serve as messengers of God’s word to us. Angels have the capacity to access any and all other Angels at any time.
So there we have it. Obviously, there is much more to be discovered about these heavenly beings. In fact, there is an entire branch of theology called angelology that specializes in this topic. If this summary interests you, you may want to look deeper yourself. Even if you don’t want to pursue this as a study, always know that all of the angels, no matter what choir, are on your side. They want you to go to heaven and enjoy the beauty and majesty of God like they do. Pray to your Guardian Angel for guidance, because they are always willing to help you out however they can.
May the blessings of the angels be with you all.