Holy Guardian Angels: Missa “Benedicite Dominum”
Whether guardian angels attend each and every person is not consistently believed or upheld by the Church Fathers in Christian thought, and hence is not an “article of faith”, although the concept is clearly seen in both the Old and New Testaments. According to St. Jerome the concept is in the “mind of the Church” and he stated that: “how great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it.”
The guardian angel concept is clearly present in the Old Testament, and its development is well marked. The Old Testament conceived of God’s angels as his ministers who carried out his behests, and who were at times given special commissions, regarding men and mundane affairs. In Genesis 18-19, angels not only act as the executors of God’s wrath against the cities of the plain, but they deliver Lot from danger; in Exodus 32:34, God says to Moses: “my angel shall go before thee.” At a much later period we have the story of Tobias, which might serve for a commentary on the words of Psalm 91:11: “For he hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways.” (Cf. Psalm 33:8 and 34:5) Lastly, in Daniel 10 angels are entrusted with the care of particular districts; one is called “prince of the kingdom of the Persians”, and Michael is termed “one of the chief princes”; cf. Deuteronomy 32:8 (Septuagint); and Ecclesiasticus 17:17 (Septuagint).
In the New Testament the concept of guardian angel may be noted with greater precision. Angels are everywhere the intermediaries between God and man; and Christ set a seal upon the Old Testament teaching: “See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10). A twofold aspect of the doctrine is here put forth: even little children have guardian angels, and these same angels lose not the vision of God by the fact that they have a mission to fulfill on earth. Other key examples in the New Testament are the angel who succoured Christ in the garden, and the angel who delivered St. Peter from prison. Hebrews 1:14 puts the doctrine in its clearest light: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them, who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?” In this view, the function of the guardian angel is to lead men to the Kingdom of Heaven.
In the prayer for the feast of St. Michael (September 29) we ask that the Holy Angels may fulfill the special office entrusted to them of watching faithfully over us upon earth. This feast included together with St. Michael the whole of the heavenly court. A distinct feast of the Guardian Angels originated only at a later date. The Spaniards observed it in the Sixteenth Century and Pope Paul V (September 27, 1608) declared the feast of the Guardian Angels, a feast of the whole Church, and ordered that it should be kept on the first vacant date after the feast of St. Michael. Pope Clement X (1670) assigned it to October 2nd. Pope Leo XIII raised it to the rank of a greater double. The guardianship of the faithful is given by God into the hands of the angels, not only for the sake of the unity and harmony which bind together the orders of creation, but also on account of the duty owed by the angels to Christ. It is from Christ that they receive their glory, therefore out of gratitude to Him who is Caput hominum et angelorum (the head of men and angels) these blessed spirits watch over the Church, the chosen Bride of the Savior, and over the faithful who are the members of His Mystical Body.
INTROIT Psalm 102: 20
Bless the Lord, all ye His angels: you that are mighty in strength, and execute His word, harkening to the voice of His orders. (Ps. 102: 1) Bless the Lord, O my soul: and let all that is within me bless His holy name. v. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
O God, Who in Thine ineffable providence dost vouchsafe to send Thine angels to watch over us, grant to Thy suppliants to be continually defended by their protection and to share their companionship in eternity. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.
EPISTLE Exodus 23: 20-23
Lesson from the Book of Exodus. Thus saith the Lord God, Behold I will send My angel, who shall go before thee, and keep thee in thy journey, and bring thee into the place that I have prepared. Take notice of him, and hear his voice, and do not think him one to be contemned, for he will not forgive when thou hast sinned, and My name is in him. But if thou wilt hear his voice, and do all that I speak, I will be an enemy to Thy enemies, and will afflict them that afflict thee: and My angel shall go before thee.
GRADUAL/ALLELUIA Psalm 90: 11, 12
God hath given His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. V. In their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. V. (Ps. 102: 21) Alleluia, alleluia. V. (Ps. 102: 21) Bless the Lord, all ye His hosts: you ministers of His who do His will. Alleluia.
GOSPEL Matthew 18: 1-10
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, Who, thinkest Thou, is the greater in the kingdom of Heaven? And Jesus calling unto Him a little child, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child he is the greater in the kingdom of Heaven: and he that shall receive one such little child in My name, receiveth Me; but he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of scandals: for it must needs be that scandals come; but nevertheless woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh. And if thy hand, or thy foot, scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee. It is better for thee to go into life maimed or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thy eye scandalize thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee. It is better for thee having one eye to enter into life, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. See that you despise not one of these little ones; for I say to you, that their angels in Heaven always see the face of My Father Who is in Heaven.”
OFFERTORY ANTIPHON Psalm 102: 20, 21
Bless the Lord, all ye his angels: you ministers of His who execute His word, harkening to the voice of His orders.
Receive the gifts, O Lord, which we bring in veneration of Thy holy angels, and mercifully grant that we be delivered by their perpetual guard from the perils of this life and at last attain unto life everlasting. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.
PREFACE of the Common
It is truly meet and just, and profitable unto salvation, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks to thee, O Holy Lord, Father Almighty, eternal God, through Christ, our Lord. Though whom the angels praise thy majesty, the dominions adore it, the powers are in awe. Which the heavens and the hosts of heaven together with the blessed seraphim joyfully do magnify. And do thou command that it be permitted to us join with them in confessing thee, while we say with lowly praise: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth!
COMMUNION ANTIPHON Daniel 3: 58
All ye angels of the Lord, bless the Lord: sing a hymn, and exalt Him above all forever, alleluia.
We have received, O Lord, the divine mysteries, rejoicing in the festivity of Thy holy angels; we pray that we be continually delivered by their protection from the snares of our enemies and fortified against all adverse powers. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.