Tag Archives: Seraphim

Sunday Devotional: Seraphim were stationed above

If you, like I, sometimes get disheartened by the human evil and corrupt times in which we live, this account by the prophet Isaiah is a reminder of one of God’s wondrous creations, and that this world isn’t all there is to reality.

Even our physicists tell us there are multiple dimensions, as many as ten, way more than the three-dimensional world we access with our five senses.

Isaiah 6:1-2A, 3-8

In the year King Uzziah died,
I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne,
with the train of his garment filling the temple.
Seraphim were stationed above.

They cried one to the other,
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts!
All the earth is filled with his glory!”
At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook
and the house was filled with smoke.

Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed!
For I am a man of unclean lips,
living among a people of unclean lips;
yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me,
holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar.

He touched my mouth with it, and said,
“See, now that this has touched your lips,
your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”
“Here I am,” I said; “send me!”

Note: Uzziah, aka Azariah, was a king of the ancient Kingdom of Judah, who ruled for 52 years until about 750 BC, when he was struck with leprosy for disobeying God (2 Kings 15:5; 2 Chronicles 26:19-21) and his son Jotham took over as king. Uzziah died in 740/739 BC.

Major philosophers — such as St. Thomas Aquinas, René Descartes, John Locke, and most recently, the American philosopher Mortimer Adler (read about his conversion here) — had put forth compelling reasons for the existence of Angels, bodiless beings of pure spirit. All four philosophers maintained that, given what Aquinas called a “gradation of substances” in the Universe, we cannot exclude the existence of a gradation above humans — pure spirits, or minds without bodies. As Locke (1632-1704) explains in Essay Concerning Human Understanding, pp. 412-413:

In things which sense cannot discover, analogy is the great rule of probability. Thus, finding in all parts of the creation, that fall under human observation, that there is a gradual connexion of one with another, without any great or discernible gaps between . . . we have reason to be persuaded that, by such gentle steps, things ascend upwards in degrees of perfection . . . . Observing . . . such gradual and gentle descents downwards in those parts of the creation that are beneath man, the rule of analogy may make it probable that it is so also in things above us . . . and that there are several ranks of intelligent beings, excelling us in several degrees of perfection, ascending upwards towards the infinite perfection of the Creator.

Theologians maintain there is a hierarchy of Angels, their belief stemming from allusions in both the Old and New Testaments (Genesis 3:24; Isaiah 6:1-7; Ezekiel 1, 10; Romans 8:38; Ephesians 1:21, 3:10, 6:12; Colossians 1:16, 2:10, 2:15) to “seraphim,” “cherubim,” “thrones,” “dominions,” “mights,” “powers” and “principalities” in the “heavenly places.”

Dionysius the Areopagite and Aquinas delineated three hierarchies of Angels, and three orders within each hierarchy, totaling nine orders in all:

  • 1st hierarchy: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones.
  • 2nd hierarchy: Dominions, Virtues, Powers.
  • 3rd hierarchy: Principalities, Archangels, Angels.

Of the nine angelic orders, five are sent by God for external ministry among bodily creatures, as indicated by their names of Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, and Angels—all of which refer to some kind of administrative or executive office. Of these five orders, only the last three (Principalities, Archangels and Angels) minister to human beings. Our guardian angels belong to the last angelic order.

Concerning the highest hierarchy of angels—the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones—Aquinas states that they are never sent for external ministry but instead “assist before the throne of God.”

Indeed, in Isaiah 6, God is seated between two seraphims, each with six wings. And in Ezekiel 1 and 10, the prophet saw four cherubs before the throne of God, each having a human form with four wings and four faces—those of a man, a lion, a bull, and an eagle. Quite unlike the baby cherubs so popular in contemporary angel art, the cherubim whom Ezekiel saw in his visions “sparkled with a gleam like burnished bronze” from which “came forth flashes of lightning”; the sound of their wings was like “the roaring of mighty waters,” and when they moved, the clamor was like “the din of an army.”

The word “seraph” comes from a root meaning “to burn.” Cherubim are first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 3:24, where Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden and two cherubim are sent to guard its gate so that no one may enter. In her visions, German mystic St. Hildegard von Bingen saw the seraphim as “burning . . . in the love of God . . . as if they were a fire” and the cherubim as having “the purest, clearest, and most profound knowledge” of God in which “they see the secrets of the heavenly mysteries.” (Hildegard von Bingen’s Mystical Visions, p. 72).

Other sources of angel lore maintain that not only do the higher angels see God “face to face” and devote themselves to contemplating, loving, and singing in endless praise of the deity, they are charged with nothing less than the maintenance of order and beauty in the universe. Aquinas suggests as much when he writes that “angels rule the bodily world. St. Gregory says that in this visible world nothing occurs without the agency of invisible creatures.” (A Tour of the Summa, p. 91)

May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

~Eowyn

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