Friday, November 18, 2011

Of Angels...

While I've been working on this.....
.....I had some Gregorian Chant from Prinknash Abbey playing on my old tape player. This particular recording has the plainsong in Latin on one side and English on the other. It was a particular chant about an angel kneeling at the altar praying alongside the singer. It conjured up an image of a religious at his/her devotions being joined by an angel, not as a superior being but an equal.The Roman Catholic Church has some beautifully worded liturgy involving angels from those guarding us as we sleep to conveying us to the heavenly grace after death.The French 19th century painter, William Adolphe Bourgereau illustrates this well.
 It is a romantic image of its day but I like it none-the-less for that.
So what are these angels? They feature very strongly in the psyche. They can be manifested as winged beings or as in the Far East, Bodhisattvas.
The word "angel" stems from the Greek αγγελός, - angelo, meaning "messenger". Hermes was one such in Ancient Greek legend, he had winged feet and may be the forerunner of our current era image of a winged being. As an interesting aside Nike of Samothrake is a winged being but purports to being a deity rather than an angelos.

But  angels are more than mere messengers. Some act as guardians as depicted in the story of Tobit and the Angel , while others serve as celestial musicians or even as warriors.
Some of us like to believe we have a personal guardian angel. This idea is given credence in Elgar's "Dream of Gerontius". The words of this great choral work are taken from a poem written by Cardinal John Henry Newman . In it he describes how an angel had been given personal charge over the soul's safety and was responsible for bringing it to meet God. The link is to a lengthy poem but worth taking the time to read.

Do we have personal guardian angels? Do they even exist?

I have known times when it seemed there was someone/thing watching over me. There have been times when I've done something that was not quite right and sensed a watching being overcome with sadness or disappointment. Things have happened where I should not have survived, yet did. There have been times when I felt vulnerable and somehow sensed a re-assuring presence. I'm sure I'm not alone in all this. Do we have personal angels? I don't know.
Do they exist? Science can now demonstrate that much of what we take to be holy manifestations are in fact mental constructs manufactured by our own brains. Perhaps it is a survival mechanism. Perhaps the scientists are right, but when we look deeper, after all the imagery has been reasoned away, there's still something. 
"Photea, Angel of Light" from my sketchbook. An idea that may evolve into a painting as part of the myth and legend series.
A figment of my imagination. And yet, and yet.....

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