Some think that Christians pray to an “old man in the sky,” that for Christians God is rather a distant figure. Of course God is in heaven, but He is omnipresent, he is everywhere. As the prayer “O Heavenly King” says, God (the Holy Spirit) is “everywhere present and fills all things”. If we read the Bible, we see that God is present in the world and in the hearts of humanity. Of course, God is present in the world most fully in the person of Jesus Christ, but we see that before the coming of Christ, God was often present by sending His angels into the world. For example, in the Book of Genesis, Jacob had a vision of angels ascending and descending to heaven, in other words, heaven was open and God was present to His people through His angels (Gen 28:12). In the New Testament Jesus Christ, recalling the Old Testament passages, says to Nathaniel that He would see heaven open and angels ascending and descending on the “Son of Man”, i.e., Jesus Christ Himself. In other words, Jesus Christ Himself is the person through whom heaven is open to humanity (Jn 1:51).
In the Creed we say that we believe that God created “all things visible and invisible”. Invisible here refers to the creation of the angels. Of course, this invisible world with its angels is something human beings ordinarily cannot see, but the lives of the saints show us that the invisible world and its angels sometimes become visible.
The word angel literally means messenger, but in the Orthodox Church angels are only one part of this invisible world. According to St. Dionysius the Areopagite, a fifth century saint, there are nine choirs of angels in three groups. Actually angels strictly speaking are the lowest part of this hierarchy of bodiless powers.
We should not take this classification too literally. However, we can say that in the Orthodox Church there is some difference in rank and office of the angels. We see angels acting in the whole Bible, Old Testament and New Testament. In the New Testament we see an angel appearing to Zechariah to announce his wife would give birth to John the Baptist (Lk 1:11). In Luke 12:6, the Archangel Gabriel announces to the Virgin Mary that she would give birth to Jesus Christ. In Luke 2:10 we see the angels announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. In Mark 4:11 the angels come and minister to Jesus Christ after his forty-day fast in the desert. In Luke 22:43 an angel comforts Jesus during his agony in the garden before his arrest, crucifixion and death. In Matthew 28:5 an angel announces the resurrection of Jesus and also moves the stone away from the tomb.
So we see angels acting in the world at God’s bidding. According to tradition, each person has a Guardian Angel and most Orthodox prayer books have a prayer to one’s Guardian Angel among morning prayers. Here is one such prayer: O Angel of God, my Holy Guardian, given to me from heaven by God for my protection, enlighten me this day, and save me from all evil, instruct me in doing good deeds, and set me on the path of salvation. Amen.
There have been many times when a Guardian Angel has intervened to help someone, and they even have become visible. We should remember that angels are real, and an important part of the spiritual world.
Troparion — Tone 4
Commanders of the heavenly hosts, we who are unworthy beseech you/ by your prayers encompass us beneath the wings of your immaterial glory and faithfully preserve us who fall down and cry to you: “Deliver us from all harm, for you are the commanders of the powers on high!”
Kontakion — Tone 2
Commanders of God’s armies and ministers of the divine glory, princes of the bodiless angels and guides of mankind, ask for what is good for us, and for great mercy, supreme commanders of the Bodiless Hosts.