I remember once hearing an Orthodox priest saying that he couldn’t imagine becoming Protestant because Protestant prayer is so lonely. He said this because Eastern Orthodox worship — and all traditional Christian worship — makes no secret of its belief that when the faithful gather together in prayer, all the Saints, Angels, and Archangels join in with them. A full cosmology leads to a deeply enchanted world.
Many of the esoteric or ‘new age’ spiritualities I’ve explored in my attempt to re-enchant my world echo this full cosmology, offering teachings about all kinds of angels and guides. And a lot of how they talk about these figures (though certainly not all!) is very reminiscent of traditional Christian understanding and practices around the communion of saints and angelic beings. Traditional Christianity has absolutely no difficulty in affirming the presence of angels (divine messengers and protectors) and the continuing role of the saints after they have died in interceding and, in some mysterious ways, acting on our behalf. And at many times and places in Christian history, it’s been customary for children to seek the intercessions of their dead parents and grandparents.
The long and the short of these teachings it is that we are not alone on this journey of life and faith. The world is full and, perhaps more importantly, full of friends and allies, eager to pray for us, guide us, and protect us.
Reflecting on this, I’ve been more intentional about engaging with these ideas in these past few months. I’ve been deliberate about remembering my ancestors and asking for their wisdom. I’ve done guided meditations seeking to meet angelic guides. I’ve prayed through how some of the Saints who have been most active in my life might react in my shoes and what they might say if I were to ask for their advice. Most recently, I’ve simply taken a few minutes in my normal morning practices to remember, learn about, and ask for the intercessions of one Saint commemorated on that day.
For the most part, these experiences have been pretty mundane. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been effective. Quite the opposite. To remember that we are not alone, but are being encouraged and cheered on through the prayers and wisdom of those who have gone before us is powerful. God has done so much in the lives of so many for so long. This is part of why I wanted to spend Lent reading and contemplating the mystics — not just reading about them or summaries of their thought, but spending time in their own words, in their prayers, in their meditations and visions.
I say “for the most part” these experiences have been pretty mundane. There is one exception that I haven’t been sure what to do with. For weeks last Spring and Summer, the image of a particular angelic being kept appearing to me: in books, in cards, in dreams, in meditations. Eventually I asked for their name, and I was offered a name that I discovered upon researching is an actual name, and not only that, but its construction is very reminiscent of how the Biblical Angels were named, meaning “God has done so much” (cf., Gabriel, ‘God is my strength’ and Raphael, ‘God heals’).
While I don’t know what I really think about this experience — whether it was a projection from my subconscious, a creation of my imagination, or, sure, even a visitation from on high — it’s certainly given me pause. It’s a beautiful thing to imagine that there are angels all around us, rushing here and there on their divine missions and supporting us in ours. And, because one of my spiritual battlefields is about scarcity, the particular message represented by this Angel’s name — “God has done so much” — has been a powerful reminder of all that God has done, not only for me, but in the lives of countless Saints of every tongue, tribe, and nation, throughout the centuries.
So, where does that leave me? Just grateful, I guess. For God has done so much. And I, we, are not alone.