The Angelic Hosts
Angels were created as the most perfect reflections of God’s grandeur and glory. In Scripture they can be seen as heralds of God’s will, guides, and ministers of our salvation. We also see that they are innumerable, whereby “a thousand thousands ministered to Him and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him” (Daniel 7:10).
According to St Dionysius the Areopagite in his work On the Heavenly Hierarchy, the angelic hosts are triadic in structure, like God, and are divided into three orders with three ranks of angels in each order. Each rank has a name corresponding to the property of God it exhibits, and each property is transmitted from the higher orders to the lower. The three orders and nine angelic ranks can be summarised as follows:
Angels (Άγγελοι) are the lowest of all the heavenly orders and the closest to man. They announce the lesser mysteries and intentions of God, and teach people to live virtuously and righteously before God. At Baptism, each person receives as a life long companion a guardian angel from this rank. Archangels (Αρχάγγελοι) are the heralds of good news: they reveal prophecies, knowledge, and understanding of God’s will. They strengthen people in Faith, enlightening their mind with the light of knowledge of the Holy Gospel and revealing the mysteries of God. Principalities (Αρχές) receive their name as they are wholly turned towards the Prince of Princes. They are entrusted with the management of the universe and the keeping of all the kingdoms, lands and all people, races and nations.
Virtues (Εξουσίες – lit. authorities) perpetuate God’s beauty and send down the grace of miracle-working to those worthy. They help people labouring and those overburdened by troubles, bearing the infirmities of the weak and strengthening all in virtue. Powers (∆υνάµεις) maintain peace and harmony. They restrain the demons and repulse the temptations brought upon people by the fallen angels. They help those wrestling with passions and vices to cast out evil thoughts. Dominions (Κυριότητες – lit. lordships) dominate over the lower ranks of angels, and preside over nations. They transmit God’s forgiveness and mercy and perpetually send power to the other ranks for prudent governing and wise management. They teach how to control the senses, how to subdue desires and how to rule over one’s will to overcome temptations.
Thrones (Θρόνοι) reflect God’s righteous judgment. They serve His justice, glorifying it and pouring it out onto all other ranks, down to our earthly judges and masters to help them bring forth right judgment. The many-eyed Cherubim (Χερουβείµ – lit. out-flowing wisdom) are radiant with the knowledge of the mysteries of God and the depths of His wisdom. They transmit the knowledge of God down to other ranks and humans and spiritually enlighten them to “see” God. Seraphim (Σεραφείµ – lit. flaming) are aflame with love for God “for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29). Being closest of all angelic ranks to God, they kindle others to the love of God.
Source: Lychnos October / November 2016