Christians who say Compline, the night office of the Church, before ending the day are familiar with the words, "For he will give his angels charge over you/ to keep you in all your ways" (Ps.91.11); and "may your holy angels guard over us and bring us safely to another day" (collect).
October has long been regarded as the month when we give special thanks for angels. Guardian angels are commemorated on the 2nd, following almost immediately after the Church celebrates Michaelmas on 29th September. On this day we remember not only Michael the great prince of angels but the whole angelic hosts. When there was a war in heaven it was the archangel, Michael who drove Lucifer out after his rebellion. Apart from this episode described in Revelations (12), there are three other mentions of Michael in the Bible two in Daniel, and Jude's letter. In the former he is called "the great prince" who supported the Israelites through their seventy years of captivity in Babylon (ch.12), and in the latter he disputed with Satan over the body of Moses (v.9).
Traditionally Michael is one of seven archangels. The others are Raphael and Gabriel (who are also especially remembered on the 29th), Uriel, Raguel, Sariel and Jermiel (who appear in apocryphal writings). Christians are familiar with Gabriel as he is the messenger from God who announced to the young Mary that she would be the Mother of God (Lk.1.26ff). But it is also he who announced to the priest Zachary that his elderly wife, Elizabeth, Mary's cousin, will bear a child (Lk.1.19). Like Michael Gabriel appears before Daniel firstly to interpret a vision (Dan.8.15), and to foretell the coming of the Messiah and the destruction of Jerusalem and its sanctuary (Dan. 9. 21-27). And what about Raphael? How many of us know anything about him? If we know the book of Tobit then we shall recall that he is the angel of healing. In this beautiful book he not only cured the aged Tobit of his blindness but also as the disguised companion of the young Tobit brought healing and reconciliation of various kinds along the way. This book contains the grandest angelophany of the whole Bible. After accomplishing his mission, Raphael announced who he is. "And now the Lord hath sent me to heal thee, and to deliver Sara thy son's wife from the devil. For I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord." His mission completed, Raphael announced, "It is time therefore that I return to him that sent me; but bless ye God, and publish all his wonderful works" (Tob.12.14-20).
From Scripture is clear that angels are God's messengers, but of course they are more than this. Their main ministry is to serve God continually. In heaven they "cast their crowns before" Him, and in humility they hide "their faces before the Lord of Hosts" as they worship Him. Yet their worship is not limited to the heavenly realm as they surround each altar when the Eucharist is celebrated by joining their praises and thanksgivings with those of priest and people. They also act as intermediaries as they descend and ascend the ladder between heaven and earth conveying God's favour and grace to men. Furthermore they rejoice in heaven when sinners repent, they have out welfare at heart, and in this life their last service for us in this life "is to carry and convey us into Abraham's bosom".
What are they? They are "glorious spirits". Although "wholly spiritual", they are not "shadowes"; although "invisible", they have "spirit"; although "immortal [and] incorruptible, yet not so immortal but that God may destroy them" (Andrewes).
Angels remind us that this cosmos consists of both the unseen and seen. They also remind us that we are both a spiritual and bodily being, and therefore we must be attuned to our spiritual needs as much as to the bodily. If we but realised it, it is the spiritual we require the most. To cope with living in this visible world we need to be richly nourished by the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness faith, meekness, patience, modesty, temperance and chastity. But these can only come through a life that is surrendered to the will of the Holy Spirit so that it is He who works through us. This of course can only be achieved through living in tune with God all day. We have to see God as our constant companion along our Christian journey and talk and listen to him as we would to our best friend. When we do this we also become very conscious of those glorious spirits, our guardian angels.