Lessons from the Angels: Living for God Alone
Sunday, Lent IV
Read Zechariah 1:7–17
On the twenty‑fourth day of the eleventh month which is the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, the prophet; and Zechariah said, “I saw in the night, and behold, a man riding upon a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in the glen; and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses. Then I said, ‘What are these, my Lord?’ The angel who talked with me said to me, ‘I will show you what they are.’ So the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered, ‘These are they whom the Lord has sent to patrol the earth.’ And they answered the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees, ‘We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth remains at rest.’
Then the angel of the Lord said, ‘O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these seventy years?’ And the Lord answered gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me. So the angel who talked with me said to me, ‘Cry out, Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion. And I am very angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was angry but a little they furthered the disaster. Therefore, thus says the Lord, I have returned to Jerusalem with compassion; my house shall be built in it, says the Lord of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem. Cry again, Thus says the Lord of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.'”
Zechariah was given the wonderful task of describing what God would accomplish because of the people’s repentance (see 1:1-6). Under the heavy hand of judgment, they had sought the Lord and returned to him. Now, God was prepared to restore all that they had lost. “Behold,” the prophet writes in the final chapter, “a day of the Lord is coming, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in the midst of you” (14:1). Did the angel who spoke to Zechariah find joy in the happy news he was delivering? It is apparent that, like Ezekiel before him, Zechariah was assigned an angel to show him what he must report to the people, to lead him step-by-step through the revelatory visions that reveal God’s saving handiwork. The apostle John experienced much the same thing while on the island of Patmos. Angels are teachers as well as protectors, and they sometimes teach with audio-visual equipment.
From Jean Leclercq, OSB, “The Angelic Life”
“Why,” asks Abbot Haeften, “did Wolfgang call those who practice their rule the equals of the angels? Because the angels observe most exactly all the rules of the heavenly court. Hardly have they perceived the sign of the divine will when they fulfill it without delay. That is what the royal prophet wanted to indicate when he said, ‘Bless the Lord, all you who are His angels, who are powerful and who do His will.’ Thus the conduct of the angels allows us to characterize the manner in which the religious obey—it is swift—and the aim of their obedience: not to seek some advantage for themselves, but to carry out God’s command in order to show that they are His faithful servants. In this sense the religious practice an ‘angelic obedience.’ The religious who by that obedience imitates the angels will reach their happiness, according to the promise of St. Benedict himself: ‘Whoever you are who are hastening to the heavenly homeland, fulfill with the help of Christ this minimum rule. . . . Then at length under God’s protection you will attain to the loftier heights of doctrine and virtue which we have mentioned above.”
Thus the saints of old, such as St. Fulbert of Chartres and St. Peter Damian, compared the abbots, superiors of the monks, to the archangels.