The Song of the Angels

Fresco from the Church of the Holy Trinity, Manasija (Resava) Monastery, Serbia. Pre-1418. Photo: yandex.ru Fresco from the Church of the Holy Trinity, Manasija (Resava) Monastery, Serbia. Pre-1418. Photo: yandex.ru     

Man lives for a relatively short time. Generations come and go, like waves lapping gently on the shore. If God says something important to one generation, the following is quite likely to forget it. And people of the generation after that will say, “I know nothing about this. No one told me anything”. Therefore God tells the most important things to heaven and earth. They are reliable witnesses; from the first day of creation to the day of the fiery Judgement, they do not change. Between them lives man, treading the earth and lifting his face to the heavens. If necessary, they will remind forgetful man of what they had once heard. “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; let the earth hear the words of my mouth”—this is the voice of Moses, predicting punishment for forsaking God (Deut 32.1). “Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth; for the Lord has spoken.” It is Isaiah who is speaking, bitterly bemoaning the fact that Moses’ predictions are coming true right before his eyes (Isa 1.2).

And here is a third text, not a lamentation this time but a song of joy about earth having been united with heaven in a single night, something which will never be repeated and will never be forgotten: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men” (Lk 2.14). Angels in heaven began to sing that peace was coming down to earth. It came in the form of a tiny child, born in a cave. They were singing about an accomplished fact. Christ is this peace. He has been born. He is already on earth.

Angels know more than humans do, yet even they do not know everything. The future is not revealed to them and, in the same way as humans, they are amazed by God’s mysteries. Probably, now that the Lord had come to dwell among people, those bright, joyful servants of the Incarnation thought that they would stop being vindictive and proud, stop telling lies and stealing, stop fornicating and having recourse to sorcerers. They had good reason to think that people would be amazed at God’s descent in the same way that they themselves were. “They will be overjoyed, though trembling at the same time,” thought the heavenly singers. “They will learn to love and will change their lives just as they change their old clothes for new ones.” However, the angels were in for a surprise. Once again, men behaved unpredictably.

At first, they wanted to kill Christ. The angelic song was still echoing in the air of Bethlehem when throughout the neighbourhood heart-rending cries could be heard: Herod’s warriors were slaughtering infants in front of their mothers. And Christ, who had hardly been born, had become a fugitive. The angels, who were used to covering their faces at the sight of God’s glory, were now covering them so as to avoid seeing this massacre of babies or watching Joseph and Mary disappear into the distance with the Baby.

“Peace has already come to earth,” these pure spirits thought. “How long will it take for men to allow that peace to enter into their hearts?” They began to clearly understand that human history would be equally as complicated and horrible as it had always been, and would perhaps be even more complex. The number of those who truly love Christ would possibly be few in number, as few as the shepherds to whom they had been singing, in comparison with the total number of inhabitants in Bethlehem. Their discerning minds had already envisaged the future confrontation of the holiness brought by this newborn child with sin—multi-headed, hissing menacingly, and refusing to die.

“It is going to be very difficult for them,” said one of the angels to the others.

“Just think how difficult it is going to be for the Lord to live among them and to shoulder their infirmities,” said another.

“They need faith,” added a third. “It would be good, if they remembered the words of our song. Let’s sing it again, because it’s so good!”

And so they began to sing again—not for people now, but for themselves. And in fact it was a new song, one which no one had ever sung before either on earth or in heaven.

They were not mistaken, those bright servants of the Nativity. Our life has not become easy, but on the other hand it has acquired a purpose. In order for a stable and durable peace to become established on earth, each of us must allow Christ into our hearts—although everyone who has tried to achieve this knows how difficult such a task is. Yet we go on trying. The soft light from the cave in Bethlehem illumines our path. Whenever we fall, whether as a result of sins or tiredness, angels hurry down from heaven to help us. As for us, we repeat their song every time we begin to read the Six Psalms.

Archpriest Andrei Tkachev
Translation for OrthoChristian.com

11/21/2020

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