When amidst a distracted and sinful life you suddenly feel a revulsion for sin, and under the influence of bright thoughts you get the desire to change your way of life, it means that your guardian angel has found a serendipitous moment to place before your inner eyes sin as it really is, in all its foulness.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!
The holy apostle John the Theologian says that during one of his visions he heard the voice of many Angels surrounding the Throne of God (Rev. 5:11). That very voice, unceasingly glorifying God, is explained to us by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, who saw the Seraphim standing near the Throne of God, calling to each other, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabbaoth, heaven and earth are full of His glory! (Is. 6:3).
In the Epistle we read today, the holy apostle Paul, with feelings of gratitude to God for His supreme love for man, cites the following words of the holy Psalmist David: What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: (Heb. 2:6-7). The Lord so loved man that He set the Angels to guard him in all his ways. The Psalmist expresses this relationship of the Lord toward the human race in the following words: For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. On their hands shall they bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone (Ps. 90:11-12). How consoling this is to man, who in the both external world and his own heart is damaged by thousands of attacks from cunning and powerful enemies! These comforting words apply to each of us who has hope through faith in the Divine Redeemer to inherit salvation, for the Apostle Paul clearly says, Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? (Heb. 1:14). This means that we have a Guardians Angels who are powerful in strength, and always ready to help us.
According to the teaching of Divine Scripture, Angels are bodiless, spiritual beings; that means that their very association with us should be only spiritual; that is, they can act directly only upon our spiritual nature, and through it spread their influence also upon our physical organism, and on all manner of our activity. The Angels’ service to man begins from the time of our birth from water and the Spirit [our Baptism]. The Guardian Angel receives the soul of a newly baptized person under his care, lovingly guarding it from all dangers and raising it until the newly baptized is strengthened in his understanding and is able to clearly discern good and evil.
An infant comes to the world feeble; he requires not only maternal care, but also help from above, and that is why God in His Providence assigns him a Guardian Angel. The Guardian Angel overshadows and comforts the child with his immaterial wings like a precious creation of God, entrusted to his watch. The infant has a rational soul that by its purity and innocence is close to the bodiless spirits, and therefore the Guardian Angel remains ever present with the infant’s soul. That is why amazingly wise words often proceed from the lips of children, just like prophecies, warnings, or peace-making. Or they will talk about God and paradise, or heaven with such uncanny wisdom. This is all an echo of what the Angel mystically whispers to the child.
Gradually growing from strength to strength, the infant becomes a child. When he reaches this age he begins to amuse himself, to play games, and here he needs particular supervision from his parents; but he doesn’t always get it. This is when the Guardian Angel wards off catastrophe and danger. And where can the orphan child find protection if not from his Guardian Angel?
Even when we reach the age of the knowledge of good and evil, although we are ruled by our own reason we still cannot say that we no longer need the guidance and protection of our Guardian Angel. To the contrary, our life becomes more complex and we have all kinds of worries, and therefore we feel an even greater need for our Guardian Angel’s care. All our life should be a constant vigil, because the slightest moral lapse, inattentiveness to ourselves, absent-mindedness, or attraction to pleasure give the enemy a chance to instill sinful thoughts and feelings in us, despite our best inclinations and intentions.
The apostle Paul says, Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8). But is it easy for a person surrounded by needs, vanity, and the distractions of this world to remain continually in state of vigilance? From time to time we fall into slumber, into moral sleepiness. But we all have on the watch our Guardian Angels, our friends and heavenly protectors. All along our life’s path we hear their voice: “Be careful, were are you going? Turn back!” They wake up our sleeping conscience and guard us, so that we would not stumble on the stone of temptation; they correct the inadequacies of our damaged nature, purifying our thoughts and senses of sinful dregs, and supplying opportunities for us to perfect our best qualities and gifts.
When amidst a distracted and sinful life you suddenly feel a revulsion for sin, and under the influence of bright thoughts you get the desire to change your way of life, it means that your guardian angel has found a serendipitous moment to place before your inner eyes sin as it really is, in all its foulness. Even our sleep is guarded by our Guardian Angel. Our Guardian Angel aids us in perfecting our prayer to God, awakening feelings of compunction in us. St. John Climacus says, “When while saying your prayers you feel an inner sweetness or compunction, then stop, and remain in it, for then your Guardian Angel is praying together with you.”
The Guardian Angels’ service is not limited to this present life, either. They will travel with us as we enter the world beyond the grave. At our departure from this our pilgrim’s life, when neither friends, nor relatives can give us any help, our Guardian Angel will be very necessary to us. He will not abandon us even then, when we are abandoned by all. We cannot fully imagine what it will be like for us in the other world unknown to us—the horror that will overcome us when we recognize our vices and sins committed, and at the thought that we must soon appear before the face of God Himself, the Righteous Judge. Thus, our Guardian Angels will always be near us, accompanying us everywhere, if only we do not drive them away by our sinful lives. If we do that they depart from us and grieve, and in their place will come our enemy, the devil.
“As smoke chases away the bee and stench drives way the dove,” says Holy Hierarch Basil the Great,” so does much-grievous and foul-smelling sin drive away our Guardian Angel.” One day the holy hierarch of Christ Niphont saw a youth standing at the gates of one house weeping, and he asked him, “Why are you standing here weeping?” The youth answered, “I am an Angel sent by the Lord to protect a man who has been for several days now in a house of ill repute. I am standing here because I cannot get near the sinner, and I am weeping because I am losing hope of bringing him to the path of repentance.” An Angel once said to St. Pachomius the Great, “Whoever has become dead to God and virtue through his wicked life stinks a thousand times more than the worst dead body, so that we can in no way stand next to him, or walk near him.”
Why do we so often fall, endure catastrophes and do not receive help from the Angels, and what do we need in order for the Guardian Angels to preserve us on the paths of our life? The Angels’ influence on man is spiritual, that is, it has an influence on spiritual nature. Therefore, the more a man lives in the spiritual world, the more he acts not according to his fleshly desires but rather according to the suggestions of his mind enlightened by the Gospel teachings and his conscience, the more capable he will be of a close association with the Heavenly Powers, and the more he will have their heavenly help and protection. But we for the most part live not according to the spirit, but rather according to the flesh. Cleaving with all our heart to sensual things, chasing after phantom pleasures, spending most of our time amidst vain cares and worldly distractions we very rarely rise up by our thoughts to the spiritual world. This is the reason why we do not receive help from the Angels.
Pious people vividly felt the closeness of their Guardian Angels, and their help along all their life’s paths. There is testimony to the Angels’ service to man in both the Old and New Testaments. Belief in the existence of Angels has existed not only in the Christian world, but also in all the ancient religions: the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the Egyptians, the Chinese, the Indians, and the Mohamedans. We Christians should especially believe in Angels and not only believe, but also call upon them in our prayers, and emulate them according to our strength in our earthly lives, so that when we leave this world we might be worthy of a place with them, where we can sing the praises of God worshipped in the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
From: Archimandrite Kirill, Seek Ye First the Kingdom of Heaven (Moscow: St. Sergius Lavra Metochion, 2002), 194-200 [Russian].