By Fr Jonathan Tobias
“How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”
Doubtless, you’ve heard this question before, and you knew straightaway that it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously.
Angels have been long dismissed from modern thought, pretty much assigned to the same wastebasket of history into which the “flat earth” and the “green cheese moon” have been thrown. At the beginning of the modern age, in the 1600’s, some philosophers started poking fun at the idea of even thinking about such beings. They dismissed such thinking as mere and idle speculation, about as useless as arguing over “How many angels can dance upon the tip of a needle?”
For your information, by the way, no one in the medieval church — Thomas Aquinas nor any of the Scholastics — ever posed such a nonsensical question. This famous (and irresponsible) question actually came from post-Reformation philosophers: neither sort had any room for angels or even rumors of angels: angels were not material and thus could not be observed, experimented upon, and defined. So therefore, in a “flat” sort of scientific worldview, they were simply dismissed.
But the modern world, despite its technological prowess, cannot afford to be so blindfolded. There is more to reality than what can be scientifically proven or even proposed. Hope and meaning, truth and goodness and even beauty cannot be manufactured from elementary particles.
We would be better off with a worldview that recognizes angels. Realistically and practically speaking, they’re all around. From the time of Apostles, the Christian Church has emphasized angels as a necessity for belief and life. There is no place in Creation that is not without angelic presence. Everything in the world is “managed” by these non-material beings, even the stars, even strange numbers like pi and e and the golden ratio.
But closest to our experience are the Guardian Angels. Every one of us has one, whose entire task is to help us become utterly transformed by divine love:
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones,” the Lord said in Matthew 18.10, “for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.”
The Divine Love of the Holy Trinity is at the very basis of all reality. Your Guardian Angel, whom you will see one day, is simply trying to make you real.