Bless the Lord, all you angels, you ministers, who do his will. Ps. 103
October 2nd is the Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels. While praying the readings of that day last month, I felt a movement in my heart. It suggested that I spend some time in silence every day with my guardian angel.
Do you believe in guardian angels?
My mother did. She named hers ‘François’. My maternal grandmother taught me a prayer her own father had given her, asking the good angel to look after my body while I am alive and to take care of my soul when I die. Even though I say this prayer pretty much every night, I cannot say that until the recent Memorial I nurtured a close relation with my guardian angel. To this day, he has no name.
Angels come in different ways, in both the Old and New Testaments, protecting, healing, guarding. They can be good or bad. Angels can also be found in daily life: someone appears out of nowhere, gives a break at a crucial time, and moves on. Who was that person? I expect everyone of us, hopefully, is an angel to someone at one time or another in the course of our life.
I had a powerful encounter (of a different kind) with an angel more than thirty years ago. I was living in Lima, Peru at the time and was writing a story on Eve. I had read Merlin Stone’s When God was a Woman. Her book had removed the scales from my eyes and unbound my mind. The story of Adam and Eve is a patriarchal story produced to destroy women’s myths and rites. A three or four-thousand year old myth had stopped being the burden it had been until then. The sinfulness I had inherited from Eve was a myth… Poof! Gone!
As I was thinking about Eve in the garden, I ‘saw’ that the snake was in fact an angel who happened to have a snake embroidered on his robe. The angel came upon Eve by accident. Why did he happen to be in the garden, I do not know. What the embroidered snake meant, I cannot say either. We are told that angels are neither male nor female. I am not sure about that. In our days of gay liberation, the idea that the angel might have been female adds a new twist to my story. But in Peru I imagined the angel as a male, without his being aware of it. God does not need angels to reproduce themselves. What angels do not know cannot hurt them.
Anyway. The angel comes across Eve. He has heard of God’s earthly creation: the sky, the ocean, the birds in the air, the fish in the sea, trees, and flowers. Everything so incredibly new, different from Heaven, and beautiful. Our angel is stunned by Eve’s beauty. In her virginal purity, she just sees the angel as one creation among others. She does not notice a difference. She does not question. Why would she? She takes for granted that he belongs in the garden, like everything else. The angel, on the other hand, cannot not keep his eyes away from Eve. He watches her for days, slightly annoyed at Adam’s presence, whom he sees as an dim-witted oaf, an awkward boor.
Comes the time when the angel finds Eve alone. They start spending time together. She enjoys his presence; he is not like from Adam; he seems to see something different in her, which makes her feel nice.
How does the angel think of suggesting to Eve to eat a fruit from the tree of good and evil? He wants her to be more like him and less like Adam. He hopes that through eating the apple from the tree, this will happen. Of course, he never imagines that Eve will offer Adam a bite from the apple. The angel never anticipates the repercussions. As we know, in the story, Adam and Eve are chased out of the Garden. The angel is expelled from heaven, forever reviled and feared.
In the days that I imagine the story, I could feel the connection between Eve and the angel, as if the two of them were with me in the kitchen as I was preparing dinner. In fact, as I really did not know what to ‘do’ with the angel’s presence which felt so real, I filed the story away and did return to it until now.
In more recent years, as I was preparing once again to walk the Camino, wondering whether my body would withstand one more time on the road to Santiago, I remember one day, lying on the ground in tears (and in pain). Suddenly, the play of light coming through the window did create, for a few moments, like a sparkling presence hovering over me, showering love and encouragement.
These days, when I think of my guardian angel who must have been getting white hair trying to protect me from myself (mainly), I dialogue, ask questions, wonder. Of course, by now, I do see the angel as a companion getting me ready for the hereafter. It is a nice feeling.
Is my guardian angel an imaginary friend, with whom I walk, dance, daydream? Does my guardian angel look at me the way the angel looked at Eve? Am I just a weird creation or someone with the incredible luck to have a divine spark hidden in the depths of my being, which makes me infinitely lovable?
I do not know. Still the movement in my heart on October 2nd remains a reality, something which did happen, an invitation to spend time with the invisible, this agent of the All-Loving…
Art: Benozzo Gozzoli (1421-1497, Angels