Greek: angelos, messenger
A pure spirit, created by God, called angel because some are employed by God as messengers to man. “Pure spirit” means that the angelic nature is entirely spiritual, that an angel has no body and is dependent in no way, either for its existence or its operations, on matter. The angels were created at or near the time when the material world came into existence, and were placed by God in a state of probation or trial. Many of them sinned by pride and were cast into Hell forever; these are called devils, demons, or fallen angels. Those who remained faithful were rewarded with eternal happiness in the vision of God; and the term “angel” used without modification is generally applied only to these.
From Scripture, we know that the angels constitute a vast multitude, beyond the power of man to imagine or conceive. They differ, too, in perfection of nature and of grace. According to this diversity of perfection, they are classified in three hierarchies, each hierarchy having three orders making, in all, nine choirs, in the following descending order:
- Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones
- Dominations, Virtues, Powers
- Principalities, Archangels, Angels
It should be noted that the term “angel,” while applicable to all, is also used as a distinctive name for the lowest choir, from which the guardian angels are usually selected.
Devotion to the angels can be traced to the earliest ages of the Church. We venerate their excellence and petition their ministrations. The month of October is specially dedicated to them and the feast of all the angels is celebrated in common, with that of Michael on 29 September. There are also feast-days for Raphael and Gabriel who, with Michael, are the only angels mentioned by name in Scripture.