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Of saints, angels


IT is an uncomfortable truth that being truthful about one’s faith is a very risky exercise. Particularly if you are a Christian, admission of any fractures in the reconciliation of your beliefs can lose you friends and earn you scorn.

But I will go there anyway, because somehow the places where angels fear to tread seem to find me and beckon.

I have tried to imagine what it must have been like for people like Mary, who was visited by Gabriel, or Job, who at one point got visitation from one angel and then another, and another, and another until they all seem to have been talking at once.

How frightening that must have been. Without the context of television and other media to help you reimagine things, how would you process a visitation by a supernatural being?

I wonder what in fact, the angels looked like? Did they have wings? Were they wearing clothes?

What language did they communicate in? By the way have you noticed that in the movies, all aliens automatically speak and understand English?

I have never understood why filmmakers haven’t realised how idiotic this must appear to the billions of people in the world for whom English is not a first language. But we digress.

As a child I often thought that I would rather not be visited by an angel thank you very much. The prospect of coming face to face with one of God’s personal assistants was just too overwhelming — as was the realisation that I would have to be seriously virtuous for the rest of my life after that!

The word “angel” comes from the Greek word aggelos, which means “messenger.” And if angels are messengers from God, then I surely have met a number.

Perhaps you would prefer to call them saints instead, because they live among us.

The saints and angels that intervene in my life do not have any wings or even halos that I can see.

They do not appear mysteriously or descend from on high. Instead they present as ordinary people, entering and exiting from my life in the most ordinary ways — in the office, at a cocktail party, in the school car park, on the Internet, and occasionally even at church.

They do not make proclamations, or announce things from on high.

They generally just ask simple questions and gently make suggestions, instructions or fortuitous connections. It’s usually only later that I realise the divine intervention involved in the encounter.

I don’t know if one needs to be extra good or extra special to be visited by angels. I don’t know if the kind of angels that visit me are the same as those from long ago.

What I know for sure is that my life is peopled by saints and angels that appear when I need them, and exit when their work is done.

And I know that I am thankful.

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