Come, let us adore the Lord, whom the angels serve.
Year: A(I). Psalm week: 2. Liturgical Colour: White.
The Holy Guardian Angels
The doctrine that every individual soul has a guardian angel has never been defined by the Church and so is not an article of faith, but is the “mind of the Church”, as expressed particularly by St Jerome and St Basil. it is present in both the Old and New Testaments. As Jesus says, See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven always gaze on the face of my Father in heaven. Thus even little children have guardian angels, and these angels remain in the presence of God even as they fulfil their mission on earth.
Anciently, all angels were celebrated together on the feast of St Michael. A separate feast of the Guardian Angels began in Valencia in 1411. At the reform of the Breviary in the 16th century it was included among the local feasts, and it was raised to the status of a feast in the General Calendar in 1608, placed on the first free day after the feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.
One of the benefits of this feast is that it reminds us that God cares for us each, individually. We all know this in theory, but it is easy – in times of depression or temptation – to convince ourselves that we are too small to matter, for good or ill. Let us use this feast to remind ourselves that each of us has an angel of our very own looking after us; and also to pray to God for our own Guardian Angel. What a bore and a burden to them some of us are. May we one day be a cause of rejoicing for them also.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
Second Reading: St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 - 1153)
Bernard was born near Dijon, in France, in 1090, of a noble family. In 1112 he joined the new monastery at Cîteaux. This had been founded fourteen years before, in a bid to reject the laxity and riches of much of the Benedictine Order of the time (as exemplified by the great monasteries such as Cluny) and to return to a primitive poverty and austerity of life.
Bernard arrived at Cîteaux with four of his five brothers and two dozen friends. Within three years he had been sent out to found a new monastery at Clairvaux, in Champagne, where he remained abbot for the rest of his life. By the time of his death, the Cistercian Order (“the Order of Cîteaux”) had grown from one house to 343, of which 68 were daughter houses of Clairvaux itself.
Bernard was a man of great holiness and wisdom, and although he was often in very poor health, he was active in many of the great public debates of the time. He strongly opposed the luxurious lives of some of the clergy, and fought against the persecution of the Jews. He was also a prolific writer, and the Liturgy of the Hours uses extracts from many of his sermons.
Liturgical colour: white
White is the colour of heaven. Liturgically, it is used to celebrate feasts of the Lord; Christmas and Easter, the great seasons of the Lord; and the saints. Not that you will always see white in church, because if something more splendid, such as gold, is available, that can and should be used instead. We are, after all, celebrating.
In the earliest centuries all vestments were white – the white of baptismal purity and of the robes worn by the armies of the redeemed in the Apocalypse, washed white in the blood of the Lamb. As the Church grew secure enough to be able to plan her liturgy, she began to use colour so that our sense of sight could deepen our experience of the mysteries of salvation, just as incense recruits our sense of smell and music that of hearing. Over the centuries various schemes of colour for feasts and seasons were worked out, and it is only as late as the 19th century that they were harmonized into their present form.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)
|Acts 5:17-20 ©
The high priest intervened with all his supporters from the party of the Sadducees. Prompted by jealousy, they arrested the apostles and had them put in the common gaol. But at night the angel of the Lord opened the prison gates and said as he led them out, ‘Go and stand in the Temple, and tell the people all about this new Life.’
|Noon reading (Sext)
|Acts 12:7 ©
Then suddenly the angel of the Lord stood there, and the cell was filled with light. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him. ‘Get up!’ he said ‘Hurry!’ – and the chains fell from his hands.
|Afternoon reading (None)
|Acts 10:3-5 ©
One day at about the ninth hour he had a vision in which he distinctly saw the angel of God come into his house and call out to him, ‘Cornelius!’ He stared at the vision in terror and exclaimed, ‘What is it, Lord?’ ‘Your offering of prayers and alms’, the angel answered, ‘has been accepted by God. Now you must send someone to Jaffa and fetch a man called Simon, known as Peter.’