Have you ever wondered how many Angels God created? I realize that we can never know, just like we cannot know how many stars are in the universe. One thing is for sure, there has to be as many Angels as there are people, because every person has his own guardian Angel. So, every person who ever existed before and after us, are assigned our personal Angel. But, are all Angels the same? Well, according to St. Thomas, each Angel stands apart from each other. They each are specifically different and posses more or less perfection than the one next to him, by a degree higher or lower.
In the Bible, there seems to be various orders and ranks among the Angels. Scripture mentions nine different orders of Angels. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we find these; Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominations, Principalites, Powers, Virtues, Archangels and Angels. It seems that because Scripture distinguishes the different orders, we can reasonably believe that there are different ranks in the spirit world. There has been mention of hierarchies of Angels since the days of St. Ignatius Martyr, who died in 107AD. In his Epistle to the Trallians, he says this; “I am in chains and able to grasp heavenly things, the ranks of the angels, the hierarchy of principalities, things visible and invisible.”
Saint John Damascene had this to say on the matter of Choirs and Hierarchies; “As the most holy and venerable man and excellent theologian Denis the Areopagite ((Pseudo Dionysius) says, the entire theology, that is Sacred Scripture, has listed nine celestial substances which our master theologian has divided in three orders [hierarchies] ( De Fide Ortho.,2:3).” St. Ambrose, in his theory of the nine Choirs and the three Hierarchies, defined it this way, starting with the most perfect Hierarchy:
I. THE SUPREME HIERARCHY: (Seraphim – Cherubim – Thrones)
II. MIDDLE HIERARCHY: (Dominations – Virtues – Powers)
III. LOWER HIERARCHY: (Principalities – Archangels – Angels)
The Seraphim (from the Hebrew saraph), is the first Choir of the supreme Hierarchy of the Angels. Seraph is found only twice in Scripture. They are positioned next to God in the Court of Heaven. The Seraphim’s primary duty is to sing constantly to God.
The Cherubim (from the singular word KeRUBH), appear in Scripture as heavenly custodians and protectors of holy places and holy things. They also seem to be the throne bearers of Almighty God.
The Thrones are named in the Bible, but no clue is given about the nature and duties of this Angelic Choir.
The Dominations are also mentioned, but without a word of explanation of their duties.
The Virtues are referred to by St. Peter to be good Angels. However, St. Paul mentions Virtues in the sense of spiritual powers that are hostile to Christ: “When he [Christ] shall have brought to naught all principality, and power, and virtue (1 Cor15:24).”
The Powers come from the second Angelic Hierarchy. The name is found in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament it takes on a specific meaning as the order of spirits, both good Angels and evil spirits.
The Principalities are the first among the lower Hierarchy of Angels. They too have both the sense of good Angels and of demons (fallen Angels). St. Jude says this about these Angels: “And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgment of the great day.
The Archangels are perhaps the best known of all, except for the Choir of Angels themselves. They are leaders among the Angels and superior to the Choir of Angels.
The Angels are the lowest Choir of the Hierarchies. This Choir is more directly in contact with us here on earth. It is from this Choir that Guardian Angels are ordinarily, yet not exclusively, taken from. They help guide and protect individual souls during our earthly lives.
Until next time, God bless.