Three Angels and Young Tobias- Fra Filippo Lippi. 1485.

Not just harping around- Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels

The word angel comes from the Greek, “aggelos,” and means “messenger”. Although the Catholic Church acknowledges that there are seven Archangels according to Sacred Scripture and sacred tradition the Council of Rome in 745, under the reign of Pope Saint Zachary, officially acknowledges the names of only three of the seven Archangels: St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael. This is because these three Archangels are the only angels named in Scripture.

The names of the other four Archangels appear in Jewish and Christian sources outside of the canon of Sacred Scripture (an example is the Book of Enoch chapter 20) and their names are: Uriel, Raguel, Zerachiel, and Remiel.

Since the fourth century, nine choirs or types of angels were identified in the Bible and popularized in the Middle Ages by various theologians and writers, like St. Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Hildegard of Bingen and John Scotus Erigena. Together, they form the “hosts of heaven,” i.e., God’s army of angels. Almighty God is called “Lord of Hosts” (in Hebrew, “Yahweh Sabaoth”) over three hundred times in the Old Testament and twice in the New Testament (Rom 9:29 and Jas 5:4).

There are three hierarchies and orders existing among the angels. These names are often heard in the prayer (depending upon the liturgical solemnity) just before the Sanctus or Holy Holy is sung.  The highest hierarchy includes the orders of Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones. The middle hierarchy includes Dominations, Virtues and Powers. The lowest hierarchy includes Principalities, Archangels and Angels. This classification is accepted by the doctors of the Church. In Paul’s Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, he mentions– Thrones, Dominions (or Dominations), Powers, Virtues, and Principalities.

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