Angels on


Angels, Guides and Guardians

Written By Sophy Burnham

What are angels? The word comes from the Greek meaning messenger. Angels come, therefore, in any way that the message can be received, in dreams and intuitions—the little tap on the shoulder that says “go there, don’t go there.” And everyone has had this experience: “I knew I should go down that road, and I didn’t listen!”

They come as accident and coincidence—the book that falls off the shelf open to a page offering you. . . pure gold. They come as animals, and sometimes they come as humans. A stranger will approach and say just what you needed to hear that moment… or you will act as an angel to someone, often without even knowing it.

The question is, will you recognize them when they come? …

The Bible has close to 360 references to angels. But it’s not the ones that came 3000 years ago that we want to know about—but the ones who come to us, today….

There are three marks of an angel, and everyone who sees one agrees on them:

First they come as Light. Warmth. Home. Safety. Mother. You are washed with peace and joy.

Secondly they always say the same thing. Don’t be afraid, they say. Fear not. They never say: “Look at the mess you’ve made now!”

Third, you may not quite believe what happened, but neither can you forget.

They have one other quality—these handmaidens of God: and that is light-heartedness. Lighten up, they say. Don’t take things so seriously.

Once I was walking along the canal in Washington. I was in a funk, because even though I’ve seen into other worlds, I still forget. I’ve seen angels. Once an angel saved my life. But I’m human, I get scared. I was walking along that day, feeling desperate. “Show me you’re here,” I prayed. “I need a sign. And I’m not in the mood for one of your subtle signs that I can’t read. You’re going to have to hit me over the head with it.”

Just then a flock of pigeons rose out of the canal. And that in itself was magical: pigeons don’t roost in the canal. Seagulls maybe. They were breathtaking. The light flashed off their white wings. My heart lifted. They circled in the air, and then one let go—splat!—right on top of my head.

What could I do but laugh?

There are many questions: Why do they come some times and not others? To children more than adults? To women more than men?

What draws angels to us? This question I can answer. I think it is our innocence. It is our open-hearted love and receptivity. What drives them away? It is anger, violence, vengeance, a hardening of the heart. Because the path to God comes through the heart. That’s the teaching of the Inner Journey: do I love more deeply? Am I awake?…

We are composed of love. The very cells of our body are burning—our skin flaring—with the fire of love. For within each one of us is the spark of the Divine.

“When I flowed out of the creator,” wrote Meister Eckhart, “all creatures stood up and shouted, ‘Behold. Here is God!’ And they were correct.”

Consider also an Hassidic Jewish teaching: “Before every human being comes a retinue of angels, announcing, ‘Make way for an image of the Holy One, Blessed be He.’”

Copyright ©2006 Sophy Burnham

Excerpted from a talk delivered at the Lenten Noonday Preaching Series at Calvary Episcopal Church, Memphis TN.