How many angels are there in Farm Street??
Near the end of this month, Friday, 29th September, we celebrate the Feast of St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael, and with them all the angels. That has prompted me to ask :How many angels are there in Farm Street Church?
I have gone round counting carefully and I have found 98 in the church and its chapels, and 20 on the outside. The Victorians at the time our church was built were very much drawn to angels. We meet them in their paintings, especially those of the pre-Raphaelites. In their poetry too, such as Blessed John Henry Newman’s Dream of Gerontius, set to music by the Catholic composer, Sir Edward Elgar.
Why so many angels? These spiritual beings play a prominent part in Scripture as a sign of the mysterious wonder and holiness of God whom they praise in the courts of heaven. We join them at every Mass when we say:’ Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest’. These words are from the vision of the prophet Isaiah when he received his vocation as a prophet ( Isai.6.3 ).So being surrounded by angels in our church we are helped to worship the Lord with wonder and praise and with a sense of depending for our being on God, as the angels depend.
The whole being of angels is centred on God in obedience and service. So they remind us to live out our praise in service of God and our neighbour,’ glorifying the Lord with your life.’ One of the great acts of service of the angels is to be God’s messengers to human beings, as we find in the accounts of many important vocations in the Old and New Testaments. That service of being a messenger is especially the task of archangels and every time we come into the church we can think of Gabriel giving the message to Our Lady of the Incarnation of Christ her Son. There it is very prominent in the mosaic above the altar, with its companion of Mary’s reward for her faith and service in being crowned by her Son. How many angels do you see above them in that second mosaic?
The angels are also a sign of God’s care for us, and how precious we are to God in giving us such splendid helpers. We are given Guardian Angels to guide and protect each one of us throughout our lives. That teaching of the Church is based on words of Our Lord himself in Matthew 18.10 :’See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell
you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven.’
May the thought of the angels support us in our worship, in our service, and in our trust in God’s care and guidance throughout our lives assisted by such great servants and messengers.
Tony Nye SJ