MARGARET adores angels. She has a home full of little porcelain angels, angel books, angel lapel pins, angel night-lights, angel ear-rings, CDs of angelic music and angel perfume that boasts it is “heaven scent .
She says she’s not very spiritual. She doesn’t believe in God, only angels…and kittens and flowers.
Angelmania is a modern phenomenon – and a marketer’s dream come true.
More than half of Americans, according to a recent survey, believe they are protected by a guardian angel.
In Australia, about 28 per cent believe in angels – in particular young adults and women – despite the Western world becoming increasingly secular. In fact, the present fascination may be the result of a deep spiritual malaise.
“Our society has become less and less comfortable, and people turn to supernatural means when natural ones don’t work,” says Peter Kreeft, author of A Hundred and One Questions About Angels.
“These are times of fundamental change, comparable to the Renaissance or the transition from Roman to medieval society. ”
Contemporary culture angels, like fluffy kittens, are non-threatening symbols of hope.
Indeed, the supernatural biblical beings that initially terrified the shepherds on the hills of Bethlehem 2000 years ago, and caused the likes of Moses to tremble, seem a different breed to the insipid otherworldly boy scouts embraced by the pop culture.
The Renaissance artists led the way by painting angels with feathered wings, dazzling golden haloes and white flowing robes. It is an image that has stuck
The Bible has more than 300 separate references to angels – awe-inspiring spiritual beings who delivered spiritual messages and warnings from God, and sometimes saved believers from death and serious injury.
The ancient Egyptians and Greeks also believed strongly in angelic intervention. The word angel is derived from the Greek word for messenger – angeloforos.
Angels are portrayed as extremely powerful images in the three main monotheiestic faiths of Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
Judaism, in particular, has always proclaimed the power of angels in elevating the material world to higher spiritual realms, and of bringing heaven closer to the earthly existence.
All three faiths portray angels as beings linked directly to God or, in the case of fallen angels, to Satan. In Heaven, according to monotheistic belief, the angels will be lesser than us.
Why then, in an increasingly secular world, is there such a renewed interest in angels?
Part of the attraction is that you can pick your own meaning. Angels can be whatever you want them to be and although they are still somewhat religious, they are not embarrassingly so.
Gabriel Fackre of the Andover Newton Theological School in Massachusetts, blasted the pop angels.
“The reports of their presence have consistently to do with their usefulness to our needs and wishes. On the other hand, biblical angels have a priestly office, a psalmic turning of the eye of faith in the direction of the divine glory.”
The poet Daisey Verlaef said: ” You’ll meet more angels on a winding path than on a straight one.” And so it seems.
Maybe it’s best just to keep in mind one of the New Testament’s simplest commandments: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”