The guardian angels of life fly so high as to be beyond our sight, but they are always looking down upon us.

~Jean Paul Richte~

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The Holy Bible refers to different types of angels, with varying duties. Some angels are guides, some protectors,and others are messengers of the Lord.

A guardian angel is an angel assigned to protect and guide a particular person. The concept of protective angels and their hierarchy was extensively developed in Christianity in the 5th century by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.

The theology of angels, and protective spirits, has undergone many refinements since the 400s, and belief in both the East and the West is that guardian angels protect whichever person to whom God assigns them, and present prayers to God on that person's behalf.

The belief that God sends a spirit to watch every individual was common in Ancient Greek philosophy, and was alluded to by Plato in Phaedo, 108.

The belief that angels can be guides and intercessors for men can be found in the bible. Angels seem to be assigned to certain countries and there is mention In the bible of the case of the "prince of the Persian kingdom" was referring to one of the fallen angels also known to many as a demon. The same verse mentions "Michael, one of the chief princes," and Michael is one of the few angels named in the Bible.

Michael is described as an archangel. And in some scriptures it says that God will "set a guard of holy angels over all the righteous" to guard them during the end of time, while the wicked are being destroyed.

The bible mentions that Jesus says of children: "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven" . This is often understood to mean that children are protected by guardian angels.

There is another allusion to the belief that a specific angel is assigned to protect each individual. After Peter had been escorted out of prison by an angel, he went to the home of 'Mary the mother of John, also called Mark'. The servant girl, Rhoda, recognized his voice and ran back to tell the group that Peter was there. However the group replied, "It must be his angel". With this scriptural sanction, Peter's angel was the most commonly depicted guardian angel in art, and was normally shown in images of the subject, most famously Raphael's fresco of the Deliverance of Saint Peter in the Vatican.

art by Nene Thomas

When I think of "guardian angels", the first image that comes to mind are beautiful, radiant translucent beings with light hair, soft features, rosy cheeks, and feminine, feathered large wings with a touch of grace. In hundreds of cathedrals, churches, paintings, shopping malls, bookstores, and craft shows all over the world, images of angels are everywhere. Their mere presence sparks that curious, spiritual inner longing that many of us attempt to develop and explain in our intellectually, technologically-driven world.

In Europe and other parts of the world, where religion and family are more solidified amongst the communities, the reinforcement of religion and the stimulation of art depict the prevalence of angels and their spiritual missions here on earth. Angels are no strangers to us. They are messengers from God who are here to serve and protect in times of need. But, after all is said and done, do guardian angels really exist? And if they do, how do we encounter these divine, heavenly beings?

In Christianity, the word "angel" appears several hundreds of times in the Bible, where they are portrayed as mighty messengers and soldiers with frightening powers - the executors of God's will. Some examples can be found in Genesis, where the angels guard the east gates of Eden with flashing swords, or in Revelation, where they battle a dragon. It is clear that the Bible portrays angels as "guardians", like the angel who delivered St. Peter from prison. In reading more about the history of angels, different images come to mind - guardians, cherubs, fairy-godmothers, radiant white light, and shielded protectors. On the other hand, when we come to define the work of angels, we can agree that they are here for a common purpose - to act as guardians who provide comfort, hope and strength when we can't seem to go on. From speculation, an encounter with an ethereal being may be an experience similar to that of a mother or a friend calling our name or a light breeze that touches our cheeks and passes our shoulders. For others, it may be the very real, strong presence of another person walking along beside us and within reach of holding our hand.

After a recent review of a book entitled, "The Third Man Factor", I was really intrigued by the number of documented cases of an angelic presence or an "incorporeal being" that brings hope and encouragement to those who make one final effort to survive in times of crisis. In his own words, John Geiger attempts to show his readers that there are many, many people throughout history that have witnessed this mysterious, "angelic" force in times of extreme peril. His amazing research shows that the experience of a divine presence has been documented countless numbers of times to people in adverse situations. Also, he aims to discount the probability that the "third man factor" is due to sheer hallucination or chronic fatigue. This fascinating documentary provides adventurous cases from prisoners of war, polar explorers, 9/11 survivors, aviators, astronauts, divers, mountaineers, and solo sailors. They all share similar stories of escaping traumatic events and having experienced the close, real presence of a guardian angel or helper. This convincing account combines the history and scientific analysis to explain this secret to survival, while leaning towards a more thorough review of an actual "God" source - one that forever remains a mystery but a close friend at hand.

"The Third Man Factor" attempts to show that most people believe in the existence of angels and that they can have a profound effect on our lives. In one survey, conducted back in 1993 for Time Magazine, it reveals that 69 percent of Americans accepted angels as a fact, and that 46 percent said they have their own personal guardian angel. We can safely assume that such beliefs do not arise from reading ancient writings found in the "Book of Tobit" or solely from the Bible. Instead, people are continuously gravitating towards the idea of something much more powerful outside of themselves that can be called upon from within. This relationship to an unexplainable, angelic force may come in many different forms; however, they are all vivid, sensory and personal accounts that can - in the words of legendary climber Reinhold Messner - "lead you out of the impossible."

So, do guardian angels really exist? With a seed of faith and a prayer, only time will tell.

article by: Anita Magnoli



art by Nene Thomas

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