were you when I founded the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding. ...
While the morning stars sang in chorus
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" (Jb 38:4,7)
Before trying to understand the role of the angels in the universe, we must come to a realization of the structure of matter in Creation.
Fractal Geometry has revealed to us that the universe is made of recurring patterns occurring at all levels of magnitude. For example, the spiral design is found in the sea shell, the unfolding of the morning glory, the structure of our ear and in the design of the galaxy. Matthew Fox states, "Pattern is ... holy order, and knowledge and activity." (Ibid., p. 59) We can also observe that smaller patterns are within larger ones. The atom is within a molecule of water, the molecules are within a snowflake, a snowflake is within the cloud, the cloud is within the atmosphere, etc. In other words, we live in an ordered universe with hierarchical dependence or to put it another way, the universe is the working of intelligence. The order of Creation also implies the angelic social order.
God created the angels simultaneously with the visible universe as an integral part of it because they were meant to influence the cosmic design by their intelligence, power and love. Countless angels were created is suggested in the book of Daniel where we read, "Thousands upon thousands were ministering to him, and myriads upon myriads attended him." (Dn 7:10) Angels have great knowledge as indicated by Christ when he said that not even they know when the end of the world would come. They do not gain knowledge as we do through the senses but were created with intuitive knowledge of the essences of creatures pertaining to their domain of activity. The higher angels being closer to the divine have a more comprehensive knowledge of creation having fewer but more universal concepts. They pass on some of their knowledge to lower angels by means of analogy or by presenting their more universal knowledge in a number of smaller concepts.
In the Bible angels are also called thrones, dominions, principalities and powers thus indicating their great power. Karl Rahner writes that the angels as " 'principalities and powers' essentially belong to the world, i.e., the totality of the evolutionary spiritual and material creation; in other words as conscious (and therefore free and personal), created, finite principles of the structure of the various parts of the cosmic order." (Sacramentum Mundi) In the events of the Old Testament, two angels came to Lot urging him leave the city of Sodom because "We are about to destroy this place, for the outcry reaching the LORD against those in the city is so great that he has sent us to destroy it." (Gn 19:13) We are also given to understand that at Christ's Resurrection "there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it." (Mt 28:2) When Peter tried to defend Christ by cutting off the ear of Malculm, the high priest servant, Christ told him to stop saying, "Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels?" (Mt 26:53) A legion of the Roman army consisted of about 6,000 men, so Christ is indicating more than 72,000 angels. All of this indicates that angels have great extensive power in the universe.
NASA/Courtesy of nasaimages.org.
If matter is an activity, whose activity is it?
First of all, God is the mind of the universe which creates and evolves "self-organizing" systems or fields such a stars, solar systems, and galaxies. Angels as free intelligent agents can apply their knowledge and power in organizing the cosmos. They do so by acting in place. St. Thomas Aquinas makes this observation concerning the "place" angelic activity-- "A body is said to be in a place in such a way that it is applied to such place according to the contact of dimensive quantity; but there is no such quantity in the angels, for theirs is a virtual one. Consequently an angel is said to be in a corporeal place by application of the angelic power in any manner whatever to any place."(Summa, Part I, Q. 52.1) In the Middle Ages some thought that angels were not created in corporal place because they had no bodies. St. Thomas replies to this view by stating, "The angels were created in a corporeal place, not as if depending upon a body either as to their existence or as to their being made; because God could have created them before all corporeal creation, as many holy Doctors hold. They were made in a corporeal place in order to show their relationship to corporeal nature, and that they are by their power in touch with bodies." (Summa, Q 63.4 Rely to Obj. 1) So an angel or angels having a deep insight the electro-magnetic dynamics of sun would be able to apply their power to modify its functions according to God's will. If this seems impossible to you, think of our knowledge and ability we have to release the energy stored in the atom which is also at the basis of solar power. On the other hand, angels cannot create from nothing as God does. When an angel makes a choice, he introduces new events in a chain of causes and effects. Angels like humans induce nature to do things it would never accomplish under its own power, but after that the normal laws of nature take over.
The angels as integral to the design of the universe goes further than local interventions. So, how are we to envision the interactive power of angels with the overall order of the universe? Here I can only present the possibility envisioned by Dyonisius the Aeropagite and commented upon by Matthew Fox, "It seems that nature come together for him at the level of cosmic power. Maybe we have the name for that, like energy or force. But he has a very cosmic sense of the omnipresence of the divine power expressing itself through angels and other creatures." Rupert Sheldrake explains further, "Nature is organized in fields and these fields as the realms of activity that binds and order the energy or power. If divine power flows through and into all things, if it is the energy of all things, and if it is channeled through the angels, then the fields that give this power its differentiated forms are associated with consciousness and intelligence. The angels are, as it were, the consciousness of the fields operating at all levels of nature, as in the flow of winds and in the power of living beings such as animals. The generative powers of nature are associated with intelligence." (Ibid., p.74)
There is more truth in poetry than meets the eye as in the following first verse below.
Reply to Objection 1