An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
You've probably heard the quaint phrase that "Orthodoxy is found in all the verses you didn't underline", and there is certainly some truth to that. Case and point is the notion of "Guardian Angels."
As a Protestant I always thought that Guardian Angels (by which I means ones that are specifically "assigned" to us) were some modern nonsense invented by psuedo-Christians who in their spare time racked up huge phone bills calling "The Psychic Friends network." I never had any idea that the belief in a Guardian Angel was actually a very ancient practice and I certainly never believed there was evidence for this belief in Scripture itself.
Susan recently showed me this particular verse from Matthew chapter 18 where our Lord had been telling the Disciples to be as "little children" and in verse 10 He says this:
“Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven."
Wow...a couple of things here really struck me. One (as my emphasis notes) is the possessive adjective with regard to "angels." I find that very interesting. But secondly, our Lord does not elaborate, but the implication is that we had better be careful in how we treat children and those who are humble like children because their angels are watching. I mean surely God has no need for angels to tattle, but beyond that simplistic implication I cannot see what else it could mean. We do indeed beseech our Guardian Angels to pray for us and we look to them as earning their title...but we also ask them to guide us as well in numerous prayers.
Oddly, for me, this warning is at once intellectually fascinating and practically concerning. Why the latter should be the case given that I believe in an omnipresent and omniscient God is a mystery to me, but there you have it...I'm being honest here. There are many many people whom I would say that my sentiment toward is akin to despite...and I realize that I am hardly in a position to judge whether such people are as "little children" or not. Some, actually ARE little children and so...well....ah there you go!
I've always been the type to have little patience for children. It's sad really and I think this is partly why I've been blessed with so many...as we all know, they are saving me...well if I'd let them they would. But I also know some people - and hopefully I am not judging - who have even less tolerance for children than I do. They seem to be very bitter people for whom even laughter and play is an annoyance...they need to remember that the Guardian Angels are watching. Ahhhh...but I am allowing myself to be sidetracked by a degree of my own hypocrisy, for in my own life, when I am grumpy and tired...when I am busy, wrongfully "too busy", when I am so often not gentle or loving to my children as I should be...I do so always in the presence of their FOUR Guardian Angels! My...oh my...my house is crowded!
And what of adults whom I hold in secret (or not so secret) corners of my heart and mind to be less than me. Perhaps not as smart, perhaps not a politically or religiously astute as me, perhaps those I see as being simple and less nuanced...not worth too much time. Those who I do in fact judge and will perhaps someday be shocked to learn how wrong my perception had been? Those I thought sure to be pharisees are in fact publicans and all along I was the one thanking God for not being like them? Imagine that: thanking God for not being like a little child! Oh how easily we are self-deceived!
The vast majority of people you come into contact with, will probably never know the real you. But, the people you live with no doubt know you much more clearly. So, proximity and frequency are critical here. Somehow though, God, as we keep Him at a distance (on the second floor Fr. Stephen would say) is not quite as "everywhere present" in our perception as He truly is....but there is something particularly piercing about realizing that Angels are watching and they also always see God. Yes, the house is crowded...the streets are crowded...the Church is crowded...my workplace is crowded. Suddenly the title of Amy Grant's old song takes a more...dare I say...uncomfortable feel to it? An dyes, go ahead and have a good laugh at that classic 80's style.
We have a common everyday prayer to our Guardian Angels...it makes me wonder if we might pause to consider praying to the Guardian Angels of others...and of our Children similarly?
O Angel of Christ, holy guardian and protector of my child's soul and body, forgive me of everything I have done to offend you and my child every day, and protect my child from all influence and temptation of the evil one. May I never offend God by my sin. Pray for me to the Lord, that He may make me and my child worthy of the grace of the All-holy Trinity, and of the Most Blessed Theotokos, and of all the Saints. Amen.