Thursday, February 28, 2019

Recordings of Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou

I see no place that has a collection of his talks available online, so I’ll make a page that collects many of them...

I have a recommended order in which to listen to them, so that is how I will arrange them. The first few are very beneficial for understanding later lectures. These are available at Patristic Nectar Publications.

  1. The Ascetical and Pastoral Theology of St. Silouan the Athonite and Archimandrite Sophrony
  2. The Three Stages of the Spiritual Life
  3. The Hidden Man of the Heart
  4. The Christian Life is Impossible...All We are able to Do is to Die Daily
  5. The Fulfillment of Personhood or Personhood in the Life and Ministry of Elder Sophrony (Sakharov)
The next few are free. They are later lectures or teachings and follow the teaching found in the aforementioned lectures.
Fr. Zacharias is a true disciple of Elder Sophrony (Sakharov) of Essex. Elder Sophrony is a great luminary for our time that has given a wealth of theological insight into our theology and the problems of today. Among his significant contributions to Orthodox theological expression is: man's hypostatic principle, God revealed as personal through the revelation of I AM, the relation between asceticism and person, the Church as an extension of the life of the Trinity, and more. To understand traditional Orthodox teaching and authentic experience in the twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first century, having a grasp of Elder Sophrony's teaching and that of Archimandrite Zacharias is absolutely necessary.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Reading List

These are the initial books I draw from when recommending some initial books to introduce Orthodoxy to those who are curious about the Faith.

I.      General Information, Historical Background, and Convert Testimonies
·         The Apostolic Fathers (Light and Life Publishing Company)
·         Becoming Orthodox (Fr. Peter Gilquist)
·         Discovering the Rich Heritage of Orthodoxy (Fr. Seraphim Bell)
·         Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy (Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick)
·         My Exodus from Roman Catholicism (Bishop Paul de Ballester)
·         Rock and Sand (Fr. Josiah Trenham)
·         Know the Faith (Fr. Michael Shanbour)
·         Our Orthodox Christian Faith (Athanasios S. Frangopoulos)
·         The Orthodox Church – first half (Met. Kallistos Ware)
·         The History of the Church (Eusebius of Caesarea)
·         The Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy (Fr. Alexander Schmemann)
·         From Tibet to Mount Athos to Elder Paisius (Yanni Kotzampasis)
·         Practical Guide or Orthodoxy and Orthopraxia (Priest Michael)
·         Booklets:
o    Introducing the Orthodox Church
o    Picture of the Modern World (Met. Hierotheos Vlachos)
o    The Life in Christ (Fr. John Romanides)
o    Christianity or the Church (St. Hilarion Troitsky)
o    Holy Scripture and the Church (St. Hilarion Troitsky)
o    Tradition in the Church (Fr. Lazarus Moore)
o    Orthodoxy and Catholicism (Fr. Theodore Pulcini)
o    Hidden Fire: Orthodox Perspectives on Yoga (Joseph Magnus Frangipani)
o    Conciliar Press booklets

II.      Catechism
·         Catechetical Lectures (St. Cyril of Jerusalem)
·         The Truth of Our Faith (Elder Cleopa Ilie)
·         Entering the Orthodox Church: The Catechism and Baptism of Adults (Met. Hierotheos Vlachos)
·         The Precious Pearl (St. John of Damascus)
·         The Orthodox Faith, Worship, and Life (Hieromonk Gregorios)
·         The Faith of the Saints (St. Nikolai Velimirovich)
·         Orthodox Sacred Catechism (Vernardakis / Cavarnos)
·         The Law of God (Fr. Seraphim Slobodskoy)

III.      Lives of Saints, their writings, the spiritual life, other topics
·         Scripture Aids, Interpretations, and Context:
o    Explanation of the Holy Gospels (St. Theophylact)
o    Homilies on the Epistles of St. Paul (St. John Chrysostom)
o    Homilies on the Book of the Revelation (Archimandrite Athanasios Mitilinaios)
·         On the Incarnation (St. Athanasius of Alexandria)
·         Christology (St. Nektarios of Aegina)
·         Orthodox Spirituality (Met. Hierotheos Vlachos)
·         The Illness and Cure of the Soul in the Orthodox Tradition (Met. Hierotheos Vlachos)
·         A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain (Met. Hierotheos Vlachos)
·         Hymn of Entry (Archimandrite Vasileios)
·         An Indication of the Path into the Kingdom of God (St. Innocent of Alaska)
·         The Orthodox Veneration of Mary (St. John Maximovitch)
·         St. Seraphim of Sarov (Fr. Lazarus Moore)
·         Commonitory (St. Vincent of Lérins)
·         God’s Revelation to the Human Heart (Fr. Seraphim Rose)
·         Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future (Fr. Seraphim Rose)
·         Genesis, Creation, and Early Man (Fr. Seraphim Rose)
·         On the Providence of God (St. John Chrysostom)
·         Three Treatises on the Divine Images (St. John of Damascus)
·         The Way of the Pilgrim (New Sarov Press)
·         The Art of Salvation (Elder Ephraim of Philotheou and Arizona)
·         Wounded by Love (St. Porphyrios)
·         Saint Silouan the Athonite (Elder Sophrony)
·         His Life is Mine (Elder Sophrony)
·         On Prayer (Elder Sophrony)
·         Our Thoughts Determine our Lives: the Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica (St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood Press)
·         The Way of the Ascetic (Tito Colliander)
·         Life of St. Anthony the Great (St. Athanasius of Alexandria)
·         For the Life of the World (Fr. Alexander Schmemann)
     PDF found here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

About the Celestial Hierarchies and the Heavenly Council

according to the Orthodox Sacred Tradition

Why did I write this post? I had recently discovered another of the multitude of poisonous ways the formation by our modern culture seeks to divorce or tear us from the reality of God's established hierarchies. This has to do with how truth is revealed to us and our participation in the natural order of the cosmos created by God. I would feel safe to guess that most Christians out there have an understanding of heaven that is us singing on clouds to God with cute angels or something hardly much better than that. When we look at the Church Fathers, we see that heaven is a realm that man is tasked to unite to the earth through his heart (i.e. bringing together or symbolizing the expanses of meaning to material). This opens up the idea of heaven as more than just some happy place, but rather (as the Fathers show) is the expression of the Lord's revelation, the manifesting of truth, the expression of the providence of God, the understanding of the divine will for all aspects of creation, and the source of all things intelligible in Creation. The Scriptures and the other parts of Orthodox Tradition are clear that God uses creation itself to accomplish the course of history (from world history to our own history). This is the role of the Angels.

UPDATE (9/1/2018):
I added information on how the celestial hierarchies relate to the heavenly council we see mentioned a few times in the Bible and is clear in the Hebrew use of the word elohim.

  •      SERAPHIM (Hebrew original: “flaming/burning/fiery ones”)
  •      CHERUBIM (Hebrew original: uncertain derivation)
  •      THRONES (Greek: θρόνοι / Latin: thronus)

  •      DOMINIONS or LORDSHIPS (Greek: κυριότης / Latin: dominatio)
  •      VIRTUES or STRONGHOLDS (Greek: δύναμις / Latin: virtus)
  •      POWERS or AUTHORITIES (Greek: ἐξουσίαι / Latin: potestas)

  •      PRINCIPALITIES or PRINCEDOMS/RULERS (Greek: ἀρχή / Latin: principatus)
  •      ARCHANGELS (ἀρχάγγελος, Greek original: “chief messenger” / Latin: archangelus)
  •      ANGELS (ἄγγελος, Greek original: “messenger” / Latin: angelus)

“…in every respect like, to the first Beings, who are established after the Godhead, who gave them Being, and who are marshaled, as it were, in Its very vestibule, who surpass every unseen and seen created power… always unmoved; and again, as "contemplative," not contemplators of intellectual symbols as sensible, nor as being led to the Divine Being by the varied texture of holy representations written for meditation, but as being filled with all kinds of immaterial knowledge of higher light, and satiated, as permissible, with the beautifying and original beauty of super-essential and thrice manifested contemplation, and thus, being deemed worthy of the Communion with Jesus, they do not stamp pictorially the deifying similitude in divinely-formed images, but, as being really near to Him, in first participation of the knowledge of His deifying illuminations; nay more, that the imitation of God is given to them in the highest possible degree, and they participate, so far as is allowable to them, in His deifying and philanthropic virtues, in the power of a first manifestation; and, likewise as "perfected," not as being illuminated with an analytic science of sacred variety, but as being filled with a first and pre-eminent deification, as beseems the most exalted science of the works of God, possible in Angels” (St. Dionysios the Areopagite).

The Fathers seem to suggest that this hierarchy of the heavenly spirits are responsible and bringers of purification, illumination, and deification/perfection. This hierarchy does not directly interact with mankind; nor do they have any indirect influence on mankind except for what they communicate to the second hierarchy.

“Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire” (Psalms 103:4).

“In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:1-3 KJV).

The rank of the Seraphim are closest to the throne of God. They are fiery since they rank so high and close to God that the grace is so great it can only be described as lightning or fire. According to St. Dionysios the Areopagite: “The appellation of Seraphim plainly teaches their ever moving around things Divine, and constancy, and warmth, and keenness, and the seething of that persistent, indomitable, and inflexible perpetual motion, and the vigorous assimilation and elevation of the subordinate, as giving new life and rekindling them to the same heat; and purifying through fire and burnt-offering, and the light-like and light-shedding characteristic which can never be concealed or consumed, and remains always the same, which destroys and dispels every kind of obscure darkness.”

“And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire. Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf's foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings. Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward. As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle. Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies. And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went. As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning. Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went. As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the colour of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above. And under the firmament were their wings straight, the one toward the other: every one had two, which covered on this side, and every one had two, which covered on that side, their bodies. And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host: when they stood, they let down their wings. And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads, when they stood, and had let down their wings” (Ezekiel 1:4-25 KJV).

The rank of the Cherubim are second in proximity to God and brighter than all other ranks below them. Through the Cherubim, does God make His wisdom available to men. They pour out God’s wisdom to the rest of creation. They make wise and illumine the noetic eyes of those who ascend to look on God. St. Dionysios writes concerning them, “the appellation of the Cherubim denotes their knowledge and their vision of God, and their readiness to receive the highest gift of light, and their power of contemplating the super-Divine comeliness in its first revealed power, and their being filled anew with the impartation which makes wise, and their ungrudging communication to those next to them, by the stream of the given wisdom. The appellation of the most exalted and pre-eminent.” The historic understanding of the Hebrew word given to them as their name is “fullness” or “plentitude” of knowledge. This is due to their possession, more than any other creature of the knowledge of God (considering that the Seraphim transcend knowledge).

“And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices... The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:4-5a, 10-11 KJV).

“Thou hast sat upon a throne, O Thou that judgest righteousness” (Psalm 9:4).

The rank of Thrones are third in proximity to God and the last ranking of the first heavenly choir. St. Maximos the Confessor mentions them when he writes that God sits on an intellectual (i.e. noetic) thrones. St. Basil the Great explains they are God-bearing but not by essence, by grace (or energy) which is done in an inexplicable manner. From the thrones does God distribute justice to the cosmos. St. Dionysios the Areopagite writes concerning them, “The appellation of the most exalted and pre-eminent Thrones denotes their manifest exaltation above every groveling inferiority, and their super-mundane tendency towards higher things; and their unswerving separation from all remoteness; and their invariable and firmly-fixed settlement around the veritable Highest, with the whole force of their powers; and their receptivity of the supremely Divine approach, in the absence of all passion and earthly tendency, and their bearing God; and the ardent expansion of themselves for the Divine receptions.” The Thrones is by whom the lower ranks receive the revelation of God.

“For each appellation of the Beings above us manifests their God-imitating characteristics of the Divine Likeness... The middle Order of the Heavenly Minds... is purified and illuminated and perfected in the manner described, by the Divine illuminations vouchsafed to it at second hand, through the first Hierarchical Order, and passing through this middle as a secondary manifestation. No doubt, as regards that message, which is said to pass through one angel to another, we may take it as a symbol of a perfecting completed from afar, and obscured by reason of its passage to the second rank” (St. Dionysios the Areopagite).

The second hierarchy of heavenly spirits seem responsible to use the energy of God to govern creation according to the will of God. Creation is subject to the natural order of God’s providence which occurs and is maintained through the work of this second hierarchy. This middle hierarchy has no direct contact with mankind but indirectly relates to them by ordering the good things which influence us and protecting against the evil things which seek to act upon us.

“Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:21 KJV).

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Colossians 1:16 KJV).

The rank of Dominions regulate the energy and knowledge of God to the ranks of Angels below them which reveal the commands of God to govern Creation. St. Dimitry of Rostov writes of them saying, “[Dominions] send down power for prudent governing and wise management to authorities on the earth set up by God. Further they teach how to control the senses, how to subdue in oneself dissolute desires and passions, how to enslave the flesh to the spirit, and how to rule over one’s will and be above all temptations.” St. Dionysios the Areopagite speaks of them by saying, “I think, then, that the explanatory name of the Holy Lordships denotes a certain unslavish elevation, free from all groveling subservience, as becomes the free, not submitting itself in any way whatever to one of the tyrannical dissimilarities, as a cruel Lordship; superior to every kind of cringing slavery, indomitable to every subservience, and elevated above every dissimilarity, ever aspiring to  the true Lordship, and source of Lordship; and molding, as an image of goodness, itself, and those after it, to its Lordly bearing, as attainable, turning itself wholly to none of the things that vainly seem, but to the Lordly Being, and ever sharing in the Lordly Likeness of God, to its utmost ability.”

“Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:21 KJV).

“Who [Jesus Christ] is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers [KJV mistranslation] being made subject unto him” (I Peter 3:22 KJV).

The Virtues are the middle rank in the second hierarchy. By the word virtue, we mean the old English meaning of “strength” (which is how the Greek word dynamis is translated today). They execute the orders given to the Dominions and control the bodies (particularly the heavenly bodies), the seasons, and the elements of Creation. They provide divine energy to man in the form of strength to struggle with our cross in godly manner. St. Dimitry of Rosotv writes on them: “[Virtues are] filled with divine strength, quickly fulfill the will of the All-High and Omnipotent Lord, strong and powerful. They both work very great miracles and send down the grace of miracle-working to God’s saints, who are worthy of such grace, in order that these may work miracles, such as heal every sickness and foretell the future. The holy virtues also help people laboring and those overburdened by the bearing of an obedience placed on them by someone – by which their names ‘virtues’ is explained – and they bear the infirmities of the weak. They also strengthen every man in patience, so that he does not faint away in affliction but rather bears all misfortune with a strong spirit, courageously, and with humility, giving thanks for everything to God, arranging all for our benefit.” St. Dionysios considers “the appellation of the Holy Powers [to] denote a certain courageous and unflinching virility, for all those Godlike energies within them----not feebly weak for the reception of any of the Divine illuminations vouchsafed to it----vigorously conducted to the Divine imitation, not forsaking the Godlike movement through its own unmanliness, but unflinchingly looking to the super-essential and powerful-making power, and becoming a powerful image of this, as far as is attainable, and powerfully turned to this, as Source of Power, and issuing forth to those next in degree, in gift of Power, and in likeness to God.”

“Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:21 KJV).

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Colossians 1:16 KJV).

“Who [Jesus Christ] is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities [KJV mistranslation] and powers being made subject unto him” (I Peter 3:22 KJV).

St. Dimitry of Rostov describes the Powers as having “power over the devil, in order to restrain the power of the demons, to repulse the temptations brought upon people by them, and to prevent the demons from harming anyone to the degree that they would wish. The powers strengthen the good ascetics in spiritual struggles and labors, protecting them so that they may not be deprived of the spiritual kingdom. They help those wrestling with passions and vices to cast out evil thoughts and slanders of the enemy and to conquer the devil.” Not only are the Powers the defenders of men from evil spirits, but due of man’s weakness they also tasked to protect of the whole cosmos against demons. The fallen angels would wreck chaos and destruction from the sin man brings upon all of God’s creation were they not kept in check by God’s providence through the work of His choir of Powers. Therefore, the Powers are responsible for protecting God’s providence from those wills not aligned to it. St. Dionysios the Areopagite further explains them by explaining that “the appellation of the Holy Authorities, of the same rank as the Divine Lordships and Powers, (denotes) the beautiful and unconfused good order, with regard to the Divine receptions, and the discipline of the super-mundane and intellectual authority, not using the authoritative powers imperiously for base purposes, but conducted indomitably, with good order, towards Divine things, and conducting those after it benignly, and assimilated, as far as permissible, to the Authoritative Source of authority, and making this visible, as is possible to Angels, in the well-ordered ranks of the authoritative power within it.”

“the revealing order of the Principalities, Archangels, and Angels, presides, through each other, over the Hierarchies amongst men, in order that the elevation, and conversion, and communion, and union with God may be in due order; and, further, also that the procession from God vouchsafed benignly to all the Hierarchies, and passing to all in common, may be also with most sacred regularity” (St. Dionysios the Areopagite).

This is the hierarchy of angels which are the messengers (by one way or another) of God. They are the guides and guardians of men. These have a direct connection with the affairs of mankind and the needs of men. To understand how this hierarchy interacts with man, we need to understand the truth about mankind and dismantle the lies of the so-called “Enlightenment.” Man exists in hierarchies. He is part of the hierarchy of his family and receives his identity from his father. He exists in a community who receives identity from the principles which move it. He exists in the world and receives his ideas from these angelic principalities (which can be aligned and pointing to the Supreme Principle, i.e. God, or corrupt by the fallen angelic principalities which tears the hierarchy apart creating conflict). So, this third angelic hierarchy might rule over cities. They might reveal virtue. These ranks of angels are those aspects of a man or a community’s awareness that leads them to God. However, in a fallen world and due to the War that took place in heaven (Lucifer’s rebellion), the dark spirits influence cities towards its destruction. They prompt towards passion and vice (this is why Orthodox Tradition speaks of the demon of pride, or lust, etc.). They also lead a man or community away from God by the participants willful following. Moving down the ranks of this hierarchy we see a particularization of these things. Principalities are more universally shared, i.e. kingship, or humility, or temperance perhaps. Archangels are charged with particular groups of people, nations, etc. (e.g. the Archangel Michael is guard over Israel). Angels are sent to particular individuals (most popular example is the guardian angel).

“Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:21 KJV).

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Colossians 1:16 KJV).

The rank of Principalities are charged with the direct care of the more universal guardianship and guidance of men. St. Dimitry of Rostov explains the rank of Principalities by explaining that they “are named thus because they have command over the lower angels, directing them to the fulfilment of divine orders. The management of the universe and the keeping of all the kingdoms and princedoms, of lands and all peoples, races and nations, is also entrusted to them since each kingdom, race and people have for themselves a special deeper and manager from the heavenly order called the principalities, for all their country. Further, the service of this angelic order (according to the explanation of St Gregory the Dialogist) consists in teaching the people to requite each person in authority according to his calling. Finally, the angels of this order raise worthy people to various honorable offices and direct them so that they take power not for the sake of their own gain and benefit, nor for the sake of love of honor and vain renown, but for the sake of honor from God, for the sake of spreading and augmenting of His holy glory, and for the sake of the benefit of their neighbors – as serving the general needs of all their subordinates.” St. Dionysios the Areopagite explains the Principalities as those who “manifests their princely and leading function, after the Divine example, with order religious and most befitting the Princely, and their being wholly turned to the super-princely Prince, and leading others in princely fashion, and being moulded, as far as possible, to that prince-making Princedom Itself, and to manifest its superessential princely order, by the regularity of the princely powers.” The Principalities are sometimes divided by their function. Some are tasked to administer; others to assist. We can place to origin of “germinal ideas” with the rank of the Principalities. Interestingly, the Greek word for this rank (ἀρχή) is the same word used by St. Maximos the Confessor to describe the “beginning” of the logoi. This suggests that the meaning behind creation that man observes is revealed to one in a state of illumination by the ranks of the Principalities.

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (I Thessalonians 4:16 KJV).

The rank of the Archangels are proclaimers of the Gospel. St. Dimitry of Rostov summarizes the Fathers teaching concerning the Archangels when he writes that they “are called the great heralds of good news, announcing the great and most glorious. Their service (as the great Dionysios the Aeropagite says) consists in revealing prophecies, knowledge, and understanding of God’s will which they receive from the higher orders of angels and announce to the lower order, i.e. the angels, and through them, to men. St. Gregory the Dialogist says that the archangels strengthen people in the holy faith, enlightening their mind with the light of knowledge of the holy Gospel and revealing the mysteries of devout faith.” St. Dionysios the Areopagite explains the role the Archangels serve as the middle of this third hierarchy. “Archangels occupies the middle position in the Hierarchy between the extremes, for it belongs alike to the most holy Principalities and to the holy Angels; to the Principalities because it is turned in a princely fashion to the super-essential Princedom, and is molded to It as far as attainable, and unites the Angels after the fashion of its own well-regulated and marshaled and invisible leadings; and it belongs to the Angels, because it is of the messenger Order, receiving hierarchically the Divine illuminations from  the first powers, and announcing the same to the Angels in a godly manner, and, through Angels, manifesting to us, in proportion to the religious aptitude of each of the godly persons illuminated.”

At least seven Archangels are popularly known in Holy Tradition (in my own arrogant opinion, I suspect there are more, but seven seems to be the traditional favorite number). They are commemorated on November 8. Quotes taken from the OCA explanation for this feast: the Synaxis of the Archangel Michael and other Bodiless Powers. “On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service.”
  • MICHAEL (Who Is Like God?). Chief among the heavenly host. He cast Lucifer from heaven and mocked him while doing so by asking “Who is like God?” “We invoke Saint Michael for protection from invasion by enemies and from civil war, and for the defeat of adversaries on the field of battle. He conquers all spiritual enemies.” In his icon, “Michael tramples the devil underfoot, and in his left hand holds a green date-tree branch, and in his right hand a spear with a white banner on which is outlined a scarlet cross, or sometimes a fiery sword.” The Book of Enoch mentions him as being "set over the best parts of mankind and over chaos" (1 Enoch 20:5; 40:4, 9); i.e. he is guardian of Israel against the powers of evil which seek to corrupt Israel.
  • GABRIEL (The Man of God or the Strength/Power of God). The Angel of the Annunciation and guardian/guide of the Theotokos. He is the “herald and servitor of Divine omnipotence (Dan 8:16, Luke 1:26). He announces the mysteries of God.” In his icon, “Gabriel with a branch from Paradise, presented by him to the Most Holy Virgin, or with a shining lantern in his right hand and with a mirror made of jasper in his left.”
  • RAPHAEL (The Healing of God). The one who bears our prayers to the Lord. He is the “the curer of human infirmities (Tobit 3:16; 12:15) and "over the spirits of men" (1 Enoch 20:3; 40:5, 9). In his icon, “Raphael holds a vessel with healing medications in his left hand, and with his right hand leads Tobias, carrying a fish for healing (Tobit 5-8).”
  • URIEL (The Fire/Light of God). The interpreter of prophecies. He is considered as the “enlightener (3 Esdras 5:20). We pray for him to enlighten those with darkened minds.” I Enoch says he "is over the world and over Tartarus" (1 Enoch 20:2). In his icon, “Uriel in his raised right hand holds a naked sword at the level of his chest, and in his lowered left hand ‘a fiery flame.’”
  • BARACHIEL (The Benediction or Blessings of God). He is the “distributor of the blessings of God for good deeds, entreats the mercy of God for people.” In his icon, he “is shown with a white rose on his breast.”
  • SALATHIEL or SELAPHIEL (The Command, Communicant, or Prayer of God). Command and prayer represent the two forms, or types, of communication: the first one being descendant and the second ascendant. He is the force for “impelling to prayer (3 Esdras 5:16). He prays to God for mankind.” In his icon, he is “in a prayerful posture, gazing downwards, hands folded on the chest.”
  • JEHUDIEL (The Glory, Laudation or Praise of God). He encourages “exertion for the glory of the Lord and interceding for the reward of efforts.” In his icon, he “holds a golden crown in his right hand, in his left, a whip of three red (or black) thongs.”

“And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Christ’s prophecy of the end times, Matthew 24:31 KJV).

This lowest rank of angels is specifically the heavenly beings charged to go from heaven to announce things to men. St. Dionysios the Areopagite explains, “For the Angels... complete the whole series of Heavenly Minds, as being the last Order of the Heavenly Beings who possess the Angelic characteristic; yea, rather, they are more properly named Angels by us than those of higher degree, because their Hierarchy is occupied with the more manifest, and is more particularly concerned with the things of the world.” Guardian angels are those of this rank assigned at birth or baptism to a particular human being for their protection from evil and for their encouragement to do good. As St. Dimitry of Rostov details further, “The Angels are the lowest of all the orders in the heavenly hierarchy and the closest to man. They announce the lesser mysteries and intentions of God and teach people to live virtuously and righteously before God. They are appointed to guard each of us who believe: they sustain virtuous people from fallen, and never leave us though we have sinned, but are always ready to help us, if only we ourselves want it.”

Given all these things, we see how the Ascension of our Lord is the most awesome event to ever occur in Heaven. Human flesh is brought to the throne of God! The flesh of the Lord now gives man access to all the ranks of angelic revelation and deeper participation into the Mysteries of God and life of the Trinity. This is beyond even the Seraphim who cover their faces. This is also why the angels are in constant amazement at the Theotokos. To be “more honorable than the cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim” is no small praise. She exceeds the glory of the angels who are so infused with the grace of God that it is indescribable.

ELOHIM (Hebrew original: god, but in the sense of our word “spirit”; i.e. it can be used as “Spirit” to refer properly to God or “spirit” to refer to one of the heavenly hosts. Context and the singular/plural usage indicate this.)

“God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods” (Psalm 82:1 KJV).

“And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O LORD: thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints. For who in the heaven can be compared unto the LORD? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the LORD? God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him” (Psalm 89:5-7 KJV).

“They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not” (Deuteronomy 32:17 KJV).

“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD… Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. And the LORD said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause. And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life. So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown… Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said… Where wast thou…When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7; 38:1, 4a, 7 KJV).

“And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee” (I Kings 22:19-23 KJV).

“And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart” (Genesis 6:1-6 KJV).

See also Daniel 4; Daniel 7; Daniel 10; and I Samuel 28:13 KJV

Therefore, the celestial hierarchies do not only distribute the energy of God to the cosmos but they also serve the will of God into the world’s affairs. The energy of God and will of God are sometimes used synonymously by the Fathers. God decrees His will from the Highest of Heaven and the heavenly council execute it through their own hierarchies.

The Scriptures make it evident, however, that the heavenly council is more than the celestial hierarchies. It includes them, the demons, and even the souls of men. Our saints now are at work in the heavenly council (in our Tradition we find countless stories of them assisting the faithful in salvation, strengthening, rescuing, etc.).

I suspect this is primarily done through the use of virtue or vice by the Principalities who then use the archangels and angels who are obedient to manifest that decision to those whom they are assigned on earth. For example, a city begins to manifest a certain virtue (or conversely a sin). That Principality (or conversely fallen Principality) assigned to that city calls on the angel (conversely demon) corresponding to that virtue (conversely passion) to bring such a change to that city. The lowest rank of angels (conversely demons) who are assigned to the individuals in that city and making up the reality and ethos of that city are then strongly prompted in that direction. With the example of King Ahab, the spirit of lying (named Diablos), I suspect told the demons under his charge (whose work is obedience to him for the increase of the sin of lying in the world) to go to each prophet and tell them the lie. This harmonizes the hierarchy we clearly see in our Tradition concerning the spirit realm and their participation in the heavenly council. I admit, this is speculation on my part. However, I can come to no other conclusion than this but admit some details may not be exact.

A note on the text in Job. Obviously, God knows where Satan is, since God is omniscient. This exchange seems to force Satan to confess his banishment as an articulated reminder for himself and/or the heavenly council. We also learn that God still uses these fallen spirits in the execution of His will on the earth, but their abode is closer to the earthly realm than to the heavenly realm.

A Sermon of Pope St. Gregory the Great. September 29th -- St. Michael the Archangel:
“It must be realized that ‘Angel’ is the name of their office, not of their nature. For the holy spirits of the heavenly homeland are always spirits, but they cannot always be called Angels; they are Angels only when they are announcing something... Those who announce less important things are called Angels, and those who announce the highest things are called Archangels.”

“The 35th Canon of the Council of Laodicea [accepted in Nicaea at the Seventh Ecumenical Council] condemned and denounced as heretical the worship of angels as gods and rulers of the world, but affirmed their proper veneration” (OCA). This canon reads, “Christians must not forsake the Church of God, and go away and invoke angels and gather assemblies, which things are forbidden. If, therefore, any one shall be found engaged in this covert idolatry, let him be anathema; for he has forsaken our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and has gone over to idolatry.”

CAPUT X from St. Dionysios the Areopagite’s Celestial Hierarchies:
“Section I: ...the most reverend Order of the Minds around God, ministered by the perfecting illumination through its immediate elevation to it, is purified, and illuminated, and perfected by a gift of light from the Godhead, more hidden and more manifest—more hidden, indeed, as being more intelligible, and more simplifying, and more unifying; more manifest, as being a first gift and a first manifestation, and more complete, and more affused to it as transparent. And from this (Order) again, in due degree, the second, and from the second, the third, and from the third, our Hierarchy, is reverently conducted to the super-original Origin and End of all good order, according to the self-same law of well-ordered regularity, in Divine harmony and proportion.

“Section II: Now all Angels are interpreters of those above them, the most reverend, indeed, of God, Who moves them, and the rest, in due degree, of those who have been moved by God. For to such and extent has the superessential harmony of all things provided for the religious order and the regulated conduct of each of the rational and intellectual beings, that each rank of the Hierarchies, has been placed in sacred order, and we observe every Hierarchy distributed into first, and middle, and last Powers. But to speak accurately, He distinguished each Division itself, by the same Divine harmonies; wherefore the theologians say that the most Divine Seraphim cry one to another, indicating distinctly, as I think by this, that the first impart their knowledge of divine things to the second.

“Section III: ...each heavenly and human mind has within itself its own special first, and middle, and last ranks, and powers, manifested severally in due degree, for the aforesaid particular mystical meanings of the Hierarchical illuminations, according to which, each one participates, so far as is lawful and attainable to him, in the most spotless purification, the most copious light, the pre-eminent perfection. For there is nothing that is self-perfect, or absolutely without need of perfecting, except the really Self-perfect and preeminently Perfect.”

The book of Enoch has some helpful insights into the relationship between the angelic realm (fallen and steadfast ranks) and humanity. However, this is a book which can trip us up. St. Nikolai Velimirovich explains that the workings of heaven were not revealed to men (only vaguely in rare cases) but the workings of the earth were, which is why Moses opened with "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth..." then proceeded to explain the creation and history of the earth, but not heaven. Therefore, the Hebrews only speculated about what the angelic realm was like until it was revealed in truth to the privileged Christians whom God willed to understand and participate in angelic life. The Book of Enoch makes clear that the Watchers are the "sons of god" and that mankind is the "daughters of men" in Genesis 6:4. There is reason to believe the early Church believed in this speculation of the Hebrews, understandably so. However, the Holy Spirit has revealed to the Church that angels cannot have relationships with humans. Therefore, we understand the "sons of God" to refer to the Sethites and the "daughters of men" refer to the Cainites. The Book of Enoch the Church claims is pseudepigraphical and containing errors. Therefore, it was not included in the list of Scriptures (and was never part of the Septuagint). It is probably correct in that the fallen angels or Watchers taught men forbidden knowledge (notably the use of makeup and instruction in occult thinking), but as was explained, confused how far these relationships went. By the time the cult of angelic worship was condemned at the Council of Laodicea (397 A.D.) and the Scriptural canon was basically established, the message of "Enoch" was of no concern to the Church. Therefore, we should be careful with a book that contradicts Church doctrine, even if highly regarded in the past.

Understanding this as the reality of creation's structure makes the notion of “just me and Jesus” totally impossible. To ignore these things makes the “just me and Jesus” adherent in a sorrier condition than an idolater. How? The idolater at least was consciously aware of his idolatry. If he were a soldier and possessed by the passion of violence, he would pray to the god (demon) of war to satisfy him. He embraced this as his religion and knowing this could repent of it (as we see in the lives of many saints). However, the “just me and Jesus” ignores this hierarchical manifestation of the grace and will of God, leaving his own selfish energy and willfulness to fill the vacuum. He then interprets the Scripture and his tradition through that lifestyle or rather consciousness in understanding or praying to God. We cannot separate ourselves from those forces which have formed or possessed (be they good or evil) our souls. These forces are exactly that which is the “plank” or “splinter” for the “eye” of our soul which will clarify or obscure any words concerning the revelation of God. Therefore, Jesus becomes totally arbitrary according to our own vision. This is one of the many meanings behind the vision of Jacob’s ladder; the angels mediate the works of God between those in heaven and those on earth.

The mystics of the Church becoming purified, illumined, and perfected often describe meeting God and experiencing Him as escorted by the celestial hierarchies (this is even in the Divine Liturgy: “That we may receive the King of All, invisibly escorted by angelic hosts. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.”). The Doxastikon hymn after the Vespers Aposticha to St. Maximos the Confessor states he "ascended the orders of the angels." If we wish to participate in Orthodoxy's mystical life (and we should since it is exactly out salvation), then it helps to know how to interact with heaven. Angels are how man is lead to God; they distribute His divine energy to us and the cosmos in good order. By studying each of the Angelic ranks and what our Tradition knows of them, we begin to retrain our understanding towards the Orthodox phronima concerning how we truly participate in God's creation. Humility is needed to abandon those idols we place in our hearts and obscure our vision of God. This allows for us to see the path of our salvation. If we embrace humility then the angels are pleased to come and show us those heavenly gifts in store for us.