per manus sancti angeli tui

I think it probable that created intelligences are at work in all natural operations. They are also, of course, involved in supernatural operations. In the Roman Canon the priest prays that the gifts might be carried “by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high.” Nikolaus Gihr comments as follows:

It must not appear strange that we should implore the ministry and assistance of an angel to present our oblation, for the purpose of making it more acceptable to God and salutary to us. It is a tradition originating in ancient Christian times and frequently expressed by the Church, that the angels who participated in the work of redemption from beginning to end, are also present at and take part in the celebration of the holy Sacrificial Mysteries. As St. Chrysostom says (Of the Priesthood VI, 4): “The priest is himself at that solemn moment surrounded by angels, and the choir of the heavenly Powers unite with him; they occupy the entire space around the altar, to honor Him who lies there as a Sacrifice.” Then the Saint describes a vision, in which was seen a multitude of angels, who, robed in dazzling white garments and with head deeply bowed, surrounded the altar, as warriors standing in the presence of their king. The blessed vocation of the heavenly spirits consists in glorifying God by praise and in assisting man to attain salvation. Now, where could this twofold object be better fulfilled than is actually done during the holy Sacrifice? Hence hosts of angels collect about the altar to procure for God honor on high and for man peace on earth. Between the angels and the Holy Eucharist there exist, undoubtedly, intimate relations, which, indeed, to our weak vision here below remain always shrouded in a mysterious obscurity. Christian tradition speaks not only of the presence of many angels at the celebration of the Holy Mysteries, but it often, moreover, mentions in a determinate manner and yet, at the same time, in an indeterminate manner, a certain angel specially commissioned to carry our prayers and sacrifices before the throne of God. Tertullian says (On Prayer, Chap. 16) that it is highly irreverent to sit in church “before the face of the Living God, while the angel of prayer is still standing there” (sub conspectu Dei vivi angelo adhuc orationis adstante). St. Ambrose writes (In Luc. 1. i, n. 28), that we cannot doubt that “an angel assists” (assistere angelum), when Christ is sacrificed on the altar. Thus the text of the Canon also mentions but one angel. Does it not appear from this that the Church herself would thereby indicate that God intrusts an angel with the special mission of bringing the oblation of the priest and people into His presence? More minute and accurate information relative to this Angel of the Sacrifice of the Mass (Angelus assistens divinis mysteriis S. Thomas III, q. 83, a. 4 ad 9) is not granted to us. Many saints and servants of God had a particular devotion to the angel here mentioned, without being able or willing to decide as to his name.  [Nikolaus Gihr, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, pp. 662-663].

5 thoughts on “per manus sancti angeli tui

  1. “I think it probable that created intelligences are at work in all natural operations.” – In the post you link to, you refer to a work by De Koninck. Did Aquinas directly address the issue?

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    • Gihr rejects that reading with good reason I think:

      There is no reason in this instance for departing from the ordinary signifi- cation of the word, and finding in sanctus Angelus anything more than a created angelic spirit. According to the ancient language of the Church, the name Angelus (= nuntius, missus, legatus) often, indeed, serves to designate the second and third Persons of the Godhead ; but the contents of the prayer do not require such a signification, even though it might be admissible in a certain sense. In this case there is question not of a consecrated, but only of a mediatorial action, and only the latter might, therefore, be ascribed to the God-Man or to the Holy Ghost, if we thus understood Angelus. Thus the expression per manus sancti Angeli is conceived as strengthening per Christum Dominum, which gives a good meaning ; in the latter instance the mediatorial action of the angels rests on Christ. The liturgy of the Apostolic Constitution likewise (1. 8, c. 13) has: “Again and again let us beg of God, through His Christ and by His Sacrifice, offered to God our Lord, that the good God may accept the same as an agreeable odor on His heavenly altar, through the mediation of His Christ.” This prayer has also some connection with the oriental Epiklesis (Invocation), in as far at least as the latter in part pro- poses the imploring of the sacramental gifts of salvation ; now if we would refer ” the word Angelus to the Holy Ghost, we would then regard Him in this place as mediator of the accomplished sacrifice, so as to make it most meritorious to us. But some have gone still further and have understood by the action here solicited of the Angelus (Holy Ghost) a consecrating activity (perferri in sublime altare = transmutari in corpus et sanguinem Christi), so that this prayer would be a real Epiklesis, that is, a petition that “God would transform the bread into the sacred Body, and that which is contained in the chalice into the precious Blood of His Christ, changing both through His Holy Spirit.” But as this interpretation does violence to the text, aud brings into the Roman Canon of the Mass an almost insoluble difficulty (that is, the Epiklesis) of the Greek and Oriental Liturgies without sufficient reason, and contradicts the convictions of the assembled Church at the Council of Florence (1439), as well as the traditional views of liturgists and dogmaticians of all ages, we must reject it as untenable. (p. 664, note 1)

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