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St. Thomas Aquinas
Catechetical Instructions

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  • THE ANGEL'S DIGNITY
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THE ANGEL'S DIGNITY
 
In olden time an Angel would not show reverence to a man, but a man would 
deeply revere an Angel. This is because Angels are greater than men, and 
indeed in three ways. First, they are greater than men in dignity. This is 
because the Angel is of a spiritual nature: "Who makest Thy angels 
spirits."4 But, on the other hand, man is of a corruptible nature, for 
Abraham said: "I will speak to my Lord, whereas I am dust and ashes."5 It 
was not fitting, therefore, that a spiritual and incorruptible creature 
should show reverence to one that is corruptible as is a man. Secondly, an 
Angel is closer to God. The Angel, indeed, is of the family of God, and as 
it were stands ever by Him: "Thousands of thousands ministered to Him, and 
ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before Him."6 Man, on the other 
hand, is rather a stranger and afar off from God because of sin: "I have 
gone afar off."7 Therefore, it is fitting that man should reverence an 
Angel who is an intimate and one of the household of the King.
 
Then, thirdly, the Angels far exceed men in the fullness of the splendor of 
divine grace. For Angels participate in the highest degree in the divine 
light: "Is there any numbering of His soldiers? And upon whom shall not His 
light arise?"8 Hence, the Angels always appear among men clothed in light, 
hut men on the contrary, although they partake somewhat of the light of 
grace, nevertheless do so in a much slighter degree and with a certain 
obscurity. It was, therefore, not fitting that an Angel should show 
reverence to a man until it should come to pass that one would be found in 
human nature who exceeded the Angels in these three points in which we have 
seen that they excel over men - and this was the Blessed Virgin. To show 
that she excelled the Angels in these, the Angel desired to show her 
reverence, and so he said: "Ave (Hail)."
 



4
. Ps. ciii. 4.
 


5
. Gen., xviii. 27.
 


6
. Dan. vii. 10.
 


7
. Ps. liv. 8.
 


8
. Job, xxv. 3.
 





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