Review by Dr Pravin Thevathasan
The Other World We live in
A Catholic Vision Of Angelic Reality
by Scott Randall Paine
The author is a Catholic priest and professor in Brazil. He has written a marvellous book on the angels. The angels are "the very first creatures of God, and just as integral to the whole of creation as are human beings and the order of material reality."
Why did so many angels fall? Their fall was instantaneous. We do not know the full answer, but theologians like Suarez speculated that it was revealed to them that God would become man and be adored by the angels. Out of pride, some angels refused to do so and became demons.
The angels are certainly present in the life of Christ. An angel was there at the annunciation. An angel consoled Our Lord during his passion. An angel announced his Resurrection. Even the fallen angels constantly confronted him.
The author provides us with a very helpful description of the different choirs of angels. This is followed by an examination of the role that the angels played in both the Old and New Testaments. The angels are there from Genesis to Revelations. An angel stayed the arm of Abraham as he was about to slay his own son. Jacob had a vision of angels. Elijah and Elisha appeared to have lived with the angels as much as men. The Book of Psalms frequently refers to the angels.
In his Commentary on 2 Corinthians, St Thomas Aquinas suggests that St Paul was lifted into the first ring of the angels and was able to see what they see. St Peter was freed from prison by an angel.
I found it very helpful when the author referred to both Genesis and Revelations as books that deal with truths that are real but beyond our understanding. These truths can only be described symbolically and not in literal terms.
Following his discussion of the angels, the author turns to the devil. Clearly, the author takes the reality of the devil for granted. He quotes Pope Paul VI: "We know that this diabolical and destructive being really exists and is still active." As the author puts it, the world of sin is the "opus magnum of the evil one."
The devil desires us to focus on him out of curiosity. We are fascinated by the occult. The devil may be a liar and a deceiver, but he is no match for God. The author notes that God even makes use of the devil in order to redeem us. In the Old Testament, it is not the devil who controls Job. God controls the devil so that Job can be with God! The devil is only as powerful as we let him be.
Our means of combatting the devil are the sacraments and sacramentals of the Church. Above all, we should be utterly striving to love God above all things, says the author.
This is a classic work about the angels.