Hey ya’ll, last week we were talking about what? Mass. Yes, what part? When the bread & wine change to body & blood. Yes, when Jesus is offered up to heaven…who takes the offering up? An angel! That’s right! During Mass angels stay pretty busy, that’s one of them. Actually there are six other angels in the church all the time…can somebody tell me where they are? There are two at the front! Yes, where? Up on the sides. Yes, what are they doing? Umm, just standing and praying? Yes, but remember that Mass happens on Earth and where else? In Heaven. Yes. So maybe in heaven they’re up to something…who sits under those two angels? Huh? At Mass, who sits under the angels on the sides…the priest? No he sits over in the chair. The deacon? No, he’s by the priest. Ok, so? Oh, two altarboys sit by the angels! And are there altarboys in heaven? Ha, no! So who helps out with the heavenly part of Mass if there’re no altarboys? Angels? Yes. What do altarboys do? Pray? Yeah, well we all pray. What else? Hold stuff? Such as? Water & a towel. Yes, and? Umm, they hold the book? Yes, and? No more guesses? OK, listen to what an angel does in the Heavenly Liturgy, see if anyone does that part on Earth:
“And an[other] angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer”…well, what’s a censer? No guesses, keep listening: “..and he was given much incense to…incense! The angel’s burning incense! Yes, where? In Heaven! Good, keep listening: “he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God.”
So. Who burns incense at Mass on Earth? The altarboys! Yes. And in Heaven? The angel. Yes. The altarboys and the angels all assist at Mass. And at Mass we see the altarboys, but all the heaven stuff is invisible. Why do we have those wooden angels if it’s all invisible? Umm, to remind us that they are helping in Heaven? Yes…are they real angels? No they’re just statues. Right, just reminders, like the other statues in church.
Back to the incense for a second: “the angel was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God.” So the incense rises up along with the prayers of the people in Heaven, who are called….saints! Yes. And on Earth why does the altarboy burn incense? ‘Cause it goes up with our prayers? Yes, genius! Our prayers go up with the incense just like the saints’ prayers do in heaven.
And remind me please, when St. Paul said we’re surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, who is he describing? The incense? No, not what; who. Y’all know this…who are the cloud of witnesses…who lives up in the clouds…sinners? No, saints! They’re saints! Yes, so on Sunday when the incense goes up in a cloud, think about the cloud of witnesses, the saints, praying along with you… everybody in Heaven and Earth praying together.
By the way, what book of the Bible am I reading from…the one with all the Heavenly Liturgy in it…and the Second Coming? Oh…the last book! Yes, named…? Come on, you know this, it’s the book where stuff is reveal…Revelations! Yes, Revelations.
So that’s one pair of angels; there are two more, who can tell us about another pair? I know, there are two in the back! Oh, are there? Where? Up in the balcony! How would you know? I’m in the children’s choir, I see them all the time. Uh-huh…what are they doing…praying like the two in front? No, they blow big horns. Yes…why would they do that? ’cause they’re in the balcony with the choir and the organ and all. Yes, that makes sense. There’s another reason, ya’ll listen and tell me when you hear it. And I am still reading from…? Revelations. That’s it: “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.” Those are the angels in the balcony, they have their trumpets! Yes. In Revelations, the angels blow the seven trumpets one at a time, and they announce the world is coming to an end. When I see them up in the balcony they remind me that Jesus will come again one last time. If y’all want to see them you have to look up at the balcony when you leave church, you can’t miss those golden angels if you look for them.
Are we done now? Done? Yeah, how many angels have y’all found? Four. And how many did I say there were? Six! So where are the other two? Don’t feel bad, they are hard to see.
Tell me about the Tabernacle, please. It’s where Jesus is. Yes, his little…house! Yes. And it’s like a box that God told Moses to build to keep some manna and the Ten Commandments in, which is called…the Ark! Yes, and what would you find on either side of the Ark? The handles, the poles! Yes, good, and something else…listen again. What book in the Bible has to do with Moses…and the Hebrews…making their exit from Egypt…? Oh, Exodus! Yes it’s called ‘Exodus’ because the Hebrews…exited! Yes…here we go: “…make an ark of acacia wood…and you shall overlay it with pure gold. And you shall make two cherubim of gold…Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, their faces one to another. There I will meet with you, between the two cherubim that are upon the ark.” So? Umm…cherubs are angels aren’t they? Sort of: cherubs and angels both are heavenly creatures with wings. Remind me, what’s angel (άγγελος, aggelos ) mean in Greek? Messenger! Yes. But Cherub’s not Greek…it’s not Latin…who’d Moses lead out of Egypt? Hebrews! So ‘cherub’ (כְּרוּב kĕruwb) must be…Hebrew? Yes. It’s Hebrew for “to be near.” Why would they be called that? ‘Cause they are near to God? Yes, cherubim are God’s closest servants, like bodyguards. Nowadays we see cherubs on Valentine’s Day cards drawn as chubby little winged babies. Real cherubs are very serious, not cute or silly. A cherub guarded Eden with a fiery sword after Adam & Eve were thrown out. So where were the cherubim on the Ark? On both sides. Yes, they faced each other across the Ark. And where does God meet with Moses? Listen again: “There I will meet with you, between the two cherubim that are upon the ark.” Between the cherubs? Yes, God’s presence was between the cherubim, his bodyguards.
Now tell me again what’s in church that’s like the Ark? The Tabernacle! Yes. So if the winged cherubim were above and on either side of the Ark, where would we look for cherubim in church? On both sides of the Tabernacle? Yes, genius! Since we’re not in church, look at this picture (and the photo at the top):
See them? They aren’t statues, they’re just carved into the wood panels, but they’re above and on both sides of the new Ark, the Tabernacle. And where was God’s presence in Moses’ day? Umm…between the cherubs? Yes, but say ‘cherubim’, not ‘cherubs’. And where is God’s presence today? Between the cherubim! Yes, God’s most powerful presence on Earth is still between the cherubim.
Y’all be sure to keep an eye out for the angels and cherubim next time you’re at Mass. Show them to your parents; I bet they don’t know about them all.