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CHAPTER LXXX: OF THE ORDER BETWEEN ONE ANGEL AND ANOTHER
SINCE corporeal things are governed by spiritual, as we have proved, and since there is order of a kind among corporeal things, it follows that the higher bodies are governed by the higher intellectual substances, and the lower bodies by the lower intellectual substances. And seeing that the higher a substance is, the more universal is its power; while the power of an intellectual substance is more universal than the power of a body; the higher intellectual substances have powers entirely independent of any corporeal power, and consequently they are not united to bodies; whereas the lower intellectual substances have powers confined to certain limits and dependent on certain corporeal organs for their exercise, and consequently they need to be united to bodies. And just as the higher intellectual substances have a more universal power, so too they receive from God more perfectly the divine disposal of things, in that they are acquainted with the scheme of order, even as regards individuals, through receiving it from God. This manifestation of the divine governance, made by God, reaches to the uttermost intellectual substances: thus it is said (Job xxv. 3): Is there any numbering of his soldiers? and upon whom shall not his light arise? On the other hand the lower intelligences do not receive this manifestation so perfectly, as to be able to know thereby every detail of the order of divine providence left to their execution, but only in a general way: and the lower their position, the less detailed knowledge of the divine government do they receive through this first manifestation received from above; so much so that the human intellect, which is the lowest in point of natural knowledge, has a knowledge of only certain most general things. Accordingly the higher intellectual substances receive immediately from God the perfection of the knowledge in question; which perfection the other lower intellectual substances need to receive through them: just as we have said above that the general knowledge of the disciple is brought to perfection by means of the specific knowledge of the master. Hence it is that Dionysius speaking of the highest intellectual substances which he assigns to the first hierarchy or holy sovereignty, says that they are not sanctified by means of other substances, but that they are placed by God Himself immediately around Him, and as far as possible close to His immaterial and incomprehensible beauty on which they gaze, and in which they contemplate the intelligible concept of His works: and by these, he says, the inferior ranks of heavenly substances are instructed.
Accordingly the higher intelligences receive their perfection from a higher source of knowledge. Now in every disposition of providence, the order of effects is derived from the form of agents: since the effect must needs proceed from its cause in some kind of likeness. Now it is for the sake of an end that the cause communicates the likeness of its form to the effect. Hence the first principle in the dispositions of providence is the end; the second is the form of the agent; the third is the appointment of the order of effects. Consequently in the order of the intellect the highest degree is the consideration of the idea of order, in the end; the second degree is the same consideration, in the form; while the third is the knowledge of the disposition of order in itself and not in a higher principle. Wherefore the art which considers the end governs the art which considers the form, as the art of sailing governs the art of shipbuilding. And the art which considers the form governs the art which considers only the order of movements which prepare the way for the form, as the art of shipbuilding governs the handiwork of the builders.
Accordingly there is a certain order among the intelligences who take from God Himself immediate and perfect cognizance of the order of divine providence. The first and highest perceive the ordered scheme of providence in the last end itself which is the divine goodness, some of them, however, clearer than others; and these are called Seraphim, i.e. fiery or setting on fire, because fire is used to designate intensity of love or desire, which are about the end. Hence Dionysius says that this name indicates both their fervent and quivering activity towards God, and their leading lower things to God as their end.
The second place belongs to those who acquire perfect knowledge of the scheme of providence in the divine form: and these are called Cherubim which signifies fulness of knowledge: for knowledge is made complete through the form of the thing known. Wherefore Dionysius says that their name indicates that they contemplate the highest operative power of the divine beauty.
The third grade is of those who contemplate the disposition of divine judgements in itself: and they are called Thrones: because the throne is significative of judicial power, according to Ps. ix. 5: Thou hast sat on the throne, who judgest justice. Hence Dionysius says that this name signifies that they are God-bearers and adapted for the obedient fulfilment of all divine undertakings.
What has been said must however be understood, not as though the divine goodness, essence, and knowledge of the disposition of things were three distinct things, but in the sense that according to what we have been saying we may look at the matter in question from different points of view.
Again, there must be order among even the lower spirits who receive from the higher spirits perfect knowledge of the divine order to be fulfilled by them. Because the higher ones are also more universal in their power of understanding; so that they acquire their knowledge of the order of providence from more universal principles and causes, but those beneath them, from more particular causes: for a man who could consider the entire physical order in the heavenly bodies, would be of a higher intelligence than one who needed to turn his mind to lower things in order to perfect his knowledge. Accordingly those who are able to know perfectly the order of providence from the universal causes which stand midway between God, the supremely universal cause, and particular causes, are themselves between those who are able to consider the aforesaid order in God Himself, and those who need to consider it in particular causes. Dionysius assigns these to the middle hierarchy which, as it is governed by the highest, so, says he, does it govern the lowest.
Again, among these intellectual substances also there must be some kind of order: since the universal disposition of providence is divided, first, among many executors: which belongs to the order of Dominations: because to command what others execute belongs to one having dominion. Hence Dionysius says that domination signifies a certain liberty free from servile condition and any subjection. Secondly, it is distributed by the operator and executor in reference to many effects. This is done by the order of Virtues whose name, as Dionysius says in the same passage, designates a certain strength and virility in carrying out the divine operations, without so much as swerving, through weakness, from the divine movement. Hence it is evident that the principle of universal operation belongs to this order: so that apparently the movement of the heavenly bodies belongs to this order also, from which as from universal causes particular effects ensue in nature: wherefore they are called powers of heaven (Lk. xxi. 26), where it is said: The powers of heaven shall be moved. To the same spirits apparently belongs the execution of those divine works which are done outside the order of nature; for these are the highest of God's ministries: for which reason Gregory says that the Virtues are those spirits through whom miracles are frequently wrought. And if there be anything else of a universal and prominent nature in the fulfilment of the divine ministry, it is fittingly ascribed to this order. Thirdly, the universal order of providence, once established in its effects, is guarded from confusion, by curbing the things which might disturb that order. This belongs to the order of Powers. Wherefore Dionysius says in the same place that the name Powers implies a well-established order, without confusion, in the divine undertakings: and so Gregory says that it belongs to this order to check contrary powers.
The lowest of superior intellectual substances are those who receive the knowledge of the order of divine providence in relation to particular causes: these are placed in immediate authority over human affairs. Of them Dionysius says: This third rank of spirits presides, in consequence, over the human hierarchy. By human affairs we must understand all lower natures and particular causes, that are subordinated to man and serve for his use, as we have already explained. Among these also there is a certain order. For in human affairs there is a common good, namely the good of the city or of the nation, and this apparently belongs to the order of Principalities. Hence Dionysius says in the same chapter that the name Principality indicates leadership in a sacred order. Hence (Dan. x. 12-20) mention is made of Michael the Prince of the Jews, of a Prince of the Persians, and of a Prince of the Greeks. And thus the government of kingdoms and the change of supremacy from one nation to another, must belong to the ministry of this order. It would also seem part of their office to instruct those men who are in positions of authority, in matters pertaining to the administration of their office.
There is also a human good, not common to many, but belonging to an individual by himself, yet useful not to one only, but to many: for instance those things which all and each one must believe and observe, such as the articles of faith, the divine worship, and the like. This belongs to the Archangels of whom Gregory says that they announce the greater things: thus we call Gabriel an Archangel, because he announced the Incarnation of the Word to the Virgin, which is an article of faith for all.
There is also a human good that belongs to each one singly. This pertains to the order of Angels of whom Gregory says that they announce minor matters. Hence they are called guardian angels according to Ps. xc. 11: He hath given His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. Wherefore Dionysius says that the Archangels are between the Principalities and Angels, because they have something in common with both: with the Principalities inasmuch as they lead the lower angels, and rightly so, because in human affairs matters of restricted interest must be regulated according to those that are of common interest: and with the Angels, because they announce to the Angels, and through the Angels, to us, for it is the duty of the latter to announce to men what concerns each individual. For this reason the lowest order has received as proper, the name common to all: because, to wit, its duty is to announce to us immediately. And so the name Archangel is as it were composed of both, since Archangel means a Principal Angel.
Gregory assigns the ordering of the heavenly spirits differently: for he places the Principalities among the spirits of the second rank, immediately after the Dominations: and the Virtues among the lowest, above the Archangels. But to one who considers the matter carefully, the difference is but small. For, according to Gregory, the Principalities are not placed over nations but over good spirits, as holding the principal place in the execution of the divine ministry: because, says he, to be a principal is to stand in a higher place than others. According to the explanation given above, we said that this belonged to the Virtues.--As to the Virtues, according to Gregory they are assigned to certain particular operations when, in some special case, outside the usual order of things, miracles have to be wrought. In this way they are fittingly numbered among the lowest angels.
Both explanations have the authority of the Apostle. For he says (Eph. i. 20, 21): Setting Him, namely Christ, on his right hand in heavenly places, above all principality, and power, and virtue, and dominion, where it is clear that in the ascending order he places the Powers above the Principalities, and the Virtues above these, and the Dominations above the last named. This is the order adopted by Dionysius, Whereas speaking of Christ to the Colossians (i. 16) he says: Whether thrones or dominations or principalities or powers, all things were created by Him and in Him. Here we see that beginning with the Thrones, in the descending order, he places the Dominations under them, beneath these the Principalities, and lower still the Powers. This is the order adopted by Gregory.
Mention is made of the Seraphim, Isa. vi. 2, 6; of the Cherubim, Ezech. i. 3; of the Archangels in the canonical epistle of Jude (9): When Michael the archangel, disputing with the devil, etc.; and of the Angels in the Psalms as already observed.
In all ordered powers there is this in common, that the lower all work by virtue of the higher. Hence what we have stated as belonging to the order of Seraphim, all the lower angels accomplish by virtue thereof: and the same applies to the other orders.
- ↑ Ch. lxxviii.
- ↑ Ch. lxxv.
- ↑ Coel. Hier. vii.
- ↑ Coel. Hier. vii.
- ↑ Loc. cit.
- ↑ Loc. cit.
- ↑ Coel. Hier. viii.
- ↑ Ibid., viii.
- ↑ Hom. xxxiv. in Ev.
- ↑ Loc. cit.
- ↑ Loc. cit. ix.
- ↑ Ch. lxxi. Further. Other things . . ..
- ↑ 1 Ethic. ii.
- ↑ Loc. cit.
- ↑ Loc. cit. ix.
- ↑ Hom. xxxiv. in Ev.
|Source: St. Thomas Aquinas, The Summa Contra Gentiles, trans. by The English Dominican Fathers from the latest Leonine Edition, Benzinger Brothers: New York, 1924.|