For he commands his angels with regard to you,
to guard you wherever you go.
With their hands they shall support you,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
– Psalm 91:11-12
Imagine what it would feel like to live in a world like Narnia. Imagine a world full of colors, dimensions and depths you have never seen before. Imagine a world full of magic and majestic creatures. What if our perception of reality was a mere dream and this magical world was real?
The Bible tells us that God created physical and spiritual bodiless creatures. It tells us that they live in the very presence of the omnipotent creator and are also present in our little world. We commonly refer to them as angels and know that some of them are called guardian angels because they are appointed to minister to specific people. In the opening verse of today’s Scripture reading our Lord refers to them saying “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).
There is a short and beautiful story about one guardian angel in Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, which I want to share with you. A wicked woman was dying without leaving behind a single good deed. So after she passed away, the devils caught and plunged her into the lake of fire. Because of her many wicked deeds, there was nothing her guardian angel could do to save her. But then the angel remembered that once, she pulled an onion from her garden and gave it to a beggar. The angel rushed to God, begging for mercy because of this single act of kindness.
God told the guardian angel to take the onion, let her take hold of it and be pulled out. ‘If you can pull her out by the onion, let her come to paradise,’ God told the angel.
‘The angel did this and cautiously began to pull the woman out. But the other sinners in the lake, seeing her getting out, caught hold of her to get out with her. Since the woman was wicked, she began kicking them, saying, ‘I’m to be pulled out, not you. It’s my onion, not yours.’
“As soon as she said that, the onion broke, and the woman fell back into the lake and is there to this day.”
The day we were born was undoubtedly a joyful occasion for our parents. They probably received many congratulatory calls, cards, and presents celebrating our birthdays. But the most significant gift we received on the day we were born was God’s gift of a guardian angel. Out of his abundant love for us, God appointed an angel to walk with us during each moment of our lives. He is our inseparable companion and friend, accompanying us throughout our journey, watching over and guiding us. He protects us from harm and helps us grow in our relationship with God. They speak to us not with words but by a gentle whisper, spiritual presence, and sometimes through people around us. The faint voice in our head preventing us from walking into danger or precious moments when God and faith come to mind out of nowhere … are perhaps the whisper of our heavenly friend and guardian angel talking to us and leading us to safety and to God.
Dostoevsky was a deeply spiritual man. His depiction of the guardian angel trying to save the soul of a human and help it ascend into heaven is based on Orthodox theology. In fact, this is something we pray about every day. A good example of this is found in the daily prayers of St. Nersess Graceful.
commit me to a good angel,
who may deliver up my soul in peace,
and convey it undisturbed
through the malice of evil, to heavenly places.
Have mercy upon your creatures,
and on me, a manifold sinner.