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Old Jun 10, '12, 9:04 am
sidetrack's Avatar
sidetrack sidetrack is offline
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Default Is the celestial hierarchy of angels a Catholic teaching?

Well a while back I was strolling thru one of my favorite websites/sources of pop culture and litrary information,tvtropes when I came across this

What particulary caught my attention was the info under the folders "Biblical angels" and "Angels in Christian tradition".See for most of my life the closet thing I ever thought of as a hierarchy of angels is angels and archangels (with archangel being a special title given to ones like Michael,Raphael and Gabriel).As I got a bit older a found out about Seraphim (the 2 wings to fly,2 to cover the yes and 2 for the feet kind ) which I thought was just descriptive of a special feature that archangels have and cherubim which for the most part I thought of as a special title for the more child like looking ones.Reading this however there's stuff I've mostly never about like Dominions,Virtue,Principalities,Elders,T hrones or Ophanim.

There some mention of choirs which I've sometimes seen as a popular depiction with angels and in the Divine Comedy,"living creatures" which are like angels with the faces of a man,lion,ox and eagle along with the the Ophanim which are like eye covered wheel like gyroscope looking things.The thing about living creatures I've read mentioned in the book of Ezekiel and have seen as like a motif rare times and the Ophanim thing I remember from something space ship like in the movie Knowing.

I'm wondering are this celestial hierarchy of angels official Church teachings or are they more like popular Medieval speculations which in modern times the jury is still out on?.
Thank you very much so for your time.

Last edited by sidetrack; Jun 10, '12 at 9:14 am.
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Old Jun 10, '12, 9:44 am
Hesychios Hesychios is offline
Join Date: June 5, 2004
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Smile Re: Is the celestial hierarchy of angels a Catholic teaching?

It is a tradition of sorts, but probably not Apostolic.

I don't know if the subject is mentioned in the CCC, but I suggest you check. There is a nod to the 'choirs of angels' in the Roman Missal, but I don't know how far that goes to validating everything that has been said on the subject. There has not been anything like a definitive statement on the subject from church authorities as far as I can tell.

For the most part the hierarchy of angels idea which became popular speculation in Medieval era is traceable to the writings of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite from the fifth century (maybe a little later). He wrote on the rankings of Angels in nine categories, with some details which he might have made up himself, and there was some argument that the world should be ordered as a hierarchy to mirror the celestial hierarchy, but I don't remember much about it.

He was actually not strictly orthodox, since from his writings he seemed to have been a neo-Platonist with monophysite tendencies, but his writings on the celestial hierarchy became extremely popular after they were re-discovered in the west.

To be clear, he was not the real Saint Dionysius the Areopagite (a supposed convert from Apostolic times of Saint Paul from when he spoke at the Areopagus in Athens), but was mistaken for him. He was very definitely a much later person by hundreds of years, for this reason scholars today refer to the man as Pseudo-Dionysius (or second Dionysius).

If interested ...

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Old Jun 10, '12, 12:23 pm
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YoungTradCath YoungTradCath is offline
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Default Re: Is the celestial hierarchy of angels a Catholic teaching?

Angels, Archangels, Thrones, Dominions, Cherubim, Seraphim and Powers are all mentioned specifically in the Roman Missal.

Deference to tradition should be taken for granted.
Devoted bibliophile.
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Old Jun 10, '12, 2:40 pm
MarkThompson MarkThompson is offline
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Default Re: Is the celestial hierarchy of angels a Catholic teaching?

As I have previously posted here and here anent this topic (emphasis added):
The nine orders are indeed mentioned in the Bible, though the basis is, in my view, exceedingly thin. For instance, Colossians 1:16: "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him." Now, why we would read Paul here in speaking of "thrones" and "principalities" as celestial creatures instead of as a reference to earthly kingdoms and states, I have no idea. But we do -- this is one of the key Biblical passages in establishing the angelic orders of Thrones, Dominions, Principalities, and Powers.

Among the anathemata against Origen issued by the Second Council of Constantinople in 553, we find:
II. If anyone shall [deny] that [of the immaterial intelligences] . . . some became and are called Cherubim, others Seraphim, and Principalities, and Powers, and Dominations, and Thrones, and Angels, and as many other heavenly orders as there may be: let him be anathema.
So it is, as best I can tell, a dogmatically taught truth that these orders exist. And there is a Biblical basis, for however much it may be worth. Hope this helps.
This would indicate that the existence of the nine orders so named is authoritatively taught.
Qui meditabitur in lege Domini die ac nocte, dabit fructum suum in tempore suo.

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Old Jun 10, '12, 2:46 pm
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thyrodandstaff thyrodandstaff is offline
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Default Re: Is the celestial hierarchy of angels a Catholic teaching?

I think I read it goes back to St. Thomas Aquinas.
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