How is it that the angels sinned, now they can’t sin. I understand animals can’t.
Good angels have never sinned and were immediately confirmed in glory (as we will be if we have final perseverance in grace). Bad angels immediately sinned and were immediately punished.
One group is in Heaven and never sins, which follows from their original intention and the sustaining grace given in virtue of the Beatific Vision (Heaven).
The other group is in Hell and continues to sin, which follows from their original intention and the lack of grace that obtains in damnation.
I wanted to hear the official version of course. That we are to follow. That ¶ 2 I am a little confused on. You say, “sustaining grace given in virtue of the Beatific Vision…” Of course that, (vision) I have heard of.
What does “immediately sinned” and “immediately confirmed” mean? That I have never heard of.
In God’s design neither angels nor men were to have the Beatific Vision without a previous testing. Consider the angels first. God created them in the perfection of their nature as pure spirits. Further, He endowed them with the supernatural life of which we have just spoken. But they were not as yet admitted to the Beatific Vision. They must first be tested. What the testing was, we do not know; but we know that some of them failed in the test, and we know, too, that they failed through some form of self-assertion, assertion of self against God. In the Book of Job we read:
In His angels He found wickedness (Job iv.18).
Further, we know that one of these rebellious angels was the leader of the rest. We find such phrases as the “Devil and his angels” (e.g., Mt.xxv.41) and “the Dragon and his angels” (Apoc. .7). This chief of rebellious angels is most commonly called Satan, a Hebrew word meaning adversary or accuser, which is roughly the meaning also of the Greek word Diabolos, from which our word Devil comes. He is worth closer study.
Strictly speaking there is one Devil: the rest are demons: he is princeps daemoniorum (Mt.ix.34). It is usually held that the rebellion was his affair primarily: he seduced the rest. The words Satan, Diabolos, Devil, express his nature: he is the enemy. What is his name? We say that he was Lucifer, the light-bearer, before his fall, though he is not called by that name in Scripture. Scripture has a handful of names for a devil of great power, and it is commonly thought that they are all his—the rest remain a nameless multitude of wickedness. He is Asmodeus, the murderous fiend of the book of Tobias (iii.8), he is Beelzebub, Lord of Flies, in the Gospels, he is Belial, the one without use or profit (2 Cor.vi.15); he is Apollyon, the exterminator (Apoc.ix.11).
Our Lord describes him (John viii.44): He, from the first, was a murderer; and as for truth, he has never taken his stand upon that; there is no truth in him. When he utters falsehood, he is only uttering what is natural to him; he is all false and it is he who gave falsehood its birth.
—or in the Douay Version: he is a liar and the father of lies.
If Christians can be found to ignore the other angels, it seems an excess of rashness to ignore this one.
But to return to their great rebellion. We have seen that their sin was some form of self-assertion. It may be worth pausing at this first and most catastrophic of all sins to consider the nature of sin. In angels or men sin is always an effort to gain something against the will of God. Thus for angels and men sin is essentially ludicrous. All alike are made by God of nothing; all alike are held in existence by nothing save the continuing will of God to hold them so. To think that we can gain anything by hacking or biting or furtively nibbling at the Will which alone holds us in existence at all is a kind of incredible folly. It is precisely because apart from God we should be nothing, that Pride is the worst of all sins, for it is the direct assertion of self as against God. It is sin in its nakedness: all other sins are sin dressed up a little. Other sins are an effort to gain something against the will of God, pride is the claim to be something apart from the will of God.
I have said that sin is incredible folly. But it is made to look credible by the ease and frequency with which we do it. Sin is madness, but it is possible. Why? There is a profound mystery here: a mystery at its very darkest when we ask how pure spirits could have been guilty of a folly so monstrous, but a mystery still even when any one of us consider his own most recent effort to gain something against God’s will. The rebellious angels must have known that it was madness, yet they did it; but after all, any instructed Catholic knows that it is madness, yet he does it. Sin, in fact, is not simply a matter of knowledge, mysterious as knowledge is; it is a matter of that far more mysterious thing, WILL, at the very ultimate point of its mysteriousness, its freedom of choice. The will, if it wants intensely enough, can ignore the intellect’s information and go for what it wants. Even if the intellect knows that the thing will bring disaster, the will can choose it ; even if it knows that the thing cannot be had at all, the will can still fix itself upon it. Not even by the intellect is the will coerced. Created beings are the resultant of infinite power working upon nothingness, and they are free to fix their choice anywhere between those two extremes. To choose anything at all as apart from God is quite literally to choose nothingness, for apart from God everything is nothing. To choose God is to choose the infinite. Either way, whether we choose nothing or the infinite, we cannot be either, but we can possess either. We are free to choose.
The word freedom may easily mislead, for it has two meanings, or perhaps three. In its first and most rudimentary sense it is the absence of coercion: when we say that the will is free, we mean that we make our choices uncoerced: we choose what we like. This does not mean, of course, that the will has no proper object of its action: as the object of sight is colour, so the object of the will is the good: unless a thing is seen by us as good in some sense, we cannot choose it at all. But even a thing that we see as good, we need not choose. And of two alternatives seen as good, we can choose which we will. It is not simply a matter of a passive will tugged by conflicting attractions and yielding of inescapable necessity to the stronger tug. It is the will which gives the victory to one tug or the other: the will is not coerced by the objects of its desire.
So much our own experience of choosing tells us. But the question instantly arises: how can our freedom to choose be reconciled with the omnipotence of God? If we are really free, then there is something that escapes the power of God. That created things cannot coerce our will is one thing: but that God cannot is quite another. The problem is deeply mysterious because there are too many elements in it that do not lie under our gaze. One feels towards a reconciliation, or perhaps better one fumbles in the direction where the reconciliation may prove to be: but that is all. We are free: but clearly there is a proportion between the “free” and the “we”: our freedom must have as much reality as we, but not more. Our being is real but contingent, created of nothing: it is therefore no limitation to the infinity of God’s Being that we lie outside it. It may be, perhaps, that just as our being does not limit God’s infinite Being, so our freedom does not limit God’s infinite Power. In any event the fact of our freedom is certain: God has said it. He has told us of the alternatives of right and wrong, urged us to do right, warned us against doing wrong, promised reward for the one, threatened punishment for the other: told us in a hundred ways that we are responsible for our choices. He who made us makes clear that He made us free to Choose.
But freedom to choose does not mean freedom to choose the consequences of our choice, for we are living in a universe, not a chaos: we can choose to do this or that, but the consequences of our choice will be governed by the laws of the universe in which we are. It is only if we use our freedom of choice (that is our freedom to choose without coercion) to make choices in harmony with the reality of things—in harmony with what God is, with what we are and with what all other things are—that we achieve freedom in its second sense, namely fullness of being, the act of being all that by nature we are and doing all that by nature we are meant to do. And at this second level of freedom we shall find that choice without coercion which was part of our initial equipment, but now at a level of development which makes the rudimentary thing almost infinitesimal by comparison. Summarizing all this: we can choose what we want, and within our own limits what we shall do; but we cannot choose the consequences of what we do, nor can we prevent any action of ours—even our rebellion—from being used by God to His glory; we can only prevent its being used for our glory, too.
Them that glorify Me I shall glorify: but they that despise Me shall be ignoble. (I Kings ii.30.)
All this, as we have seen, applies to angels and to men. Let us return to the sin of the angels. They had chosen self as distinct from God: so far they were free, that is their choice was not coerced. But they had collided with reality. And the result could only be tragedy to them. St. Peter tells us starkly:
God spared not the angels who sinned. (2 Peter ii. 4).
There are references in Scripture to a battle in Heaven, not between the rebellious angels and God, but between the rebellious angels and the faithful. Thus we find in the last book of the New Testament, the Apocalypse (.7):
Fierce war broke out in Heaven, where Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought on their part, but could not win the day, or stand their ground in Heaven any longer.”
It would seem that St. John here has in mind the continuing struggle between good and evil, but it is hard to think that he has not in his mind the first battle in that long campaign. What we know with certainty is that Satan and his angels were cast out of Heaven into Hell. Our Lord warns human sinners that their ultimate place may be that eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels. (Mt.xxv.41).
What was their state in Hell? They had lost grace: by pride says St. Ambrose; their nature was badly damaged, particularly in the will:
the Devil and the other demons were created good in nature by God, but by their own act they became evil (Decree Firmiter, Fourth Council of Lateran).
Of their own choice they had demanded independence of God, a life without God. Faced with a choice between God and self, they had opted for self: love of self grown monstrous turned them to hatred of God, and in this hatred of God their wills were now set so that they would not change. Totally without God they could not be, if they were to continue in existence at all; but by their own choice they were to have, from now on forever, nothing of God but His presence sustaining them in being and His strict justice punishing them for their sin.
Both ways the result could only be anguish. Angels, like men, are made by God and made for God: their very being is interwoven of needs which only God can satisfy. The fallen angels refused the satisfaction, because that would have meant turning to God Whom they hated; so that they were left to the torment of needs which could not be satisfied. Grasp that in their new state not merely the major need of created things, the need for God, could not be satisfied. No need could be satisfied. They could not make any sort of solace for one another—in their new destitution they had nothing to give one another, nor surely any will to give. Torn away from God, they were torn away from one another; torn away from the love of God, the very source of love was dried up in themselves. Whatever positive values were still in them were there by the continuing action of God: hating God, they could only hate one another. It may be fanciful to see a hint of this in the plea the demons made (Luke viii.31) when Our Lord cast them out of the naked man that He should not send them back to hell, but let them instead go into a herd of swine—as though any sort of occupation upon earth was better than the company of their mightier fellows at home. But there is nothing fanciful in the total domination of their will by hatred, and the domination of all lesser hatreds by hatred of God. In their continuing hatred of God they were to continue their warfare against good; having lost their battle with the other angels, they were to continue to fight against the souls of men and in that warfare they were to have victories, but such victories could only be minute satisfactions in an abyss of unsatisfaction.
But for the angels who triumphed in the test there was the Beatific Vision: they behold the face of My heavenly Father continually (Mt.xviii.10).
Now, gazing forever upon the unveiled face of God, their wills were united to His in love so utterly that sin was impossible to them: uncoerced, in the intensity of their love, they could will only what God willed. And in that life they were fully themselves, every power in fullest operation, utterly fulfilled. That is freedom. Frank SHEED
Take 25 minutes and watch this video of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen explaining all of this during a broadcast of his television show, Life Is Worth Living.
You should find that this sufficiently answers your questions. As always, Sheen’s explanations are as poetic and engaging as they are grounded in truth. It’s simply exquisite.
Hum yes. All those terms. As a scholar I have to look at belial, and so on as not necessary the same things but over time confused. But that doesn’t change the point. Satan, oh yes I understand. I really never liked that term “Devil”. It sounds too much like attempts to scare peasantry. Anyway. I must not be fully understanding the Beatific Vision. I understand that’s what you see in death. For example, Steven our first Martyr. Is said to have saw that. The War Scroll that is very interesting too. it could be possible there may be more than one rebellion here. But I am speaking of this grace. “Sustaining Grace”. First I’ve heard of it. I have heard of sanctifying and actual graces. We get through the body and blood. Maybe other ways too.
Thanks very much. Yes I will!
You mention Pride. The other day I was at confession and mentioned that I was pretty happy I have been able to stay away from some sins. I was quickly corrected by my Pastor. He said that was the sin of Pride. it can sneak up on you. But the angels knowing better are held to a higher standard. “We can do nothing except though Jesus Christ” as it is said. And Grace.
I’m not sure “see” is the correct term. The beatific vision is seeing God face to face.
You do not experience it in death because it depends on the state of your soul at death. If you die in a state of mortal sin you will never experience the beatific vision. Those who are saved but are in Purgatory do not experience it until they are in Heaven.
I guess in the beginning before this rebellion free will was accepted. Afterward the angels made an oath a pact that God accepted. There would be no more “free will” and they swore to follow.