28 August 2010

Dormition of the Theotokos

The Dormition of the Theotokos (Greek: Κοίμησις Θεοτόκου, Koímēsis, often anglicized as Kimisis) is a Great Feast of the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches which commemorates the "falling asleep" or death of the Theotokos (Mary, the mother of Jesus; literally translated as God-bearer), and her bodily resurrection before being taken up into heaven. It is celebrated on August 15 (August 28, N.S. for those following the Julian Calendar) as the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God. The Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates the Dormition not on a fixed date, but on the Sunday nearest August 15.

The Feast of the Dormition is preceded by a two-week fast, referred to as the Dormition Fast. From August 1 to August 14 (inclusive) Orthodox and Eastern Catholics fast from red meat, poultry, meat products, dairy products (eggs and milk products), fish, oil, and wine. The Dormition Fast is a stricter fast than either the Nativity Fast (Advent) or the Apostles' Fast, with only wine and oil (but no fish) allowed on weekends. As with the other Fasts of the Church year, there is a Great Feast that falls during the Fast; in this case, the Transfiguration (August 6), on which fish, wine and oil are allowed.

In some places, the services on weekdays during the Fast are similar to the services during Great Lent (with some variations). Many churches and monasteries in the Russian tradition will perform the Lenten services on at least the first day of the Dormition Fast. During the Fast, either the Great Paraklesis (Supplicatory Canon) or the Small Paraklesis are celebrated every evening except Saturday evening and the Eves of the Transfiguration and the Dormition.

The first day of the Dormition Fast is a feast day called the Procession of the Cross (August 1), on which day it is customary to have a crucession and perform the Lesser Sanctification of Water.

In Orthodoxy and Catholicism, as in the language of scripture, death is often called a "sleeping" or "falling asleep" (Greek κοίμησις; whence κοιμητήριον > coemetērium > cemetery, a place of sleeping). A prominent example of this is the name of this feast; another is the Dormition of Anna, Mary's mother. According to Orthodox and Eastern Catholic tradition, Mary, having spent her life after Pentecost supporting and serving the nascent Church, was living in the house of the Apostle John, in Jerusalem, when the Archangel Gabriel revealed to her that her repose would occur three days later. The apostles, scattered throughout the world, are said to have been miraculously transported to be at her side when she died. The sole exception was Thomas, who had been delayed. He is said to have arrived three days after her death, and asked to see her grave so that he could bid her goodbye. Mary had been buried in Gethsemane, according to her request. When they arrived at the grave, her body was gone, leaving a sweet fragrance. An apparition is said to have confirmed that Christ had taken her body to heaven after three days to be reunited with her soul. Orthodox theology teaches that the Theotokos has already undergone the bodily resurrection which all will experience at the Second coming, and stands in heaven in that glorified state which the other righteous ones will only enjoy after the Last Judgment.

The Dormition of the Theotokos is celebrated on August 15 (August 28, N.S. for those following the Julian Calendar), the same calendar day as the Roman Catholic Feast of the Assumption of Mary. The Dormition and the Assumption are different names for the same event, Mary's departure from the earth, although the beliefs are not entirely the same.

The Orthodox Church teaches that Mary died a natural death, like any human being; that her soul was received by Christ upon death; and that her body was resurrected on the third day after her repose, at which time she was taken up, bodily only, into heaven. Her tomb was found empty on the third day.
Roman Catholic teaching holds that Mary was "assumed" into heaven in bodily form. Some Catholics agree with the Orthodox that this happened after Mary's death, while some hold that she did not experience death. Pope Pius XII, in his Apostolic constitution, Munificentissimus Deus (1950), which dogmatically defined the Assumption, appears to have left open the question of whether or not Mary actually underwent death in connection with her departure, but alludes to the fact of her death at least five times.

Both churches agree that she was taken up into heaven bodily. The Orthodox belief regarding Mary's falling asleep are expressed in the liturgical texts used of the feast of the Dormition (August 15) which is one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church, and is held by all pious Orthodox Christians.

The Eastern Catholic observance of the feast corresponds to that of their Orthodox counterparts, whether Eastern Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox.

The Dormition is known as the Death of the Virgin in Catholic art, where it is a reasonably common subject, mostly drawing on Byzantine models, until the end of the Middle Ages. The Death of the Virgin by Caravaggio, of 1606, is probably the last famous Western painting of the subject.

It is customary in many places to bless fragrant herbage on the Feast of the Dormition.

In some places, the Rite of the "Burial of the Theotokos" is celebrated at the Dormition, during the All-Night Vigil. The order of the service is based on the service of the Burial of Christ on Great Saturday. An Epitaphios of the Theotokos, a richly embroidered cloth icon portraying her lying in state is used, together with specially composed hymns of lamentation which are sung with Psalm 118. There are also special Evlogitaria of the Dormition which are chanted, echoling the Evlogitaria of the Resurrection which are chanted on Great Saturday and at Sunday Matins throughout the year. The Epitaphios is placed on a bier, and carried in procession in the same way as the Epitaphios of Christ is during Holy Week.

This practice began in Jerusalem, and from there it was carried to Russia, where it was followed in various Dormition Cathedrals, in particular that of Moscow. The practice slowly spread among the Russian Orthodox, though it is not by any means a standard service in all parishes, or even most cathedrals or monasteries. In Jerusalem, the service is chanted during the Vigil of the Dormition. In some Russian churches and monasteries, it is served on the third day after Dormition.

The Feast of the Dormition has a one-day Forefeast and 8 days of Afterfeast. The feast is framed and accentuated by three feasts in honour of Jesus Christ, known as the "Three Feasts of the Saviour in August". These are: the Procession of the Cross (August 1), the Transfiguration (August 6), and the Icon of Christ "Not Made by Hand" (August 16).

The Maronite Church has a tradition that their Third Anaphora of the Apostle Peter or Sharrar (the Maronite redaction of the Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari) was originally composed for and used at the funeral of the Theotokos. This tradition probably developed because in its final form the anaphora has twelve paragraphs, i.e., one for each concelebrating apostle present at the funeral mass of the Theotokos.

The Dormition tradition is associated with various places, most notably with Jerusalem, which contains Mary's Tomb and the Basilica of the Dormition, and Ephesus, which contains the House of the Virgin Mary, and also with Constantinople.

It is asserted that the feast of the Dormition was being observed in Jerusalem shortly after the Council of Ephesus.

At the point in the later fifth century when the earliest Dormition traditions surface in manuscripts, Stephen Shoemaker has detected the sudden appearance of three distinct narrative traditions describing the end of Mary's life: he has characterised them as the "Palm of the Tree of Life" narratives, the "Bethlehem" narratives, and the "Coptic" narratives—aside from a handful of atypical narratives.

One might notice the similarities between the traditional depictions of the Dormition of the Theotokos in Byzantine iconography and the account of the death of the Egyptian Desert Father, Sisoes the Great. In both Christ is seen coming to receive the soul of the dying saint surrounded by an aureola or cloud of blinding light and accompanied by the angels and prophets. In Byzantine iconography the other Christ is shown surrounded by such a cloud of light are those of also seen in icons of the Transfiguration, the Resurrection and the Last Judgment. One might further note that in some icons of the Dormition the Theotokos is depicted at the top of the icon in a similar aureola before the opening gates of heaven. This suggests that contemporary accounts of the deaths of the Desert Fathers accompanied by sudden burst of light came to influence the development of the iconography of the Dormition.

24 August 2010

Righteous Forefather Abraham

Abraham (Hebrew: אַבְרָהָם, Modern Avraham Tiberian ʼAḇrāhām, Arabic: إبراهيم‎, Ibrāhīm, ʼAbrəham, Greek: Aβραάμ) is the founding patriarch of the Israelites, Ishmaelites, Edomites, and the Midianites and kindred peoples, according to the book of Genesis.

Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Bahai are sometimes referred to as the "Abrahamic religions" because of the progenitor role that Abraham plays in their holy books. In both the Jewish tradition and the Quran, he is referred to as "our Father". Jews, Christians, and Muslims consider him father of the people of Israel. For Jews and Christians this is through his son Isaac, by his wife Sarah; for Muslims, he is a prophet of Islam and the ancestor of Muhammad through his other son Ishmael, born to him by Sarah's handmaiden, Hagar.

Abraham was the tenth generation from Noah and the twentieth from Adam. He was originally named Abram, and his father's name was Terah; he had two brothers, Nahor and Haran, wife was Sarah, and he was the uncle of Lot. He was sent by God from his home in Haran to take possession of the land of Canaan. In Canaan, Abraham entered into a covenant with God: in exchange for recognition of Yahweh as his God, Abraham would be blessed with innumerable progeny and the land would belong to his descendants. God's promise to Abraham that through his offspring all the nations of the world would come to be blessed is interpreted in the Christian tradition as a reference particularly to Jesus Christ and his message of salvation for all men.

Abraham's name first appears as Abram (Hebrew: אַבְרָם, Modern Avram Tiberian ʾAḇrām), meaning either "exalted father" or "my father is exalted" or "the father is exalted". Later in Genesis, God renamed him Abraham, a name which the text glosses as av hamon (goyim) "father of many (nations)"; however, the name does not have any literal meaning in Hebrew. Many interpretations based on modern textual and linguistic analysis have been offered, including an analysis of a first element abr- "chief", which yields a meaningless second element, however. Johann Friedrich Karl Keil suggests there was once a word raham (רָהָם) in Hebrew, meaning "multitude", on analogy with the word ruhâm which has this meaning in Arabic, but no evidence that this word existed has been found; and David Rohl suggests the name comes from Akkadian "the father loves."

The story of his life is found in Genesis, from chapter 11:26 to 25:10.

Terah, the tenth in descent from Noah, fathered Abram, Nahor and Haran, and Haran fathered Lot. Haran died in Ur, and Abram married Sarai, who was barren. Terah, with Nahor, Abram, Sarai and Lot, then departed for Canaan, but settled in Haran, where Terah died at the age of 205. There God spoke to Abram, telling him to leave the land of his birth, his father's house, and his kindred and go "to the land that I will show you", where Abram would become a great nation and the vehicle for the blessing of all mankind. So Abram left Haran with Sarai, Lot, and all their followers and flocks and traveled to Canaan, where, at Shechem, God gave the land to him and his descendants. There Abram built an altar and continued to travel towards the south.

On two separate occasions, Abram/Abraham travels west, where he asks his wife to say that she is his sister, because he fears he would otherwise be killed because of her beauty. On each occasion, the ruler in question, first Pharaoh and later Abimelech, is attracted to Sarai/Sarah and attempts to marry her. On both occasions God and the ruler send Abraham away with great wealth.

Following the period spent in Egypt, Abram, Sarai, and his nephew Lot returned to the Bethel-Ai area in Canaan. There they dwelt for some time, their herds increasing, until strife arose between the herdsmen. Abram thereupon proposed to Lot that they should separate, allowing Lot the first choice. Lot took the fertile land lying east of the Jordan River and near to Sodom and Gomorrah, while Abram lived in Canaan, moving south to the oaks of Mamre in Hebron, where he built an altar.

After this, an invading force from Mesopotamia, led by Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, attacked and subdued the Cities of the Plain, forcing them to pay tribute. After twelve years, these cities rebelled. The following year Chedorlaomer and his allies returned, defeating the rebels and taking many captive, including Lot. Abram assembled his men and chased after the invaders, defeating them north of Damascus, Syria. Upon his return he is met by the king of Salem (Jerusalem), Priest Melchizedek, who blesses him. The king of Sodom offers Abram the rescued goods as reward, but Abram refuses, so that the king of Sodom cannot say "I have made Abram rich".

God again promises Abram a multitude of descendants during an episode in which Abram sacrifices to God, who also reveals to Abram the future enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt, as well as their escape. During this period, Sarai, being barren, offers her handmaiden, Hagar, to Abram. Hagar soon conceives, and as a result begins to see herself as superior to Sarai. Sarai complains to Abram, who gives Sarai carte blanche. After Sarai treats Hagar harshly, Hagar flees. When in the desert, God appears to Hagar, telling her to return, but promising that her son shall also be the father of a "multitude". Her son is called Ishmael.

When Abram is ninety-nine, God again appears to him and affirms his promise. A covenant is entered into: Sarai will give birth to a son who will be called Isaac, and Abram's house must thenceforth be circumcised. It is promised that Isaac will father twelve princes, who will become a great nation. Abram's name is changed to Abraham and Sarai's to Sarah.

Soon after, the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah bring three angels, or God and two angels, down to investigate. Abraham pleads with God to spare the city if first fifty, then forty-five, then forty, then thirty, then twenty, and finally ten righteous men are found in the city. In each case God agrees that the city would be spared. The angels enter the city, where they meet Lot, who offers them hospitality. Soon a crowd gathers around Lot's house, demanding the two angels that they may "know" them: traditionally interpreted as a desire to have sex with them. Lot pleads with the men and offers his daughters instead, but the men of the city press forward until the angels smite them with blindness. In the morning Lot is told to flee and not to look back as the cities are destroyed. However, his wife disobeys and is turned into a pillar of salt.

After this, Abraham and Sarah live in Philistine Gerar, where king Abimelech, having been told that Sarah is Abraham's sister, not his wife, takes her. After warnings from God and returning her, Abimelech enters into a treaty with Abraham.

A recurring feature of the story of Abraham are the covenants between him and God, which are reiterated and reaffirmed several times. When Abram is told to leave Ur Kaśdim, God promises "I will make of thee a great nation". After parting from Lot, God reappears and promises "All the land that you can see" to Abraham and that his seed would be "like the dust of the earth" in number. Following the battle of the Vale of Siddim, God appears and reaffirms the promise, while prophesying that "your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years." Abram makes a sacrifice and enters into a covenant, with God declaring: "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites."

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, God again appeared to him to reaffirm the covenant and changed his name to Abraham. Abraham is instructed, for his part, to circumcise all males of his house.

Some time after the birth of Isaac, Abraham was commanded by God to offer his son up as a sacrifice in the land of Moriah. The patriarch traveled three days until he came to the mount that God taught him. He commanded the servant to remain while he and Isaac proceeded alone to the mountain, Isaac carrying the wood upon which he would be sacrificed. Along the way, Isaac repeatedly asked Abraham where the animal for the burnt offering was. Abraham then replied that God would provide a lamb. Just as Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, he was prevented by an angel, and given on that spot a ram which he sacrificed in place of his son. As a reward for his obedience he received another promise of numerous descendants and abundant prosperity. After this event, Abraham did not return to Hebron, Sarah's encampment, but instead went to Beersheba, Keturah's encampment, and it is to Beersheba that Abraham's servant brought Rebecca, Isaac's patrilineal parallel cousin who became his wife.

Sarah is said to have died at the age of 127, and Abraham buried her in the Cave of the Patriarchs (also called the Cave of Machpelah), near Hebron which he had purchased, along with the adjoining field, from Ephron the Hittite.

After the death of Sarah, he took another wife, or concubine, named Keturah, who bore Abraham six sons: Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.

Abraham is said to have died at the age of 175 years. Jewish legend says that he was meant to live to 180 years, but God purposely took his life because he felt that Abraham did not need to go through the pain of seeing Esau's wicked deeds. The Bible says he was buried by his sons Isaac and Ishmael in the Cave of the Patriarchs.

Abraham is held as a founding father in the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religions. Genesis states that the nation of Israel descended from him through his second son, Isaac. Many Arab nations are said to have descended from him through his first son, Ishmael, and Muslims believe that the prophet Muhammad is his direct descendant - this tradition is attested as early as the 3rd/2nd-century BC book of Jubilees.

Abraham is hailed as the first Hebrew and the father of the Jewish people. As a reward for his act of faith in one God, he was promised that Isaac, his second son, would inherit the Land of Israel (then called Canaan).

In the New Testament Abraham is mentioned prominently as a man of faith (see e.g. Hebrews 11), and the apostle Paul uses him as an example of salvation by faith, as the progenitor of the Christ (or Messiah) (e.g. Galatians 3:16).

The New Testament also sees Abraham as an obedient man of God, and Abraham's interrupted attempt to offer up Isaac is seen as the supreme act of perfect faith in God. "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called', concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense." (Hebrews 11:17-19) The imagery of a father sacrificing his son is seen as a type of God the Father offering his Son on Golgatha.
The traditional view in Christianity is that the chief promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12 is that through Abraham's seed all the people of earth would be blessed. Notwithstanding this, John the Baptist specifically taught that merely being of Abraham's seed was no guarantee of salvation. The promise in Genesis is considered to have been fulfilled through Abraham's seed, Jesus. It is also a consequence of this promise that Christianity is open to people of all races and not limited to Jews.

The Roman Catholic Church calls Abraham "our father in Faith", in the Eucharistic prayer of the Roman Canon, recited during the Mass. He is also commemorated in the calendars of saints of several denominations: on August 20 by the Maronite Church, August 28 in the Coptic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East (with the full office for the latter), and on October 9 by the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. He is also regarded as the patron saint of those in the hospitality industry.

The Eastern Orthodox Church commemorates him as the "Righteous Forefather Abraham", with two feast days in its liturgical calendar. The first time is on October 9 (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, October 9 falls on October 22 of the modern Gregorian Calendar), where he is commemorated together with his nephew "Righteous Lot". The other is on the "Sunday of the Forefathers" (two Sundays before Christmas), when he is commemorated together with other ancestors of Jesus. Abraham is also mentioned in the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great, just before the Anaphora. Abraham and Sarah are invoked in the prayers said by the priest over a newly married couple at the Sacred Mystery of Crowning (i.e., the Sacrament of Marriage).

Abraham, known as Ibrahim in Arabic, is very important in Islam, both in his own right as a prophet and as the father of Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael, his firstborn son, is considered the father of some of the Arabs—specifically Father of the Arabised Arabs, peoples who became Arab—and Isaac is considered the Father of the Hebrews. Abraham is mentioned in many passages in 25 of the 114 suras (chapters) of the Qur'an, more than any other individual with the exception of Moses, according to the Encyclopedia of Islam.

Abraham, commonly termed Khalil Ullah, "Friend of God" by Muslims, is revered as one of the Prophets in Islam, and the person who gave Muslims their name of Muslims ("those who submit to God"). He is considered a Hanif, that is, a discoverer of monotheism.

Abraham's supposed footprint is displayed outside the Kaaba, which is on a stone, protected and guarded by Saudi Arabian Mutawa (Religious Police). The annual Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam, follows Abraham's, Hagar's, and Ishmael's journey to the sacred place of the Kaaba. Islamic tradition narrates that Abraham's subsequent visits to the Northern Arabian region, after leaving Ishmael and Hagar (in the area that would later become the Islamic holy city of Mecca), were not only to visit Ishmael but also to construct the first house of worship for God, the Kaaba—as per God's command.

The ceremony of Eid ul-Adha, most important festival in Islam, focuses on Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his promised son Ishmael on God's command, as a test of Abraham's faith. God spared his son's life and substituted a fit sheep from heavens for his son. On Eid ul-Adha, Muslims sacrifice a domestic animal—a sheep, goat—as a symbol of Abraham's sacrifice, and divide the meat among the family members, friends, relatives, and most importantly, the poor.

There are views stating that Qur’an does not specify whether it was Ishmael or Isaac whom Abraham was ordered to sacrifice, yet many Muslims believe it was Ishmael.

The standard Greek Septuagint text of the Bible places Abraham's birth 3312 years after the Creation, or 3312 AM (Anno Mundi, "Year of the World"). The two other major textual traditions have different dates,  the Samaritan version of Genesis at 2247 AM, and the new Masoretic Hebrew putting it at 1948 AM. All three agree that he died at the age of 175.

23 August 2010

The Angelic Hierarchy?

According to pre-medieval Christian theologians, the Angels are organized into several orders, or Angelic Choirs.

The most influential of these classifications was that put forward by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in the 4th century, in his book "The Celestial Hierarchy". Scholars of the Middle Ages believed that angels and archangels were lowest in the order and were the only angels directly involved in the affairs of the world of men.

The authors of The Celestial Hierarchy and the Summa Theologica drew on passages from the New Testament, specifically Ephesians 1:21 and Colossians 1:16, in an attempt to reveal a schema of three Hierarchies, Spheres or Triads of angels, with each Hierarchy containing three Orders or Choirs.

From the comparative study of the Old Testament and New Testament passages, including their etymology and semantics, the above mentioned theological works (which contain variations), and esoteric Christian teachings, the descending order of rank can be inferred as following:

First Sphere (Old Testament sources)

  1. Seraphim
  2. Cherubim
  3. Thrones/Ophanim (Gr. thronoi) (also New Testament sources)

Second Sphere (New Testament sources)

  1. Dominions (Gr. Kyriotetai)
  2. Virtues (Gr. Dynamai)
  3. Powers (Gr. Exusiai)

Third Sphere

  1. Principalities (Gr. Archai)
  2. Archangels - Archangeloi
  3. Angels - Angeloi

St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio refers to these three, respectively, as the Epiphania, the Hyperphania, and the Hypophania. The Choirs in the second and third spheres, of the present hierarchical list, appear to be also united in pairs. The existence of these pairs of Orders is inferred through their etymological proximity and the apparent affinity in the description of their work-activity (1 Peter 3:22):

  1. Thrones and Dominions (Might, Dynamais);
  2. Principalities and Powers (Powers, Exusiai; Ephesians 6:12);
  3. Archangels and Angels (Angels, Angeloi).

Note, however, that several variations of the hierarchical order may be found published through the last two millennia by Jews, Kabbalists, Muslims, and Zoroastrians.

Angels of the First Sphere work as heavenly guardians of God's throne.

Seraphim (Heb. ששׂרפים, Seraphim, sing. ששׂרף, Seraph, Lat. seraph[us], pl. seraphi[m], Gr. Σεραφείμ) are a class of celestial beings in Judaism and Christianity. Literally "burning ones", the word is normally a synonym for snakes when used in the Hebrew bible, but they are mentioned in the Book of Isaiah as fiery six-winged beings attending on God. They appear again as celestial beings in an influential Hellenistic work, the Book of Enoch, and a little later in the Book of Revelation. They occupy the fifth of ten ranks of the hierarchy of angels in medieval and modern Judaism, and the highest rank in the Christian angelic hierarchy.

Seraphim, literally "burning ones", is the plural of "seraph", more properly sarap. The word sarap/seraphim appears three times in the Torah (Numbers 21:6-8, Deuteronomy 8:15) and four times in the Book of Isaiah (6:2-6, 14:29, 30:6). In Numbers and Deuteronomy the "seraphim" are snakes/serpents - the association of snakes as "burning ones" is possibly due to the burning sensation of the poison. Isaiah also uses the word in close association with words to describes snakes (nahash, the generic word for snakes, in 14:29, andefeh, viper, in 30:6).

Isaiah's vision of seraphim in the Temple in Jerusalem is the sole instance in the Hebrew Bible of the word being used to describe celestial beings: there the winged "seraphim" attend God and have human attributes:[2] "... I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and His train filled the Hekhal (sanctuary). Above him stood the Seraphim; each had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew." (Isaiah 6:1–3) In Isaiah's vision the seraphim cry continually to each other, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory" (verses 2-3) before carrying out an act of purification for the prophet (verses 6-7). It is possible that these are winged snake-beings, but given that the word "seraphim" is not attached as an adjective or modifier to other snake-words ("nahash," etc.), as is the case in every other occurrence of the word, it is more probable that they are variants of the "fiery" lesser deities making up God's divine court.

"Seraphim" appear in the 2nd century BC Book of Enoch where they are designated as drakones (δράκονες "serpents"), and are mentioned, in conjunction with the cherubim as the heavenly creatures standing nearest to the throne of God. In the late 1st century CE Book of Revelation (iv. 4-8) they are described as being forever in God's presence and praising Him constantly: "Day and night with out ceasing they sing: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.'" They appear also in the Christian Gnostic text On the Origin of the World, described as "dragon-shaped angels".

The 12th century scholar Maimonides placed the seraphim in the fifth of ten ranks of angels in his exposition of the Jewish angelic hierarchy, and they are part of the angelarchy of modern Orthodox Judaism, and Isaiah's vision is repeated several times in daily Jewish services, including at Kedushah prayer as part of the repetition of the Amidah, and in several other prayers as well. Conservative Judaism retains the traditional belief in angels, including references in the liturgy, although a literal belief in angels is by no means universal. Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism generally do not believe in angels, although they may retain references for metaphorical purposes.

In medieval Christian theology, the Seraphim belong to the highest order, or angelic choir, of the Christian angelic hierarchy. They are the caretakers of God's throne, continuously singing "holy, holy, holy" (the Sanctus).

Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in his Celestial Hierarchy (vii), helped fix the fiery nature of seraphim in the medieval imagination. It is here that the Seraphim are described as being concerned with keeping Divinity in perfect order, and not limited to chanting the trisagion. Taking his cue from writings in the Rabbinic tradition, the author gave an etymology for the Seraphim as "those who kindle or make hot":
"The name seraphim clearly indicates their ceaseless and eternal revolution about Divine Principles, their heat and keenness, the exuberance of their intense, perpetual, tireless activity, and their elevative and energetic assimilation of those below, kindling them and firing them to their own heat, and wholly purifying them by a burning and all-consuming flame; and by the unhidden, unquenchable, changeless, radiant and enlightening power, dispelling and destroying the shadows of darkness".

St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae offers a description of the nature of the Seraphim:
"The name 'Seraphim' does not come from charity only, but from the excess of charity, expressed by the word ardor or fire. Hence Dionysius (Coel. Hier. vii) expounds the name 'Seraphim' according to the properties of fire, containing an excess of heat. Now in fire we may consider three things.
"First, the movement which is upwards and continuous. This signifies that they are borne inflexibly towards God.
Secondly, the active force which is 'heat,' which is not found in fire simply, but exists with a certain sharpness, as being of most penetrating action, and reaching even to the smallest things, and as it were, with superabundant fervor; whereby is signified the action of these angels, exercised powerfully upon those who are subject to them, rousing them to a like fervor, and cleansing them wholly by their heat.
Thirdly we consider in fire the quality of clarity, or brightness; which signifies that these angels have in themselves an inextinguishable light, and that they also perfectly enlighten others."
The seraphim took on a mystic role in Pico della Mirandola's Oration on the Dignity of Man (1487), the epitome of Renaissance humanism. Pico took the fiery Seraphim—"they burn with the fire of charity"—as the highest models of human aspiration: "impatient of any second place, let us emulate dignity and glory. And, if we will it, we shall be inferior to them in nothing", the young Pico announced, in the first flush of optimistic confidence in the human capacity that is the coinage of the Renaissance. "In the light of intelligence, meditating upon the Creator in His work, and the work in its Creator, we shall be resplendent with the light of the Cherubim. If we burn with love for the Creator only, his consuming fire will quickly transform us into the flaming likeness of the Seraphim."

St. Bonaventure, a Franciscan theologian who was a contemporary of St. Thomas Aquinas, uses the six wings of the seraph as an important analogical construct in his mystical work The Journey of the Mind to God.

In Christian theology, seraphim are beings of pure light and have direct communication with God.

Cherubim (Heb. כרוב, pl. כרובים, eng. trans kruv, pl. kruvim, dual kruvayim lat. cherub[us], pl cherubi[m]) are divine beings in the Bible. The plural can be written as cherubim or cherubs. In modern English the word is usually used for what are strictly putti, baby or toddler angels in art. This article is concerned with the original sense of the word.

Cherubs are mentioned in the Torah (five books of Moses), the Book of Ezekiel, and the Book of Isaiah. They are also mentioned in the books of 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, and 2 Chronicles mainly in the construction of the House of God.The prophet Ezekiel describes them as a tetrad of living creatures, each having four faces: of a lion, an ox, an eagle (or griffon vulture), and a man. They are said to have the stature and hands of a man, the feet of a calf, and four wings. Two of the wings extended upward, meeting above and sustaining the throne of God; while the other two stretched downward and covered the creatures themselves. In the Christian New Testament Cherubs are mentioned in the Book of Revelation.

Judaism includes belief in the existence of angels, including Cherubim within the Jewish angelic hierarchy. The existences of angels is generally not contested within rabbinic Judaism; there is, however, a wide range of views on what angels actually are, and how literally one should interpret biblical passages associated with them.

In Kabbalah there has long been a strong belief in Cherubim, with the Cherubim, and other angels, regarded as having mystical roles. The Zohar, a highly significant collection of books in Jewish mysticism, states that the Cherubim were led by one of their number, named Kerubiel.

On the other end of the philosophical spectrum is the view of Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, better known as Maimonides. He had a neo-Aristotelian interpretation of the Bible. Maimonides writes that to the wise man, one sees that what the Bible and Talmud refer to as "angels" are actually allusions for the various laws of nature; they are the principles by which the physical universe operates.
For all forces are angels! How blind, how perniciously blind are the naive?! If you told someone who purports to be a sage of Israel that the Deity sends an angel who enters a woman's womb and there forms an embryo, he would think this a miracle and accept it as a mark of the majesty and power of the Deity - despite the fact that he believes an angel to be a body of fire one third the size of the entire world. All this, he thinks, is possible for God. But if you tell him that God placed in the sperm the power of forming and demarcating these organs, and that this is the angel, or that all forms are produced by the Active Intellect - that here is the angel, the "vice-regent of the world" constantly mentioned by the sages - then he will recoil.
For he {the naive person} does not understand that the true majesty and power are in the bringing into being of forces which are active in a thing although they cannot be perceived by the senses....Thus the Sages reveal to the aware that the imaginative faculty is also called an angel; and the mind is called a cherub. How beautiful this will appear to the sophisticated mind - and how disturbing to the primitive."
Maimonides says (Guide for the Perplexed III:45) that the figures of the cherubayim were placed in the sanctuary only to preserve among the people the belief in angels, there being two in order that the people might not be led to believe that they were the image of God.
Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism generally either drop references to angels or interpret them metaphorically.

Cherubs are discussed within the midrash literature. The two cherubayim placed by God at the entrance of paradise (Gen. iii. 24) were angels created on the third day, and therefore they had no definite shape; appearing either as men or women, or as spirits or angelic beings (Genesis Rabbah xxi., end). The cherubim were the first objects created in the universe (Tanna debe Eliyahu R., i. beginning). The following sentence of the Midrash is characteristic: "When a man sleeps, the body tells to the neshamah (soul) what it has done during the day; the neshamah then reports it to the nefesh (spirit), the nefesh to the angel, the angel to the cherub, and the cherub to the seraph, who then brings it before God (Leviticus Rabbah xxii.; Eccl. Rabbah x. 20).
A midrash states that when Pharaoh pursued Israel at the Red Sea, God took a cherub from the wheels of His throne and flew to the spot, for God inspects the heavenly worlds while sitting on a cherub. The cherub, however, is "something not material", and is carried by God, not vice versa (Midr. Teh. xviii. 15; Canticles Rabbah i. 9).
In the passages of the Talmud that describe the heavens and their inhabitants, the seraphim, ofannim, and ḥayyot are mentioned, but not the cherubim (Ḥag. 12b); and the ancient liturgy also mentions only these three classes.

In the Talmud, Yose ha-Gelili holds, when the Birkat HaMazon (Grace after Meals) is recited by at least ten thousand seated at one meal, a special blessing - "Blessed is Ha-Shem our God, the God of Israel, who dwells between the Cherubim" - is added to the regular liturgy.

In western art, Putti are sometimes mistaken for Cherubim, although they look nothing alike.

There were no cherubim in Herodian reconstruction of the Temple, but according to some authorities, its walls were painted with figures of cherubim. In Christian art they are often represented with the faces of a lion, ox, eagle, and man peering out from the center of an array of four wings (Ezekiel 1:5-11, 10:12,21 Revelation 4:8); (seraphim have six); the most frequently encountered descriptor applied to cherubim in Christianity is many-eyed, and in depictions the wings are often shown covered with a multitude of eyes (showing them to be all seeing beings). Since the Renaissance, in Western Christianity cherubim have become confused with putti—innocent souls, looking liked winged children, that sing praises to God daily—that can be seen in innumerable church frescoes and in the work of painters such as Raphael.

Thrones (lat. thronus, pl. throni) are a class of celestial beings mentioned by Paul of Tarsus in Colossians 1:16 (New Testament) and related to the throne of God the Father. They are living symbols of God's justice and authority. According to the New Testament, these high celestial beings are among those Orders at the Christ's service. The Thrones are mentioned again in Revelation 11:16.

The corresponding order of angels in Judaism is called the "abalim" or "arelim"/"erelim". The Ophanim (Wheels or Galgallin) is a class of higher liberated celestial beings that are also known as the "Thrones", from Daniel 7:9 (Old Testament). They are the carriers of the throne of God, hence the name. They are said to be great wheels covered in eyes.

Thrones are angels of the Third Order (first sphere) and are beings of tremendous power and movement. They are the keepers of higher more expanded energies. They ensure that these energies maintain connections and flows through the realms. They act as the conduits of the physical worlds and tend to be more stationary in their existence.

God's Spirit is shown in a certain manner to these angels, who in turn pass on the message to men and the inferior angels.

Thrones are known in scripture as the bringers of justice, but their status in hierarchy is often confused, sometimes placing them above the Seraphim, and sometimes placing them at the same level as the Cherubim. They are however, assigned to planets.

This position makes them some of the most powerful angels in service to the Lord. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the Thrones have the task of pondering the disposition of divine judgments. In other words, they carry out or fulfill the divine justice of the Lord.

They create, channel and collect incoming and outgoing positive energies. Dispensation of justice is important to the Thrones and they send healing energies to victims while shining a light on injustice to bring its presence to our attention.

Like their counterparts in the second angelic triad, they come the closest of all Angels to spiritual perfection and emanate the light of God with mirror-like goodness. They, despite their greatness, are intensely humble, an attribute that allows them to dispense justice with perfect objectivity and without fear of pride or ambition. Because they are living symbols of God's justice and authority, they are called Thrones and have as one of their symbols the throne.

Dionysius the Areopagite includes the Thrones as the third highest of 9 levels of angels. Rudolf Steiner links to this tradition and describes the Thrones as "Spirits of Will" who sacrificed their substance to create the material universe.

The Thrones (Gr. thronos) may possibly be equated with the "Lords of Wisdom", a Hierarchy of Elohim astrologically associated to Virgo, presented in The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception. They inhabit, in Rosicrucian cosmology, the World of Divine Spirit, which is the home of The Father. However, these teachings direcly present the Thrones (from Old Testament vision) as a higher hierarchy of celestial beings called "Lords of the Flame", already liberated (see Ophanim). According to this source, both these hierarchies have worked together in a far past toward the development of mankind.

Angels of the Second Sphere work as heavenly governors.

Dominions are also translated from the Greek term "kuriotes" as Lordships. They are presented as the hierarchy of celestial beings Lordships in the De Coelesti Hierarchia.

The Dominions (lat. dominatio, pl. dominationes), also known as the Hashmallim, hold the task of regulating the duties of lower angels. It is only with extreme rarity that the angelic lords make themselves physically known to humans. They are also the angels who preside over nations. The Dominions are believed to look like divinely beautiful humans with a pair of feathered wings, much like the common representation of Angels, but they may be distinguished from other groups by wielding orbs of light fastened to the heads of their sceptres or on the pommel of their swords.

Virtues or Strongholds lie beyond the Ophanim (Thrones/Wheels). Their primary duty is to supervise the movements of the heavenly bodies in order to ensure that the cosmos remains in order.

The term appears to be linked to the attribute "Might", from the Greek root "dunamis" in Ephesians 1:21, which is also translated as "Virtue" (probably due to the powerful nature of these high celestial beings; see quotation below), a somewhat different connotation of strength/force than just moral virtue. They are presented as the celestial Choir "Virtues", in the Summa Theologica. Traditional theological conceptions of the Virtues might appear to describe the same Order called the Thrones (Gr. thronos), (in which case the Ophanim may not be the same thing as "Thrones").

From Dionysius the Areopagite:
"The name of the holy Virtues signifies a certain powerful and unshakable virility welling forth into all their Godlike energies; not being weak and feeble for any reception of the divine Illuminations granted to it; mounting upwards in fullness of power to an assimilation with God; never falling away from the Divine Life through its own weakness, but ascending unwaveringly to the superessential Virtue which is the Source of virtue: fashioning itself, as far as it may, in virtue; perfectly turned towards the Source of virtue, and flowing forth providentially to those below it, abundantly filling them with virtue."
Paul used the term powers in Colossians 1:16 and Ephesians 1:21 but he may have used it to refer to the powers of nations, societies or individuals, instead of referring to angels.

Powers are also translated, from the Greek term "exousies", as Authorities (Greek root in Eph 3:10).

These celestial beings appear to collaborate, in power and authority (as implied in their etymology source), with the Principalities (Rulers).

Paul used the term rule and authority in Ephesians 1:21, and rulers and authorities in Ephesians 3:10.

The Powers (lat. potestas (f), pl. potestates) are the bearers of conscience and the keepers of history. They are also the warrior angels created to be completely loyal to God. Some believe that no Power has ever fallen from grace, but another theory states that Satan was the Chief of the Powers before he Fell (see also Ephesians 6:12). Their duty is to oversee the distribution of power among humankind, hence their name.

Angels who function as heavenly messengers and soldiers are in the Third Sphere.

Principalities are also translated, from the Greek term "arche", as Princedoms and also Rulers (see Greek root in Eph 3:10).

These celestial beings appear to collaborate, in power and authority (as implied in their etymology source), with the Powers (Authorities).

Paul used the term rule and authority in Ephesians 1:21, and rulers and authorities in Ephesians 3:10.

The Principalities (lat. principatus, pl. principatūs) are shown wearing a crown and carrying a sceptre. Their duty also is said to be to carry out the orders given to them by the Dominions and bequeath blessings to the material world. Their task is to oversee groups of people.They are the educators and guardians of the realm of earth both individuals, as well as groups. As beings related to the world of the germinal ideas, they are said to inspire living things to many things such as art or science.

Archangel (pronounced /ˌærk'eɪndʒɛl/) is a term meaning an angel of high rank. Archangels are found in a number of religious traditions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Michael and Gabriel are the archangels named in the Bible as recognized by both Jews and many Christians. The book of Tobit mentions Raphael, who is also considered by some to be an archangel. Tobit is included in the Catholic Canon of the Bible, as well as in the Orthodox Septuagint; however, this book is considered apocryphal by others outside of those faiths. The archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are venerated in the Roman Catholic Church with a feast on September 29, formerly March 24 for Gabriel. The named archangels in Islam are Gabriel, Michael, Raphael and Azrael. Other traditions have identified a group of Seven Archangels, the names of which vary, depending on the source. The fallen archangel Lucifer (also known as Satan) was an archangel until he rebelled against God and was cast out of Heaven by the other angels.

The word archangel derives from the Greek αρχάγγελος archangelos.

The Hebrew Bible uses the terms מלאכי אלוהים (malakhi Elohim; Angels of God)[1], מלאכי אֲדֹנָי (malakhi Adonai; Angels of the Lord)[2], בני אלוהים (b'nai elohim; sons of God) and הקדושים (ha-qodeshim; the holy ones) to refer to beings traditionally interpreted as angelic messengers. Other terms are used in later texts, such as העליונים (ha-olinim, the upper ones, or the Ultimate ones). Indeed, angels are uncommon except in later works like Daniel, though they are mentioned briefly in the stories of Jacob (who, according to several interpretations, wrestled with an angel) and Lot (who was warned by angels of the impending destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah). Daniel is the first biblical figure to refer to individual angels by name.[3] It is therefore widely speculated that Jewish interest in angels developed during the Babylonian captivity.[4] According to Rabbi Simeon ben Lakish of Tiberias (230–270 AD), all the specific names for the angels were brought back by the Jews from Babylon.

In post-Biblical Judaism, certain angels came to take on a particular significance and developed unique personalities and roles. Though these archangels were believed to have rank amongst the heavenly host, no systematic hierarchy ever developed. Metatron is considered one of the highest of the angels in Merkavah and Kabbalist mysticism and often serves as a scribe. He is briefly mentioned in the Talmud, and figures prominently in Merkavah mystical texts. Michael, who serves as a warrior and advocate for Israel (Daniel 10:13) is looked upon particularly fondly. Gabriel is mentioned in the Book of Daniel (Daniel 8:15-17) and briefly in the Talmud, as well as many Merkavah mystical texts. The earliest references to archangels are in the literature of the intertestamental periods (e.g., 4 Esdras 4:36).

Within the rabbinic tradition, the Kabbalah, and the Book of Enoch chapter 20, and the Life of Adam and Eve, the usual number of archangels given is at least seven, who are the focal angels. Three higher archangels are also commonly referenced: Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel. There is confusion about one of the following eight names, concerning which one listed is not truly an archangel. They are: Uriel, Sariel, Raguel, and Remiel (possibly the Ramiel of the Apocalypse of Baruch, said to preside over true visions), Zadkiel, Jophiel, Haniel and Chamuel. Medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides made a Jewish angelic hierarchy.

In addition, traditional homes often sing a song of welcome to the angels before beginning Friday night (Shabbat) dinner. It is entitled Shalom Aleichem, meaning "peace onto you." This is based on a statement attributed to Rabbi Jose ben Judah that two angels accompany each worshiper home from the Friday evening synagogue service, These angels are associated with the good inclination yetzir ha-tov and the evil inclination yetzir ha-ra.

The New Testament speaks frequently of angels (for example, angels giving messages to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds; angels ministering to Christ after his temptation in the wilderness, an angel visiting Christ in his agony, angels at the tomb of the risen Christ, the angels who liberate the Apostles Peter and Paul from prison); however, it makes only two references to "archangels." They are: Michael in Jude 1:9 and I Thessalonians 4:16, where the "voice of an archangel" will be heard at the return of Christ.

Eastern Orthodox Tradition mentions "thousands of archangels; however, only seven archangels are venerated by name. Uriel is included, and the other three are most often named Selaphiel, Jegudiel, and Barachiel (an eighth, Jeremiel, is sometimes included as archangel). The Orthodox Church celebrates the Synaxis of the Archangel Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers on November 8 of Stencyl the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar (for those churches which follow the Julian Calendar, November 8 falls on November 21 of the modern Gregorian Calendar). Other feast days of the Archangels include the Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel on March 26 (April 8), and the Miracle of the Archangel Michael at Colossae on September 6 (September 19). In addition, every Monday throughout the year is dedicated to the Angels, with special mention being made in the church hymns of Michael and Gabriel. In Orthodox iconography, each angel has a symbolic representation:

  1. Michael in the Hebrew language means "Who is like unto God?" or "Who is equal to God?" St. Michael has been depicted from earliest Christian times as a commander, who holds in his right hand a spear with which he attacks Lucifer/Satan, and in his left hand a green palm branch. At the top of the spear there is a linen ribbon with a red cross. The Archangel Michael is especially considered to be the Guardian of the Orthodox Faith and a fighter against heresies.
  2. Gabriel means "Man of God" or "Might of God." He is the herald of the mysteries of God, especially the Incarnation of God and all other mysteries related to it. He is depicted as follows: In his right hand, he holds a lantern with a lighted taper inside, and in his left hand, a mirror of green jasper. The mirror signifies the wisdom of God as a hidden mystery.
  3. Raphael means "God's healing" or "God the Healer" (Tobit 3:17, 12:15). Raphael is depicted leading Tobit (who is carrying a fish caught in the Tigris) with his right hand, and holding a physician's alabaster jar in his left hand.
  4. Uriel means "Fire of God," or "Light of God" (III Esdras 3:1, 5:20). He is depicted holding a sword against the Persians in his right hand, and a flame in his left.
  5. Sealtiel means "Intercessor of God" (III Esdras 5:16). He is depicted with his face and eyes lowered, holding his hands on his bosom in prayer.
  6. Jegudiel means "Glorifier of God." He is depicted bearing a golden wreath in his right hand and a triple-thonged whip in his left hand.
  7. Barachiel means "Blessing of God." He is depicted holding a white rose in his hand against his breast.
  8. (Jeremiel means "God's exaltation." He is venerated as an inspirer and awakener of exalted thoughts that raise a person toward God (III Ezra 4:36). As an eighth, he is sometimes included as archangel.)

The edition of the Bible used by Protestants, which excludes the Apocrypha, never mentions a "Raphael" and he is therefore not recognized by many of them. Raphael, however, is mentioned in the Book of Tobit, one of the deuterocanonical books. In the story, Raphael comes to the aid of Tobit, healing him of blindness, and his son Tobias, driving away a demon that would have killed him. Raphael also plays an important role in the Book of Enoch.

In the canon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in 1 Enoch, Saraqael is described as one of the angels that watches over "the spirits that sin in the spirit." (20:7, 8)

Lucifer, the fallen Seraph, who aspired to rise to Godhood (Isaiah 14:14). Lucifer was cast to earth by Michael. Lucifer is known as Satan, The Serpent, The Tempter and The Deceiver. He was also a cherub (Ezekiel 28:14) and "the morning star" (Isaiah 14:12). Ezekiel 28:17 implies that Satan was a particularly beautiful angel.

In Islam, the named archangels include:

  1. Gabriel (or Jibraaiyl or Jibril or Jibrail in Arabic). Gabriel is the Archangel responsible for revealing the Qur'an to Muhammad and inducing him to read it . Gabriel is known as the angel who communicates with the Prophets. This Angel has great importance in Islam as he is being narrated in various Hadiths about his role of delivering messages from the 'Almighty' to the Prophets.
  2. Michael (Mikhail or Mik'aaeel in Arabic). Michael is often depicted as the Archangel of mercy who is responsible for bringing rain and thunder to Earth.
  3. Raphael (Israfil or Israafiyl). According to the Hadith, Israfil is the Angel responsible for signaling the coming of Judgment Day by blowing a horn/trumpet and sending out a Blast of Truth. It translates in Hebrew as Raphael.
  4. Azrael, responsible for parting the soul from the body. Although he is frequently referred to as Azrael in Arabic, he is referred to as Malak al-Maut (the angel of death) in the Quran (Surah al-Sajdah 32:11). There is also no mention of the name Azrael in reference to Malak al-Maut found amongst the verified Hadith of Bukhari.
  5. Rizwaan (Ridhwaan), the Guardian of the Seven heavens.....especially The 'Jannathul Firdaus',- the Supreme- heaven meant for the people doing maximum good deeds and who keep away from evil and evil thoughts. This Angel's name is often named for muslim children in most of the countries as it is a name of great virtues.
  6. Malik , The Guardian of the seven Hells where people doing misdeeds are sent to.
  7. Munkar & Nakeer, The Two Angels who are believed to come to the Grave-yard to question the dead person as soon as the person's body is buried. The Angels are believed to interrogate about the person's faith in his religion.They ask him about the Supreme Power the person follows, the moral-leader he follows and the book he follows .
  8. Rakeeb & Atheed, The Two Angels who are believed to record the Good-deeds and the mis-deeds of a Person in his entire life time. Rakeeb is believed to be on the Right-Shoulder of a Person recording only the Good-deeds a person does. And Atheed is believed to be on the left Shoulder of a person recording only the mis-deeds practised by a person.

In Zoroastrianism there 6 angels but Ahura Mazda is sometime counted as well, Himself.
Amesha Spentas (Phl. Amahraspandan) ("Archangels")

Literally, "Beneficent Immortals", these are the highest spiritual beings created by Ahura Mazda. Their names are :

  • Vohu Mano (Phl. Vohuman): lit. Good Mind. Presides over cattle.
  • Asha Vahishta (Phl. Ardwahisht): lit. Highest Asha, the Amahraspand presiding over Asha and fire.
  • Khshathra Vairya (Phl. Shahrewar): lit. 'Desirable Dominion', the Amahraspand presiding over metals.
  • Spenta Armaiti (Phl. Spandarmad): lit. 'Holy Devotion', the Amahraspand presiding over the earth
  • Haurvatat (Phl. Hordad): lit. 'Perfection or Health'. Presides over water.
  • Ameretat (Phl. Amurdad): lit. 'Immortality', the Amahraspand presiding over the Earth.

Occultists sometimes associate archangels in Kabbalistic fashion with various seasons or elements, or even colors. In some Kabbalah-based systems of ceremonial magic, all four of the main archangels (Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel) are invoked as guarding the four quarters, or directions, and their corresponding colors are associated with magical properties.

In anthroposophy, based on teachings by Rudolf Steiner, there are many spirits belonging to the hierarchical level of archangel. In general, their task is to inspire and guard large groups of human beings, such as whole nations, peoples or ethnic groups. This reflects their rank above the angels who deal with individuals (the guardian angel) or smaller groups.[30] The main seven archangels with the names given by Pope Saint Gregory I are Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel (or Anael), Camael, Oriphiel and Zachariel have a special assignment to act as a global Zeitgeist ("time spirit" or, "spirit of the times/age"), each for periods of about 380 years. According to this system, since 1879, Michael is the leading time spirit. Four important archangels also display periodic spiritual activity over the seasons: Spring is Raphael, Summer (Uriel), Autumn (Michael) and Winter is Gabriel. In anthroposophy, archangels may be good or evil; in particular, some of their rank are collaborators of Ahriman, whose purpose is to alienate humanity from the spiritual world and promote materialism and heartless technical control.

Another Catholic variation lists them corresponding to the days of the week as: St Michael (Sunday), St Gabriel (Monday), St Raphael (Tuesday), St Uriel (Wednesday), St Sealtiel/Selaphiel (Thursday), St Jehudiel/Jhudiel (Friday), and St Barachiel (Saturday).

In the lesser banishing ritual of the pentagram, the invocation includes the words "Before me Raphael; Behind me Gabriel; On my right hand Michael; On my left hand Auriel [Uriel]..."

In art, archangels are sometimes depicted with larger wings and many eyes. Some of the more commonly represented archangels are Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Uriel, and Satanel.

These angels are listed as "cardinal" since they are used to rule over a cardinal point (see Uriel), such as north, south, east, or west. This is similar to the Four Gods theory, in which Byakko, Suzaku, Genbu, and Seiryuu represent the major directions in Eastern philosophy. As such, these are the four greatest named archangels. In general, Michael is considered the greatest, and typically takes the first position, while Uriel is typically the fourth of the four cardinal points.

The word angel in English is a fusion of the Old English word engel (with a hard g) and the Old French angele. Both derive from the Latin angelus which in turn is the romanization of the ancient Greek ἄγγελος (angelos), "messenger". The earliest form of the word is the Mycenaean a-ke-ro attested in Linear B syllabic script.

The Bible uses the terms מלאך אלהים (mal'akh Elohim; messenger of God), מלאך יהוה (mal'akh Adonai; messenger of the Lord), בני אלהים (b'nai Elohim; sons of God) and הקודשים (ha-qodeshim; the holy ones) to refer to beings traditionally interpreted as angels. Other terms are used in later texts, such as העליונים (ha'elyoneem; the upper ones). Daniel is the first biblical figure to refer to individual angels by name.[4]
In post-Biblical Judaism, certain angels came to take on a particular significance and developed unique personalities and roles. Though these archangels were believed to have rank amongst the heavenly host, no systematic hierarchy ever developed. Metatron is considered one of the highest of the angels in Merkabah and Kabbalist mysticism and often serves as a scribe. He is briefly mentioned in the Talmud,[5] and figures prominently in Merkabah mystical texts. Michael, who serves as a warrior and advocate for Israel (Daniel 10:13) is looked upon particularly fondly. Gabriel is mentioned in the Book of Daniel (Daniel 8:15–17), the Book of Tobit, and briefly in the Talmud,[6] as well as many Merkabah mystical texts. There is no evidence in Judaism for the worship of angels, but evidence for the invocation and sometimes even conjuration of angels.

Medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides explained his view of angels in his Guide for the Perplexed II:4 and II:6:
...This leads Aristotle in turn to the demonstrated fact that God, glory and majesty to Him, does not do things by direct contact. God burns things by means of fire; fire is moved by the motion of the sphere; the sphere is moved by means of a disembodied intellect, these intellects being the 'angels which are near to Him', through whose mediation the spheres [planets] move... thus totally disembodied minds exist which emanate from God and are the intermediaries between God and all the bodies [objects] here in this world.
– Guide for the Perplexed II:4, Maimonides
According to Kabalah, there are four worlds and our world is the last world: the world of action (Assiyah). Angels exist in the worlds above as a 'task' of God. They are an extension of God to produce effects in this world. After an angel has completed its task, it ceases to exist. The angel is in effect the task. This is derived from the book of Genesis when Abraham meets with three angels and Lot meets with two. The task of one of the angels was to inform Abraham of his coming child. The other two were to save Lot and to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.

Famous angels and their tasks:

  • Malachim (translation: messengers), general word for angel
  • Michael (translation: who is like God), performs God's kindness
  • Gabriel (translation: the strength of God), performs acts of justice and power
  • Raphael (translation: God Heals), God's healing force
  • Uriel (translation: God is my light), leads us to destiny
  • Seraphim (translation: the burning ones), protects the gates to the Garden of Eden
  • Malach HaMavet (translation: the angel of death)
  • HaSatan (translation: the prosecutor), brings people's sins before them in the heavenly court
  • Chayot HaKodesh (translation: the holy beasts)
  • Ophanim (translation: arbits) Astrological Influence
  • HaMerkavah (translation: the chariot), transports God's glory

Early Christians inherited Jewish understandings of angels. In the early stage, the Christian concept of an angel characterized the angel as a messenger of God. Angels are creatures of good, spirits of love, and messengers of the savior Jesus Christ. Later came identification of individual angelic messengers: Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Uriel, and Lucifer. Then, in the space of little more than two centuries (from the third to the fifth) the image of angels took on definite characteristics both in theology and in art.

By the late fourth century, the Church Fathers agreed that there were different categories of angels, with appropriate missions and activities assigned to them. Some theologians had proposed that Jesus was not divine but on the level of immaterial beings subordinate to the Trinity. The resolution of this Trinitarian dispute included the development of doctrine about angels.

The angels are represented throughout the Christian Bible as a body of spiritual beings intermediate between God and men: "You have made him (man) a little less than the angels..." (Psalms 8:4,5). Some Christians believe that angels are created beings, and use the following passage as evidence: "praise ye Him, all His angels: praise ye Him, all His hosts... for He spoke and they were made. He commanded and they were created..." (Psalms 148:2-5; Colossians 1:16). The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) declared that the angels were created beings. The Council's decree Firmiter credimus (issued against the Albigenses) declared both that angels were created and that men were created after them. The First Vatican Council (1869) repeated this declaration in Dei Filius, the "Dogmatic constitution on the Catholic faith". Of note is that the bible describes the function of angels as "messengers" and does not indicate when the creation of angels occurred.

Many Christians regard angels as asexual and not belonging to either gender as they interpret Matthew 22:30 in this way. Angels are on the other hand usually described as looking like male human beings. Their names are also masculine. And although angels have greater knowledge than men, they are not omniscient, as Matthew 24:36 points out. Another view is that angels are sent into this world for testing, in the form of humans.

The New Testament includes a number of interactions and conversations between angels and humans. For instance, three separate cases of angelic interaction deal with the births of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. In Luke 1:11, an angel appears to Zechariah to inform him that he will have a child despite his old age, thus proclaiming the birth of John the Baptist And in Luke 1:26 the archangel Gabriel visits the Virgin Mary in the Annunciation to foretell the birth of Jesus Christ. Angels then proclaim the birth of Jesus in the Adoration of the shepherds in Luke 2:10. Angels also appear later in the New Testament. In Luke 22:43 an angel comforts Jesus Christ during the Agony in the Garden. In Matthew 28:5 an angel speaks at the empty tomb, following the Resurrection of Jesus and the rolling back of the stone by angels. Hebrews 13:2 reminds the reader that they may "entertain angels unaware".

Since the completion of the New Testament, the Christian tradition has continued to include a number of reported interactions with angels. For instance, in 1851 Pope Pius IX approved the Chaplet of Saint Michael based on the 1751 private revelation from archangel Michael to the Carmelite nun Antonia d'Astonac. And Pope John Paul II emphasized the role of angels in Catholic teachings in his 1986 address titled "Angels Participate In History Of Salvation", in which he suggested that modern mentality should come to see the importance of angels.

As recently as the 20th century, visionaries and mystics have reported interactions with, and indeed dictations from, angels. For instance, the bed-ridden Italian writer and mystic Maria Valtorta wrote The Book of Azariah based on "dictations" that she directly attributed to her guardian angel Azariah, discussing the Roman Missal used for Sunday Mass in 1946 and 1947. 21st century mystic and medium Danielle Egnew is referenced in Steve Barney’s book The Sacred and the Profane as a prominent example of modern day communication with angels, during which Egnew reports channeled angelic messages of individual assistance as well as future world events such as 2012.

The earliest known Christian image of an angel, in the Cubicolo dell'Annunziazione in the Catacomb of Priscilla, which is dated to the middle of the third century, is without wings. Representations of angels on sarcophagi and on objects such as lamps and reliquaries of that period also show them without wings,[28] as for example the angel in the Sacrifice of Isaac scene in the Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus. However, the side view photos of the Sarcophagus show winged angelic figures.

The earliest known representation of angels with wings is on what is called the Prince's Sarcophagus, discovered at Sarigüzel, near Istanbul, in the 1930s, and attributed to the time of Theodosius I (379-395).

Saint John Chrysostom explained the significance of angels' wings: "They manifest a nature's sublimity. That is why Gabriel is represented with wings. Not that angels have wings, but that you may know that they leave the heights and the most elevated dwelling to approach human nature. Accordingly, the wings attributed to these powers have no other meaning than to indicate the sublimity of their nature."

From then on, though of course with some exceptions, Christian art represented angels with wings, as in the cycle of mosaics in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major (432–440). Four- and six-winged angels, often with only their face and wings showing, drawn from the higher grades of angels, especially cherubim and seraphim, are derived from Persian art, and are usually shown only in heavenly contexts, as opposed to performing tasks on earth. They often appear in the pendentives of domes or semi-domes of churches.

Angels, especially the Archangel Michael, who were depicted as military-style agents of God came to shown wearing Late Antique military uniform. This could be either the normal military dress, with a tunic to about the knees, armour breastplate and pteruges, but also often the specific dress of the bodyguard of the Byzantine Emperor, with a long tunic and the loros, a long gold and jewelled pallium restricted to the Imperial family and their closest guards. The basic military dress is still worn in pictures into the Baroque period and beyond in the West (see Reni picture above), and up to the present day in Eastern Orthodox icons. Other angels came to be conventionally depicted in long robes, and in the later Middle Ages they often wear the vestments of a deacon, a cope over a dalmatic, especially Gabriel in Annunciation scenes—for example the Annunciation in Washington by Jan van Eyck.

Islam is clear on the nature of angels in that they are messengers of God. They have no free will, and can do only what God orders them to do. Angels mentioned in the Quran and Hadith include Gabriel (the angel of revelation), Michael (Brings food), Israfel (The horn Blower; signals of the end), Izraail/Azrael ( the angel of death.), Raqib (Writes good doings), Aatid (Writes bad doings), Maalik (Guardian of Hell), Ridwan (Guardian of Heaven), Munkar and Nakir (Interrogater afterlife).

Angels can take on different forms. The Islamic prophet Muhammad, speaking of the magnitude of the angel Gabriel, has said that his wings spanned from the Eastern to the Western horizon. Also, in Islamic tradition, angels used to take on human form.

The following is a Quranic verse that mentions the meeting of an angel with Mary, mother of Jesus: 
Surah Aal ‘Imran Chapter 3 verse 45
Behold! The angels said: O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name is the Christ Eisa the son of Mariam, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those Nearest to God.
– [Al-Qur’an 3:45]
The 13th century Persian Islamic Sufi mystic poet Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi wrote in his poem Masnavi:
I died as inanimate matter and arose a plant,
I died as a plant and rose again an animal.
I died as an animal and arose a man.
Why then should I fear to become less by dying?
I shall die once again as a man
To rise an angel perfect from head to foot!
Again when I suffer dissolution as an angel,
I shall become what passes the conception of man!
Let me then become non-existent, for non-existence
Sings to me in organ tones, {'To him shall we return.'}
Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, referred to angels as people who through the love of God have consumed all human limitations and have been endowed with spiritual attributes.

`Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh's son, defined angels as "those holy souls who have severed attachment to the earthly world, who are free from the fetters of self and passion and who have attached their hearts to the divine realm and the merciful kingdom".

Furthermore, he said that people can be angels in this world:
"Ye are the angels, if your feet be firm, your spirits rejoiced, your secret thoughts pure, your eyes consoled, your ears opened, your breasts dilated with joy, and your souls gladdened, and if you arise to assist the Covenant, to resist dissension and to be attracted to the Effulgence!"
In Zoroastrianism there are different angel-like figures. For example, each person has one guardian angel, called Fravashi. They patronize human beings and other creatures, and also manifest God’s energy. The Amesha Spentas have often been regarded as angels, although they don't convey messages, but are rather emanations of Ahura Mazda ("Wise Lord", God); they initially appear in an abstract fashion and then later became personalized, associated with diverse aspects of the divine creation.

In Hinduism, the term deva is sometimes translated as "angel" (besides "god" or "deity").But essentially deva is not an angel. Instead deva is the embodiment of a natural element with explicit manifestation in physical realms. Angels are usually translated as Gandharvas and apsaras and also as cārana from Sanskrit. See: Srimad Bhagavatam 3.10.28-29

In Sikhism, the references to angelic or divine deities is often objected as the religion focuses on the liberation of the soul and ultimately joining with Waheguru. However, in early scriptures written by Guru Nanak Dev Ji indicate specific heavenly deities to help in the judgment of the soul.
Azrael (as Azraa-eel) is named as the angel of death in the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture and the final Guru of the Sikhs.

In So Dar and Raag Asa Sat Guru Nanak mentions clearly two beings Chitar and Gupat who record the deeds of men. These beings are Angels assigned with this Divine task by the Creator. Chitar records the deeds that are visible to all and Gupat records that which is hidden in thought or secret action. Their names themselves allude to the tasks which the All Mighty has bestowed upon them. The celestial beings are often seen at the gates of heaven, dressed in the most adorned and decorated gowns, holding the records on the actions and feelings of the soul in the line for judgement.

In the teachings of Theosophy, Devas are regarded as living either in the atmospheres of the planets of the solar system (Planetary Angels) or inside the Sun (Solar Angels) (presumably other planetary systems and stars have their own angels) and they help to guide the operation of the processes of nature such as the process of evolution and the growth of plants; their appearance is reputedly like colored flames about the size of a human. It is believed by Theosophists that devas can be observed when the third eye is activated. Some (but not most) devas originally incarnated as human beings.
It is believed by Theosophists that nature spirits, elementals (gnomes, undines, sylphs, and salamanders), and fairies can be also be observed when the third eye is activated. It is maintained by Theosophists that these less evolutionarily developed beings have never been previously incarnated as humans; they are regarded as being on a separate line of spiritual evolution called the “deva evolution”; eventually, as their souls advance as they reincarnate, it is believed they will incarnate as devas.

It is asserted by Theosophists that all of the above mentioned beings possess etheric bodies that are composed of etheric matter, a type of matter finer and more pure that is composed of smaller particles than ordinary physical plane matter.

A 2002 study based on interviews with 350 people, mainly in the UK, who said they have had an experience of an angel, describes several types of such experiences: visions, sometimes with multiple witnesses present; auditions, e.g. to convey a warning; a sense of being touched, pushed, or lifted, typically to avert a dangerous situation; and pleasant fragrance, generally in the context of somebody's death. In the visual experiences, the angels described appear in various forms, either the "classical" one (human countenance with wings), in the form of extraordinarily beautiful or radiant human beings, or as beings of light.

In the US, a 2008 survey by Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion, which polled 1,700 respondents, found that 55 percent of Americans, including one in five of those who say they are not religious, believe that they have been protected by a guardian angel during their life. An August 2007 Pew poll found that 68 percent of Americans believe that "angels and demons are active in the world", and according to four different polls conducted in 2009, a greater percentage of Americans believe in angels (55%) than those who believe in global warming (36%).

22 August 2010

The Stylites

Stylites (from Greek stylos, "pillar") or Pillar-Saints are a type of Christian ascetic who in the early days of the Byzantine Empire stood on pillars preaching, fasting and praying. They believed that the mortification of their bodies would help ensure the salvation of their souls. The first stylite was probably Simeon Stylites the Elder who climbed on a pillar in Syria in 423 and remained there until his death 37 years later.

Palladius of Galatia tells us of a hermit in Palestine who dwelt in a cave on the top of a mountain and who for the space of twenty-five years never turned his face to the west so that the sun never set on his face. St. Gregory of Nazianzus (Patrologia Graeca 37, 1456) speaks of a solitary who stood upright for many years together, absorbed in contemplation, without ever lying down. Theodoret assures us that he had seen a hermit who had passed ten years in a tub suspended in midair from poles (Philotheus, chapter 28).

Palladius of Galatia was bishop of Helenopolis in Bithynia, and a devoted disciple of Saint John Chrysostom. He is best remembered for his work, the Lausiac History; he was also, in all probability, the author of the Dialogue on the Life of Chrysostom.

Palladius was born in Galatia in 363 or 364, and dedicated himself to the monastic life in 386 or a little later. He travelled to Egypt to meet the prototypical Christian monks, the Desert Fathers, for himself. In 388 he arrived in Alexandria and about 390 he passed on to Nitria, and a year later to a district in the desert known as Cellia, from the multitude of its cells, where he spent nine years, first with Macarius of Alexandria and then with Evagrius Ponticus. At the end of the time, his health having broken down, he went to Palestine in search of a cooler climate. In 400 he was ordained bishop of Helenopolis in Bithynia, and soon became involved in the controversies which centred round St. John Chrysostom. The year 405 found him in Rome, whither he had gone to plead the cause of Chrysostom, his fidelity to whom resulted in his exile in the following year to Syene and the Thebaid, where he gained first-hand knowledge of another part of Egypt. In 412–413 he was restored, after a sojourn among the monks of the Mount of Olives. His great work was written in 419–420 and was called the Lausiac History, being composed for Lausus, chamberlain at the court of Theodosius II. He died some time in the decade 420–430.

There seems no reason to doubt that it was the ascetic spirit manifested in such examples as these which spurred men on to devise new and more ingenious forms of self-crucifixion and which in 423 led Simeon Stylites the Elder first of all to take up his abode on the top of a pillar. Critics have recalled a passage in Lucian (De Syria Dea, chapters 28 and 29) which speaks of a high column at Hierapolis Bambyce to the top of which a man ascended twice a year and spent a week in converse with the gods, but the Catholic Encyclopedia argues that it is unlikely that Simeon had derived any suggestion from this pagan custom. In any case Simeon had a continuous series of imitators, particularly in Syria and Palestine. Daniel the Stylite may have been the first of these, for he had been a disciple of Simeon and began his rigorous way of life shortly after his master died.

Saint Simeon Stylites or Symeon the Stylite (Arabic: مار سمعان العمودي‎ mār semʕān l-ʕamūdī; Greek: Ἅγιος Συμεὼν Στυλίτης Hagios Symeon Stylites) (c. 390 – 2 September 459) was a Christian ascetic saint who achieved fame because he lived for 37 years on a small platform on top of a pillar near Aleppo in Syria. Several other stylites later followed his model (the Greek word style means pillar). He is known formally as Saint Simeon Stylites the Elder to distinguish him from Simeon Stylites the Younger and Simeon Stylites III.

Simeon, who was born at Sisan (probably the current Turkish town of Samandağ) in northern Syria, was the son of a shepherd. With the partition of the Roman Empire in 395, Syria was incorporated in what would become the Byzantine Empire and Christianity grew quickly.

Reportedly under the influence of his mother Martha (who is also a saint), he developed a zeal for Christianity at the age of 13, following a lecture of the Beatitudes. He subjected himself to ever-increasing bodily austerities from an early age, especially fasting, and entered a monastery before the age of 16.

On one occasion, moving nearby, he commenced a severe regimen of fasting for Great Lent and was visited by the head of the monastery, who left him some water and loaves. A number of days later, Simeon was discovered unconscious, with the water and loaves untouched. When he was brought back to the monastery, it was discovered that he had bound his waist with a girdle made of palm fronds so tightly that days of soaking were required to remove the fibres from the wound formed. At this, Simeon was requested to leave the monastery.

He then shut himself up for one and a half years in a hut, where he passed the whole of Lent without eating or drinking. When he emerged from the hut, his achievement was hailed as a miracle. He later took to standing continually upright so long as his limbs would sustain him.

After one and a half years in his hut, Simeon sought a rocky eminence on the slopes of what is now the Sheik Barakat Mountain and compelled himself to remain a prisoner within a narrow space, less than 20 meters in diameter. But crowds of pilgrims invaded the area to seek him out, asking his counsel or his prayers, and leaving him insufficient time for his own devotions. This at last led him to adopt a new way of life.

In order to get away from the ever increasing number of people who frequently came to him for prayers and advice, leaving him little if any time for his private austerities, Simeon discovered a pillar which had survived amongst ruins, formed a small platform at the top, and upon this determined to live out his life. It has been stated that, as he seemed to be unable to avoid escaping the world horizontally, he may have thought it an attempt to try to escape it vertically. For sustenance small boys from the village would climb up the pillar and pass him small parcels of flat bread and goats milk.
When the monastic Elders living in the desert heard about Simeon, who had chosen a new and strange form of asceticism, they wanted to test him to determine whether his extreme feats were founded in humility or pride. They decided to tell Simeon under obedience to come down from the pillar. If he disobeyed they would forcibly drag him to the ground, but if he was willing to submit, they were to leave him on his pillar. St Simeon displayed complete obedience and humility, and the monks told him to stay where he was.

This first pillar was little more than four meters high, but his well-wishers subsequently replaced it with others, the last in the series being apparently over 15 meters from the ground. At the top of the pillar was a platform, with a baluster, which is believed to have been about one square metre.
According to his hagiography, Simeon would not allow any woman to come near his pillar, not even his own mother, reportedly telling her, "If we are worthy, we shall see one another in the life to come." Martha submitted to this. Remaining in the area, she also embraced the monastic life of silence and prayer. When she died, Simeon asked that her remains be brought to him. He reverently bade farewell to his dead mother, and, according to the account, a smile appeared on her face.

Edward Gibbon in his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire describes Simeon's existence as follows:
In this last and lofty station, the Syrian Anachoret resisted the heat of thirty summers, and the cold of as many winters. Habit and exercise instructed him to maintain his dangerous situation without fear or giddiness, and successively to assume the different postures of devotion. He sometimes prayed in an erect attitude, with his outstretched arms in the figure of a cross, but his most familiar practice was that of bending his meagre skeleton from the forehead to the feet; and a curious spectator, after numbering twelve hundred and forty- four repetitions, at length desisted from the endless account. The progress of an ulcer in his thigh might shorten, but it could not disturb, this celestial life; and the patient Hermit expired, without descending from his column.
Even on the highest of his columns, Simeon was not withdrawn from the world. If anything, the new pillar drew even more people, not only the pilgrims who had come earlier but now sightseers as well. Simeon made himself available to these visitors every afternoon. By means of a ladder, visitors were able to ascend, and it is known that he wrote letters, the text of some of which survived to this day, that he instructed disciples, and that he also delivered addresses to those assembled beneath, preaching especially against profanity and usury. In contrast to the extreme austerity that he demanded of himself, his preaching conveyed temperance and compassion, and was marked with common sense and freedom from fanaticism.

Much of Simeon’s public ministry, like that of other Syrian ascetics, can be seen as socially cohensive in the context of the Late Roman East. In the face of the withdrawal of wealthy landowners to the large cities, holy men such as Simeon acted as impartial and necessary patrons and arbiters in disputes between peasant farmers and within the smaller towns.

Simeon's fame spread throughout the Empire. The Emperor Theodosius and his wife Eudocia greatly respected the saint and listened to his counsels, while the Emperor Leo paid respectful attention to a letter he sent in favour of the Council of Chalcedon. Simeon is also said to have corresponded with St Genevieve of Paris.

Simeon became so influential that a church delegation was sent to him to demand that he descend from his pillar as a sign of submission. When, however, he showed himself willing to comply, the request was withdrawn. Once when he was ill, Theodosius sent three bishops to beg him to come down and allow himself to be attended by physicians, but Simeon preferred to leave his cure in the hands of God, and before long he recovered.

After spending 39 years on his pillar, Simeon died on 2 September 459. He inspired many imitators, and, for the next century, ascetics living on pillars, stylites, were a common sight throughout the Byzantine Levant.

He is commemorated as a saint in the Coptic Orthodox Church, where his feast is on 29 Pashons. He is commemorated 1 September by the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic Churches, and 5 January in the Roman Catholic Church.

A contest arose between Antioch and Constantinople for the possession of Simeon's remains. The preference was given to Antioch, and the greater part of his relics were left there as a protection to the unwalled city.

The ruins of the vast edifice erected in his honour and known in Arabic as the Qalaat Semaan ("the Fortress of Simeon") can still be seen. They are located about 30 km northwest of Aleppo (36°20′03″N 36°50′38″ECoordinates: 36°20′03″N 36°50′38″E) and consist of four basilicas built out from an octagonal court towards the four points of the compass to form a large cross. In the centre of the court stands the base of the style or column on which St. Simeon stood.

A statue commemorating St. Simeon's asceticism can be found in Grimsby town centre, UK. The town's thriving Orthodox Syrian Christian community commissioned the statue, which has a jade motif of 39 concentric circles representing each of St. Simeon's years atop the pillar, to be built in 1971.
In The Guinness World Book Of Records 2010 his record for the longest pole sit is also the longest record ever held by anybody.

Saint Daniel the Stylite (c. 409 - 493) is a saint of the Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholic and Eastern Catholic Churches. He was born in a village by the name of Maratha in upper Mesopotamia near Samosata, in today what is now a region of Turkey. He entered a monastery at the age of twelve and lived there until he was thirty-eight. During a voyage he made with his abbot to Antioch, he passed by Tellnesin and received the benediction and encouragement of St. Simeon Stylites. Then he visited the holy places, stayed in various convents, and retired in 451 into the ruins of a pagan temple.
He established his pillar four miles north of Constantinople. The owner of the soil where he placed his pillar, who had not been consulted, appealed to the emperor and the patriarch Gennadius of Constantinople. Gennadius proposed to dislodge him, but in some way was deterred. Gennadius ordained him a priest against his will, standing at the foot of his pillar. When the ceremony was over the patriarch administered the Eucharist by means of a ladder, which Daniel had ordered to be brought. Gennadius then received the Eucharist from Daniel. Daniel lived on the pillar for 33 years. By continually standing, his feet were covered with sores and ulcers: the winds of Thrace sometimes stripped him of his scanty clothing.

He was visited by both the Emperor Leo I the Thracian and the Emperor Zeno. As a theologian, he came out against monophysitism.

The following is his prayer before he began his life on the pillar:
"I yield Thee glory, Jesus Christ my God, for all the blessings which Thou hast heaped upon me, and for the grace which Thou hast given me that I should embrace this manner of life. But Thou knowest that in ascending this pillar, I lean on Thee alone, and that to Thee alone I look for the happy issue of mine undertaking. Accept, then, my object: strengthen me that I finish this painful course: give me grace to end it in holiness."
The following is the advice he gave to his disciples just before his death:
"Hold fast humility, practice obedience, exercise hospitality, keep the fasts, observe the vigils, love poverty, and above all maintain charity, which is the first and great commandment; keep closely bound to all that regards piety, avoid the tares of the heretics. Separate never from the Church your Mother; if you do these things your righteousness shall be perfect."
Saint Daniel is commemorated 11 December on the liturgical calendars of the Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic and Roman Catholic Churches.

Saint Simeon Stylites the Younger [also known as 'St. Simeon of the Admirable Mountain'] (Arabic: ‎مار سمعان العمودي الأصغر mār semʕān l-ʕamūdī l-asghar) (521 - May 24, 597) is a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church and Catholic Churches of Eastern and Latin Rites. Born at Antioch, his father was a native of Edessa, his mother, named Martha was afterwards revered as a saint and a life of her, which incorporates a letter to her son written from his pillar to Thomas, the guardian of the true cross at Jerusalem, has been printed.

Like his namesake, the first Stylites, Simeon seems to have been drawn very young to a life of austerity. He attached himself to a community of ascetics living within the mandra or enclosure of another pillar-hermit, named John, who acted as their spiritual director. Simeon while still only a boy had a pillar erected for himself close to that of John. It is Simeon himself who in the above-mentioned letter to Thomas states that he was living upon a pillar when he lost his first teeth. He maintained this kind of life for 68 years. In the course of this period, however, he several times moved to a new pillar, and on the occasion of the first of these exchanges the Patriarch of Antioch and the Bishop of Seleucia ordained him deacon during the short space of time he spent upon the ground. For eight years until John died, Simeon remained near his master's column, so near that they could easily converse. During this period his austerities were kept in some sort of check by the older hermit.

After John's death Simeon gave full rein to his ascetical practices and Evagrius declares that he lived only upon the branches of a shrub that grew near Theopolis. Simeon the younger was ordained priest and was thus able to offer the Holy Sacrifice in memory of his mother. On such occasions his disciples one after another climbed up the ladder to receive Communion at his hands. As in the case of most of the other pillar saints a large number of miracles were believed to have been worked by Simeon the Younger. In several instances the cure was effected by pictures representing him (Holl in "Philotesia", 56). Towards the close of his life the saint occupied a column upon a mountain-side near Antioch called from his miracles the "Hill of Wonders", and it was here that he died. Besides the letter mentioned, several writings are attributed to the younger Simeon. A number of these small spiritual tractates were printed by Cozza-Luzi ("Nova PP. Bib.", VIII, iii, Rome, 1871, pp. 4–156). There is also an "Apocalypse" and letters to the Emperors Justinian and Justin II (see fragments in P.G., LXXXVI, pt. II, 3216-20). More especially Simeon was the reputed author of a certain number of liturgical hymns, "Troparis", etc. (see Pétridès in "Echos d'Orient", 1901 and 1902).

Saint Alypius the Stylite was a seventh century ascetic saint. He is revered as a monastic founder, an intercessor for the infertile, and a protector of children. During his lifetime he was a much sought after starets (guide in the Christian spiritual life).

Alypius was born in the city of Hadrianopolis in Paphlagonia. His mother, who had been widowed early, was very pious. She sent her son to be educated by the bishop Theodore, gave all of her livelihood to the poor, and herself became a deaconess and lived an ascetic life. Alypius built a church in honour of the Great Martyr Saint Euphemia the All-Praised on the site of a dilapidated pagan temple. He erected a pillar beside the church and lived atop it for the majority of his adult life. Two monasteries were built beside his pillar, one for monks and one for nuns, and Saint Alypius served as spiritual director of both. According to his hagiography for the last fourteen years of his life he was unable to stand, and had to lie on his side. He died in 640, at the age of 118. He is recognised as one of the three great stylite ascetics along with Simeon Stylites the Elder and Daniel the Stylite.

Alypius is venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, as well as the Roman Catholic Church on November 26. For those churches which follow the Julian Calendar November 26 currently falls on December 9 of the modern Gregorian Calendar. After his death his relics were interred in the Church of St. Euphemia which he had built. His head is preserved in the Monastery of Koutloumousiou on the Mount Athos.

Luke Thaumaturgus (Luke the Younger, Luke of Hellas, Luke the Wonder-worker) (d. 946 AD) is venerated as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox, Byzantine Catholic, and Roman Catholic Churches. He lived as a hermit and stylite from the age of 18 until his death on Mount Joannitsa near Corinth. One of the earliest saints to be seen levitating in prayer[1], Luke was the third of the seven children of Stephen and Euphrosyne. His family lived in Aegina and then Thessaly.

St. Luke Thaumaturgus' feast day is celebrated February 7 on Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic and Roman Catholic liturgical calendars.

Alipy of the Caves (? - 1114) - (also known as 'Venerable Alypius') Eastern Orthodox saint, monk and famous painter of icons from the cave monastery of Kiev Pechersk Lavra. Saint Alipy was a disciple of Greek icon painters from Constantinople and considered to be the first iconographer of the Kievan Rus.

According to medieval sources, Alipy created his icons with the help of God and angels. The saint took part in creation of mosaic painting in Dormition Cathedral of the Lavra. Presumably, the artist also participated in the painting of murals in St. Michael's Cathedral in Kiev. One of the icons painted by St Alypius survived and is now preserved in the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. This is the Sven Icon of the Theotokos (feast days: May 3 and August 17).

The saint died on August 17 around the year 1114. When his body was discovered, it was found that the fingers of his right hand were still formed in the Orthodox manner of making the Sign of the Cross.
The feast day of Saint Alipy is celebrated in the Orthodox Church on August 17 (for those churches which follow the Julian Calendar, August 17 currently falls on August 30 of the modern Gregorian Calendar). He is also celebrated, in common with other saints of his monastery on September 28 (October 11), the "Synaxis of the Holy Fathers of Kiev whose relics lie in the Near Caves of Saint Anthony".

His relics are preserved in Kiev Pechersk Lavra.
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