Celestial creatures occupying the highest order of angels, with the seraphim ranking above the cherubim.
According to Genesis 3:24, when man was expelled from the Garden of Eden, God placed the cherubim at the entrance to Paradise, with a sword whirling and flashing to guard the way to the tree of life. Likewise God commanded Moses to make an ark for the tabernacle, with two gold cherubim of beaten work at the end of the court, whose wings were outspread and pointing upward (Ex. 25:18- 22).
They were full of eyes “like burning coals of fire” (Ez. 28:14- 16), and were also described as a tetrad of living creatures, each cherub having four faces, four wings, the hands of a human being, but the hooves of a calf (Ez. 1:5-8).
The seraphim are mentioned in Isaiah 6:2, where he saw in a vision several seraphim standing before the throne of God and ceaselessly praising Him. Each seraph had six wings, two covering his face, two his feet, and two for flying.
In allusion to Isaiah 6:2-3, the Cherubic Hymn forms an integral part of the prayer of reconciliation in all liturgies, where the celebrant priest says, “Thou art He, round whom stand the Cherubim full of eyes and the six-winged Seraphim, praising continuously, with unfailing voices, saying: [Here the congregation sings] The Cherubim worship Thee, and the Seraphim glorify Thee, proclaiming: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of hosts; heaven and earth are full of Thy holy glory.” A similar hymn also features in the Euchologion of Serpion (d. c. 360), bishop of Tmuis.
Etymologically, the cherubim are so called because they represent profound knowledge, and the seraphim the fervor of love.
- Leclercq, H. “Anges.” In Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, Vol. 1, cols. 2080-2161. Paris, 1907.
- Marriott, W. B. “Angels and Archangels in Christian Art.” In Dictionary of Christian Art, Vol. 1, pp. 83-89. London, 1876.
- Strachan, J. “Seraphim.” In J. Hasting, Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 4, pp. 458-59. London, 1902.
- Vincent, L. H. “Les Chérubins.” In Revue Biblique 35 (1926):328- 58, 481-95.