The angel assigned to worship, glorify, and extol God continuously, and also to minister to saints and to protect, watch over, and intercede on behalf of people. As God’s invisible creatures and messengers, guardian angels are called upon to carry the souls of the dead, to fight against the powers of Satan, and to accomplish various other errands, as we learn from innumerable instances in the Scriptures. We shall single out a few examples.
The belief that angels guard human beings seems to have been known to the Israelites. While blessing the two sons of Joseph, Jacob said, “The angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads” (Gn. 48:16). Also the Psalmist says, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them” (Ps. 34:7). In Ecclesiastes, Solomon says, “Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake” (Eccl. 5:6). It was also a common belief among the ancient Greeks (Plato, 1975, 108B).
Jesus Christ confirmed the idea of the guardianship of angels in the case of children. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 18:10). Likewise, when Peter was released from prison, and knocked at the door of the house where the disciples were meeting, Rhoda, the maid who answered the door, announced the news to them. “You are mad,” they told her; but she insisted that it was so. Then they said, “It is his angel” (Acts 12:15).
Many of the early fathers of the church spoke of the guardian angels, for example, (Pseudo) Clement in Recognitions (2.42, 1951, pp. 108-9) and Clement of Alexandria (Stromata 7, 1956, p. 533). Previously HERMAS (c. 140) had indicated in The Shepherd that every human being is entrusted to an angel to protect him (Hermas, Mandates 6.2, 1934, 1-3). The subject was also discussed by medieval theologians, like Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) and Saint Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274).
The latter maintained that guardian angels belonged to the lowest order of angels, while Duns Scotus (c. 1265-1308) held the belief that the task of guardianship could be carried out by any angel, regardless of rank (1975, pars. 9.1-53). Others went beyond this and were of the opinion that guardian angels were among the cherubim and the seraphim who witness the majesty of God all the time; hence the words of Christ referred to earlier.
Not only individuals but also whole countries and nations enjoy the protection of angels (cf. Ex. 14:19; Jos. 5:13, 14; and Dn. 10:12,13). So do churches, which are the houses of God. The Coptic church believes in the particular guardianship of a certain angel to the oblations offered in the liturgy. Accordingly, the last words said after washing the vessels and while sprinkling a little water on the altar are, “O angel of this oblation ascending unto the Highest with our praise: remember us in the presence of the Lord, that He may forgive us our sins.”
- Asad Rustum. Aba’ al-Kanisah fi al-Qurun al-Thalathah al-Ula, pp. 41, 47. Beirut, 1961.
- Duns Scotus, John. God and Creatures, trans. Felix Alluntis and Allan B. Wolter. Princeton, N.J., 1975.
- Mikha’il Mina. ‘Ilm al-Lahut, Vol. 2, pp. 91-93. Cairo, 1936.