The Guardian Angels
by Rev. Geoffrey Childs
In Providence we occasionally experience the most gentle and sensitive states. The Lord provides this by awakening childhood affections and conveying us into the state of early innocence. The love of others is awakened.
Such perceptive states are often agonizing, for we are forced to compare dull routine with childhood. The contrast causes a kind of sadness - the sadness of a heart that is unhappy over its self-love. We see we are living for self. But it is not only this that unsettles us; it is also the realization of the quiet self-interest that is become part of us. We see that in many ways we are a cold person. And we become aware of a false front; a manipulating of other people, even friends, to suit self-interest.
If in the dullness of this state we turn to the Lord, repentance can touch our innermost heart. And the Lord will come and aid us. Not overwhelmingly, but to the degree that we can take help. With determination, in this genuine state, we resolve to turn away from the life of self, which we now see to be evil. We have perceived the deadness into which self-love was leading.
Such resolution to lead a new life must not be shallow. To be real, it has to be based upon a recognition and confession to the Lord of a specific evil, the chief known evil, in oneself. And then upon the determined shunning of this evil, we look to the Lord and not to self for strength. If we live in this way, then honesty can effect deep influxes. For honesty is like spiritual incense, which rises up to the Lord. When there is this honesty of effort, the angels draw near and feel a powerful delight. We are allowed by the Lord to feel something of this joy. It inflows as we live a new life; it inflows to give strength and inner delight. There is the joy of heaven within it.
The intensity of the love of the angels is something we tend to forget. It is unselfish and deep - its wish being to bring us into heavenly joy. They operate in freedom, yet with the fullest love of those they serve. It is said that "the spheres that go forth from angels are so full of love as to affect the inmosts of life of those who are with them." (Heaven and Hell 17) We are too cold to be aware of the gentleness of angel's love. Yet without this, it would be all over with us. Once in the other world, a certain hard-hearted spirit was brought into the presence of a higher angel. Becoming aware of the love of others that that angel felt, the spirit wept - for the first time in his life.
In the parable told by the Lord of the one lost sheep out of the hundred (Luke 15:4-7), the shepherd left his ninety and nine, and went into the wilderness, searching for the one that had strayed. This wilderness depicts the mind of an unrepentant person, a mind barren of what is heavenly. Guardian angels protect anyone who has lost the way. They are more concerned with the "lost sheep" than with those who are safe under the protection of the Lord.
Guardian angels particularly try to serve the desolate. But angels must be invited. The Lord puts freedom before salvation. Once this freedom is assured, these angels labor their hearts out. Entering into our wilderness, they search for the sheep that is lost. This sheep represents the innocence that is still left in our heart. When the shepherd found the lost sheep, he "layed it on his shoulders, rejoicing." Spiritually, the shoulders symbolize force and power - here the force and power of angelic influx. Once angels find innocence in an unrepentant person, they inflow into it with all their strength. It is this special influx that causes us to experience rare states of great gentleness. The innocence is then being carried on the shoulders of the angels. The evil feel these states - as does everyone in mediate good - between good and evil. When this influx of the angels is with us, we can, if we wish, turn fully to the Lord. Then we are borne out of the wilderness, back to the flock of those who are alive. The endangered sheep was carried out of the wilderness on the shoulders of the shepherd. It is true that the means used are the guardian angels, but behind them is the Lord, Who is the Shepherd.
The guardian angels know "nothing more delightful and happy than to remove evils from a man, and lead him to heaven." (Ibid.) They delight in our repentance. Nor do they keep this happiness to themselves. They share it with other angelic societies. Then, after performing their uses, angelic shepherds return to their home society, and are permitted to communicate their joy. They spread their happiness throughout heaven. This is what is meant when it is said that when the shepherd "cometh home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost." "His friends" are those societies in similar goods. And "his neighbors" are other angelic societies in the Greatest Human.
Repentance begins when we recognize our own state, and turn to the Lord, with deep resolve to start a new life. It is this that brings salvation to eternity, and causes angels interior joy. As regeneration progresses, there are other repentances that follow. Spiritual rebirth is a series of repentances. Regeneration is a progressive state. First, there is entrance into the lowest goods - goods of obedience. And then a gradual ascent of Jacob's ladder of life, into ever higher goods.
There is, if rebirth progresses, a rising above the goods of obedience, into states of charity - of strongly felt love towards the neighbor. And it is possible to ascend even to the goods of love to the Lord. Each good given brings joy to the angels, and release to the repentant. Each step upwards starts with a repentance. For when one is spiritually prepared - when the state is strong - a hidden evil is disclosed. All are able to see this evil for what it is. We are able to turn to the Lord with prayer for the strength to remove this newly discovered evil. This is a new repentance.
The Lord, through His guardian angels, will rescue the innocence, the sheep that has been in the wilderness. By the force of angelic influx, we will be carried out of barrenness - removed from evil - carried on the shoulder of the angels. Then the opposite good inflows, and there is a deep joy in the heavens. There is an ascent, and a release. The angels rejoice over this. We feel an influx of peace; of quiet, sure trust in the Lord. And we see the truth of David's psalm: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." (Psalm 23:1)
-New Church Home 1981;45:70-71