Summa Th. I EN Qu.110 a.4
Objection: 1. It would seem that the angels can work miracles. For Gregory says (Hom. xxxiv in Evang.): "Those spirits are called virtues by whom signs and miracles are usually done."
2. Further, Augustine says (Questions. 83, qu. 79) that "magicians work miracles by private contracts; good Christians by public justice, bad Christians by the signs of public justice." But magicians work miracles because they are "heard by the demons," as he says elsewhere in the same work [*Cf. Liber xxi, Sentent., sent. 4: among the supposititious works of St. Augustine]. Therefore the demons can work miracles. Therefore much more can the good angels.
3. Further, Augustine says in the same work [*Cf. Liber xxi, Sentent., sent. 4: among the supposititious works of St. Augustine] that "it is not absurd to believe that all the things we see happen may be brought about by the lower powers that dwell in our atmosphere." But when an effect of natural causes is produced outside the order of the natural cause, we call it a miracle, as, for instance, when anyone is cured of a fever without the operation of nature. Therefore the angels and demons can work miracles.
4. Further, superior power is not subject to the order of an inferior cause. But corporeal nature is inferior to an angel. Therefore an angel can work outside the order of corporeal agents; which is to work miracles.
On the contrary It is written of God (Ps 135,4): "Who alone doth great wonders."
I answer that A miracle properly so called is when something is done outside the order of nature. But it is not enough for a miracle if something is done outside the order of any particular nature; for otherwise anyone would perform a miracle by throwing a stone upwards, as such a thing is outside the order of the stone's nature. So for a miracle is required that it be against the order of the whole created nature. But God alone can do this, because, whatever an angel or any other creature does by its own power, is according to the order of created nature; and thus it is not a miracle. Hence God alone can work miracles.
Reply to Objection: 1. Some angels are said to work miracles; either because God works miracles at their request, in the same way as holy men are said to work miracles; or because they exercise a kind of ministry in the miracles which take place; as in collecting the dust in the general resurrection, or by doing something of that kind.
2. Properly speaking, as said above, miracles are those things which are done outside the order of the whole created nature. But as we do not know all the power of created nature, it follows that when anything is done outside the order of created nature by a power unknown to us, it is called a miracle as regards ourselves. So when the demons do anything of their own natural power, these things are called "miracles" not in an absolute sense, but in reference to ourselves. In this way the magicians work miracles through the demons; and these are said to be done by "private contracts," forasmuch as every power of the creature, in the universe, may be compared to the power of a private person in a city. Hence when a magician does anything by compact with the devil, this is done as it were by private contract. On the other hand, the Divine justice is in the whole universe as the public law is in the city. Therefore good Christians, so far as they work miracles by Divine justice, are said to work miracles by "public justice": but bad Christians by the "signs of public justice," as by invoking the name of Christ, or by making use of other sacred signs.
3. Spiritual powers are able to effect whatever happens in this visible world, by employing corporeal seeds by local movement.
4. Although the angels can do something which is outside the order of corporeal nature, yet they cannot do anything outside the whole created order, which is essential to a miracle, as above explained.
We now consider the action of the angels on man, and inquire: (1) How far they can change them by their own natural power; (2) How they are sent by God to the ministry of men; (3) How they guard and protect men.
Under the first head there are four points of inquiry:
(1) Whether an angel can enlighten the human intellect?
(2) Whether he can change man's will?
(3) Whether he can change man's imagination?
(4) Whether he can change man's senses?
Objection: 1. It would seem that an angel cannot enlighten man. For man is enlightened by faith; hence Dionysius (Eccl. Hier. iii) attributes enlightenment to baptism, as "the sacrament of faith." But faith is immediately from God, according to Ep 2,8: "By grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God." Therefore man is not enlightened by an angel; but immediately by God.
2. Further, on the words, "God hath manifested it to them" (Rm 1,19), the gloss observes that "not only natural reason availed for the manifestation of Divine truths to men, but God also revealed them by His work," that is, by His creature. But both are immediately from God---that is, natural reason and the creature. Therefore God enlightens man immediately.
3. Further, whoever is enlightened is conscious of being enlightened. But man is not conscious of being enlightened by angels. Therefore he is not enlightened by them.
On the contrary Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. iv) that the revelation of Divine things reaches men through the ministry of the angels. But such revelation is an enlightenment as we have stated (Question , Article ; Question , Article ). Therefore men are enlightened by the angels.
I answer that, Since the order of Divine Providence disposes that lower things be subject to the actions of higher, as explained above (Question , Article ); as the inferior angels are enlightened by the superior, so men, who are inferior to the angels, are enlightened by them.
The modes of each of these kinds of enlightenment are in one way alike and in another way unlike. For, as was shown above (Question , Article ), the enlightenment which consists in making known Divine truth has two functions; namely, according as the inferior intellect is strengthened by the action of the superior intellect, and according as the intelligible species which are in the superior intellect are proposed to the inferior so as to be grasped thereby. This takes place in the angels when the superior angel divides his universal concept of the truth according to the capacity of the inferior angel, as explained above (Question , Article ).
The human intellect, however, cannot grasp the universal truth itself unveiled; because its nature requires it to understand by turning to the phantasms, as above explained (Question , Article ). So the angels propose the intelligible truth to men under the similitudes of sensible things, according to what Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. i), that, "It is impossible for the divine ray to shine on us, otherwise than shrouded by the variety of the sacred veils." On the other hand, the human intellect as the inferior, is strengthened by the action of the angelic intellect. And in these two ways man is enlightened by an angel.
Reply to Objection: 1. Two dispositions concur in the virtue of faith; first, the habit of the intellect whereby it is disposed to obey the will tending to Divine truth. For the intellect assents to the truth of faith, not as convinced by the reason, but as commanded by the will; hence Augustine says, "No one believes except willingly." In this respect faith comes from God alone. Secondly, faith requires that what is to be believed be proposed to the believer; which is accomplished by man, according to Rm 10,17, "Faith cometh by hearing"; principally, however, by the angels, by whom Divine things are revealed to men. Hence the angels have some part in the enlightenment of faith. Moreover, men are enlightened by the angels not only concerning what is to be believed; but also as regards what is to be done.
2. Natural reason, which is immediately from God, can be strengthened by an angel, as we have said above. Again, the more the human intellect is strengthened, so much higher an intelligible truth can be elicited from the species derived from creatures. Thus man is assisted by an angel so that he may obtain from creatures a more perfect knowledge of God.
3. Intellectual operation and enlightenment can be understood in two ways. First, on the part of the object understood; thus whoever understands or is enlightened, knows that he understands or is enlightened, because he knows that the object is made known to him. Secondly, on the part of the principle; and thus it does not follow that whoever understands a truth, knows what the intellect is, which is the principle of the intellectual operation. In like manner not everyone who is enlightened by an angel, knows that he is enlightened by him.
Objection: 1. It would seem that the angels can change the will of man. For, upon the text, "Who maketh His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire" (He 1,7), the gloss notes that "they are fire, as being spiritually fervent, and as burning away our vices." This could not be, however, unless they changed the will. Therefore the angels can change the will.
2. Further, Bede says (Super Matth. xv, 11), that, "the devil does not send wicked thoughts, but kindles them." Damascene, however, says that he also sends them; for he remarks that "every malicious act and unclean passion is contrived by the demons and put into men" (De Fide Orth. ii, 4); in like manner also the good angels introduce and kindle good thoughts. But this could only be if they changed the will. Therefore the will is changed by them.
3. Further, the angel, as above explained, enlightens the human intellect by means of the phantasms. But as the imagination which serves the intellect can be changed by an angel, so can the sensitive appetite which serves the will, because it also is a faculty using a corporeal organ. Therefore as the angel enlightens the mind, so can he change the will.
On the contrary To change the will belongs to God alone, according to Pr 21,1: "The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord, whithersoever He will He shall turn it."
I answer that The will can be changed in two ways. First, from within; in which way, since the movement of the will is nothing but the inclination of the will to the thing willed, God alone can thus change the will, because He gives the power of such an inclination to the intellectual nature. For as the natural inclination is from God alone Who gives the nature, so the inclination of the will is from God alone, Who causes the will.
Secondly, the will is moved from without. As regards an angel, this can be only in one way---by the good apprehended by the intellect. Hence in as far as anyone may be the cause why anything be apprehended as an appetible good, so far does he move the will. In this way also God alone can move the will efficaciously; but an angel and man move the will by way of persuasion, as above explained (Question , Article ).
In addition to this mode the human will can be moved from without in another way; namely, by the passion residing in the sensitive appetite: thus by concupiscence or anger the will is inclined to will something. In this manner the angels, as being able to rouse these passions, can move the will, not however by necessity, for the will ever remains free to consent to, or to resist, the passion.
Reply to Objection: 1. Those who act as God's ministers, either men or angels, are said to burn away vices, and to incite to virtue by way of persuasion.
2. The demon cannot put thoughts in our minds by causing them from within, since the act of the cogitative faculty is subject to the will; nevertheless the devil is called the kindler of thoughts, inasmuch as he incites to thought, by the desire of the things thought of, by way of persuasion, or by rousing the passions. Damascene calls this kindling "a putting in" because such a work is accomplished within. But good thoughts are attributed to a higher principle, namely, God, though they may be procured by the ministry of the angels.
3. The human intellect in its present state can understand only by turning to the phantasms; but the human will can will something following the judgment of reason rather than the passion of the sensitive appetite. Hence the comparison does not hold.
Objection: 1. It would seem that an angel cannot change man's imagination. For the phantasy, as is said De Anima iii, is "a motion caused by the sense in act." But if this motion were caused by an angel, it would not be caused by the sense in act. Therefore it is contrary to the nature of the phantasy, which is the act of the imaginative faculty, to be changed by an angel.
2. Further, since the forms in the imagination are spiritual, they are nobler than the forms existing in sensible matter. But an angel cannot impress forms upon sensible matter (Question , Article ). Therefore he cannot impress forms on the imagination, and so he cannot change it.
3. Further, Augustine says (Gn ad lit. xii, 12): "One spirit by intermingling with another can communicate his knowledge to the other spirit by these images, so that the latter either understands it himself, or accepts it as understood by the other." But it does not seem that an angel can be mingled with the human imagination, nor that the imagination can receive the knowledge of an angel. Therefore it seems that an angel cannot change the imagination.
4. Further, in the imaginative vision man cleaves to the similitudes of the things as to the things themselves. But in this there is deception. So as a good angel cannot be the cause of deception, it seems that he cannot cause the imaginative vision, by changing the imagination.
On the contrary Those things which are seen in dreams are seen by imaginative vision. But the angels reveal things in dreams, as appears from Mt 1,20;:13, in regard to the angel who appeared to Joseph in dreams. Therefore an angel can move the imagination.
I answer that Both a good and a bad angel by their own natural power can move the human imagination. This may be explained as follows. For it was said above (Question , Article ), that corporeal nature obeys the angel as regards local movement, so that whatever can be caused by the local movement of bodies is subject to the natural power of the angels. Now it is manifest that imaginative apparitions are sometimes caused in us by the local movement of animal spirits and humors. Hence Aristotle says (De Somn. et Vigil.) [*De Insomniis iii.], when assigning the cause of visions in dreams, that "when an animal sleeps, the blood descends in abundance to the sensitive principle, and movements descend with it," that is, the impressions left from the movements are preserved in the animal spirits, "and move the sensitive principle"; so that a certain appearance ensues, as if the sensitive principle were being then changed by the external objects themselves. Indeed, the commotion of the spirits and humors may be so great that such appearances may even occur to those who are awake, as is seen in mad people, and the like. So, as this happens by a natural disturbance of the humors, and sometimes also by the will of man who voluntarily imagines what he previously experienced, so also the same may be done by the power of a good or a bad angel, sometimes with alienation from the bodily senses, sometimes without such alienation.
Reply to Objection: 1. The first principle of the imagination is from the sense in act. For we cannot imagine what we have never perceived by the senses, either wholly or partly; as a man born blind cannot imagine color. Sometimes, however, the imagination is informed in such a way that the act of the imaginative movement arises from the impressions preserved within.
2. An angel changes the imagination, not indeed by the impression of an imaginative form in no way previously received from the senses (for he cannot make a man born blind imagine color), but by local movement of the spirits and humors, as above explained.
3. The commingling of the angelic spirit with the human imagination is not a mingling of essences, but by reason of an effect which he produces in the imagination in the way above stated; so that he shows man what he [the angel] knows, but not in the way he knows.
4. An angel causing an imaginative vision, sometimes enlightens the intellect at the same time, so that it knows what these images signify; and then there is not deception. But sometimes by the angelic operation the similitudes of things only appear in the imagination; but neither then is deception caused by the angel, but by the defect in the intellect to whom such things appear. Thus neither was Christ a cause of deception when He spoke many things to the people in parables, which He did not explain to them.
Objection: 1. It seems that an angel cannot change the human senses. For the sensitive operation is a vital operation. But such an operation does not come from an extrinsic principle. Therefore the sensitive operation cannot be caused by an angel.
2. Further, the sensitive operation is nobler than the nutritive. But the angel cannot change the nutritive power, nor other natural forms. Therefore neither can he change the sensitive power.
3. Further, the senses are naturally moved by the sensible objects. But an angel cannot change the order of nature (Question , Article ). Therefore an angel cannot change the senses; but these are changed always by the sensible object.
On the contrary The angels who overturned Sodom, "struck the people of Sodom with blindness or (aorasia), so that they could not find the door" (Gn 19,11). [*It is worth noting that these are the only two passages in the Greek version where the word (aorasia) appears. It expresses, in fact, the effect produced on the people of Sodom---namely, dazzling (French version, "eblouissement"), which the Latin "caecitas" (blindness) does not necessarily imply.] The same is recorded of the Syrians whom Eliseus led into Samaria (2R 6,18).
I answer that The senses may be changed in a twofold manner; from without, as when affected by the sensible object: and from within, for we see that the senses are changed when the spirits and humors are disturbed; as for example, a sick man's tongue, charged with choleric humor, tastes everything as bitter, and the like with the other senses. Now an angel, by his natural power, can work a change in the senses both ways. For an angel can offer the senses a sensible object from without, formed by nature or by the angel himself, as when he assumes a body, as we have said above (Question , Article ). Likewise he can move the spirits and humors from within, as above remarked, whereby the senses are changed in various ways.
Reply to Objection: 1. The principle of the sensitive operation cannot be without the interior principle which is the sensitive power; but this interior principle can be moved in many ways by the exterior principle, as above explained.
2. By the interior movement of the spirits and humors an angel can do something towards changing the act of the nutritive power, and also of the appetitive and sensitive power, and of any other power using a corporeal organ.
3. An angel can do nothing outside the entire order of creatures; but he can outside some particular order of nature, since he is not subject to that order; thus in some special way an angel can work a change in the senses outside the common mode of nature.
We next consider the mission of the angels. Under this head arise four points of inquiry:
(1) Whether any angels are sent on works of ministry?
(2) Whether all are sent?
(3) Whether those who are sent, assist?
(4) From what orders they are sent.
Objection: 1. It would seem that the angels are not sent on works of ministry. For every mission is to some determinate place. But intellectual actions do not determine a place, for intellect abstracts from the "here" and "now." Since therefore the angelic actions are intellectual, it appears that the angels are not sent to perform their own actions.
2. Further, the empyrean heaven is the place that beseems the angelic dignity. Therefore if they are sent to us in ministry, it seems that something of their dignity would be lost; which is unseemly.
3. Further, external occupation hinders the contemplation of wisdom; hence it is said: "He that is less in action, shall receive wisdom" (Si 38,25). So if some angels are sent on external ministrations, they would seemingly be hindered from contemplation. But the whole of their beatitude consists in the contemplation of God. So if they were sent, their beatitude would be lessened; which is unfitting.
4. Further, to minister is the part of an inferior; hence it is written (Lc 22,27): "Which is the greater, he that sitteth at table, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at table?" But the angels are naturally greater than we are. Therefore they are not sent to administer to us.
On the contrary It is written (Ex 23,20): "Behold I will send My angels who shall go before thee."
I answer that From what has been said above (Question , Article ), it may be shown that some angels are sent in ministry by God. For, as we have already stated (Question , Article ), in treating of the mission of the Divine Persons, he is said to be sent who in any way proceeds from another so as to begin to be where he was not, or to be in another way, where he already was. Thus the Son, or the Holy Ghost is said to be sent as proceeding from the Father by origin; and begins to be in a new way, by grace or by the nature assumed, where He was before by the presence of His Godhead; for it belongs to God to be present everywhere, because, since He is the universal agent, His power reaches to all being, and hence He exists in all things (Question , Article ). An angel's power, however, as a particular agent, does not reach to the whole universe, but reaches to one thing in such a way as not to reach another; and so he is "here" in such a manner as not to be "there." But it is clear from what was above stated (Question , Article ), that the corporeal creature is governed by the angels. Hence, whenever an angel has to perform any work concerning a corporeal creature, the angel applies himself anew to that body by his power; and in that way begins to be there afresh. Now all this takes place by Divine command. Hence it follows that an angel is sent by God.
Yet the action performed by the angel who is sent, proceeds from God as from its first principle, at Whose nod and by Whose authority the angels work; and is reduced to God as to its last end. Now this is what is meant by a minister: for a minister is an intelligent instrument; while an instrument is moved by another, and its action is ordered to another. Hence angels' actions are called 'ministries'; and for this reason they are said to be sent in ministry.
Reply to Objection: 1. An operation can be intellectual in two ways. In one way, as dwelling in the intellect itself, as contemplation; such an operation does not demand to occupy a place; indeed, as Augustine says (De Trin. iv, 20): "Even we ourselves as mentally tasting something eternal, are not in this world." In another sense an action is said to be intellectual because it is regulated and commanded by some intellect; in that sense the intellectual operations evidently have sometimes a determinate place.
2. The empyrean heaven belongs to the angelic dignity by way of congruity; forasmuch as it is congruous that the higher body should be attributed to that nature which occupies a rank above bodies. Yet an angel does not derive his dignity from the empyrean heaven; so when he is not actually in the empyrean heaven, nothing of his dignity is lost, as neither does a king lessen his dignity when not actually sitting on his regal throne, which suits his dignity.
3. In ourselves the purity of contemplation is obscured by exterior occupation; because we give ourselves to action through the sensitive faculties, the action of which when intense impedes the action of the intellectual powers. An angel, on the contrary, regulates his exterior actions by intellectual operation alone. Hence it follows that his external occupations in no respect impede his contemplation; because given two actions, one of which is the rule and the reason of the other, one does not hinder but helps the other. Wherefore Gregory says (Moral. ii) that "the angels do not go abroad in such a manner as to lose the delights of inward contemplation."
4. In their external actions the angels chiefly minister to God, and secondarily to us; not because we are superior to them, absolutely speaking, but because, since every man or angel by cleaving to God is made one spirit with God, he is thereby superior to every creature. Hence the Apostle says (Ph 2,3): "Esteeming others better than themselves."
Objection: 1. It would seem that all the angels are sent in ministry. For the Apostle says (He 1,14): "All are ministering spirits, sent to minister" [Vulg. 'Are they not all . . . ?'].
2. Further, among the orders, the highest is that of the Seraphim, as stated above (Question , Article ). But a Seraph was sent to purify the lips of the prophet (Is 6,6-7). Therefore much more are the inferior orders sent.
3. Further, the Divine Persons infinitely excel all the angelic orders. But the Divine Persons are sent. Therefore much more are even the highest angels sent.
4. Further, if the superior angels are not sent to the external ministries, this can only be because the superior angels execute the Divine ministries by means of the inferior angels. But as all the angels are unequal, as stated above (Question , Article ), each angel has an angel inferior to himself except the last one. Therefore only the last angel would be sent in ministry; which contradicts the words, "Thousands of thousands ministered to Him" (Da 7,10).
On the contrary Gregory says (Hom. xxxiv in Evang.), quoting the statement of Dionysius (Coel. Hier. xiii), that "the higher ranks fulfil no exterior service."
I answer that As appears from what has been said above (Question , Article ; Question , Article ), the order of Divine Providence has so disposed not only among the angels, but also in the whole universe, that inferior things are administered by the superior. But the Divine dispensation, however, this order is sometimes departed from as regards corporeal things, for the sake of a higher order, that is, according as it is suitable for the manifestation of grace. That the man born blind was enlightened, that Lazarus was raised from the dead, was accomplished immediately by God without the action of the heavenly bodies. Moreover both good and bad angels can work some effect in these bodies independently of the heavenly bodies, by the condensation of the clouds to rain, and by producing some such effects. Nor can anyone doubt that God can immediately reveal things to men without the help of the angels, and the superior angels without the inferior. From this standpoint some have said that according to the general law the superior angels are not sent, but only the inferior; yet that sometimes, by Divine dispensation, the superior angels also are sent.
It may also be said that the Apostle wishes to prove that Christ is greater than the angels who were chosen as the messengers of the law; in order that He might show the excellence of the new over the old law. Hence there is no need to apply this to any other angels besides those who were sent to give the law.
2. According to Dionysius (Coel. Hier. xiii), the angel who was sent to purify the prophet's lips was one of the inferior order; but was called a "Seraph," that is, "kindling " in an equivocal sense, because he came to "kindle" the lips of the prophet. It may also be said that the superior angels communicate their own proper gifts whereby they are denominated, through the ministry of the inferior angels. Thus one of the Seraphim is described as purifying by fire the prophet's lips, not as if he did so immediately, but because an inferior angel did so by his power; as the Pope is said to absolve a man when he gives absolution by means of someone else.
3. The Divine Persons are not sent in ministry, but are said to be sent in an equivocal sense, as appears from what has been said (Question , Article ).
4. A manifold grade exists in the Divine ministries. Hence there is nothing to prevent angels though unequal from being sent immediately in ministry, in such a manner however that the superior are sent to the higher ministries, and the lower to the inferior ministries.
Objection: 1. It would seem that the angels who are sent also assist. For Gregory says (Hom. xxxiv in Evang.): "So the angels are sent, and assist; for, though the angelic spirit is limited, yet the supreme Spirit, God, is not limited."
2. Further, the angel was sent to administer to Tobias. Yet he said, "I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven who stand before the Lord" (Tb 12,15). Therefore the angels who are sent, assist.
3. Further, every holy angel is nearer to God than Satan is. Yet Satan assisted God, according to Jb 1,6: "When the sons of God came to stand before the Lord, Satan also was present among them." Therefore much more do the angels, who are sent to minister, assist.
4. Further, if the inferior angels do not assist, the reason is because they receive the Divine enlightenment, not immediately, but through the superior angels. But every angel receives the Divine enlightenment from a superior, except the one who is highest of all. Therefore only the highest angel would assist; which is contrary to the text of Da 7,10: "Ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before Him." Therefore the angels who are sent also assist.
On the contrary Gregory says, on Jb 25,3: "Is there any numbering of His soldiers?" (Moral. xvii): "Those powers assist, who do not go forth as messengers to men." Therefore those who are sent in ministry do not assist.
I answer that The angels are spoken of as "assisting" and "administering," after the likeness of those who attend upon a king; some of whom ever wait upon him, and hear his commands immediately; while others there are to whom the royal commands are conveyed by those who are in attendance---for instance, those who are placed at the head of the administration of various cities; these are said to administer, not to assist.
We must therefore observe that all the angels gaze upon the Divine Essence immediately; in regard to which all, even those who minister, are said to assist. Hence Gregory says (Moral. ii) that "those who are sent on the external ministry of our salvation can always assist and see the face of the Father." Yet not all the angels can perceive the secrets of the Divine mysteries in the clearness itself of the Divine Essence; but only the superior angels who announce them to the inferior: and in that respect only the superior angels belonging to the highest hierarchy are said to assist, whose special prerogative it is to be enlightened immediately by God.
From this may be deduced the reply to the first and second objections, which are based on the first mode of assisting.
3. Satan is not described as having assisted, but as present among the assistants; for, as Gregory says (Moral. ii), "though he has lost beatitude, still he has retained a nature like to the angels."
4. All the assistants see some things immediately in the glory of the Divine Essence; and so it may be said that it is the prerogative of the whole of the highest hierarchy to be immediately enlightened by God; while the higher ones among them see more than is seen by the inferior; some of whom enlighten others: as also among those who assist the king, one knows more of the king's secrets than another.
Summa Th. I EN Qu.110 a.4