By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas
Angels are ministering spirits who are sent to minister to us for our future salvation (Heb. 1:14). God "gave the nations their inheritance, when He divided all mankind, He set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the angels of God" (Deut. 32:8 LXX). They were created before the physical world and humanity.
The Archangels Michael and Gabriel serve the work of the Divine Economy for the salvation of humanity, and in Holy Scripture their appearances to specific persons are mentioned, in order to transfer to them a message. Such as, for example, the Archangel Michael to the Judge in the Old Testament named Gideon, and the Archangel Gabriel to the Theotokos and to Zachariah, the father of the Honorable Forerunner, etc.
At Baptism, God sends every believer an Angel for their protection, to remind them of God's will and rebuke them when they sin, in order to lead them to repentance. That is, to help them return to the path that leads to communion with God when they have gone astray. This creates joy, since repentance is associated with eternal divine life, and this is why heaven celebrates when a person sincerely repents (Lk. 15:7). Saint John of Sinai, the author of The Ladder, in his discourse on discernment, writes on the conscience: "Conscience is the word and conviction of our Guardian Angel given to us from the time of Baptism. That is why we find that the unbaptized do not feel such keen pangs of remorse in their soul for their bad deeds."
The truth of the presence and work of a Guardian Angel in the lives of the faithful is mentioned in Holy Scripture, in the writings of the Holy Fathers (who are infallible interpreters of Holy Scripture) and in the lives of the Saints. In the twelfth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, the Evanglist Luke tells us of the miraculous rescue of the Apostle Peter, who was imprisoned by Herod after the martyric death of the Apostle James. The Apostle Peter was bound with two chains in prison, and suddenly there appeared before him the Angel of the Lord, who freed him and led him out of prison. He then realized he was not seeing a vision, but this was a reality, so he went to the house of the mother of the Evangelist Mark, where many believers were gathered, praying for his rescue. The Apostle Peter knocked on the door and waited for an answer. The servant, however, named Rodi, did not answer the door out of enthusiasm when she heard the voice of Peter, but ran to tell the happy news to those gathered there. When she told them the Apostle Peter was knocking on the door, they thought she had lost her mind. When she insisted, however, they said together that it was because of his Guardian Angel (Acts 12:1-16).
From this we see it is clear that the early Christians had personal experiences of the existence of Guardian Angels, rejoicing in their presence and protection. Yet the same occurs today, just as in previous times, with the Saints and those who struggle to achieve their personal sanctification. They sense the presence of their Guardian Angel and some, depending on their inner purity, see them and converse with them. Indeed, internal purity is not achieved magically, but it implies an ascetical and prayerful and sacramental life. When someone by the grace of God and their personal struggle gains dominion over their passions, their nous is illumined, which is the eye of their soul, and they are able to see what their physical eyes cannot. They are able to see the glory of God, the Angels, the Saints, as well as their Guardian Angel, whom they always feel beside them protecting them.
In the Great Horologion, which contains the daily church services, there is a wonderful Canon to our Guardian Angel, which we can read and chant. Also, at the end of the Service of Small Compline, there is a Prayer to our Guardian Angel. When we read this every night, during Small Compline, we also can, to the extent of our ability, sense their presence and love, since we invoke them for our daily protection. Below is this prayer:
O Angel of Christ, my holy guardian and protector of my soul and body, forgive me all wherein I have sinned this day, and deliver me from all opposing evil of mine enemy, lest I anger my God by any sin. Pray for me, a sinful and unworthy servant, that you may show me forth worthy of the kindness and mercy of the All Holy Trinity, and of the Mother of my Lord Jesus Christ, and of all the Saints. Amen.
Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Συναξη Αρχαγγελων Μιχαηλ και Γαβριηλ", October 2011. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.
Read also: On Guardian Angels