One sometimes wonders – on these tours where we debate angel books and angel characters – what angels make of it all. Possibly they don’t make much. Heaven has more important business. Anyway, they have surely noticed by now that gaps in human knowledge are often filled by human imagination.
God has set limits so that, though angels are always seeing us, we can hardly ever see them. Our knowledge of angels is so slight that Christians have had a diversity of views on them. Even staying within biblical parameters, we can imagine angels many different ways. Here is a brief sampling of angelic portrayals from literature written by Christians – two from our modern era, two from the era just before.
We’re close now, so close than I can see that touching a Sabre’s wing may be the fastest way to lose an arm. I set to examining the nearest one. He’s gigantic, like Jake said. And his eyes are pure white, trademark white. Like Canaan’s. Like Helene’s. He has the celestial gaze of one who’d lay down his life for another. His skin, too, is white, so white it looks almost silver. His muscled arms and chest make Canaan look trim. But as much as I can find things to admire about his physique, it’s his wings that so separate him from any other angel I’ve seen.
Their beauty is staggering, their design inexplicable. Where I expect to see rows and rows of snowy white feathers, one blade lies on top of another – thousands of them – sharp and glistening silver. Shannon Dittemore, Broken Wings
Love, we have looked on many shows
As over lands from sea to sea
Man with his Guardian Angel goes
His shining shadow more than he.
– G. K. Chesterton, “Love, We Have Looked on Many Shows”
In a graceful, fiery spiral they drifted down behind one of the college dormitories and came to rest in the cover of some overhanging willows. The moment their feet touched down, the light from their clothes and bodies began to fade and the shimmering wings gently subsided. Save for their towering stature they appeared as two ordinary men, one trim and blond, the other built like a tank, both dressed in what looked like matching tan fatigues. Golden belts had become like dark leather, their scabbards were dull copper, and the glowing, bronze bindings on their feet had become simple leather sandals. Frank Peretti, This Present Darkness
But Thou, Lord, surely knewest thine own plan
When the angelic indifferencies with no bar
Universally loved, but Thou gav’st man
The tether and pang of the particular,
Which, like a chemic drop, infinitesimal,
Plashed into pure water, changing the whole,
Embodies and embitters and turns all
Spirit’s sweet water into astringent soul
That we, though small, might quiver with Fire’s same
Substantial form as Thou – not reflect merely
Like lunar angels back to Three cold flame.
Gods are we, Thou hast said; and we pay dearly.
C. S. Lewis, “Scazons”