Since the installation of Yahweh and the Seraphim at the Minster (here for the next three months), I’ve had at least four conversations about God and faith every day, with visitors to the building or members of our congregation.
As it happened, today’s conversations were all about angels. More than one visitor said, “I know who Yahweh is – that’s God…” [God, as revealed in the Old Testament] “…but what are seraphim?” – followed by lots of questions as to what we might know about angels.
And of course, while angels appear in the Bible, and in various Jewish, Christian, and Muslim writings, ‘angelology’ tends to build more weight than our sources can fully bear. As it happens, I can speak of personal experience of seeing – or, at least, of being aware of – angels; but I can claim no expert knowledge.
When it comes to speaking of angels, we are grasping for familiar words to describe the unfamiliar; vaguely-close images with which to convey what we see only at the very edge of our vision, half-visible, but cannot look directly upon – for when we try to, they vanish.
This indirect language is all we have, to speak of things such as the monsters that lurk beneath our beds, or the love that vanquishes them. No one believes that the one they love is really comparable to a summer’s day; but then again, “I notice, with appreciation, that you still put up with me despite the fact that I must annoy you at times” doesn’t quite do love justice.
What are the things that can only be seen out of the corner of our eye; that can only be described by visionaries?
And why would they even matter?