Many Christians today question belief in angels, and especially guardian angels. The Orthodox their inherited belief in guardian angels from the Hebrews. We have scriptural passages detailing interactions with guardian angels, and some people who have seen guardian angels in visions. Let’s learn some more about guardian angels.
The belief of the Church in the ministry of the Guardian Angels is amply supported by the warning of our Lord, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10). Luke, likewise — in referring to the angel of Peter — testifies to that belief among the early Christians (Acts 12:15). Those references indicate that the Guardian Angels were already well known to the readers of the Matthew and Luke and the idea required no explanation.
As in other instances of Christian belief (such as the efficacy of prayer for the dead), it was originally from the Jews that the Church inherited this belief in the ministry of the Guardian Angels. The Psalmist had declared, “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him and delivers them” (Psalms 33:7 LXX). And again, “He will give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways” (Psalms 90:11 LXX).
The Book of Tobit
The clearest illustration of Jewish belief in the Guardian Angels is found in the Book of Tobit, preserved in the Septuagint. It is the story of an exiled Israelite family living in Mesopotamia during the late eighth century before Christ, and the central core of the account concerns the long journey that the young man, Tobias, makes on behalf of his recently blinded father, Tobit. In this narrative, the original purpose of the trip that Tobias undertook — to collect a debt in order to preserve the family from destitution, is transcended and enriched in a variety of ways, not the least of which is the discovery by the young man of a godly wife.
Prior to setting out on this journey, however, Tobias and his parents are visited by a stranger who offers to guide him along the way, who at the end of the story is identified as Raphael, “one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One” (Tobit 12:15).
However, this revelation does not take place until the end of the book, when the journey is over. Thus, Tobit and his family, like Abraham in Genesis 18, Gideon in Judges 6, and the parents of Samson in Judges 13, receive an angel “unawares” (Hebrews 13:2) Even unaware of the true identity of Raphael, nonetheless, Tobit twice makes ironic reference to a “good angel” who will accompany his son on the journey (Tobit 5:16,21). Likewise, when the trip was over, but before he learns the identity of Raphael, Tobit blesses the “holy angels” of God (Tobit 11:14). Tobias had travelled in company with the angel even without knowing it.
The journey on which Raphael proposed to lead Tobias, from Nineveh to Rages, was a fairly long one, about 200 miles, and much of it up-hill. Yet, in the oldest extant manuscript containing the Book of Tobit (Codex Sinaiticus), the hand of a copyist inserted the remark that their trip required only two days! Recalling that the swift army of Alexander needed ten days to march the same distance, one is prompted to reflect on the hitherto unsuspected advantages of travelling with an angelic companion.
They also brought along the family dog, so we see Tobias travelling with both an angelic and an animal companion, representing the twin worlds of spirit and biology, those two realms of experience in which man travels through this world.
Princess Ileana of Romania
The following story is about Princess Ileana of Romania — also known as Mother Alexandra — and her experience of guardian angels when she was a young child:
It was early morning, when I was seven years old, that I saw the angels. I am as sure of it now as I was then. I was not dreaming, nor “seeing things” — I just know they were there, plainly, dearly, distinctly. I was neither astonished nor afraid. I was not even awed — I was only terribly pleased. I wanted to talk to them and touch them.
Our night nursery was lit by the dawn and I saw a group of angels standing, as if chatting, around the bed of my brother. I was aware of this, although I could not hear their voices. They wore long flowing gowns of various soft-shaded colours. Their hair came to their shoulders, and differed in colour from fair and reddish to dark brown. They had no wings.
At the foot of the bed of my brother Mircea stood one heavenly being, a little aside from the others — taller he was, and extraordinarily beautiful, with great white wings. In his right hand he carried a lighted taper; he did not seem to belong to the group of angels gathered around the bed. He dearly stood apart and on watch. I knew him to be the guardian angel.
I then became aware that at the foot of my own bed stood a similar celestial creature. He was tall, his robe was dark blue with wide, loose sleeves. His hair was auburn, his face oval, and his beauty such as I cannot describe because it was comparable to nothing human. His wings swept high and out behind him. One hand was lifted to his breast, while in the other he carried a lighted taper. His smile can only be described as angelic; love, kindness, understanding, and assurance flowed from him.
Delighted, I crawled from under the bedcovers and, kneeling up against the end of the bed, I stretched out my hand with the ardent wish to touch my smiling guardian, but he took a step back, put out a warning hand, and gently shook his head. I was so close to him I could have reached him easily.
“Oh, please don’t go,” I cried; at which words all the other angels looked toward me, and it seemed I heard a silvery laugh, but of this sound I am not so certain, though I know they laughed. Then they vanished.