Fr. John Horgan: What Are the Nine Choirs of Angels?

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By Fr. John Horgan, Catholic Exchange, August 30, 2019

Fr. John HorganWe know from Christian tradition and from the Holy Scriptures that there are different names given to groups of angels — nine “choirs” of angels in all. Over the centuries, many theologians and spiritual writers have considered the choirs from various perspectives.

A helpful spiritual truth to internalize as we grow in our love for God and progress along our spiritual journey: Whatever other purposes they may have, the hierarchy of angels is meant to help us to understand the qualities of God and how we might grow in the ways of holiness. It provides us with a sense of order, progress, and ascent in our understanding of how God’s infinite knowledge establishes and maintains the order and beauty of creation through principles that we can grasp and through the ministry and oversight of His faithful servants, the angels.

These designations are not matters of dogma but rather spiritual tools to help us to appreciate the ways of holiness — the means by which God assists us through the mediation of the angels. The names themselves describe either a characteristics of these mighty spirits or an aspect of their mission in God’s plan.

The Angelic Hierarchy

In the fourth and fifth centuries, we begin to see an increasing inter­est in the role of the angels among the Fathers of the Church and other Christian writers. One of these was an anony­mous fifth-century monk who wrote under the name of St. Paul’s famous convert, Dionysius the Areopagite. He is commonly known as “Pseudo-Dionysius” and is the person to whom we owe our com­mon Christian understanding of the relationship between the ranks and choirs of the angels.

St. Thomas made intelligence the basis of the classification of the angels, who are themselves purely intellectual beings. The angels do not all have the same degree of likeness to the Lord, however; some participate in or reflect the divine perfections more than others. Therefore, according to the Angelic Doctor, angels belong to different choirs according to their intelligence and their place in God’s plan.  ….