QUESTION 108: OF THE ANGELIC DEGREES OF HIERARCHIES AND ORDERS
We next consider the degrees of the angels in their hierarchies and
orders; for it was said above (Question , Article ), that the superior angels
enlighten the inferior angels; and not conversely.
Under this head there are eight points of inquiry:
(1) Whether all the angels belong to one hierarchy?
(2) Whether in one hierarchy there is only one order?
(3) Whether in one order there are many angels?
(4) Whether the distinction of hierarchies and orders is natural?
(5) Of the names and properties of each order.
(6) Of the comparison of the orders to one another.
(7) Whether the orders will outlast the Day of Judgment?
(8) Whether men are taken up into the angelic orders?
Article 1: Whether all the angels are of one hierarchy?
Objection 1: It would seem that all the angels belong to one hierarchy. For
since the angels are supreme among creatures, it is evident that they are
ordered for the best. But the best ordering of a multitude is for it to
be governed by one authority, as the Philosopher shows (Metaph. xii, Did.
xi, 10; Polit. iii, 4). Therefore as a hierarchy is nothing but a sacred
principality, it seems that all the angels belong to one hierarchy.
Objection 2: Further, Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. iii) that "hierarchy is
order, knowledge, and action." But all the angels agree in one order
towards God, Whom they know, and by Whom in their actions they are ruled.
Therefore all the angels belong to one hierarchy.
Objection 3: Further, the sacred principality called hierarchy is to be found
among men and angels. But all men are of one hierarchy. Therefore
likewise all the angels are of one hierarchy.
On the contrary, Dionysius (Coel. Hier. vi) distinguishes three
hierarchies of angels.
I answer that, Hierarchy means a "sacred" principality, as above
explained. Now principality includes two things: the prince himself and
the multitude ordered under the prince. Therefore because there is one
God, the Prince not only of all the angels but also of men and all
creatures; so there is one hierarchy, not only of all the angels, but
also of all rational creatures, who can be participators of sacred
things; according to Augustine (De Civ. Dei xii, 1): "There are two
cities, that is, two societies, one of the good angels and men, the other
of the wicked." But if we consider the principality on the part of the
multitude ordered under the prince, then principality is said to be "one"
accordingly as the multitude can be subject in "one" way to the
government of the prince. And those that cannot be governed in the same
way by a prince belong to different principalities: thus, under one king
there are different cities, which are governed by different laws and
administrators. Now it is evident that men do not receive the Divine
enlightenments in the same way as do the angels; for the angels receive
them in their intelligible purity, whereas men receive them under
sensible signs, as Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. i). Therefore there must
needs be a distinction between the human and the angelic hierarchy. In
the same manner we distinguish three angelic hierarchies. For it was
shown above (Question , Article ), in treating of the angelic knowledge, that the
superior angels have a more universal knowledge of the truth than the
inferior angels. This universal knowledge has three grades among the
angels. For the types of things, concerning which the angels are
enlightened, can be considered in a threefold manner. First as preceding
from God as the first universal principle, which mode of knowledge
belongs to the first hierarchy, connected immediately with God, and, "as
it were, placed in the vestibule of God," as Dionysius says (Coel. Hier.
vii). Secondly, forasmuch as these types depend on the universal created
causes which in some way are already multiplied; which mode belongs to
the second hierarchy. Thirdly, forasmuch as these types are applied to
particular things as depending on their causes; which mode belongs to the
lowest hierarchy. All this will appear more clearly when we treat of each
of the orders (Article ). In this way are the hierarchies distinguished on
the part of the multitude of subjects.
Hence it is clear that those err and speak against the opinion of
Dionysius who place a hierarchy in the Divine Persons, and call it the
"supercelestial" hierarchy. For in the Divine Persons there exists,
indeed, a natural order, but there is no hierarchical order, for as
Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. iii): "The hierarchical order is so directed
that some be cleansed, enlightened, and perfected; and that others
cleanse, enlighten, and perfect"; which far be it from us to apply to the
Reply to Objection 1: This objection considers principality on the part of the
ruler, inasmuch as a multitude is best ruled by one ruler, as the
Philosopher asserts in those passages.
Reply to Objection 2: As regards knowing God Himself, Whom all see in one
way---that is, in His essence---there is no hierarchical distinction
among the angels; but there is such a distinction as regards the types of
created things, as above explained.
Reply to Objection 3: All men are of one species, and have one connatural mode of
understanding; which is not the case in the angels: and hence the same
argument does not apply to both.
Article 2: Whether there are several orders in one hierarchy?
Objection 1: It would seem that in the one hierarchy there are not several
orders. For when a definition is multiplied, the thing defined is also
multiplied. But hierarchy is order, as Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. iii).
Therefore, if there are many orders, there is not one hierarchy only, but
Objection 2: Further, different orders are different grades, and grades among
spirits are constituted by different spiritual gifts. But among the
angels all the spiritual gifts are common to all, for "nothing is
possessed individually" (Sent. ii, D, ix). Therefore there are not
different orders of angels.
Objection 3: Further, in the ecclesiastical hierarchy the orders are
distinguished according to the actions of "cleansing," "enlightening,"
and "perfecting." For the order of deacons is "cleansing," the order of
priests, is "enlightening," and of bishops "perfecting," as Dionysius
says (Eccl. Hier. v). But each of the angels cleanses, enlightens, and
perfects. Therefore there is no distinction of orders among the angels.
On the contrary, The Apostle says (Eph. 1:20,21) that "God has set the
Man Christ above all principality and power, and virtue, and dominion":
which are the various orders of the angels, and some of them belong to
one hierarchy, as will be explained (Article ).
I answer that, As explained above, one hierarchy is one
principality---that is, one multitude ordered in one way under the rule
of a prince. Now such a multitude would not be ordered, but confused, if
there were not in it different orders. So the nature of a hierarchy
requires diversity of orders.
This diversity of order arises from the diversity of offices and
actions, as appears in one city where there are different orders
according to the different actions; for there is one order of those who
judge, and another of those who fight, and another of those who labor in
the fields, and so forth.
But although one city thus comprises several orders, all may be reduced
to three, when we consider that every multitude has a beginning, a
middle, and an end. So in every city, a threefold order of men is to be
seen, some of whom are supreme, as the nobles; others are the last, as
the common people, while others hold a place between these, as the
middle-class [populus honorabilis]. In the same way we find in each
angelic hierarchy the orders distinguished according to their actions and
offices, and all this diversity is reduced to three---namely, to the
summit, the middle, and the base; and so in every hierarchy Dionysius
places three orders (Coel. Hier. vi).
Reply to Objection 1: Order is twofold. In one way it is taken as the order
comprehending in itself different grades; and in that way a hierarchy is
called an order. In another way one grade is called an order; and in that
sense the several orders of one hierarchy are so called.
Reply to Objection 2: All things are possessed in common by the angelic society,
some things, however, being held more excellently by some than by others.
Each gift is more perfectly possessed by the one who can communicate it,
than by the one who cannot communicate it; as the hot thing which can
communicate heat is more perfect that what is unable to give heat. And
the more perfectly anyone can communicate a gift, the higher grade he
occupies, as he is in the more perfect grade of mastership who can teach
a higher science. By this similitude we can reckon the diversity of
grades or orders among the angels, according to their different offices
Reply to Objection 3: The inferior angel is superior to the highest man of our
hierarchy, according to the words, "He that is the lesser in the kingdom
of heaven, is greater than he"---namely, John the Baptist, than whom
"there hath not risen a greater among them that are born of women" (Mt. 11:11). Hence the lesser angel of the heavenly hierarchy can not only
cleanse, but also enlighten and perfect, and in a higher way than can the
orders of our hierarchy. Thus the heavenly orders are not distinguished
by reason of these, but by reason of other different acts.
Article 3: Whether there are many angels in one order?
Objection 1: It seems that there are not many angels in one order. For it was
shown above (Question , Article ), that all the angels are unequal. But equals
belong to one order. Therefore there are not many angels in one order.
Objection 2: Further, it is superfluous for a thing to be done by many, which
can be done sufficiently by one. But that which belongs to one angelic
office can be done sufficiently by one angel; so much more sufficiently
than the one sun does what belongs to the office of the sun, as the angel
is more perfect than a heavenly body. If, therefore, the orders are
distinguished by their offices, as stated above (Article ), several angels in
one order would be superfluous.
Objection 3: Further, it was said above (OBJ 1) that all the angels are
unequal. Therefore, if several angels (for instance, three or four), are
of one order, the lowest one of the superior order will be more akin to
the highest of the inferior order than with the highest of his own order;
and thus he does not seem to be more of one order with the latter than
with the former. Therefore there are not many angels of one order.
On the contrary, It is written: "The Seraphim cried to one another" (Is. 6:3). Therefore there are many angels in the one order of the Seraphim.
I answer that, Whoever knows anything perfectly, is able to distinguish
its acts, powers, and nature, down to the minutest details, whereas he
who knows a thing in an imperfect manner can only distinguish it in a
general way, and only as regards a few points. Thus, one who knows
natural things imperfectly, can distinguish their orders in a general
way, placing the heavenly bodies in one order, inanimate inferior bodies
in another, plants in another, and animals in another; whilst he who
knows natural things perfectly, is able to distinguish different orders
in the heavenly bodies themselves, and in each of the other orders.
Now our knowledge of the angels is imperfect, as Dionysius says (Coel.
Hier. vi). Hence we can only distinguish the angelic offices and orders
in a general way, so as to place many angels in one order. But if we knew
the offices and distinctions of the angels perfectly, we should know
perfectly that each angel has his own office and his own order among
things, and much more so than any star, though this be hidden from us.
Reply to Objection 1: All the angels of one order are in some way equal in a
common similitude, whereby they are placed in that order; but absolutely
speaking they are not equal. Hence Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. x) that in
one and the same order of angels there are those who are first, middle,
Reply to Objection 2: That special distinction of orders and offices wherein each
angel has his own office and order, is hidden from us.
Reply to Objection 3: As in a surface which is partly white and partly black, the
two parts on the borders of white and black are more akin as regards
their position than any other two white parts, but are less akin in
quality; so two angels who are on the boundary of two orders are more
akin in propinquity of nature than one of them is akin to the others of
its own order, but less akin in their fitness for similar offices, which
fitness, indeed, extends to a definite limit.
Article 4: Whether the distinction of hierarchies and orders comes from the angelic nature?
Objection 1: It would seem that the distinction of hierarchies and of orders
is not from the nature of the angels. For hierarchy is "a sacred
principality," and Dionysius places in its definition that it "approaches
a resemblance to God, as far as may be" (Coel. Hier. iii). But sanctity
and resemblance to God is in the angels by grace, and not by nature.
Therefore the distinction of hierarchies and orders in the angels is by
grace, and not by nature.
Objection 2: Further, the Seraphim are called "burning" or "kindling," as
Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. vii). This belongs to charity which comes not
from nature but from grace; for "it is poured forth in our hearts by the
Holy Ghost Who is given to us" (Rm. 5:5): "which is said not only of holy
men, but also of the holy angels," as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xii).
Therefore the angelic orders are not from nature, but from grace.
Objection 3: Further, the ecclesiastical hierarchy is copied from the
heavenly. But the orders among men are not from nature, but by the gift
of grace; for it is not a natural gift for one to be a bishop, and
another a priest, and another a deacon. Therefore neither in the angels
are the orders from nature, but from grace only.
On the contrary, The Master says (ii, D. 9) that "an angelic order is a
multitude of heavenly spirits, who are likened to each other by some gift
of grace, just as they agree also in the participation of natural gifts."
Therefore the distinction of orders among the angels is not only by gifts
of grace, but also by gifts of nature.
I answer that, The order of government, which is the order of a
multitude under authority, is derived from its end. Now the end of the
angels may be considered in two ways. First, according to the faculty of
nature, so that they may know and love God by natural knowledge and love;
and according to their relation to this end the orders of the angels are
distinguished by natural gifts. Secondly, the end of the angelic
multitude can be taken from what is above their natural powers, which
consists in the vision of the Divine Essence, and in the unchangeable
fruition of His goodness; to which end they can reach only by grace; and
hence as regards this end, the orders in the angels are adequately
distinguished by the gifts of grace, but dispositively by natural gifts,
forasmuch as to the angels are given gratuitous gifts according to the
capacity of their natural gifts; which is not the case with men, as above
explained (Question , Article ). Hence among men the orders are distinguished
according to the gratuitous gifts only, and not according to natural
From the above the replies to the objections are evident.
Article 5: Whether the orders of the angels are properly named?
Objection 1: It would seem that the orders of the angels are not properly
named. For all the heavenly spirits are called angels and heavenly
virtues. But common names should not be appropriated to individuals.
Therefore the orders of the angels and virtues are ineptly named.
Objection 2: Further, it belongs to God alone to be Lord, according to the
words, "Know ye that the Lord He is God" (Ps. 99:3). Therefore one order
of the heavenly spirits is not properly called "Dominations."
Objection 3: Further, the name "Domination" seems to imply government and
likewise the names "Principalities" and "Powers." Therefore these three
names do not seem to be properly applied to three orders.
Objection 4: Further, archangels are as it were angel princes. Therefore this
name ought not to be given to any other order than to the
Objection 5: Further, the name "Seraphim" is derived from ardor, which
pertains to charity; and the name "Cherubim" from knowledge. But charity
and knowledge are gifts common to all the angels. Therefore they ought
not to be names of any particular orders.
Objection 6: Further, Thrones are seats. But from the fact that God knows and
loves the rational creature He is said to sit within it. Therefore there
ought not to be any order of "Thrones" besides the "Cherubim" and
"Seraphim." Therefore it appears that the orders of angels are not
On the contrary is the authority of Holy Scripture wherein they are so
named. For the name "Seraphim" is found in Is. 6:2; the name "Cherubim"
in Ezech. 1 (Cf. 10:15,20); "Thrones" in Col. 1:16; "Dominations,"
"Virtues," "Powers," and "Principalities" are mentioned in Eph. 1:21; the
name "Archangels" in the canonical epistle of St. Jude (9), and the name
"Angels" is found in many places of Scripture.
I answer that, As Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. vii), in the names of the
angelic orders it is necessary to observe that the proper name of each
order expresses its property. Now to see what is the property of each
order, we must consider that in coordinated things, something may be
found in a threefold manner: by way of property, by way of excess, and by
way of participation. A thing is said to be in another by way of
property, if it is adequate and proportionate to its nature: by excess
when an attribute is less than that to which it is attributed, but is
possessed thereby in an eminent manner, as we have stated (Question , Article )
concerning all the names which are attributed to God: by participation,
when an attribute is possessed by something not fully but partially; thus
holy men are called gods by participation. Therefore, if anything is to
be called by a name designating its property, it ought not to be named
from what it participates imperfectly, nor from that which it possesses
in excess, but from that which is adequate thereto; as, for instance,
when we wish properly to name a man, we should call him a "rational
substance," but not an "intellectual substance," which latter is the
proper name of an angel; because simple intelligence belongs to an angel
as a property, and to man by participation; nor do we call him a
"sensible substance," which is the proper name of a brute; because sense
is less than the property of a man, and belongs to man in a more
excellent way than to other animals.
So we must consider that in the angelic orders all spiritual perfections
are common to all the angels, and that they are all more excellently in
the superior than in the inferior angels. Further, as in these
perfections there are grades, the superior perfection belongs to the
superior order as its property, whereas it belongs to the inferior by
participation; and conversely the inferior perfection belongs to the
inferior order as its property, and to the superior by way of excess; and
thus the superior order is denominated from the superior perfection.
So in this way Dionysius (Coel. Hier. vii) explains the names of the
orders accordingly as they befit the spiritual perfections they signify.
Gregory, on the other hand, in expounding these names (Hom. xxxiv in
Evang.) seems to regard more the exterior ministrations; for he says that
"angels are so called as announcing the least things; and the archangels
in the greatest; by the virtues miracles are wrought; by the powers
hostile powers are repulsed; and the principalities preside over the good
Reply to Objection 1: Angel means "messenger." So all the heavenly spirits, so
far as they make known Divine things, are called "angels." But the
superior angels enjoy a certain excellence, as regards this
manifestation, from which the superior orders are denominated. The lowest
order of angels possess no excellence above the common manifestation; and
therefore it is denominated from manifestation only; and thus the common
name remains as it were proper to the lowest order, as Dionysius says
(Coel. Hier. v). Or we may say that the lowest order can be specially
called the order of "angels," forasmuch as they announce things to us
"Virtue" can be taken in two ways. First, commonly, considered as the
medium between the essence and the operation, and in that sense all the
heavenly spirits are called heavenly virtues, as also "heavenly
essences." Secondly, as meaning a certain excellence of strength; and
thus it is the proper name of an angelic order. Hence Dionysius says
(Coel. Hier. viii) that the "name 'virtues' signifies a certain virile
and immovable strength"; first, in regard of those Divine operations
which befit them; secondly, in regard to receiving Divine gifts. Thus it
signifies that they undertake fearlessly the Divine behests appointed to
them; and this seems to imply strength of mind.
Reply to Objection 2: As Dionysius says (Div. Nom. xii): "Dominion is attributed
to God in a special manner, by way of excess: but the Divine word gives
the more illustrious heavenly princes the name of Lord by participation,
through whom the inferior angels receive the Divine gifts." Hence
Dionysius also states (Coel. Hier. viii) that the name "Domination" means
first "a certain liberty, free from servile condition and common
subjection, such as that of plebeians, and from tyrannical oppression,"
endured sometimes even by the great. Secondly, it signifies "a certain
rigid and inflexible supremacy which does not bend to any servile act, or
to the act, of those who are subject to or oppressed by tyrants."
Thirdly, it signifies "the desire and participation of the true dominion
which belongs to God." Likewise the name of each order signifies the
participation of what belongs to God; as the name "Virtues" signifies the
participation of the Divine virtue; and the same principle applies to the
Reply to Objection 3: The names "Domination," "Power," and "Principality" belong
to government in different ways. The place of a lord is only to prescribe
what is to be done. So Gregory says (Hom. xxiv in Evang.), that "some
companies of the angels, because others are subject to obedience to them,
are called dominations." The name "Power" points out a kind of order,
according to what the Apostle says, "He that resisteth the power,
resisteth the ordination of God" (Rm. 13:2). And so Dionysius says (Coel.
Hier. viii) that the name "Power" signifies a kind of ordination both as
regards the reception of Divine things, and as regards the Divine actions
performed by superiors towards inferiors by leading them to things above.
Therefore, to the order of "Powers" it belongs to regulate what is to be
done by those who are subject to them. To preside [principari] as Gregory
says (Hom. xxiv in Ev.) is "to be first among others," as being first in
carrying out what is ordered to be done. And so Dionysius says (Coel.
Hier. ix) that the name of "Principalities" signifies "one who leads in a
sacred order." For those who lead others, being first among them, are
properly called "princes," according to the words, "Princes went before
joined with singers" (Ps. 67:26).
Reply to Objection 4: The "Archangels," according to Dionysius (Coel. Hier. ix),
are between the "Principalities" and the "Angels." A medium compared to
one extreme seems like the other, as participating in the nature of both
extremes; thus tepid seems cold compared to hot, and hot compared to
cold. So the "Archangels" are called the "angel princes"; forasmuch as
they are princes as regards the "Angels," and angels as regards the
Principalities. But according to Gregory (Hom. xxiv in Ev.) they are
called "Archangels," because they preside over the one order of the
"Angels"; as it were, announcing greater things: and the "Principalities"
are so called as presiding over all the heavenly "Virtues" who fulfil the
Reply to Objection 5: The name "Seraphim" does not come from charity only, but
from the excess of charity, expressed by the word ardor or fire. Hence
Dionysius (Coel. Hier. vii) expounds the name "Seraphim" according to the
properties of fire, containing an excess of heat. Now in fire we may
consider three things. First, the movement which is upwards and
continuous. This signifies that they are borne inflexibly towards God.
Secondly, the active force which is "heat," which is not found in fire
simply, but exists with a certain sharpness, as being of most penetrating
action, and reaching even to the smallest things, and as it were, with
superabundant fervor; whereby is signified the action of these angels,
exercised powerfully upon those who are subject to them, rousing them to
a like fervor, and cleansing them wholly by their heat. Thirdly we
consider in fire the quality of clarity, or brightness; which signifies
that these angels have in themselves an inextinguishable light, and that
they also perfectly enlighten others.
In the same way the name "Cherubim" comes from a certain excess of
knowledge; hence it is interpreted "fulness of knowledge," which
Dionysius (Coel. Hier. vii) expounds in regard to four things: the
perfect vision of God; the full reception of the Divine Light; their
contemplation in God of the beauty of the Divine order; and in regard to
the fact that possessing this knowledge fully, they pour it forth
copiously upon others.
Reply to Objection 6: The order of the "Thrones" excels the inferior orders as
having an immediate knowledge of the types of the Divine works; whereas
the "Cherubim" have the excellence of knowledge and the "Seraphim" the
excellence of ardor. And although these two excellent attributes include
the third, yet the gift belonging to the "Thrones" does not include the
other two; and so the order of the "Thrones" is distinguished from the
orders of the "Cherubim" and the "Seraphim." For it is a common rule in
all things that the excellence of the inferior is contained in the
superior, but not conversely. But Dionysius (Coel. Hier. vii) explains
the name "Thrones" by its relation to material seats, in which we may
consider four things. First, the site; because seats are raised above the
earth, and to the angels who are called "Thrones" are raised up to the
immediate knowledge of the types of things in God. Secondly, because in
material seats is displayed strength, forasmuch as a person sits firmly
on them. But here the reverse is the case; for the angels themselves are
made firm by God. Thirdly, because the seat receives him who sits
thereon, and he can be carried thereupon; and so the angels receive God
in themselves, and in a certain way bear Him to the inferior creatures.
Fourthly, because in its shape, a seat is open on one side to receive the
sitter; and thus are the angels promptly open to receive God and to serve
Article 6: Whether the grades of the orders are properly assigned?
Objection 1: It would seem that the grades of the orders are not properly
assigned. For the order of prelates is the highest. But the names of
"Dominations," "Principalities," and "Powers" of themselves imply
prelacy. Therefore these orders ought not to be supreme.
Objection 2: Further, the nearer an order is to God, the higher it is. But the
order of "Thrones" is the nearest to God; for nothing is nearer to the
sitter than the seat. Therefore the order of the "Thrones" is the highest.
Objection 3: Further, knowledge comes before love, and intellect is higher
than will. Therefore the order of "Cherubim" seems to be higher than the
Objection 4: Further, Gregory (Hom. xxiv in Evang.) places the
"Principalities" above the "Powers." These therefore are not placed
immediately above the Archangels, as Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. ix).
On the contrary, Dionysius (Coel. Hier. vii), places in the highest
hierarchy the "Seraphim" as the first, the "Cherubim" as the middle, the
"Thrones" as the last; in the middle hierarchy he places the
"Dominations," as the first, the "Virtues" in the middle, the "Powers"
last; in the lowest hierarchy the "Principalities" first, then the
"Archangels," and lastly the "Angels."
I answer that, The grades of the angelic orders are assigned by Gregory
(Hom. xxiv in Ev.) and Dionysius (Coel. Hier. vii), who agree as regards
all except the "Principalities" and "Virtues." For Dionysius places the
"Virtues" beneath the "Dominations," and above the "Powers"; the
"Principalities" beneath the "Powers" and above the "Archangels."
Gregory, however, places the "Principalities" between the "Dominations"
and the "Powers"; and the "Virtues" between the "Powers" and the
"Archangels." Each of these placings may claim authority from the words
of the Apostle, who (Eph. 1:20,21) enumerates the middle orders,
beginning from the lowest saying that "God set Him," i.e. Christ, "on His
right hand in the heavenly places above all Principality and Power, and
Virtue, and Dominion." Here he places "Virtues" between "Powers" and
"Dominations," according to the placing of Dionysius. Writing however to
the Colossians (1:16), numbering the same orders from the highest, he
says: "Whether Thrones, or Dominations, or Principalities, or Powers, all
things were created by Him and in Him." Here he places the
"Principalities" between "Dominations" and "Powers," as does also Gregory.
Let us then first examine the reason for the ordering of Dionysius, in
which we see, that, as said above (Article ), the highest hierarchy
contemplates the ideas of things in God Himself; the second in the
universal causes; and third in their application to particular effects.
And because God is the end not only of the angelic ministrations, but
also of the whole creation, it belongs to the first hierarchy to consider
the end; to the middle one belongs the universal disposition of what is
to be done; and to the last belongs the application of this disposition
to the effect, which is the carrying out of the work; for it is clear
that these three things exist in every kind of operation. So Dionysius,
considering the properties of the orders as derived from their names,
places in the first hierarchy those orders the names of which are taken
from their relation to God, the "Seraphim," "Cherubim," and "Thrones";
and he places in the middle hierarchy those orders whose names denote a
certain kind of common government or disposition---the "Dominations,"
"Virtues," and "Powers"; and he places in the third hierarchy the orders
whose names denote the execution of the work, the "Principalities,"
"Angels," and "Archangels."
As regards the end, three things may be considered. For firstly we
consider the end; then we acquire perfect knowledge of the end; thirdly,
we fix our intention on the end; of which the second is an addition to
the first, and the third an addition to both. And because God is the end
of creatures, as the leader is the end of an army, as the Philosopher
says (Metaph. xii, Did. xi, 10); so a somewhat similar order may be seen
in human affairs. For there are some who enjoy the dignity of being able
with familiarity to approach the king or leader; others in addition are
privileged to know his secrets; and others above these ever abide with
him, in a close union. According to this similitude, we can understand
the disposition in the orders of the first hierarchy; for the "Thrones"
are raised up so as to be the familiar recipients of God in themselves,
in the sense of knowing immediately the types of things in Himself; and
this is proper to the whole of the first hierarchy. The "Cherubim" know
the Divine secrets supereminently; and the "Seraphim" excel in what is
the supreme excellence of all, in being united to God Himself; and all
this in such a manner that the whole of this hierarchy can be called the
"Thrones"; as, from what is common to all the heavenly spirits together,
they are all called "Angels."
As regards government, three things are comprised therein, the first of
which is to appoint those things which are to be done, and this belongs
to the "Dominations"; the second is to give the power of carrying out
what is to be done, which belongs to the "Virtues"; the third is to order
how what has been commanded or decided to be done can be carried out by
others, which belongs to the "Powers."
The execution of the angelic ministrations consists in announcing Divine
things. Now in the execution of any action there are beginners and
leaders; as in singing, the precentors; and in war, generals and
officers; this belongs to the "Principalities." There are others who
simply execute what is to be done; and these are the "Angels." Others
hold a middle place; and these are the "Archangels," as above explained.
This explanation of the orders is quite a reasonable one. For the
highest in an inferior order always has affinity to the lowest in the
higher order; as the lowest animals are near to the plants. Now the first
order is that of the Divine Persons, which terminates in the Holy Ghost,
Who is Love proceeding, with Whom the highest order of the first
hierarchy has affinity, denominated as it is from the fire of love. The
lowest order of the first hierarchy is that of the "Thrones," who in
their own order are akin to the "Dominations"; for the "Thrones,"
according to Gregory (Hom. xxiv in Ev.), are so called "because through
them God accomplishes His judgments," since they are enlightened by Him
in a manner adapted to the immediate enlightening of the second
hierarchy, to which belongs the disposition of the Divine ministrations.
The order of the "Powers" is akin to the order of the "Principalities";
for as it belongs to the "Powers" to impose order on those subject to
them, this ordering is plainly shown at once in the name of
"Principalities," who, as presiding over the government of peoples and
kingdoms (which occupies the first and principal place in the Divine
ministrations), are the first in the execution thereof; "for the good of
a nation is more divine than the good of one man" (Ethic. i, 2); and
hence it is written, "The prince of the kingdom of the Persians resisted
me" (Dan. 10:13).
The disposition of the orders which is mentioned by Gregory is also
reasonable. For since the "Dominations" appoint and order what belongs to
the Divine ministrations, the orders subject to them are arranged
according to the disposition of those things in which the Divine
ministrations are effected. Still, as Augustine says (De Trin. iii),
"bodies are ruled in a certain order; the inferior by the superior; and
all of them by the spiritual creature, and the bad spirit by the good
spirit." So the first order after the "Dominations" is called that of
"Principalities," who rule even over good spirits; then the "Powers," who
coerce the evil spirits; even as evil-doers are coerced by earthly
powers, as it is written (Rm. 13:3,4). After these come the "Virtues,"
which have power over corporeal nature in the working of miracles; after
these are the "Angels" and the "Archangels," who announce to men either
great things above reason, or small things within the purview of reason.
Reply to Objection 1: The angel's subjection to God is greater than their
presiding over inferior things; and the latter is derived from the
former. Thus the orders which derive their name from presiding are not
the first and highest; but rather the orders deriving their name from
their nearness and relation to God.
Reply to Objection 2: The nearness to God designated by the name of the
"Thrones," belongs also to the "Cherubim" and "Seraphim," and in a more
excellent way, as above explained.
Reply to Objection 3: As above explained (Question , Article ), knowledge takes place
accordingly as the thing known is in the knower; but love as the lover is
united to the object loved. Now higher things are in a nobler way in
themselves than in lower things; whereas lower things are in higher
things in a nobler way than they are in themselves. Therefore to know
lower things is better than to love them; and to love the higher things,
God above all, is better than to know them.
Reply to Objection 4: A careful comparison will show that little or no difference
exists in reality between the dispositions of the orders according to
Dionysius and Gregory. For Gregory expounds the name "Principalities"
from their "presiding over good spirits," which also agrees with the
"Virtues" accordingly as this name expressed a certain strength, giving
efficacy to the inferior spirits in the execution of the Divine
ministrations. Again, according to Gregory, the "Virtues" seem to be the
same as "Principalities" of Dionysius. For to work miracles holds the
first place in the Divine ministrations; since thereby the way is
prepared for the announcements of the "Archangels" and the "Angels."
Article 7: Whether the orders will outlast the Day of Judgment?
Objection 1: It would seem that the orders of angels will not outlast the Day
of Judgment. For the Apostle says (1 Cor. 15:24), that Christ will "bring
to naught all principality and power, when He shall have delivered up the
kingdom to God and the Father," and this will be in the final
consummation. Therefore for the same reason all others will be abolished
in that state.
Objection 2: Further, to the office of the angelic orders it belongs to
cleanse, enlighten, and perfect. But after the Day of Judgment one angel
will not cleanse, enlighten, or perfect another, because they will not
advance any more in knowledge. Therefore the angelic orders would remain
for no purpose.
Objection 3: Further, the Apostle says of the angels (Heb. 1:14), that "they
are all ministering spirits, sent to minister to them who shall receive
the inheritance of salvation"; whence it appears that the angelic offices
are ordered for the purpose of leading men to salvation. But all the
elect are in pursuit of salvation until the Day of Judgment. Therefore
the angelic offices and orders will not outlast the Day of Judgment.
On the contrary, It is written (Judges 5:20): "Stars remaining in their
order and courses," which is applied to the angels. Therefore the angels
will ever remain in their orders.
I answer that, In the angelic orders we may consider two things; the
distinction of grades, and the execution of their offices. The
distinction of grades among the angels takes place according to the
difference of grace and nature, as above explained (Article ); and these
differences will ever remain in the angels; for these differences of
natures cannot be taken from them unless they themselves be corrupted.
The difference of glory will also ever remain in them according to the
difference of preceding merit. As to the execution of the angelic
offices, it will to a certain degree remain after the Day of Judgment,
and to a certain degree will cease. It will cease accordingly as their
offices are directed towards leading others to their end; but it will
remain, accordingly as it agrees with the attainment of the end. Thus
also the various ranks of soldiers have different duties to perform in
battle and in triumph.
Reply to Objection 1: The principalities and powers will come to an end in that
final consummation as regards their office of leading others to their
end; because when the end is attained, it is no longer necessary to tend
towards the end. This is clear from the words of the Apostle, "When He
shall have delivered up the kingdom of God and the Father," i.e. when He
shall have led the faithful to the enjoyment of God Himself.
Reply to Objection 2: The actions of angels over the other angels are to be
considered according to a likeness to our own intellectual actions. In
ourselves we find many intellectual actions which are ordered according
to the order of cause and effect; as when we gradually arrive at one
conclusion by many middle terms. Now it is manifest that the knowledge
of a conclusion depends on all the preceding middle terms not only in the
new acquisition of knowledge, but also as regards the keeping of the
knowledge acquired. A proof of this is that when anyone forgets any of
the preceding middle terms he can have opinion or belief about the
conclusion, but not knowledge; as he is ignorant of the order of the
causes. So, since the inferior angels know the types of the Divine works
by the light of the superior angels, their knowledge depends on the light
of the superior angels not only as regards the acquisition of knowledge,
but also as regards the preserving of the knowledge possessed. So,
although after the Judgment the inferior angels will not progress in the
knowledge of some things, still this will not prevent their being
enlightened by the superior angels.
Reply to Objection 3: Although after the Day of Judgment men will not be led any
more to salvation by the ministry of the angels, still those who are
already saved will be enlightened through the angelic ministry.
Article 8: Whether men are taken up into the angelic orders?
Objection 1: It would seem that men are not taken up into the orders of the
angels. For the human hierarchy is stationed beneath the lowest heavenly
hierarchy, as the lowest under the middle hierarchy and the middle
beneath the first. But the angels of the lowest hierarchy are never
transferred into the middle, or the first. Therefore neither are men
transferred to the angelic orders.
Objection 2: Further, certain offices belong to the orders of the angels, as
to guard, to work miracles, to coerce the demons, and the like; which do
not appear to belong to the souls of the saints. Therefore they are not
transferred to the angelic orders.
Objection 3: Further, as the good angels lead on to good, so do the demons to
what is evil. But it is erroneous to say that the souls of bad men are
changed into demons; for Chrysostom rejects this (Hom. xxviii in Matt.).
Therefore it does not seem that the souls of the saints will be
transferred to the orders of angels.
On the contrary, The Lord says of the saints that, "they will be as the
angels of God" (Mt. 22:30). I answer that, As above explained (Articles ,7),
the orders of the angels are distinguished according to the conditions of
nature and according to the gifts of grace. Considered only as regards
the grade of nature, men can in no way be assumed into the angelic
orders; for the natural distinction will always remain. In view of this
distinction, some asserted that men can in no way be transferred to an
equality with the angels; but this is erroneous, contradicting as it does
the promise of Christ saying that the children of the resurrection will
be equal to the angels in heaven (Lk. 20:36). For whatever belongs to
nature is the material part of an order; whilst that which perfects is
from grace which depends on the liberality of God, and not on the order
of nature. Therefore by the gift of grace men can merit glory in such a
degree as to be equal to the angels, in each of the angelic grades; and
this implies that men are taken up into the orders of the angels. Some,
however, say that not all who are saved are assumed into the angelic
orders, but only virgins or the perfect; and that the other will
constitute their own order, as it were, corresponding to the whole
society of the angels. But this is against what Augustine says (De Civ.
Dei xii, 9), that "there will not be two societies of men and angels, but
only one; because the beatitude of all is to cleave to God alone."
Reply to Objection 1: Grace is given to the angels in proportion to their natural
gifts. This, however, does not apply to men, as above explained (Article ; Question , Article ). So, as the inferior angels cannot be transferred to the
natural grade of the superior, neither can they be transferred to the
superior grade of grace; whereas men can ascend to the grade of grace,
but not of nature.
Reply to Objection 2: The angels according to the order of nature are between us
and God; and therefore according to the common law not only human affairs
are administered by them, but also all corporeal matters. But holy men
even after this life are of the same nature with ourselves; and hence
according to the common law they do not administer human affairs, "nor do
they interfere in the things of the living," as Augustine says (De cura
pro mortuis xiii, xvi). Still, by a certain special dispensation it is
sometimes granted to some of the saints to exercise these offices; by
working miracles, by coercing the demons, or by doing something of that
kind, as Augustine says (De cura pro mortuis xvi).
Reply to Objection 3: It is not erroneous to say that men are transferred to the
penalty of demons; but some erroneously stated that the demons are
nothing but souls of the dead; and it is this that Chrysostom rejects.