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DO COPTS BELIEVE IN PERSONAL GUARDIAN ANGELS?

January 6, 2013

guardian-angel

The Guardian Angel (From a German postcard, 1900. The artist is probably Fridolin Leiber).

 

The Catholics,[1] and to a lesser degree, I suppose, the Eastern Orthodox Christians, display in their art frequent manifestations of the Guardian Angel, indicating a palpable belief in the presence of a protective angel appointed by God for each soul. The Coptic Church, however, does not show that interest in the Guardian Angel in its art, such as in the holy icons. In fact, there isn’t much in Coptic literature to lead us to conclude that the Coptic Church ever believed in this lovely angelic concept; or is it? I must admit that I formerly thought the Guardian Angel concept was a late development and had no origin in early Christianity, and, therefore, has not featured in Coptic art or ecclesiastical teaching. My belief, however, has been changed by a chance finding, thanks to Orthodox in the District, which, under the heading “Saint Anthony the Great on guardian angels”, quoted a passage from St. Anthony’s “Counsels on the Character of Men and on the Virtuous Life”:

. . . When you close the doors to your dwelling and you are alone you should know that there is present with you the angel whom God has appointed for each man. . . This angel, who is sleepless and cannot be deceived, is always present with you; he sees all things and is not hindered by darkness. You should know, too, that with him is God, who is in every place; for there is no place and nothing material in which God is not, since He is greater than all things and holds all men in His hand.[2]

Saint Anthony the Great, of course, is the Egyptian famous hermit who lived in the period 251-356 AD, and is very much venerated by the Coptic Church. It seems then that St. Anthony did believe in the Guardian Angel. This is not surprising, since in the Bible one finds: “For he hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways” (Psalm 90:11). Why, then, has that belief weakened in our Church and does not anymore feature strong in it? I don’t know; but it will be good to revive this beautiful concept in the minds of our children, and it will be fantastic to see Coptic artists using the theme of the Guardian Angel in their art.


[1] The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Guardian Angels on October 2nd. I am not sure if anf other church does that.

[2] No. 62. St. Anthony’s Counsels on the Character of Men and on the Virtuous Life was published by The Institute for Byzantine & Modern Greek (2008) as part of The Philokalia: Writings of Holy Mystic Fathers in Which Is Explained How the Mind Is Purified, Illumined, and Perfected Through Practical and Contemplative Ethical Philosophy

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