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54. The Knowledge of the Angels

1. The act of an angel's understanding or intellect is not to be identified with the very substance of the angel. Only in God is operation one with the substance of the operator. An angel is a creature. Therefore, in an angel, to understand is not the same as to subsist.

2. Nor is an angel's operation of understanding the same as the angel's existence. It is in God alone that operation and existence are identified.

3. Nor is the angel's intellect the same as the angel's essence. The intellect as a faculty or power, and the exercise or operation of that power, are things which the angel has, not things which constitute the angel and make it what it is. In a creature, power, or the operation of power, is not identified with the creature's essence.

4. In the human intellect or understanding there is an active and a passive power: the active intellect (intellectus agens) works on sense-findings and renders them understandable; the passive intellect (intellectus possibilis) receives the understandable objects and expresses them within itself as ideas or concepts or expressed intelligible species. Now, an angel does not need to work out its knowledge in this way. It has its knowledge from God; its knowledge comes to it with its nature, that is, with its essence equipped for proper operation. An angel has no need to work out intellectual knowledge from sense-findings; an angel has no senses. An angel's intellect is not distinguished as an active and a passive faculty. An angel's knowledge is not acquired by effort of the knower; an angel's knowledge is imparted to it by its Creator at its creation.

5. An angel is a spirit, and hence has no sense-knowledge; it has only intellectual knowledge. But, an angel can have intellectual knowledge of the material things which human beings know by use of the senses.

"The supreme perfection of man in this life is to be so united to God that all his soul with all its faculties and powers are so gathered into the Lord God that he becomes one spirit with him, and remembers nothing except God, is aware of and recognises nothing but God, but with all his desires unified by the joy of love, he rests contentedly in the enjoyment of his Maker alone."
St Albert the Great

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"Every man naturally desires knowledge; but what good is knowledge without fear of God? Indeed a humble rustic who serves God is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars."
Thomas á Kempis

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"If, devout soul, it is your will to please God and live a life of serenity in this world, unite yourself always and in all things to the divine will. Reflect that all the sins of your past wicked life happened because you wandered from the path of God's will. For the future, embrace God's good pleasure and say to him in every happening: "Yea, Father, for so it hath seemed good in thy sight." "
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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