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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.

"Whom do you seek, friend, if you seek not God? Seek him, find him, cleave to him; bind your will to his with bands of steel and you will live always at peace in this life and in the next."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"It is well to choose some one good devotion, and to stick to it, and never to abandon it."
St Philip Neri

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"As the flesh is nourished by food, so is man supported by prayers"
St Augustine

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