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50. The Substance of the Angels

1. Creatures exist in a series of grades. They participate and represent the goodness of God in various ways. In the world about us, there are three kinds of substances: mineral, vegetal, animal. These are all bodily substances. We find also in this world the human substance which is mineral, vegetal, and animal, and yet is something more; it is not all bodily; man has a spiritual soul. To round out the order of things, there must be some purely spiritual or non-bodily substances. Thus created substances are: the completely bodily substance, the substance that is a compound of body and spirit, and the completely spiritual substance. Completely spiritual substances are called angels.

2. A bodily substance is composed of two substantial elements, primal matter and substantial form. In angels there is no compounding of matter and form. Matter does not exist in angels; they are pure substantial forms. That is to say, they are pure spirits; they are spirits with no admixture of matter in them.

3. Holy Scripture (Dan. 7:10) indicates the existence of a vast multitude of angels: "Thousands of thousands ministered to Him, and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before Him". Indeed, since the intention back of creation is the perfection of the universe as sharing and representing the divine goodness, it appears that the more perfect creatures should abound in largest multitude. It is, therefore, reasonable to suppose that angels exist in a multitude far exceeding the number of material things.

4. In bodily substances we distinguish their species or essential kind, and their status as individuals of that kind. For example, we distinguish in a man, (a) what makes him a human being, and (b) what make him this one human being. Now, that which constitutes a thing in its species or essential kind is called the principle of specification. And that which constitutes a thing as this one item or instance of its kind is called the principle of individuation. In all creatures, the principle of specification is the substantial form which makes the creature an existing thing of its essential kind. And the principle of individuation is matter or bodiliness inasmuch as it is marked by quantity. Since angels have in them no matter or bodiliness at all, for they are pure spirits, they are not individuated. This means that each angel is the only one of its kind. It means that each angel is a species or essential kind of substantial being. Hence each angel is essentially different from every other angel.

5. The angels are incorruptible substances. This means that they cannot die, decay, break up, or be substantially changed. For the root of corruptibility in a substance is matter, and in the angels there is no matter.

"Lord, here burn, here cut, and dry up in me all that hinders me from going to You, that You may spare me in eternity."
St Louis Bertrand

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"God commands not impossibilities, but by commanding he suggests to you to do what you can, to ask for what is beyond your strength; and he helps you, that you may be able."
St Augustine

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"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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