In the Spotlight: The Angelic Seraph Medallion

seraph, angelic seraphGallery Byzantium’s Angelic Seraph Medallion is a copy of an 16th century Russian metal icon. It depicts the Six-Winged Seraphim, which are mentioned in the book of Isaiah. This depiction is also reminiscent of the angels God commanded Moses to make of hammered gold as adornment for the Ark of the Covenant.

The Seraphim are of the First Hierarchy of angels and are the closest to God.  Due to this closeness, they are said to resemble fire and thus earned the name “seraphim” (the Hebrew word for “flaming”).  “They are aflame with love for God and kindle others to such love.”

The Seraphim are represented as standing over God, ready to attend to Him.  “Their form appears to have been human, with the addition of wings.”  Of their six wings, only two are used to fly.  The other four are said to cover their faces (for His glory would be too powerful for them to bear such close witness to) and feet (which are considered unworthy to be shown to Him).

The Hierarchy of Angels

Cherub from the Cathedral of Cefalu, Sicily (c. 1200). Via

As mentioned above, the Seraphim are part of the First Hierarchy of Angels.  Angels are divided into three hierarchies of descending powers.  The First Hierarchy consists of Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones.

Cherubim are second only to the Seraphim.  They also stand before God and radiate with the light of His wisdom.  Cherubs are easily distinguishable for the many eyes on their wings.  The name “cherubim” comes from the Hebrew word for “great understanding” or “effusion of wisdom” and refers to their enlightenment.  Though the Bible doesn’t explicitly state how many Cherubim there are, we do know that Ezekiel saw four of them.

Representing the mysteries above, in the Old Testament figures of cherubim decorated the sanctuary. A pair of cherubim made by gold was ordered to be placed on the mercy seat and between them the Lord spoke to his people (Exodus 25:17-22). Figures of cherubim were woven on the veils of the tabanacle.”

The final angel of the First Hierarchy are Thrones, who sit “[…] on the high and exulted throne, being named “thrones” since on them, as on intellectual thrones (as writes St. Maximus the Confessor) God intellectually resides.”  God’s justice is manifested through Thrones.

Icon of the Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Via

The Second Hierarchy of Angels is made up of Powers, Dominions, and Principalities.   Powers are so named for their power over evil.  They are able to diminish the power of evil and prevent harm and temptations brought for by demons.  Powers “[…] help those wrestling with passions and vices to cast out evil thoughts and slanders of the enemy and to conquer the evil one.”

Dominions also help those to rise above temptations.  They teach one how to control the senses and desires.  Their name is derived from the fact that they dominate the angels behind them, including Principalities.

Principalities also have command over lower angels.  They are entrusted to manage the universe and life on earth.  “Further, the service of this angelic order […] consists in teaching the people to requite each person in authority according to his calling.”  Essentially, they make sure that those in high power take said power for the honor of God, rather than personal honor or gain.

Finally, there is the Third Hierarchy, which consists of Virtues, Archangels, and Angels.  The Virtues are the most powerful of this hierarchy and work great miracles.  They extend this ability to saints who are then able to heal the sick, tell the future, or other such miraculous abilities.

“They also strengthen every man in patience, so that he does not faint away in affliction but rather bears all misfortune with a strong spirit, courageously, and with humility, giving thanks for everything to God, arranging all for our benefit.”

Below the Virtues are the Archangels, who are the heralds of good news.  They strengthen one’s faith and enlighten one’s mind with knowledge and devout faith.  The first four archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Raphel, and Uriel, stand at the four corners of God’s throne.

At the bottom of all three hierarchies are angels, the spiritual messengers that interact with humans on God’s behalf. As messengers, they bring important news and communications to Earth and act as a liaison between the higher and lower realms.

Seraphim –
Seraphim –
Seraphim, Cherubim & The Four Living Creatures –
Angels –
Cherubim –
Thrones –
Powers –
Dominions –
Principalities –
Virtues (angels) –
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