FROM MARY MAGNIFYING GOD. BY WILLIAM HUMPHREY, OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE OBLATES OF ST. CHARLES. AD 1873
But then appeared the goodness and mercy and long-suffering of our God, in the decree and creation of a purgatory, to endure till time should be no more, and, on the latter day of time, a resurrection from the dead. The sin-stained body and the sin-stained soul were alike to be buried, yet buried but for a season. The one would be searched and cleansed by the purifying flames, the other would pass through the alembic of the grave; and both should be reunited in the unity and perfection of renewed and transformed and glorified human beings.
Such was the divine design with regard to, such the history and such the destiny of the human soul.
And now compare with a human soul an angel or pure spirit. Such a spirit not only has no parts, but it is not and cannot be a part of any whole. It is perfect and complete in its own singleness; it neither desires, requires, nor is capable of union with a body.
Angels, it is true, have appeared in human form; and those forms were not merely spectral appearances, mere phantoms or phenomena, but material frames, that could be seen and touched and handled; that could utter words and perform organic acts—could partake of that repast that Sara prepared in her tent on the plains of Mambre, and that Abraham served as he stood by them under the tree.
They were bodies, but they were not their bodies. The angel and that body did not form together one human being. Neither was it an incarnation of an angelic being. There were not two natures, an angelic and a human, subsisting in the unity of one angelic person. The angel and that body were not united in the oneness of one life; those organic acts did not proceed from one principle, and did not combine in one operation. The angel was merely clothed with that human body; dwelt and energised within it, in like manner as a man clothes himself with a garment. That body was extrinsic to the angel, and not part of himself; he assumed it for a time, used it for a particular purpose; and when that time was at an end, and that purpose was served, the usefulness to him of that body was gone, and he laid it aside as that for which he had no longer need. For an angel to be perpetually confined within the limits of a material body would be as much an imperfection as it would be an imperfection for a human soul perpetually to act and exist apart from that body which belongs to it, and is its own.
Now that intellectual being which is greatest in the scale of beings, and which most magnifies the Lord, is,—not a pure spirit, not an angel, but a human soul.
As to the relative superiority of these two, an .angel and a human soul, we read in Holy Scripture that, at the first, God made man 'a little lower than the angels ;' and it is true that, looking merely to the nature of each in the abstract, an angel is greater than a man in the scale of creatures, and consequently can give to God a higher worship and a greater glory.
But if we look to the destiny, and to the history of man, which manifests and fulfils that destiny — to the Incarnation of the Eternal Word, whereby it was accomplished—to the creation of that second human family of the sons of God— the children begotten of the Second Adam and His mystic Bride — the family of the redeemed built up out of the ruins of the family of the fallen —that great multitude gathered out of every kindred, and nation, and people, and tongue, redeemed and cleansed by the Precious Blood—if we look to the dignity of the human race, as it is ennobled by the fact that the God-Man is consubstantial with the sons of Adam, even in the order of nature, and according to the flesh ; and to the farther fact that in the supernatural order they are each in turn individually made consubstantial with Him —made one flesh and blood with their Redeemer and their God through and by means of the Blessed Sacrament—then we see the force and significance and meaning of those words of the Psalmist quoted in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and applied by the-Apostle of the Gentiles primarily, indeed, to the Second Adam; but really, albeit secondarily and consequently, to all His children. 'What is man, that Thou art mindful of him, or the son of man, that Thou visitest him? Thou hast made him u a little lower than the angels; Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour, and hast set him over the works of Thy hands. Thou hast subjected all things under his feet. He took hold not of the nature of angels, but of the seed of Abraham.'