Secrecy is particularly present in religions and their reflection on mystery.
This reflection on “what do angels really know? Do they know all the secrets and mysteries of God?” is an opportunity for a theological breakthrough to better understand the function of the secret.
→ Definitions of Secret
We have marked the important passages in bold.
Article 5 – Do angels know all the mysteries of grace?
1. It seems that the angels know the mysteries of grace. For among the mysteries, the most eminent is that of the Incarnation. Now the angels knew it from the beginning. S. Augustine says: “This mystery has been hidden in God for all the ages, but not without being known by the principalities and powers of heaven. ” S. Paul also says (1 Tim 3:16): “This great mystery of godliness has appeared to the angels. “The angels therefore know the mysteries of grace.
2. The reasons for all the mysteries of grace are contained in divine wisdom. Now the angels see the very wisdom of God, which is his essence. Therefore they know the mysteries of grace.
3. Denies saying that the prophets are instructed by the angels. Now the prophets have known the mysteries of grace, for it is said in Amos (3:7): “The Lord does nothing without revealing the secret to his servants the prophets. ” The angels therefore know the mysteries of grace.
On the contrary, no one learns what he already knows. Now the angels, even the most elevated, seek to know the mysteries of grace and learn them. Indeed, Denys says that Scripture shows us “some of these heavenly essences questioning Jesus himself and learning from him what he has done for us, and Jesus teaching them without an intermediary”, as we see in Isaiah (63:1), where the angels ask, ‘Who is this one, who comes from Edom? The angels ask, “Who is this one from Edom?” and Jesus correction, “I who proclaim righteousness. ‘So the angels do not know the mysteries of grace.
There are two kinds of knowledge in angels: First, a natural knowledge, according to which they know things either by their essence or by innate species. Angels cannot know the mysteries of grace in this way. These mysteries depend on the pure will of God, and if an angel cannot know the thoughts of another angel when they depend on his will, he can even less know what depends on the divine will alone. This is the reasoning of St.Paul (1 Cor. 2:11). Paul (1 Cor. 2:11): “What is in man no one knows except the spirit of man which is in him; in the same way that is in God, no one knows except the Spirit of God. ”
The other knowledge of the angels is that which makes them blessed, and by which they see the Word and the things in the Word. This vision makes known to them the mysteries of grace, not in their totality nor to all equally, but as God was pleased to reveal them to them, as the Apostle says (1 Cor. 2:10): “God has revealed these things to us by his spirit. ‘Thus, however, the higher angels, who contemplate divine wisdom with a more penetrating gaze, now in the very vision of God more numerous and deeper mysteries, which they manifest to the lower angels by illuminating them. And even among the mysteries, there are some which they have known from their creation, and others which they are instructed in only afterwards, according to the requirements of their mission.
Up to now, it has been a question of exposing the stakes of the debate, that is to say, of making explicit the controversy as to the level of knowledge accessible to the angels. St. Thomas Aquinas can finally provide his solution, which must reconcile these points of view.
1. We can speak of the mystery of the Incarnation in two ways. In a general sense, it was revealed to all the angels from the very beginning of their beatitude; for this mystery is the general principle to which all their offices are ordered, as St. Paul says (Heb 1:14): “All are ministering spirits, sent forth as servants for the good of those who are to receive the inheritance of salvation. ” Now, this salvation is affected by the mystery of the Incarnation: it was therefore necessary that all the angels should be instructed in a general way from the beginning.
We can also consider the special conditions of the realization of the mysteries. In this sense, it is not true that all the angels were instructed in everything from the beginning; and even the higher angels subsequently learned certain things about it, as the passage from Denys which we have quoted shows.
2. Although the blessed angels contemplate the divine wisdom, they do not fully understand it. It is not necessary, therefore, that they should know all that is hidden in it.
3. All that the prophet knew by divine revelation of the mystery of grace was revealed in a still more excellent way to the angels. But although God had revealed in a general way to the prophets what he had to accomplish for the salvation of the human race, the Apostles new details about it which the prophets had not known. This is what St. Paul says to the Ephesians (3:4): “As you read me, you can see the understanding I have of the mystery of Christ, which was not revealed to other generations as clearly as it has now been revealed to his holy Apostles. ‘Moreover, even among the prophets, the latter knew things that were not known to the former, according to these words of Psalm (119, 100): “I have more understanding than the old. ” And S. Gregory says that the knowledge of divine things has progressed through the centuries.
→ Quotes on the Secret
In order to grasp the scope of the mysteries of God, St. Thomas Aquinas considers one particular mystery, perhaps the greatest: that of the incarnation. It is God becoming man, God taking on flesh, in the person of Jesus. Having clarified this, let us return to the secret.
St. Thomas Aquinas joins a progressive thesis at the very end in agreement with St. Gregory: humanity progresses, in that it knows the mysteries of God better and better. A very simple example is the work of St. Thomas Aquinas, who advances the knowledge of divine things by his spirit of reasoning and thanks to the words of the fathers of the Church.
The secret is thus bound to be reduced, it is more and more clarified.