The Angels Among Us --
By Anne Rice --
published: 12/20/2009 --
Author Anne Rice started the vampire craze 33 years ago with her novel “Interview With the Vampire.” Recently, she has turned her thoughts—and writing—to angels. (Her latest novel is “Angel Time.”) In this season of holiday spirit, we asked Rice why we need angels.
What are angels? Did we invent them the way we invented Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Boogey Man who frightens little children into being good? Where do angels come from?
These days, we see angels everywhere. Gift shops offer gold-and-silver angels as Christmas ornaments and statuettes. Angel faces are featured in beautifully framed paintings and on greeting cards. Angels in plastic or porcelain decorate mantelpieces and dashboards. Countless books on angels, some filled with accounts of visitations, others claiming to know secrets about angels, fill shelves. Some even suggest how to talk to angels and how to hear their voices in return.
Almost any schoolchild can describe angels. They are nearly always tall, slender beings with soft shoulder-length hair and graceful flowing robes. They may wear sandals, but they never wear shoes. Most of the time, their toes peek out from beneath their gowns. But what really makes an angel is a pair of huge, spreading, white-feathered wings. Even roly-poly baby angels, called cherubs, have those all-important white wings.
Wherever and however they appear, angels offer consolation. They smile with infinite patience; they look lovingly on those of us whom they guard. Friends offering angel gifts are seeking to remind us that angels provide safety and peace.
Angels are not a modern invention. And they may not be an invention at all. They come to us right out of the pages of the Bible, complete with their powerful wings. In the Book of Exodus, winged cherubim are carved on the Ark of the Covenant. And in the Book of Isaiah, the prophet sees the powerful winged seraphim singing before the throne of God.
A choir of angels sings to celebrate the birth of Jesus. And Jesus assures us that little children have their special guardian angels, while later on, in the garden of Gethsemane, an angel comes to comfort Jesus himself.
Indeed, all we know about angels comes from holy writ, and countless biblical scholars have developed our notions of guardian angels and angels sent to Earth in answer to our prayers.
Though no female angel appears in the Bible, there is no reason, apparently, that angels cannot take a female form. They themselves are beyond gender, and the bodies in which they appear are either illusions or specially made for a particular purpose and soon discarded once no longer in use. Angels are pure spirit; their natural dwelling place is Heaven. But they are always very busy on our behalf here on Earth.
It is no surprise that these beings fascinate us, splendid and ethereal as they are. We cannot help but wonder what angels think about as they come and go, intervening in our lives for the good. Do they have feelings? Do they like one assignment better than another? Do they learn from us as we learn from them?
Hollywood films have given us a variety of angel personalities, from the delightful little Clarence Oddbody of It’s a Wonderful Life to John Travolta’s beer-drinking, belching angel in Michael. In the TV shows Touched by an Angel and Highway to Heaven, the angelic stars, played by Roma Downey and Michael Landon, were known by their innate serenity and tireless good will.
Today, as readers and audiences obsess over vampires, one can’t help but wonder if those fans aren’t really seeking angels. After all, in the best-selling book (and blockbuster movie) Twilight, Edward the vampire is the protector of the young heroine Bella, saving her from evil humans as well as evil immortals. A good vampire also strives to protect against a bad vampire in the Vampire Diaries novels, now a show on the CW network. And in True Blood, the HBO series based on the popular books, waitress Sookie Stackhouse finds a stalwart guardian in the person of a handsome vampire as well.
Like angels, vampires are powerful and mysterious beings who aren’t subject to the ravages of old age or time. Like angels, vampires are often described and portrayed as extremely beautiful. Like angels, vampires look human and sound human, though they are not.
But vampires are sad creatures. They speak to us of confusion and the longing to be human. They struggle in the darkness, lamenting the loss of the light.
Perhaps the whole vampire craze can be related to the age-old yearning for a loving, eloquent supernatural presence that will save us from the perils and disasters of ordinary life.
With angels we are most certainly on surer ground. Our oldest religious texts assure us that the Almighty does indeed have such wondrous messengers and helpers, and that He sends them to Earth only to do good. One cannot help but be glad that once the present vampire craze is over, angels will still be busy guarding their earthly charges and answering prayers.
Angels are dazzling expressions of God’s love for his children. Not only do they bring hope to the weary, but they are always pointing upward, promising that at the end of life’s journey, they will be there to carry us to that greatest of all mysteries, the bliss and splendor of our heavenly home.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
The Angels Among Us (Anne Rice)
From Parade --