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Question

Dear Father Angelo,

Please let me know  if what I am about to write is true or there is some inaccuracy. God created the Angels as pure spirits with free will and created them in His image and likeness and with a greater image and likeness than men because angels do not have bodies and are pure spirits and God is the most pure spirit.

Thank you,

Paolo


The priest’s answer 

Dear Paolo,

Your statement is true and I take this opportunity to document it with the thought of St. Thomas

1.  St. Thomas specifies that men and Angels are in the image of God because of the spirituality with which they are endowed. “It is said that man is in the image of God not according to the body, but according to that for which man surpasses other animals. For this reason, the words, ‘Let us make man in our image and likeness’, are followed by the others, ‘so that he dominates the fish of the sea, etc.’. Now, man surpasses all other animals with reason and intelligence. Therefore man is in the image of God according to the intellect and reason which are incorporeal things.” (Summa Theologiae, I, 3, 1, and 2)

2.  Furthermore, while men and Angels are “in” the image of God, the Son, Jesus, is not “in” the image, but is the image, according to what St. Paul affirms in the letter to the Colossians, “He is the image of the Invisible God” (Col 1:15). Here is the argument of St. Thomas, “The image of a given thing can be found in the various subjects in two different ways. First, it can be in a thing of the same specific nature; as the image of the king is found in his son. Second, in a subject of a different nature; as the image of the king is found in the coins. The Son of God is the image of the Father in the first way; man, on the other hand, calls himself the image of God in the second way.  And therefore to  indicate that in man the image is imperfect, it is not simply said that man is an image, but an image, that is, to designate the tendency to perfection. On the other hand, it cannot be said of the Son of God that he is in the image of the Father because he is his most perfect image.”(Summa Theologica, I, 35, 2, and 3)

3.  The Angel is more in the image of God than man “because he has a more perfect intellectual nature.” (Summa Theologiae, I, 93, 3) Although in other respects man realizes the divine image more than the angel, such as men in participating in the fatherhood of God and in the redemption of the world. “But, absolutely speaking, since in relation to the intellectual nature, the angel is in the image of God more than man, it must be affirmed that the angel has a superiority in being in the image of God; man, on the other hand, has superiority only in a relative sense.” (Ib.)

4.  It must also be said that man can grow in grace and therefore can grow in the supernatural image of God. And it can grow to a point where it surpasses the grace of the Angels themselves, as happened to Mary, (because of her holiness) the Queen of Angels. More precisely, Mary was constituted from the beginning with a degree of holiness higher than that of the Angels, although according to her nature, she is in the image of God in a way inferior to the Angels.

With the wish to overcome the Angels in holiness, I will pray to the Lord for you, and I bless you.

Father Angelo