At one point or another, we either drew the haloed feathered human or dressed up as a sparkly being for Halloween as an attempt to look like an angel. This is one, narrow (and quite frankly a misinterpreted) understanding of what angels are and how they appear.
Angels have the primary role as messenger (“angel” comes from the Greek angelos for “messenger”) and are noted for having a perfect natural intellect. Angels are in a never-ending vision of God which means they have a great distinction among them. They are not all simply copy and paste of each other as we might imagine. The closer we are to God, the more we are wholly ourselves. Wholeness does not mean we all have the same heart or appear the same; rather, wholeness allows a person to perfectly reflect an aspect of God. We each have a specific aspect of God we are called to reflect that no one else can.
Creation is meant to reflect the glory of God. Angels were fittingly created as an incorporeal (without a body) reflection of God (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica I.50.3). We have a significant role as human persons to externally (corporally) express and reflect God’s goodness, meaning we are made to glorify God through our bodies.
Angelology is a debated topic in the Church according to the specific details of what angels are—which in their essence are a mystery—but it is worth discussing since “No liturgical celebration occurs without noting [angelic] presence and invoking [the angels]; it is difficult to read more than a few pages of Scripture without them show up in one form or another” (Paul Griffiths, Decreation: the last things of all creatures).
So, let’s see what information we have been given.
Angels as Stars
St. Thomas Aquinas saw the planets and stars as the angels; he believed he was seeing incorporeal bodies. This is one take, not a doctrinal one, but something worth reflecting upon.
What to Wear: Go for one of those beautiful starry embroidered tulle tops or any galaxy accents.
Angels as Warriors
In nearly every occasion with an angel in Scripture, the person is told by the angel “Do not be afraid” or “Fear not.” It is most unlikely that a chubby-winged-baby or fairy creature would have to give such warning with their harmless presence. The shepherds were given orders to seek their Savior as they shielded their faces out of fear of the messenger (Luke 2:10-14). Archangel Raphael revealed that he came to deliver God’s healing and guidance to Tobit and Tobias, who were “trembling with fear” at this revelation (Tobit 12:15-18). There is a recognizable fear of God in those who saw the angels (they knew what these beings are capable of), but also a good chance that these messengers’ appearance was intense.
What to Wear: Rock that leather messenger bag or any type of “Newsies” accents to point to the main role of angels as messengers. Bits of leather point to the fierceness of these beings that fought the fallen angels into hell.
Angels as Flames
Angels have often delivered the messages of God through fire such as with Moses, “There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush” (Exodus 3:2). God is the one speaking and He chooses to do so through His messengers. Let’s not disregard the Cherubim with a flaming sword who shut the gates of the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24). This was not a flighty-fluffy-creature guarding Paradise.
Isaiah was called to be a prophet of the Lord through an angel touching his tongue with a burning coal. Listen to Isaiah’s description of a Seraphim angel:
“I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they hovered…Then I said, ‘Woe is me, I am doomed!’” (Isaiah 6:1-6). Fear of doom and the realization of one’s own sinfulness often came with the presence of an angel. Angels delivered messages revealing the strength and power of God while reminding the receiver of the message that God is merciful with the introduction of, “Be not afraid.” Through angels we are reminded of the glory of God—to pray with wonder and awe.
What to Wear: Gold and piercing white garments reflect the fiery charity and purity of these spiritual beings that convict us to worship God with our whole person.