Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Angels is Swell

I was reading about the Holy Child of Aracoeli (as people often do), and was a bit puzzled when I came across one of those pious traditions. The story goes that the Franciscan friar, who was creating the statue, ran out of paints. Then, a helpful, bonny angel showed up and completed the statue.

This all gave rise to a question: can angels create art? I floated the question to friends and family, and looked to the Summa Theologica for some help. St. Thomas Aquinas did not mention the matter, although he did have some very interesting things to say about angels.

Go to, go to the basics. The Hebrew words for "image" and "likeness" are "selem" and "demut" (respectively). The Greek words are "ikon" and "homoyosis." While the angels may have a more perfect image of God as regards their intellectual nature, the word denotes something static - whereas homoyosis indicates a dynamic orientation. (Thank goodness I kept my O.T. notes!) Only man is created in the likeness of God, and only man is rational and has the ability to sub-create (so to speak). As such, art is "a purely human thing" to quote Jacques Maritain.

Angels don't need art, either. The purpose of art is to draw us to Truth. No good angel is removed from Truth so why would they need to be led back to it?

Furthermore, angels cannot manipulate matter unless God so wills it.

I think that angels can appreciate, art, though - not in the way mankind necessarily does. What say you?

(thank you to friends, family, and the number "G" who bent their thought thissaway)


Patrick said...

Fascinating! I wonder what Tolkien would have thought.

Anonymous said...

Just curious, have you seen Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders?

Deirdre said...

Did Tolkien write on angels, apart from his description of their beginning in the Silmalrillion?

No. When the remake came out, my mother didn't want me to see it, being of tender years - and I didn't know there was an orginal until this morning. Is it good?

Anonymous said...

It consistantly makes my list of Top 5 films of all time. I have avoided the remake for a number of reasons:

1. Wings of Desire is so heavily entertwined in Berlin of the 1980's that the idea of translating it, especially to LA, struck me a horrid.

2. Wings of Desire was primarily a lyrical film. Hollywood does not do lyricism. I did not want to see some heavy handed plot-focus thrust on such a gorgeous premise.

3. I was afraid that the heavy Rilke influence would not be there, and that is too important to Wings of Desire.

If you would like to borrow the DVD, holler. At some point I need to pick up some St. Anthony of Padua Institute letterhead from your office, so barring me doing so today (I am in Sacramento and do not have the DVD here), I can bring it over when I do that.


Deirdre said...

Sounds interesting. I would like to see it sometime. I propose an exchange of hostages: letterhead for the dvd or the remake gets it.

Anonymous said...

It's the Ransom of Redchief. Kill the remake!

Patrick said...

Well, I haven't been reading so much Tolkien, but Alice was discussing the reading for her Tolkien class (at the University of Chicago, yes) and talked about a digression on angels in one of J.R.R.'s letters to his son.

Also, the notion of "subcreation" was of immense importance to Tolkien's anthropology and theology.

I'm afraid that I actually know a bit less than I let on, but enough to know that he might well have touched on this topic (in his nonfictional writings).