Today’s collect does precisely what a good collect should do: gather up the many far flung references and allusions to angels in the Scriptures: “O Everlasting God, who hast ordained and constituted the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order.” This order in all its complexity is only hinted in Scripture but laid out quite nicely (and maybe too neatly) in Homily 34 of one of the greatest of the ancient popes, St Gregory the Great from the last sixth century:
We are accustomed to speak of nine choirs of Angels, because holy Writ seemeth to witness to that number when it speaketh severally of Angels, Archangels, Mights, Powers, Principalities, Dominions, Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim. Very many pages of holy Writ witness to Angels and Archangels. The books of the Prophets, as is well known, do often make mention of Cherubim and Seraphim. Paul, writing to the Ephesians, casteth up the names of four choirs, where he saith that Christ is set far above all Principality, and Power, and Might, and Dominion. Again, writing to the Colossians, he speaketh of Thrones as well as of Dominions, Principalities, and Powers. If then we add the Thrones to the four choirs mentioned to the Ephesians, we have five choirs. And when we add unto them the Angels and the Archangels, the Cherubim and the Seraphim, we come to the final conclusion that there are nine choirs of Angels (Hom on the Evangelists 34).
But while the angels cannot save, they certainly do worship. Some of the angels most described repeatedly (think of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel) are those who exist simply to worship the God is his glorious unity in Trinity. In fact, the angels are depicted at times in priestly garments undertaking priestly actions, the heavenly counterparts to the earthly temple ministry. The pre-Christian Jewish source known as the Testament of Levi depicts the angels in ministry with language that is surprisingly familiar: “In the heaven next to it are the angels of the presence of the Lord, who minister and make propitiation to the Lord for all the ignorances of the righteous; and they offer to the Lord a reasonable sweet-smelling savour, and a bloodless offering.” Recall how St Paul exhort us in Romans 12? “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living [i.e. a bloodless] sacrifice, holy and reasonable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
For “when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come … he entered once for all into the Holy Place… not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” Essential to the holy sacrifice of the Christian Eucharist is the belief that this worship is in union with the angelic worship that takes place in the temple not made with hands, where Jesus himself remains as the object of worship, while simultaneously serving as both Priest and Victim.
All ye holy angels of God, come to our assistance. Amen.