29 September 2023


 One of the horrors of our society ... I don't know if this is peculiar to Blighty ... is the murder, apparently for sexual motives, of small children, especially of small girls. (I have a horrible suspicion that, half a millennium ago, blame might so unjustly have fallen on the Jewish community.)

A common social phenomenon which follows these atrocities, is the creation in our public spaces of great banks of 'teddy bears' and other items apparently associated mentally, in the minds of the sympathetic, with small children. I have never seen a rationale of this custom. Is it an instinctive memory of the logic of sacrifice? Perhaps there are analogies in other equally primitive societies which might throw light upon the mental processes involved? Plausibly, it is a variant of the events surrounding the death, and subsequent cult, of Diana Spencer?

These mounds of infantilia are often accompanied by inscriptions implying that the victims are now Little Angels In Heaven.

'Angels' are not, in the Christian Tradition, anything like the apotheosed souls of murdered toddlers. As we all know, Angels are mighty messengers of the Almighty. In as far as many modern toddlers have been left unbaptised, these are still marked by Original Sin ... unlike the unfallen Angels. 

So how are to think of 'Christian' angels? I don't know; and C S Lewis did not know either. But the advantage of his hypothetical pictures is their otherness ... their unlikeness to inherited iconographical assumptions. No wings; no feathers!

"Already the whole house would have seemed to him to be tilting and plunging like a ship in a Bay of Biscay gale.  He would have been horribly compelled to feel this Earth not as the bottom of the universe but as a ball spinning, and rolling onwards, both at delirious speed, and not through emptiness but through some densely inhabited and intricately structured medium.  He would have known sensuously, until his outraged senses forsook him, that the visitants in that room were in it, not because they were at rest but because they glanced and wheeled through the packed reality of Heaven (which men call empty space), to keep their beams upon this spot of the moving Earth's hide."

And their power? The Angel, Oyarsa, of Language can unmake Language, thus reducing 'Language' to gibberish (is there an overlap here with 1984?): "The madrigore of verjuice must be talthibianised ... The surrogates esemplanted in a continual of porous variations ... We shall not till we can secure the erebation of all prostundiary initems ..."

And is it 'Medieval' or 'superstitious' to imagine vast numbers of different Angels or differently ranked angels? How so? The physical world is described to us in a a wildly rich variety and pluriformity; if it is not 'medieval' to think of England as having 365 different species of bumble bee, what are the problems about Angels?



  1. That's a fascinating description of angels, or at least, their movement. At the TLM we attend, I sometimes look at the space around and above the altar and remember that, there are literally angels flying all around in that space, perhaps filling the church, seeing us as well. It's quite a thing to ponder. It always impresses me that angels envy us, because we can receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and they cannot.
    We don't give much thought to angels, despite them being mentioned in scripture so many times.

  2. Just as there are devil-worshipers in the American Bible-Belt, and there have been witches who are cultural Christians, and respectable Anglicans who are Freemasons, sometimes Jews have been up to some very unsavory business. It is not safe to assume that they are always being libeled.
    A relative who is pretty knowledgeable claims that the Anti-Defamation League was founded to shift the murder rap off a Jewish perp, and onto a Black man.
    I will leave it at that, except to point out that there were only two people without sin.

  3. That formidable Dominican Cornelius Ernst once summed up the anthropology of the great Karl Rahner as making man a more or less deficient angel. That was not a compliment, but it would, sadly, apply to much sentimental pious talk. God created us as rational bodily animals and will redeem us as rational bodily animals.

  4. I don't know about English customs, but teddy bears, stuffed animals, and small toys are as common as crosses and flowers in US funeral/grave offerings for kids who have died, or even in impromptu roadside memorials for almost-adult minors who have died in car crashes. The idea is that one wishes the kid to have fun in the afterlife, as well as showing that they are loved and that the mourners believe in eternal life.

    Given that St. Perpetua dreamed a vision of her brother playing with other kids (after her prayers saved him from Purgatory), it is not that strange.

    Toys symbolize one kind of joy. Teddy bears symbolize comfort and freedom from fear.