Spirituality for Today – November 2009 – Volume 14, Issue 4

Snow Angels

By Rev. Raymond Petrucci

With the accumulation of just a few inches of snow, the mind of a child awakens with creative delight. What is it to be: a snow ball, a snowman, or a snow angel? Essentially, there is something connective between creator and creation in the making of a snow angel. One must commit his or her entire body to the work: lying down on the snow, spreading the feet a little, waving straightened arms from the side to over the head plowing snow as one proceeds, then standing up and viola - a snow angel. Although instantly vulnerable to a gust of wind or the warmth of the sun, the angel presents a magical vision. A feeling of joy touches the heart of the young one, for something beautiful has been given to the world.

A photo of a child making a snow angel

Would that in life angelic manifestations were so easily produced through human instrumentality? The tragedy is that one seldom recognizes that it is easy. Human beings are capable of performing the acts of angels in innumerable ways. Each person daily can fulfill the role of guardian, defender, luminary, or messenger for others. The achievement is not necessarily a deed stupendous or miraculous but one humble and caring. Recently, while making my rounds as hospital chaplain, I came upon a diminutive member of the hospital staff pulling a very large cart of hospital linens down the hallway. I noticed that the cart would become jammed against a smaller cart placed against the wall. I pulled it out of the way and then aided the cart through the doorway into the next patient area. The woman did not realize that someone had assisted her. My kindness was neither noticed nor rewarded, but in a simple way my unknown act spared this hard working woman from an annoyance that would have caused her a delay in performing her duties. Hardly a noble act, but it was one that gave me a feeling of satisfaction. I thought myself a Guardian Angel. The key factor was that, when presented with the opportunity, I responded to a spiritual impulse to stop what I was doing and to take a moment in order to help someone. Once again, it was no momentous action, but one that could have been easily missed on my part through indifference or single-mindedness. How many needs of much greater magnitude were there to which I was blinded or had ignored?

Man is neither angel nor beast; and the misfortune is that he who would act the angel acts the beast.

- Blaise Pascal

There may be some truth to the opinion of the British historian, A. J. P Taylor who said, "The only lesson of history is that there are no lessons." For the most part, I believe that human beings are quite capable of growing wiser through knowledge of past events and of appreciating how grace or sin colored the human actions involved in them. In fact, it is imperative that people of every era recognize both the glorious and the base potentialities of being human. The ebb and flow of civilizations speak to the fragility of the dominance of virtue or of vice in human relations. Which of these qualities we choose to nurture in ourselves and are inclined to admire in others will tell the tale of our age. In spite of the repetitive ugliness within the human story, there is a divine hope living in us, spurring us on toward growth in the highest beauty of our nature.

The virtue of angels is that they cannot deteriorate; their flaw is that they cannot improve. Man's flaw is that he can deteriorate; and his virtue is that he can improve.

- Hasidic saying

If truly healthy in spirit, mind, and body, we continuously desire to improve on our former selves. This growth may take various forms, but the goal is to grow. It is my opinion that this urge marks God's call to seek him above all things. Indeed, the emerging recognition of wishing, more than anything else, to achieve that intimacy with God called heaven defines not only the destiny we seek, but also the divine intimations within the beautiful things we make. Fashioning a snow angel is a pretty easy feat. That symbol of God's messenger may be saying more than we realize.