The Dean’s Commentary

“And suddenly angels came and waited on him.”
Matthew 4:11

“Study always to give praise to God.”
St. Francis of Assisi

Dear Friends,

In the story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert, it concludes by mentioning the angels waited on him. The heavenly host came to wait on Jesus, to provide for him what he needed at that time, before he began to call disciples.

We imagine angels as people with wings, because Western European art has depicted them that way. But the Greek word for angels, άγγελοι, means something like messenger, or those who bring messages. These types of creatures aren’t ordinary, though. These messengers are sacred! In the Greek world of the first century (at the time of Matthew’s gospel), the concept of άγγελοι was not limited to human beings. In fact, many in ancient Greece considered birds to be perfectly acceptable άγγελοι, thus forcing us to ask a bold question: Were the angels who waited on Jesus creatures resembling human beings, or perhaps were they animals–creatures from the natural world?

The Bible doesn’t tell us, but we can fast forward 1200 years to the life of Francis of Assisi, whose feast day is commemorated on Tuesday, October 4th and Trinity will celebrate on October 2nd, the Sunday before (more on that in a bit!). Francis observed that the animals were indeed his brothers and sisters before God, too. In the 14th century manuscript, “The Little Flowers of St. Francis,” the writer claims that Francis recognized the intrinsic value of animals as an integral part of God’s creation. When flocks of birds gathered to hear Francis preach the Word of God, they wouldn’t depart into the sky until a blessing was bestowed upon them. His final blessing to the birds was the same each time: “Study always to give praise to God.”

Many of us are pet owners. We love our pets. If we can celebrate St. Francis’ assertion that all living things glorify God in their own way, then why not bless the animals we keep as pets? After all, when we bless them, we are rendering thanks and praise to God for all the joy and happiness that our pets bring to our lives.

Trinity will commemorate St. Francis Day and the Blessing of Animals by hosting a Pet Fair this Sunday, October 2nd at 1:30 p.m. There will be food for people and treats for pets. Come and see vendors making jewelry and accessories for your fine furry (and feathered and otherwise!) friends, as well as experience abundant blessings offered by clergy for each and every pet that comes to the celebration.

Therefore when we bless our pets, maybe we become a little more like St. Francis, who encouraged all living things to study how to give praise to God. And in turn, we position ourselves with our creaturely άγγελοι to wait upon, minister to, and listen for the voice of Jesus calling us as one of his disciples.

Join us for a wonderful Sunday celebration!

In Christ’s peace and love,

The Very Reverend Troy Mendez