August 22, 2015

God's Hierarchy and Man's

Hierarchy. In his article at Bad Catholic, An Idiotic Hierarchy, Marc Barnes describes the word's use, today, as if it's "Greek for 'storm troopers' or 'really bad STDs.'" Far from a bad word, "hierarchy" has it's roots in Judeo-Christian religion. If we go back to Old Testament times (or at least Greek translation of Old Testament times), we find "hierarkhes" referring to the high priest.


In the late 400s or early 500s AD, Pseudo-Dionysius (writing as St. Dionysius the Areopagite, a convert of St. Paul) pens De Coelesti Hierarchia. This work, On the Celestial Hierarchy, uses the Latin word "hierachia" to refer to the organization of the angels.

This is our word. And it's a positive word. It didn't start off referring to oppressive governments or organizations but to God's order. Marc Barnes does a great job of explaining the differences, and I recommend you read the article.


God established an order in the beginning. He gave form to the earth. He established order in space and on earth. He established order in the animal kingdom. He established order in humankind through the family. He created order within our bodies and minds. Why should we quail at order in the Church or among the angels?

Yes, order can be abused. Families can have bad fathers. Churches can have bad leaders. There were some bad popes and plenty (one out of three, c.f. Rev 12:4) of bad angels. That says nothing of the quality of the hierarchy, only of the failures of individuals with free will. It speaks to our own failings and warns us to be mindful of how we were created. We all fall within the lower ranks of some hierarchy and the upper ranks of some. I am the father and husband in my family. I am the professor in my class. I am also a layman in my parish and diocese, a loyal (by God's grace) son of the Church. I'm a fairly bright human, but I'm a moron compared to my guardian angel. (Why don't I listen to him more often?)  It is our pride that tells us we must sit at the top of every hierarchy or else we're losing. It is our pride that tells us that every hierarchy is a con, a way to gather power and exploit people. God's order is always for our good; it is man's order that can fail us.

Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_angelic_hierarchy#/media/File:Francesco_Botticini_-_The_Assumption_of_the_Virgin.jpg

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