Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

From the November AD 2006
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin

    Question:  Last month, in reading the Book of Job, it seemed to say that Satan had control over the weather.[1]  Is this always the case?  Is the atmosphere evil?  Is this why God did not refer to the creations of the second day as “good”?[2]

    Answer:  The Book of Job is a canonical book of the Bible, inspired by God.  It is similar in character and literary style to other Mesopotamian texts of the same era, which seek to put God and the devil, good and evil, suffering and reward in perspective.  It is quite possible that Job is a character designed by the author to present this analysis in a story with a moral, rather than in a strictly historical account.  Yet angels and devils are real, and their powers for good and evil are real—something of which we must never lose sight

    According to Saint Thomas, the angels rule the material cosmos as God’s intermediaries (their name, “angel,” means “messenger”—governing every material thing below Empyrean Heaven of ancient and medieval cosmology.

    Augustine says (De Trin. iii, 4) that "all bodies are ruled by the rational spirit of life"; and Gregory says (Dial. iv, 6), that "in this visible world nothing takes place without the agency of the invisible creature."

It is generally found both in human affairs and in natural things that every particular power is governed and ruled by the universal power; as, for example, the bailiff's power is governed by the power of the king. Among the angels also ... the superior angels who preside over the inferior possess a more universal knowledge. Now it is manifest that the power of any individual body is more particular than the power of any spiritual substance; for every corporeal form is a form individualized by matter, and determined to the "here and now"; whereas immaterial forms are absolute and intelligible. Therefore, as the inferior angels who have the less universal forms, are ruled by the superior; so are all corporeal things ruled by the angels. This is not only laid down by the holy doctors, but also by all philosophers who admit the existence of incorporeal substances.[3]

    If Newton’s physics seem to have made the angels unnecessary for the “pushing” of the stars and planets, we must reflect that the angels “govern” rather than “push.” In any event, at the quantum level of today’s physics, it is equally valid to understand the angels as the Creator’s agents in the business of “continuous creation,” which comports well with the fact that God not only created but conserves His creation in existence.

    When the angels fell from grace, they were deprived of their offices as messengers of God, Whom they could no longer represent.  Nonetheless, we have no reason to believe that God altered them in any essential way—they retain the powerful intellect and will proper to their nature.  In the Book of Job, God gave Satan permission to test the upright man for whom the Book is named.  Presumably, with this permission, Satan was able to bring various difficulties to bear against Job.  At least for the occasion he was able to direct the forces of the world as angels normally do.

    If, in fact, Saint Thomas is correct in assigning the governance of the skies to the angels, it is inconceivable that this is normally conducted by a fallen angel.  God is infinitely capable of assigning this task to angels who behave habitually in accordance with His laws.  The Chanel-5 weatherman is not in the business of predicting the devil’s activities!

    The Jewish Medrash (the collected works of rabbinical analysis of the Old Testament over the centuries) suggests that God didn’t proclaim that the second day of creation “was good,” precisely because it was a division of like things—the waters from the waters—and God is said not to like divisiveness.[4]

    Saint Thomas holds that the angels were created at the same time as material creation, and probably sinned immediately (he admits the possibility of an interval).[5]  This yields the possibility that the angels were created and fell on the first or second day—perhaps God not labeling the creation of the second day as “good” implies the fall of the angels on that day.  He will have to tell us when we see Him.

    In writing the Ephesians, Saint Paul refers to Satan as “the prince of the power of the air:

Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of this air, of the spirit that now worketh on the children of unbelief.[6]

    This is probably not a direct identification of the devil with the physical atmosphere or the weather , anymore than the epithet “prince of the world” assigns the governance of the entire world to the devil.[7]  All of God’s creation is good, and evil comes about only through its negation or misuse.  We speak of the world as evil only in comparative way—to the extent that material things distract us from spiritual things.


[1]   Job i.

[2]   Genesis i: 6-8.

[3]   Summa Theol. I:  Q.110, a.1

[5]   Summa I: Q.61, a.3;   Q.63, a.6

[6]   Ephesians ii: 2.

[7]   John: xii: 31; xiv: 30;   xvi: 11.


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