The Saints Will Replace the Fallen Angels in Heaven
In my book, Slaying Dragons: What Exorcists See & What We Should Know, I discuss the point that men who, by God's grace and their fidelity to it, merit salvation and a particular degree of holiness in Heaven, will essentially sit upon the same "thrones" in the hierarchy of Heaven which were abandoned or, better, unused, by the angels that fell in the first moment of their creation. By this, the saints will replace the demons in the hierarchy of Heaven.
A reader of my book inquired about the traditional theological support for this idea. As a result, I have here collected the statements of St. Thomas, St. Jerome, Popes, and Councils, to establish this reality more firmly in our minds.
One of the benefits of doing this research, and of realizing this truth, is that it will motivate us, spurred on by a conviction of this reality, to seek to merit, by God's call and grace, the highest place in Heaven that we possibly can.
First, That There Are Degrees Of Glory Among The Saints In Heaven
In Against Jovinian 2:32 [A.D. 393], St. Jerome dismisses the idea that we are all equal in Heaven, stating that, if that were the case, there would be no reason for individuals to persevere in the specific callings and vocations which Our Lord gives to each. It would be folly, he says, for us to think that we can all sin as we may and, "after we repent we shall be the same as the Apostles are!" St. Jerome, according to the Haydock Commentary, interprets the "many mansions" of John 14:2 as referring to the degrees of glory in Heaven. St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine both agree here with St. Jerome (Summa. Supp. Q93 a2).
St. Thomas adds to this, stating, "In the first way the mansions are distinguished according to the charity of heaven, which the more perfect it will be in any one, the more will it render him capable of the Divine clarity, on the increase of which will depend the increase in perfection of the Divine vision" (Summa. Supp. Q93 a3). Thus, those who love God more purely and intensely will, by that, be made capable of beholding God more perfectly.
The Catechism, in para. 1053, quotes Pope Paul VI, who said that the saints in Heaven are, "to various degrees, associated with the holy angels in the divine governance exercised by Christ in glory."
In Lumen Gentium, #48 and 49, it is stated that the saints in Heaven, "in various ways and degrees, are in communion in the same charity of God." In Heaven, they "show forth the merits which they won on earth." These are those rewards which they received as having "won through the body, according to his works."
According to Ludwig Ott, in Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, "the Council of Florence declared the souls of the perfectly just clearly behold the Triune and One God as he is, but corresponding to the difference of their merits, the one more perfectly than the other. The Council of Trent defined that the justified person merits an increase of the heavenly glory by good works."
Our Lord Himself makes this repetitively and abundantly clear, such as when He says, "But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Mt.6:6). He immediately applies this also to fasting and almsgiving. Further, He says, "As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty" (Mt. 13:23)
In the Book of Revelation, Our Lord says, "Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done" (Rev. 22:12). St. Paul states that God "will render to every man according to his works" (Rom. 2:6). These rewards will be different for each of us for we each pray, fast, give alms, and believe in God in differing amounts and degrees here on earth. Since we all respond differently to Our Lord's command to "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven" (Mt. 6:20), we will all receive a different amount of treasures when we, God willing, arrive there.
Finally, we even see, among the fifteen promises for those who are faithful to their devotion to the Holy Rosary, Our Lady promise that these shall merit a high degree of glory in Heaven.
Second, That The Saints Will Replace The Fallen Angels In Glory
St. Thomas discusses the fact that man is, by nature, not on par with the angels, and thus “can in no way be assumed into the angelic orders,” since the “natural distinctions will always remain.” However, the idea, which St. Thomas says that some assert as a result of this distinction, that “men can in no way be transferred to an equality with the angels,” is condemned by St. Thomas as “erroneous, contradicting as it does the promise of Christ saying that the children of the resurrection will be equal to the angels in heaven” (Lk.20:36). St. Thomas states that “by the gift of grace men can merit glory in such a degree as to be equal to the angels, in each of the angelic grades; and this implies that men are taken up into the orders of angels.” (Summa, Prima Pars, Q108, a8)
St. Thomas also teaches that, as there is only one God, so there is only one hierarchy in heaven, including not just angels but also all rational creatures. This one hierarchy has a distinction within it, as angels and men are different and receive the divine enlightenments in different ways. This distinction is not a separation, since it is found within the one hierarchy. St. Thomas compares this distinction to the way the three hierarchies of angels are distinguished based on their possession of universal knowledge of the truth (Summa, Prima Pars, Q108, a1). The angels are distinguished one from the other, but they remain within the one hierarchy.
In Summa, Prima Pars, Q63, a9, St. Thomas states that it is reasonable to conclude that the devil fell from the highest order of angels. He further adds that, with the devil, "it is probable that some [spirits] fell of every order; just as men are taken up into every order to supply for the angelic ruin." With this, St. Thomas also teaches that, since "man's soul and an angel are ordained alike for beatitude: consequently equality with angels is promised to the saints" (Summa, Prima Pars, Q62, a5). Man, when glorified, is "made a participator of the Godhead" and is "endowed with regal power" (Summa, Prima Pars, Q96, a1). This power, as seen in the fact that men are taken into every order, is a reflection of the reward which each man merited by his deeds on earth.
The Church clearly teaches that man, by his cooperation with grace, will merit a particular reward in Heaven. This grace of salvation and this reward will transfer him into an equality with the angels and an association with them in the divine governance. This association will vary by degree based on the specific reward merited by the good works which each man performed during his life on earth. As do the angels, the saints will behold the glory of God by varying degrees, some more perfectly than others. Thus, men, corresponding to this reward, will be taken up by grace into every order of the angels, supplying thereby for the “angelic ruin,” when the evil angels rebelled and fell from their places in the hierarchy of spirits. Equal to the angels, and placed among their ranks, the saints will thus replace the demons who rejected God’s offer of glory.
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