It is an article of faith, firmly established in Scripture and Tradition, and clearly expressed in Christian Doctrine from the beginning, that this spirit world, our Angels, began with time and was created by God. This traditional belief of both the Old and the New Testament was given a more formal and solemn expression in the fourth Lateran Council in 1215: [God] "by his almighty power created together in the beginning of time both creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal, namely the Angelic and the earthly, and afterwards the human, as it were an intermediate creature, composed of body and spirit." [D. 428. A similar definition was given in the Vatican Council in 1869, D. 1782, 1801.]
From this definition we learn that the Angelic spirits were created when time began and not from eternity. Like all other creatures they were produced by the almighty power of God, out of nothing. It would be heretical to affirm that the Angels are an emanation of the Divine substance. [Vatican Council [I], D. 1804] Spiritual substances do not divide or split or multiply in any form whatever, nor change one into another; their individual existence can only be explained by creation.
The creation of the Angels is implicitly affirmed in all those passages of Sacred Scripture in which it is stated that all things were made by God; explicitly and formally their creation is mentioned by Saint Paul in one of those incomplete enumerations of the Angelic orders: "In Him [the Son of God, the Logos] were all things created in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether Thrones, or Dominations, or Principalities, or Powers: all things were created by Him and in Him." [Col. 1: 16]
Creation itself is a revealed truth, not so the exact time when the Angels were created. Nothing definite can be determined on this point from Sacred Scripture. Neither Jewish nor Christian Tradition agrees on the time when the spirit world, our Angels, came into existence. With many of the Fathers of the Church we believe as very probable that the Angels were created long before the material world. They were certainly created before man, because we find them already distinguished as good Angels and fallen Angels on man's first appearance on earth. [Gen. 3: 1ff.; 3: 24]
This circumstance would seem to imply that a long time had elapsed from the time of their creation. It does not seem probable that God, Who created this world for His Own glory, would have no created intelligences to witness the awe-inspiring act of its making. The passage from Job quoted above seems to prove that such witnesses did exist. They saw the marvelous manifestations of the Divine Wisdom, Power, and Goodness and praised the Lord, filling the heavens with "joyful melody." Man himself was not there at the beginning of creation to give glory to God; some created "intelligence must have been present. The Angels were the first splendors created to reflect the glory of the Eternal. The first creative act must have produced a creature to the image and similitude of God, a creature able to understand, love, thank, and praise God. When the whole material world had been created, the Lord formed another similar creature, "a little less than the Angels," consisting of body and spirit, able to know, love, and serve Him on earth as the Angels do in Heaven. We like to imagine the creation of the material universe placed between the creations of two orders of rational beings. One, heavenly, purely spiritual: the Angels; one, earthly, partly material, partly spiritual: Man.
Saint Thomas, with some of the Fathers of the Church, regards as more probable the opinion maintaining that the Angels were created together with the material universe because they are part of that universe. He does not regard as erroneous the opinion of those who hold that they were created before the visible world. [ Summa Theologica, Pars I, Q. 61, art. 3] The peculiar astronomical notions common in his day attributed to the Angels many duties that pertained to the physical government of the world, and thus they appeared more as a necessary part of the visible world than they actually are.
Another reason for that opinion is the authority of some of the Fathers who saw the creation of the Angels in the words of Genesis, chapter 1: 1, more exactly in the creation of Heaven: "In the beginning God created Heaven and earth." Thus, for example, Saint Epiphanius: "The word of God clearly declares that the Angels were neither created after the stars nor before Heaven and earth. It must be regarded as certain and unshakable the opinion that says: None of the created things did exist before Heaven and earth, because 'in the beginning God created Heaven and earth' so that this was the beginning of all creation, before which none of the created things existed." [Adversus Haereses, Panar., 65, 5] Origen, however, is more careful with his opinion: "This also is part of the doctrine of the Church, that there are certain Angels of God and certain good Powers, which are His servants in accomplishing the salvation of men. When these, however, were created, or of what nature they are, or how they exist, is not clearly stated." [De PrinciPiis, Preface, 10] He does not read in the words of Genesis what is not written there . . .
The wording of the definition by the Lateran Council, reported before, which seems to be opposed to the opinion of priority of creation of the Angels, creates no difficulty whatever. It is said there that God "created together [simul] in the beginning of time both creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal, namely the Angelic and the earthly." It is commonly admitted that the word "together" in this case has not the meaning of parity of time or simultaneousness, but parity of action. The expression was taken from Scripture where it is said: "He that liveth forever created all things together," [Ecclus. 18: 1] meaning not that all things were created at the same time, but that all things were likewise created with no indication of time. Saint Thomas points out that this definition of the Lateran Council was aimed at a Manichaean heresy of emanation. It did not bear on the time of creation of the Angels but on the fact that they were produced by the act of creation, just like the corporeal, earthly creatures.
Both the existence and the creation of the Angels are dogmas of faith presenting one of the most inspiring and consoling aspects of our Religion. As the first creatures of this universe, the Angels were the first revelation of the Supreme Goodness of God and of His transcendent Beauty. Even though part of the universe, the Angels really constitute a world to themselves, the spirit world, so exalted and so different from our visible, material world.
When God created the first life in this world He bade it to multiply upon the earth. The Lord blessed the first human couple He had created, saying: "Increase and multiply and fill the earth. [Gen. 1: 28] It took mankind thousands of years to discover and fill most of the earth. Not so with the spirit world. There are no more Angels today than when they were first created at the beginning of time. They filled the heavens from the start, and their number was complete from the beginning. Their spiritual nature, just like our human soul, cannot be produced except by the Divine act of creation, with the difference that the human soul is created only in the course of time, when it is needed to inform a human body at the time of generation. Except for the apostasy and desertion of the fallen Angels, the Angelic family has remained the same from the time it was called into being by the loving Father of all.No matter when the Angels began, there was a time in that endless eternity when the Angels, like all the other creatures, did not exist. The Eternal Wisdom, the Word of God, refers to such an epoch in the timeless existence of God, where It says: "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His ways, before He made anything from the beginning. [Prov. 8: 22] Therefore, they were not created from all eternity but in the beginning of time.