What are Seraphim?
The Seraphim or “burning ones” (root meaning: to consume with fire) occupy the highest order of angels. They are often represented as a child’s head with wings above, below, and on each side. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae offers a description of the nature of the Seraphim:
- “The name ‘Seraphim’ does not come from charity only, but from the excess of charity, expressed by the word ardor or fire. Hence Dionysius (Coel. Hier. vii) expounds the name ‘Seraphim’ according to the properties of fire, containing an excess of heat. Now in fire we may consider three things.
- “First, the movement which is upwards and continuous. This signifies that they are borne inflexibly towards God.
- “Secondly, the active force which is ‘heat,’ which is not found in fire simply, but exists with a certain sharpness, as being of most penetrating action, and reaching even to the smallest things, and as it were, with superabundant fervor; whereby is signified the action of these angels, exercised powerfully upon those who are subject to them, rousing them to a like fervor, and cleansing them wholly by their heat.
- “Thirdly we consider in fire the quality of clarity, or brightness; which signifies that these angels have in themselves an inextinguishable light, and that they also perfectly enlighten others.”
Circling the heavenly seat, they are locked in an eternal song referred to as the Trisagion song “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty”. I was surprised to learn that the song is one that is sung although has been modified by different religious branches. The following is a beautiful version:
Where are Seraphim talked about in the Bible?
The only specific reference to Seraphim in the bible is Isaiah 6:1-7:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were Seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy , holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for. ”
In the New Testament, Revelation 4:6-8, “creatures” are singing the Trisagion song. Possibly this could also be Seraphim.
And before the throne there was a sea of glass, and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and were full of eyes inside and out. Without stopping day or night they were saying,is the Lord God Almighty, who was, who is, and who is coming very soon.
Images Of Seraphim In Art
There was even a Saint Seraphim:
Saint Seraphim of Sarov (30 July 1754 – 14 January 1833), born Prokhor Moshnin, is one of the most renowned Russian monks and mystics in the Orthodox Church. He is generally considered the greatest of the 19th century startsy (elders) and, arguably, the first. He is remembered for extending the monastic teachings of contemplation, theoria and self-denial to the layperson, and taught that the purpose of the Christian life was to acquire the Holy Spirit.
To read more on St. Seraphim: Seraphim of Sarov – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.