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4 - The Four Living Creatures"And around the throne, were four Living Creatures.”It is delightful for the soul to talk about this heavenly rank, for it is talking about the divine vehicle that carries the divine throne. They are the two ranks of the Cherubim and the Seraphim, to whom the Church always requests their intercession, and celebrates their feast on the 8th of Hatour. It is a memorial feast and the Church calls them, "The incorporeal carriers of God's vehicle.a- Their honor: St. John Chrysostom says of them:[I tell you my dear children that nothing is like them in honor, neither in heaven nor on earth, because they are carrying God's throne, and they cannot look at the face of the Eternal Living One. They are created of light and fire. They are very strong and powerful. They appeal to God for the forgiveness of sins of mankind, and for having pity on them... The prophet Isaiah saw their glory and spoke of their honor (6:1-3). The prophet Ezechiel as well saw their glory and spoke of their honor (1:4-28). Also David, the great and the father of the prophets, and the father of Christ in flesh, saw the honor of those spiritual creatures and spoke of their glory in the psalm saying, "He bowed the heavens and came down; and darkness was under His feet. And He ascended upon the cherub and He flew; He flew upon the wings of the winds" (Ps. 18:9,10).]b- Without thrones or crowns like the presbyters, for God is their crown and they are His chariot.c- "Full of eyes around and within" . Ibn-el Assal states that they point to their understanding of the present and future mysteries which the Lord reveals to them.d- "Each of them has six wings.” As we praise the Lord saying, [You are the One around whom stands the Cherubim and the Seraphim, six wings to one and six wings to the other. With two wings they cover their faces, with two they cover their legs, and they fly with two. With a voice full of glory, they shout one in front of the other, sending the praise of victory and of our salvation.] Thus, it is proper for the priest to be like them; covering his face with modesty and tremblence and his legs with hope and trust. His heart being full of love, and singing before the Lord who is slain on our behalf. St. Chrysostom advises us saying, [I, your father, John the poor, ask you my dear children the priests and the deacons not to approach the altar when you are not clean; so keep your bodies and souls pure if you want to approach the pure service. For you are like the heavenly Seraphim. They do not dare looking at the face of the Living God, but they arestanding faces down covered with their wings! You, servants of God, see the Body of the Son of God and His pure Blood, which are put in front of you on the pure altar. You touch Him and eat Him, and you know the greatness and honor they deserve, so you have to stand with happy faces, fearful hearts, eyes looking at the ground, and heads bowed, for you are like the Cherubim and the Seraphim who are carrying the throne of Majesty.]He also says[When you hear that the Seraphim are flying around the throne, in its highness and dignity covering their faces with two wings, hiding their legs with two, and shouting with a trembling voice, do not think that they have feathers, legs and wings for they are invisible powers. Even for those orders, God is truly beyond reach. They cannot approach Him. Therefore, He condescends in the way mentioned in Revelation, for God is notlimited to a place and does not sit on a throne. Yet His sitting on the throne and being surrounded by the heavenly powers is out of love for them... And when He appeared sitting on the throne, surrounded by those powers, they could not see Him, nor look at His dazzling light. They covered their eyes with two wings, and they had nothing to do, but to praise and sing hymns full of holy, trembling and wonderful songs, witnessing for the holiness of the One who is sitting on the throne. Hence if anyone dares to test the providence of a God that the heavenly powers cannot touch or describe, he had better disappear under the hills!]
e- Their likeness: They are incorporeal and invisible powers, but they appeared to the beloved John and to the prophet Ezechiel in the following way: "The first Living Creature was like a lion, the second Living Creature like a calf, the third Living Creature had a face like a man, and the fourth Living Creature was like a flying eagle" .First: The Church believes that the first Living Creature intercedes for the beasts of the wilderness, the second for the animals of the field, the third for human beings, and the fourth for birds. As for the reptiles they have none in their likeness, for, from them comes the snake that the Lord had cursed, nor the aquatic animals, for the sea points to the disturbances, while heaven is quiet and peaceful.St. Chrysostom says, [They are spiritual creatures, God created them, raised them and crowned them with splendor and light. He made them ask on behalf of human beings and the whole creation ,beasts, animals, and birds of the sky, for they are more close to Him than all the heavenly spiritual creatures.] Second: St. Gregory Nazianzus and Origen believe that this creation that carries the throne carries the meaning of the four forces of the soul, which is sanctifyied by carrying God within, namely: _ The forces of rage, which are referred to by the likeness of a lion._ The carnal desires are referred to by the likeness of a calf. _ The gift of logic is referred to as one who has the likeness of man's face. _ The spiritual energies are referred to by the likeness of a flying eagle.Third: St. Jerome believes that it also points to the redeeming works of the Lord. _ The one who has the likeness of man's face points to the incarnation. _ The one who is like the calf points to the slaughter on the cross. _ The one who is like the lion points to the resurrection. _ The one who is like a flying eagle points to the ascension.Fourth: St. Irenaeuslxii thinks that it also points to the redeeming work from another side: _ The one who has the likeness of man's face points to the incarnation. _ The one who is like the calf points to the rites of the sacrifices and priesthood, as He intercedes for us. _ The one who is like the lion, points to the power of His work, royal dominion and leadership. _ The one who is like a flying eagle points to the sending of the Holy Spirit to flutter over His church.Fifth: St. Irenaeus also believes that it points to the four gospels. Bishop Victorianus also says, [The Living Creature that is like the lion points to Mark in whom you hear the voice of the lion shouting in the desert (Mark 1:3). The one in the likeness of a man is Matthew, who did his best to make known the Virgin Mary's genealogy, from whom the Lord Jesus took the body. Luke relates Zachariah's priesthood, who presents a sacrifice on behalf of the people. He carries the calf. John the Evangelist like a flying bird is fluttering his wings up to the great heights speaking about the Word of God.]These creatures are distinguished by the wings, similarly the four gospels have many wings to carry mankind and fly with it up before the divine throne, to present it as a bride risen towards heaven.The priests are around the throne, and the Living Creatures carry the throne. In the same way the books of the prophets surround us to tell us about the salvation, but the gospels lift us up, and take us to the atmosphere of heavens, to the divine throne. We cannot do without either of both.