My mind wanders during carol concerts.
This year, it wandered into the realms of Cherubim and Seraphim. They get a good puff throughout the nativity, and it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t got the faintest clue what they did. Having done a bit of research, believe me, their time has come.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking of a Botticelli cherub that you once saw on a school visit to the Tate London. You know, the grumpy one and the bored one that look like two constipated 1940s children during the London Blitz, and that you see on no end of Christmas cards. But that’s just the start of them. The easiest way of describing them is to imagine that overnight, they are running the country, all nine levels of them.
Bottom of the pile are standard Angels; you and me in other words. The Bible didn’t put it this way, but they are the movers and shakers and miracle workers, and they consequently get the shit jobs, like implementing the new Universal Credit, or finding a permanent manager for Manchester United. Above them are the Archangels, all seven of them. Two, Gabriel and Michael, tend to work in the full glare of publicity whilst the others are anonymous, celestial civil servants, if you like. They are responsible for countries, which means that the one that does us has clearly been on a sabbatical for the last couple of years, and the one who does France has recently purchased a yellow hi-visibility vest.
Next up, and at the top of the Third Sphere, are the Principalities or Rulers. Fundamentally, they keep the angels and archangels up to speed- a sort of heavenly HR department. I suspect that they cover Health and Safety as well, but the Bible isn’t specific on this point. After all, one would hate to see a Cherub slipping on a wet floor.
Once you’ve been in the system for a few millenia, you can move up to the lowest level of the Second Sphere, namely Powers or Authorities. Their job is to supervise the movements of celestial bodies to ensure that the cosmos remains in good order. Down here, that would see them implementing the new Network Rail timetable, the A27 Chichester bypass and coming up with anti-drone policies for UK airports.
Above them are the Virtues and Strongholds who, through being the Celestial Choir one might imagine as being in charge of entertainment and information. Simon Cowell would be a Virtue, as would Nick Robinson, Ed Sheeran and Gary Lineker.
Next up are the Dominions or Lordships. They regulate the duties of the lower angels (you and me, in other words), so we can think of them as a cross between the House of Commons and the Metropolitan Police. None of the angelic host seem particularly keen on the Dominions, which would make that allusion all the more apposite. Dominions are rarely depicted but, when they are, they appear to have the vestiges of a smug grin that puts one in mind of a biblical John Bercow.
From now on, we are in the First Sphere, and we start with the Thrones. They don’t have a huge amount to do, which leads us to conjecture that they might be something to do with the House of Lords or even the Liberal Democrats. Ezekiel describes their behavior as ‘when they moved, others moved; and when they stopped, the others stopped’, which sounds as though they might have been early players of Grandmother’s Footsteps.
Above this we are deep in senior territory, and definitely in the area of non-contributory pension schemes. Second from the top are the Cherubimwho, in sharp contrast to Botticelli’s ideas, are in fact a combination of man, ox, lion and eagle. It’s hard to know exactly what they did, as references have them involved in anything from transport to guard duties; but they worked miracles as a matter of course, and I suppose therefore that we would have these straight into trying to sort out the Irish Backstop, or creating some sort of coherent Brexit policy, any Brexit Policy come to think of it, within the Labour Party.
Which just leaves the Seraphim, the ‘fiery, burning ones’. Much as in the world we live in, so it is with the hierarchy of angels: the higher you go the less you do. And the Seraphim, who are right at the top of Division One, turn out to do the square root of not a lot. Their sole job is to sit around, covering their eyes with one of their three sets of wings and incessantly calling out Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Almighty. The whole earth is full of his glory.’
On the basis of ceaseless repetition alone, I suspect Laura Kuenssberg is a Seraphim, bless her.