As previously mentioned, the climb up the mountain was part of a spiritual pilgrimage. The climb was difficult for me, but after a deeply moving experience at the top in which I felt enveloped by God, I found that I was no longer afraid about the height we were at. I was transfigured, in a sense, by the Holy Spirit; it was a very intimate experience. I wrote about the journey on the way up, because it was very difficult and I was really struggling to make it to the top.
On the way down, I felt very liberated and rather exhilarated. But I was still careful, as well I should have been, since the climb down was going to have challenges of its own. Much of this was because one uses many different muscles on the way down than one uses on the way up. Just as we were descending, the most experienced climber in our group, who was near the lead, fell off the side of the mountain, or at least that is how it appeared. Many of us heard his yell and saw him tumble head over heels (literally) and then he disappeared. A heart-wrenching second later we heard him yell, "I'm okay." There were seven collective exhalations from the rest of our group. When we got to him, he was on a ledge which saved his life. (I think it was because we were on a pilgrimage in which we were very much in prayer that he had this miracle!) He seemed relatively uninjured, except for one of his legs, which was swelling badly. He did not bleed a lot, which turned out to be a bad thing later on, and we were doubtful he could walk. We did not have anything to help him, except some ibuprofen for the inflammation, and I gave him my walking pole, without which I would never have gotten to the top in the first place.
Two members of our group, one of whom (ironically) was a nurse, were so far ahead that they never knew there was an accident until much later. One other man and I were dispatched to go down as quickly and safely as we could to get help. (On a comical note, my descent partner was more terrified of heights than I had been, so I tried to make him laugh all the way down to ease his fright.) As I looked back, a man appeared out of nowhere and went to where the injured one, my husband, and our pilgrimage leader were. Where this climber came from was a complete mystery: we had climbed up that mountain all the way to the top and there was no one else there. This man was clearly descending the mountain, so where did he come from? It was astounding to us. Not only that, but he just so happened to have a first aid kit with gauze and tape for the injured man's leg. He spoke Italian and our leader, who spoke English and Italian, was able to converse with this man. Our leader told me later that the man said he would go down the mountain with us until we were to safety.
I believe that we do "entertain angels unaware" (Hebrews 13:2) more often than we realize. There are many biblical references to angels coming in human form, such as the three angels who conversed and then dined with Abram and Sarai, (Abraham and Sarah), telling them Sarai would bear a son in her advanced age. My favorite story is of Tobias and the angel Raphael in the beautiful book of Tobit: the Archangel Raphael appeared as a man, saying his name was Azariah, and traveled incognito to help answer the prayers of Tobit and a young woman named Sarah. I believe that these experiences are not limited to biblical times. They still do happen, as the recent incident in Missouri seems to indicate.
Regardless whether one believes that angels do appear in human form from time to time, humans can and do act like angels sometimes. There are plenty of first responders who have been angels for people in distress or whose lives are in danger. There are clergy who have saved many a life by their intercession. And there are countless stories of ordinary citizens who were at the right place, at the right time to help someone in need. Additionally, there are people who volunteer their time and talent who can be as angels for the lonely, sick, dying, aged, poor, marginalized, etc. I would venture to say everyone reading this right now has acted as an angel for someone, whether they knew it or not. God can call any one of us to act as His angel and any one of us can respond and act as such at just about any time. But I do believe that real, 'bona fide' angels exist and act in our lives all the time.
May we be enabled to see the angels around us whom we may have been entertaining unaware! May we have the faith to believe in God's never-ending love and protection for us! May we call upon our guardian angel when we are in trouble, trusting that God will send us the help we need! And may we be inspired to be as an angel to another person who cries out for aid! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of our Loving God who sends us angels when we need them! Peace!
The icon at the top of the page is St. Michael the Archangel by Rev. William Hart McNichols. It can be found at http://www.standreirublevicons.com/gallery.php?action=viewPicture&id=46
The second icon is Guardian Angel with Little Elijah, also by Rev. William Hart McNichols. It can be found at http://www.standreirublevicons.com/gallery.php?action=viewPicture&id=255