Painting The Angels of Virtue
By William Alan Shirley



In the Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas, it is written that there are nine ethereal hierarchies circling the Throne of Glory. In the middle triad are the Angels of Virtue. These celestial beings bestow the blessings of Grace through miracles. They are the stars in our darkest nights. They inspire our strength and our mercy too. They guide us not only in our magnificent acts of vigilance and valor, but also in our countless, everyday struggles.

The Angels of Virtue are beacons of light who bolster us as we face the onslaught of challenges in our modern world. They work overtime as our technology for self-destruction threatens to surpass our spiritual evolution. They cross and encompass all boundaries of nations, religions, races, cultures, sexes and theologies. The saints, sages and scriptures of all major theologies and philosophies align with them. Kindling our virtue, they help us to treat each other right, to live a good life, to go beyond our dreams and fan the fires for our love of God.

The Angel of Faith is the first in my series of paintings, the twelve Angels of Virtue. Others on their way are the Angels of Discipline, Courage, Generosity, Purity, Patience, Gratitude, Humility, Forgiveness, Respect, Truthfulness and Compassion. These works are intended as an inspiration to the spirit, uplifting of the mind, and opening of the heart for all who see them. They are intended to enliven the teachings of virtues, and to give breath to our worship of God, by whatever name, and in all forms of life. They celebrate the end of this millennium and herald in the new one.

They are about the messages as much as the messengers. We may study about what is an angel, what they look like and how to commune with them. Still, our experience is the essential point, isn't it? We don't have to be scholars to be virtuous. Virtues are inherent within the realm of the heart. For me, devotion is to be open and receive God's inspiration with the help of the saints and the angels. Although they let me see them, it is more important to see where they want us to go. My question is not so much, "What is an angel?" but rather, "How do I embody these virtues on earth?"

To paint the angels, to connect with divine beings, to begin to feel God's love, I endeavor to align my work, thoughts, feelings, words and ultimate purpose to live a regular and disciplined life, to sleep and eat well, to exercise and to make every day an offering to the Lord to live the virtues. And, yes, it is a constant battle.

In the morning I pray and then meditate on the light in my heart. I let go of what I think I know, of my every thought, but God. In this silence and stillness, all things come. It is awe-inspiring to approach my works as sacred vehicles, inviting the angels to come and shine forth through them. There is such wonder in painting, absorbed in the remembrance and reverence of the Creator. Then the creativity is truly free. A transforming and mysterious power takes over.

Many of us know the strength of one-pointed intention. Athletes call it "the zone." It's a state of consciousness that transcends what we normally think of ourselves. We're hot. We're on. It's where we shoot, or pitch, or stroke, and we feel that we just can't miss. It could be anyone, doing most anything, anytime. We are fast and loose. We gallop our steed against the mighty wind. But when we realize, even more, Who makes the wind, and turn over the reins to Him, then we really ride! We surrender, We get out of the way and let Grace happen. Imagine. The power of Grace surges through every cell in your body. You are filled with the raw pulsation of life. Your mind is clear and your heart is open.

When it's best, I hold onto the brush like the reins of a winged, wild stallion and soar into a blue-light sky. There is no past and no future. I am totally single-minded in "now," lost in the next stroke, somehow watching it appear. It's expansive and exhilarating. I am filled with enthusiasm. Yet, somehow, in the midst of the creative action, I am coming from a silent and still space inside. A peaceful place, where I feel in harmony with the angels and with God. I have disappeared. And there is only the child's lightheartedness in the awesome feeling of Oneness.

Jesus Christ said, "The Kingdom of God is within you." Some years ago, those words took on great meaning for me when I was blessed with the most profound and beautiful experience and most precious gift of my life. I found the power of God may be ignited in the human heart when my own was touched. An infusion of divine Grace sparked the awakening of that power. I found love, God, and myself at the same time and in the same place. Upon it, all else was rendered meaningless. It now lifts me more each day from the darkness of my ignorance to the brilliant light of awareness of my true nature, my true self.

Aren't the angels all about love, really, nothing but love? Even if we are unaware, doesn't every heart blaze with the yearning for love? Isn't everyone just us in another form searching from another point of view? The angels guide us to the ultimate love, to see love in everyone and everything.

They are the voice of our conscience, the voice of God. They are our best friends. They never give up on us. They never leave us. The Angels of Virtue are always listening. When we are blessed to feel a fire in our hearts, and become lost in the sweet music of our longing to know God, and we listen; they will guide us to our way of awakening. Then the great journey begins, and we will really ride.

William A. Shirley is currently creating the Angels of Virtue with his partner, artist Vala Ola. Posters of "Faith" , 24" x 20" may be purchased for $29.95 plus s/h. Canvas prints, 24" x 20" are $180 plus s/h. A limited edition of 300 gicle s, signed and numbered by the artist, 24" x 20", printed one at a time on heavy pure cottonpaper, are available fro $590 plus s/h. Also available framed. To order, call (800) 963-0369. William can be reached at 335 Otero, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501, or call (505) 989-8797, voice-mail (505) 820-6562.

Return to the November/December Index page