Jean Danielou, who spearheaded the Catholic ressourcement movement of patristic scholarship in the mid to late twentieth century, is a true master of the patristic mind, with the added advantage that he has even their least accessible works at his literary fingertips. Here he has stooped to give us a compendium of patristic angelology, in a form that is both popular and scolarly acute. Medieval speculation about the metaphysical natures of angels gave way long ago to modern skepticm of their very existence, which has more recently given way to a postmodern fanciful obsession with them, an obsession which is unfortunately now unhinged from any foundation in the theological tradition which gave us angelology in the first place.
Danielou submerges us in the first Christian reflections on God's heavenly hosts, beginning in the pages of Scripture itself and stretching through the fifth century (with a chronological exemption given to our good friend Denys, for obvious reasons), reflection which focuses not on their natures but rather on their salvific mission to man, a topic far more robust and theologically satisfying.
Danielou's chapters on the angelic activity of the Old Covenant and of the pagan nations were most interesting, if only because this activity is the most glossed over by post-patristic treatments. Most helpful is the way familiar biblical passages are interwoven with early patristic commentaries and homilies, which put the same passages in a new light. It is also stunning to see the broad and surprising amount of consensus which the Fathers were able to hold on issues related to angelology, even on matters which are of little interest to theologians today (e.g., guardian angels, the 'angels of the nations,' the role of the angels in the sacramental economy). The book has the added advantage of being short and concise, easily readable in two or three days.