Why did Lucifer and the fallen angels reject God?

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The Fall of the Rebellious Angels
The Fall of the Rebellious Angels by Giovanni Odazzi. Shutterstock

Question: As I understand, Satan/Lucifer was a cherub and the highest-ranked, most beautiful and most intelligent of the angels. I find it pleasantly and humorously ironic — a chafe to Satan’s pride — that Michael, a lowly archangel, cast him out of heaven. As a matter of dogma, what was the boiling point (other than — or as an adjunct to — pride) by which they fell? Was it that God revealed to them that he was going to take human form and that he intended to elevate we, who are made of dirt, to his image and to his inner circle above all of the angels? To have such a job/position and throw it away is not rational. It is inconceivable that beings of such beauty, order and intellect could be that erratic and rash. 

Steve Behm, via email 

Answer: That angels exist and minister to God, and that some take care of us is biblical dogma. However, many of the other things we believe of angels (and demons) is more in the realm of common opinion or of widespread tradition and some legend, as well. 

Though Scripture does speak of a war in heaven and of St. Michael vanquishing Satan and the fallen angels, the reasons for this war and for Satan’s fall are largely surmised and not the stuff of settled dogma. For example, it is widely held that Satan (aka Lucifer) was a high-ranking angel in the highest rank of angels, the seraphim. It is also widely held that the demons are fallen angels from all nine choirs or ranks of angels, and that they maintain this ranking, even in their fallen state. Hence higher-ranking demons command lower-ranking demons and have powers that excel the lower-ranking demons. Another tradition, though not a dogma, is that Lucifer, having been apprised of God’s plan to join himself to the human family, rebelled at the notion and pridefully resisted God’s plan. He also recruited about one-third of the angels to join him in this rebellion. St. Michael led other angels in opposing Satan’s rebellion and, having won, cast him out of heaven onto the earth. 

Again, all this is widely held in Church circles, but it is not at the level of dogma, but has the credibility of being an ancient, long-standing and widely held view in the Church. That Satan despises the Incarnation and the making of the human person in the image of God, is borne out by his hateful deception of Adam and Eve in the garden, his obsession with finding and seeking to kill the Christ-child (Luke, Revelation), and his mockery of the Incarnation through the act of satanic possession of certain human beings. 

As for how sinless and beautiful angels could fall or have such irrational hatred is mysterious, to be sure. But we must recall that Adam and Eve, even in their sinless and perfected state, also fell. We are left to ponder the power of pride, even in their glorious and perfected state! 

Msgr. Charles Pope

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. at blog.adw.org. Send questions to msgrpope@osv.com.