Jupiter again opened his mouth in protest, “You, who dwell in unapproachable light, would allow these slime-devils to offend you? What God are you, who accept such?”
But Lucifer, brightest of the Seraphim and executive lord of the entire orb, quieted his protests with a glance. Despite the immense difference in height, Angelo felt Lucifer’s soothing rays fall on himself as they descended on all the angels at once. So Jupiter bided his time, waiting to have all the information available before making the eternal Choice. Angelo knew a great crowd of Jupiter’s friends were of the same mind: entire constellations of star guardians and hundreds of wind, water, earth, fire and air angels, all on the verge of rebellion.
But the next words from the Lord of Hosts shook Angelo like when he was shaken at the first moment of his existence. All the choirs swayed and their voices rumbled in incredulous surprise like a discontented mob. What was this? The God of Armies becoming Man to repair a wrong done to Him? God using Man’s changing nature as an instrument of self-abasement? And dying in reparation? The most brilliant angels could hardly have conceived such a monstrosity!
“Sacerdos, no one could have guessed this outcome!” Angelo declared. “The Master becoming a slave among slaves and then commanding our service? What do you say?”
The protests of the hosts rang in Angelo’s mind: the Power Justitia’s shout of protest, Lucifer’s flare of anger, Jupiter’s thunderclap of warning, Michael’s livid stare of surprise and the Throne Misericordia’s bitter tears. Why should the Just One privilege this muck by becoming one with them, but not with us? Why should the God of gods subject Himself to their infantile blows? To allow Himself to be killed, and in such a demeaning way? Angelo heard no soundness whatsoever in the Son of Man’s words “Why have you forsaken me?”
But Angelo’s rebellious thoughts halted at Sacerdos’ response.
“It is…God offering Himself.”
Sacerdos could see a glimpse of God’s unique love and wisdom in this Plan. Was it worth the humiliation, though? Now Angelo was unsure if he would serve. He looked towards the leaders at the cavern’s summit. Angelo was naturally a follower of higher angels, though he knew the decision would be his own in the end.
Controlling his cosmic agitation, Lucifer reined in his pulsing flames. When the rest of the cavern quieted to mere tense whispers, Lucifer spoke up, venting the last, burning question in his supremely powerful mind.
“And this Son of Man, whom we are to serve forever, the King of Angels, the flesh that rules spirit; from where will he come? Among men he will be killed by rebels. Who else will hold sway over him? To whom else do you submit your Omnipotence?”
The Father of all answered with his final message: in words as clear as those describing His death. All of the angels would have power over him: He would be a Son of men, subject to the laws of nature. But to one among the children of men He would submit His Will without limit. He would make her the Queen of Heaven and Dispenser of all the merits of the Cross: his own Mother. She too deserved the obeisance of the hosts.
Here Lucifer shot up in a terrible pillar of flame. The center of the flame filled with blackness as his gigantic voice thundered throughout the cavern.
“This, O Creator, is beyond your ability to command! To obey the Son of Man meant, somehow, to obey You directly. Him, at least, I could serve, though he lose his life to evil agents. In God’s victory would I still trust. But to serve a mere woman, elevated to be the First Cause’s own cause? This is as great an insult as if you had told me to serve his very executioners as men higher than the angels. On account of this woman, this scarecrow you place on the heavenly throne, I withhold my allegiance! For a God who gives such submission cannot be my Master, cannot be God! Who is with me? Who will serve himself rather than Him? FOR I WILL NOT SERVE!”
Jupiter, Ishtar, Baal, Aphrodite, Ra, Thor, Moloch; crowds from every choir flooded to Lucifer, who glowed more terribly than ever. His eyes flashed a terrifying white even as his wings burst with dark flames. Myriads of myriads of angels chanted with frenzied vigor, “We will not serve!” Flocking to Lucifer, each one of them grew hideous in their resolve and rebellion.
Angelo saw hundreds of his low and insignificant fellows abandon their places to join the crowd of new demons. With each one, he frantically tried to read their thoughts and see their rationale. In all he beheld a furious rebellion, a refusal to serve either a mortal God or a mortal God-mother. He looked at Sacerdos, whose chin was set: set to obey.
Sacerdos gazed back at Angelo and sighed. “This is God’s Test for us, Angelo. He has offered us a glimpse at his Will, and it is a Plan of supreme sacrifice. Would I had the strength to love it!”
Turning his thoughts inward, Angelo considered the Choice for himself. He had no inkling of what obedience would lead to; he only knew it would please the Creator and allow unity with Him, whatever that meant. But he beheld in a terrible vision what fate disobedience would merit:
Drawing his gladius, his faint light shining distinctly from all the others, Angelo opened his mouth to speak his will. Each word he spoke burned into his being for all eternity: a sign of his irrevocable Choice. An impermeable wall arose around his spirit, suffocating his communion with the others. From now on, he would only follow anyone else if he saw fit; his individuality stood inviolable, compressed within his own spiritual capsule for eternity. The words came from his mouth slowly, with terrifying deliberation: “I will not serve!”
The vision passed. Breaking from his reverie, Angelo glanced quickly about. The agony of the Choice still lay before him. He sought a leader: a beacon from a higher angel who stood ready to fight for God. If only one would join God’s cause as an example to the others! Then Angelo would follow wholeheartedly, even if it meant utter humiliation and defeat. Where was the Lord’s general, Michael? Why had he not raised God’s battle-banner? Was he a traitor?
A shout rang out in the cavern, silencing all the chanting throng of demons. Only one angel could have sent such a resounding message: the highest of the Dominions, the Master of all Heralds, the Angel Gabriel.
Beautifully, he ascended directly in front of the towering Lucifer. Gabriel carried nothing but a lily-staff, but he spoke with a confidence that commanded all the uncertain among the choirs.
“The Lord has revealed his Plan to us, and I, even if I be the only one, shall serve Him. With love I will honor His mother, flesh though she will be, and serve her as her bondservant, forever.”
Silence reigned in the firmament. Gabriel had pledged himself to a lump of clay and now waited for the rest of the army to follow. Angelo shuddered, tense with expectation. He laid his hand on his gladius. Then he beheld Michael, the Seraphic General, quivering like wounded flesh at the Decision before him, and Angelo’s heart sank. If only he would serve as well!
As a handful of lower angels, including Sacerdos, rallied to Gabriel, Lucifer proudly replied to the herald-angel. “You fool! You serve a powerless God, able only to die and rot, or else, to lie to us. How can you even serve Him, if I destroy the orb before it is yet endowed with life? Indeed, it is my office to rule the entire orb and even to determine how it will end. And I deem that its end will come now: in fire and sulphur! What say you now?”
Decisively, Angelo drew his gladius. It glowed but a faint blue in his shaking fist, but it glowed with determination nonetheless. Angelo trembled all the more when Michael turned to look at him, standing alone among the vacillating lower angels. A grim smile slowly grew on Michael’s face. Even the smallest angel now stood for God against the Great Rebel!
Then, more swiftly than an act of angelic recognition, Michael charged and thrust up his shield to parry the Demon’s hand, raised to destroy the orb. Michael’s will clashed with Lucifer’s: light against light, grit against grit, power against power. Michael clenched his teeth and challenged the Seducer with supernal determination, “You shall not foil the Wise One’s Plan, though it defies our imaginings! This orb shall survive and fulfill the Plan, despite your confusions. Indeed, how could we, His creatures, fathom the depth of His power and wisdom? FOR WHO IS LIKE GOD?”
In an instant, all the uncertain Dominions, Powers, and Archangels stood ready for the demonic forces while the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones nocked their flaming missiles at the beginning of the Great Battle in Heaven. Their decision hung in the balance…