A Royal Nun and the Angels

The following is a short excerpt from Mother Alexandra’s  (former Princess Ileana of Romania) small book, The Holy Angels. It is by far the best treatment I have seen on the subject despite its short length. This short account tells of her encounter with her guardian angel at age seven. In the service of Orthodox Baptism, the priest specifically prays that an angel of light be assigned to the life of the child being Baptized.

It was early morning, when I was seven years old, that I saw the angels. I am as sure of it now as I was then. I was not dreaming, nor “seeing things” – I just know they were there, plainly, clearly, distinctly. I was neither astonished nor afraid. I was not even awed – I was only terribly pleased. I wanted to talk to them and touch them.

Our night nursery was lit by the dawn and I saw a group of angels standing, as if chatting, around my brother’s bed. I was aware of this, although I could not hear their voices. They wore long flowing gowns of various soft-shaded colors. Their hair came to their shoulders, and different in color from fair and reddish to dark brown. They had no wings. At the foot of my brother Mircea’s bed stood one heavenly being, a little aside from the others – taller he was, and extraordinarily beautiful, with great white wings. In his right hand he carried a lighted taper; he did not seem to belong to the group of angels gathered around the bed. He clearly stood apart and on watch. I knew him to be the guardian angel. I then became aware that at the foot of my own bed stood a similar celestial creature. He was tall, his robe was dark blue with wide, loose sleeves. His hair was auburn, his face oval, and his beauty such as I cannot describe because it was comparable to nothing human. His wings swept high and out behind him. One hand was lifted to his breast, while in the other he carried a lighted taper. His smile can only be described as angelic; love, kindness, understanding, and assurance flowed from him. Delighted, I crawled from under the bedcovers and, kneeling up against the end of the bed, I stretched out my hand with the ardent wish to touch my smiling guardian, but he took a step back, put out a warning hand, and gently shook his head. I was so close to him I could have reached him easily. “Oh, please don’t go,” I cried; at which words all the other angels looked toward me, and it seemed I heard a silvery laugh, but of this sound I am not so certain, though I know they laughed. Then they vanished.

I was but a child when I saw my guardian angel. As time passed I still sporadically remembered and acknowledged his presence, but mostly, I ignored him…

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.



27 responses to “A Royal Nun and the Angels”

  1. fatherstephen Avatar

    A copy of this painting hung in the front room of my grandmother’s home (and virtually every other rural home I knew in the South). It’s not an icon but has been in my heart since my own childhood.

  2. Catherine K. Avatar

    Her book is wonderful, and I’ve heard many stories of her from those close to her. Our previous parish priest was a monastic (and is now an Archimandrite and superior of a monastery), and for a time he served at her monastery.

  3. Academic Avatar

    It’s stories like this where I long for my own baptism into the Orthodox Church. Thanks for sharing!

  4. nancy Avatar

    I have read this book and highly recommend it as it is a fine reference to angels in Scripture and in some of the readings of the Church Fathers. It goes far beyond some of the somewhat sappy books on angels we find in book stores. It was used in my Church’s book club, and the members had a lively discussion, and my son in law loved the book as I did. I especially recommend the chapter on Christian art depiction of angels, a testament to the angels we see in icons in Orthodox Churches.

  5. nancy Avatar

    Please excuse the somewhat illiterate message above. I do not have my glasses with me as I type this and my old eyes missed several mistakes

  6. Justin Farr Avatar

    This painting is in my (Tennessean) grandma’s home as well! 🙂

    Great story; thank you for sharing, Fr.

  7. Justin Farr Avatar

    Also, Fr., is there any Church teaching on whether or not those outside of the Church have guardian angels?

  8. elizabeth Avatar

    thank you Father for such a comforting reminder. It was just what I needed to read! I also have this book and need to keep reading it!

    FYI – Nancy, I personally thought your comment was lovely and not poorly worded, etc. 🙂

  9. Athanasia Avatar

    This is a comfort to read tonight.

    Though I have not seen my guardian angel, I have felt his touch on my shoulder. It was 26 years ago when I sat in my bed crying in deep felt grief over the death of my husband. I begged God to comfort me, to touch me in some manner and help my heartsickness. I felt a hand on my shoulder and great love and peace. It must have been my guardian angel.

    Thank you Father as I once again receive comfort.

  10. Margaret Avatar

    Yes, this picture was in my grandparents’ home and then, it seems, in my childhood home. I now have it on a bookmark. My children have their icons of the guardian angel, so I have not thought to get a larger copy of this painting.

    Thank you for the book reference, I hope to read it soon.

  11. fatherstephen Avatar


    Holy Scripture would indicate that they do. Matthew 18:10

  12. Hartmut Avatar

    I remember a situation when I was a young boy:
    I wanted to cross the road (without looking left or right I ran, I was a young boy!) and immediately I stood like frozen in the middle of the road between two cars. One came from the left, one from the right. The drivers had red and angry faces.
    Had I a guardian angel then? I think: yes! Though I was “outside of the Church”. I was baptized in a Lutheran Church.

  13. mic Avatar

    “I was but a child when I saw my guardian angel. As time passed I still sporadically remembered and acknowledged his presence, but mostly, I ignored him…”

    “but mostly, I ignored him…”

    oh man, that cut straight to the heart! Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on me a sinner!

  14. Karen C Avatar
    Karen C

    A few years ago, my son, who was about five at the time, was sleeping in my daughter’s room because we had extended family visiting and using his bedroom. My daughter is on the Autism spectrum, had delays, and was only about three at the time. During the middle of the night, my daughter got up and was wandering downstairs on the main level of the house while we were all asleep. My son was awakened by the figure of his father, who flipped on the light switch of the bedroom in which he was sleeping without saying a word and then disappeared. My son got up, noticed his sister wandering the house, and came into the bedroom where my husband and I were sound asleep to alert us she was up. When I was putting them back to bed (my husband, a very sound sleeper, didn’t wake up), my son puzzled about how my husband could still be asleep told me about his dad coming to wake him up, “but he didn’t have those pajamas on. He was wearing something different,” (referring to the pajamas my husband wore to bed that night). Knowing my husband had been sound asleep beside me the whole time, I suggested perhaps he had been dreaming when he described what had awakened him. He was very insistent it was not a dream, that his dad came into the room, so finally I said perhaps it was an angel. To this day (he is eleven), he insists this is what it was, and I have no other good explanation. My thought at the time was that it was my daughter’s guardian angel who appeared to head off potential accident or harm to her in her vulnerable state, and who used my husband’s form to avoid alarming our son. Also, my son’s appearance in our bedroom would not be alarming to us, being a common occurrence, as any parent of young children knows! Being evangelical believers at the time, we believed in guardian angels from the Scripture’s teaching, but I am fairly certain any overtly supernatural visitation would have been very frightening to us. Now that I am Orthodox, I would probably be only slightly less alarmed at the thought of such a heavenly visitor, but I am thankful for their intercession and protection as well as that of all the Saints.

  15. fatherstephen Avatar

    We should be grateful for our guardian angels and try not to disappoint them.

  16. Alice C. Linsley Avatar

    Last summer I visited and prayed at Mother Alexandra’s (Princess Ileana) grave on the grounds of the Monastery of the Tranfiguration in Ellwood City, PA. It was a very moving experience for me as a new Orthodox Christian. God spoke great peace to my heart and I had a sense that I could fully trust the Lord Jesus for my uncertain future. I can testify that God is faithful and unfailing in love. That HE provides us guardians and messengers is only one example.

  17. fatherstephen Avatar

    I have visited her grave as well. The monastery is a wonderful community.

  18. rediscoveringme Avatar

    This hung in the nursery of my oldest two children for years and I believe I saw my daughter’s angel the night she died. He was beautiful….no wings but the kindest eyes I think I’ve ever seen. Very otherworldly. For the past several months I’ve carried an icon of a guardian angel with me everywhere I’ve gone; it’s been a tangible comfort during times of fear or uncertainty. Seeing this here today was another reminder of the continuity of God’s care.

  19. catcalls2life Avatar

    A wonderful story of knowing that we aren’t alone. And I’ve had a similar experience(s). You don’t even need to see them to know they are there. I can always feel the presence of an angel especially when I need comfort.

  20. fatherstephen Avatar

    I could multiply angel stories – even do a blog only on angel stories – they are so common in human experience. I believe they must be properly understood within the teachings of the Holy Church – but they are simply everywhere.

    The Orthodox liturgy constantly makes reference to them. During the “little entrance” (when the Gospel is brought out of the altar and back in through the royal doors) the priest prays specifically that there will be “an entrance of angels” together with the entrance of the gospel. And that’s only one of the many mentions they receive.

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  22. Britt Avatar

    I am so moved by Mother Alexandra’s book. Please tell me where I can find either a painting such as the one portrayed with the angel and the children or an icon such as the one referenced by Mother Alexandra of a guardian angel protecting a child from bad dreams. I have been searching everywhere for a painting or icon.
    Any assistance would be deeply appreciated. Thank you,

  23. Ben Avatar

    I have a question.

    What do Orthodox believe about what angels are? Do they have free will? I was taught that angels marveled at our salvation (ie. That they were “lower” than us and didn’t have salvation,) but then I can’t shake the fact that a third of them fell along with Lucifer. Wouldn’t that mean that they have/had free will?

    Much thanks!

  24. fatherstephen Avatar

    The angels are “pure spirit” which does not mean they are omnipresent or omniscient or any such thing. They have a free will, but seems to function differently than ours. It is a common teaching in the fathers that each angel (though we categorize them in 9 different ranks) is actually a unique creation, having a distinct nature from all others. Had this not been so, the fall of one angel would have meant the fall of all angels.

    The larger question would be is there such a thing as repentance for angels. Only an extreme minority (maybe 2) of the Church fathers would hold such a notion. thus the general teaching is that their will functions differently than ours.

    We will obviously know more about angels at some point, for, according to Scripture, we will judge the angels (1 Cor. 6:3). I will need much more information for such an undertaking. 🙂

  25. shevaberakhot Avatar

    A wonderful reminder that we are never alone.

  26. zeitungzeid Avatar


    Very difficult to explain the angels outside the hypostatic union which encompasses all time and space — though it must be said Mother Alexandra does an exceedingly good job of it here. Angels are in every sense prophetic.

    For example, how could a being that is pure spirit function (without a muscular skeletal system for instance)?

    Only as a manifestation of God’s divine will. A thought (or forethought) of the God who is pure spirit is also the shape mankind will assume (though one may not rightfully use the term “foreshadow” in this case).

    He took on human flesh. Like us. Under any circumstances, that is miraculous enough.

  27. Donatus Raus Avatar
    Donatus Raus

    a copy of this painting was in my nursery over my bed – until I left for boarding school at the age of 8 years I went to sleep, every night, with this image before me

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