Festival of St. Michael and All Angels
September 29, 2012
The Lord be with you
September 29 is the Festival of St. Michael and All Angels. The name of the Archangel Michael is Hebrew and means “Who is like God?” Michael is mentioned in the Book of Daniel (10:13ff; 12:1), as well as in Jude (v. 9) and Revelation (12:7). Daniel portrays Michael as the angelic helper of Israel who leads the battle against the forces of evil. In Revelation, Michael and his angels fight against and defeat Satan and the evil angels, driving them from heaven. Their victory is made possible by Christ’s own victory over Satan and His death and resurrection, a victory announced by the voice in heaven: “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come” (Revelation 12:10). Michael is often associated with Gabriel and Raphael, the other chief angels or archangels who surround the throne of God. Tradition names Michael as the patron and protector of the Church, especially as the protector of Christians at the hour of death.
Most Feasts, Festivals, and Commemorations for individuals fall on the anniversary of their death. Quite obviously, that is not possible for Michael, must less “all” the angels. This date was selected because, on it, the basilica of St Michael the Archangel on the via Salaria outside Rome was dedicated in the fifteenth century.
Angels are very popular these days, but much of the “information” concerning them is from extra-biblical sources. However, the Bible is far from silent concerning these, the chief creatures of the invisible creation. The word “angel” appears 194 times in the English Standard translation of the Bible. The word “angels” appears 89 times. The majority of these references (77) occur in the book of Revelation. The word “angel” means “messenger” and so it is not at all surprising that they are often depicted as being messengers (Genesis 16:7; Luke 1:26-38; 24:23; etc.). We are told that they are keenly involved in the worship of God (Psalm 103:20; 148:2; Revelation 7:11; etc.), and this is reflected at the end of the Preface during a Communion Service, where we pray “Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Your glorious Name; evermore praising You, and saying …”, thus joining our worship with the worship of the angels. Unlike humanity, angels have no natural physical body (Hebrews 1:7). They are spiritual beings only. However, they can appear with physical bodies as their duties require it (Genesis 19:1-2; Luke 24:4-5; etc.). No human actually knows how many angels there are, but we know that they are extremely numerous (2 Kings 6:17; Matthew 26:33; Revelation 5:11). While they know a lot, they are not all-knowing (Matthew 24:36; 1 Peter 1:12). While they are far more powerful than anything in the visible creation (2 Chronicles 32:20-21; 2 Peter 2:11), they are not all-powerful (Daniel 10:13). Jesus tells us that they watch over children (Matthew 18:10) and rejoice when someone repents and comes to faith in our Lord (Luke 15:10). No one knows exactly when the angels were created but, based on Genesis 2:1-2, it is safely assumed that their creation was sometime before the end of day six of the creation week. Angels are also genderless, being neither male nor female (Matthew 22:30). The Bible often depicts the visible manifestation of angels as men, but that is probably simply to accent their power. Sometimes they also appear as fantastic beings. For example, the name seraphim (Isaiah 6:2-6) means “burning ones,” and these angels apparently can appear like living fire. The cherubim (which means “mighty ones”) in Ezekiel 10 are so strange looking that I don’t think an artist can fully depict them. (See also Revelation 4:6-8.) While more could be said about angels, based on the Bible, I think the most remarkable thing about them is that they serve us! That doesn’t mean that the angels are at our beck and call, but that God assigns them to serve us, carrying out God’s will for us (Hebrews 1:14).
Collect for the Festival of St. Michael and All Angels: Everlasting God, You have ordained and constituted the service of angels and men in a wonderful order. Mercifully grant that, as Your holy angels always serve and worship You in heaven, so by Your appointment they may also help and defend us here on earth; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Other things you might pray about:
- For an enlarged sense of God’s creation
- For awe before the immensity of creation
- For purity to join the songs of the angels
- For an awareness of the unity of the praise of heaven and earth
- Thanks for the ministry of angels among us
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert