(Icon of St Michael the Archangel from ilianrachov.com)
Today in the Anglican tradition we celebrate St. Michael and the Archangels. Angels are seen throughout Scripture, as today's Saint of the Day e-mail from AmericanCatholic.org notes:
Angels—messengers from God—appear frequently in Scripture, but only Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are named.This morning I turned to the Propers for Saints' Days and prayed with the boys this Collect for today:
Michael appears in Daniel's vision as "the great prince" who defends Israel against its enemies; in the Book of Revelation, he leads God's armies to final victory over the forces of evil. Devotion to Michael is the oldest angelic devotion, rising in the East in the fourth century. The Church in the West began to observe a feast honoring Michael and the angels in the fifth century.
Gabriel also makes an appearance in Daniel's visions, announcing Michael's role in God's plan. His best-known appearance is an encounter with a young Jewish girl named Mary, who consents to bear the Messiah.
Raphael's activity is confined to the Old Testament story of Tobit. There he appears to guide Tobit's son Tobiah through a series of fantastic adventures which lead to a threefold happy ending: Tobiah's marriage to Sarah, the healing of Tobit's blindness and the restoration of the family fortune.
Each of these archangels performs a different mission in Scripture: Michael protects; Gabriel announces; Raphael guides. Earlier belief that inexplicable events were due to the actions of spiritual beings has given way to a scientific world-view and a different sense of cause and effect. Yet believers still experience God's protection, communication and guidance in ways which defy description. We cannot dismiss angels too lightly.
O EVERLASTING God, who hast ordained and constituted the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order; Mercifully grant that, as thy holy Angels always do thee service in heaven, so, by thy appointment, they may succour and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.Then we read the Epistle from the Twelfth Chapter of the Revelation to Saint John, verses 7-12:
7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”I read also from Saint Matthew's Gospel a longer passage, but the pertinent part was in the closing verse:
"See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven." (18:10)And although it wasn't listed in the Propers for this day, I thought of the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews and read a little to the boys as well:
3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.and
14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?So while angels are indeed "ministering spirits," they are created beings, set below the Lord Christ, despite the Hebrews' apparent culture of angelic worship and often a near-worship of them in our own culture. Christ remains at the right hand of the Father on High, and angels, though they fight battles against every kind of evil, bring messages from God to men, and bring help and comfort to Christ when in His human incarnation and to us when we have need, rank below Him yet above us.
I have friends who have encountered angels--angels who have saved their son's life when he nearly-drowned in a neighbor's pool, angels who have spoken audible messages and carried on audible conversations--but I have yet to see or hear one. But angels do the work of their Heavenly Father without notice the vast majority of the time, guarding our little ones and helping us to turn to our Father and to His Son and to the Holy Spirit throughout our lives. For that's what angels do best: they worship!
May we worship Him as the angels do.
Wishing you His Grace, now and always,