St Michael and all Angels

Michael the ArchangelOn the Feast of Michael and all Angels, we give thanks for the many ways in which God’s loving care watches over us, both directly and indirectly, and we are reminded that the richness and variety of God’s creation far exceeds our knowledge of it.

The Holy Scriptures often speak of created intelligence other than humans who worship God in heaven and act as His messengers and agents on earth. We are not told much about them.

Jesus speaks of them as rejoicing over penitent sinners (Lk 15:10). Elsewhere, in a statement that has been variously understood (Mt 18:10), He warns against misleading a child, because their angels behold the face of God. (Acts 12:15 may refer to a related idea.)

In the Hebrew Scriptures, it is occasionally reported that someone saw a man who spoke to him with authority, and who he then realized was no mere man, but a messenger of God. Thus we have a belief in super-human rational created beings, either resembling men in appearance or taking human appearance when they are to communicate with us.

They are referred to as “messengers of God,” or simply as “messengers.” The word for a messenger in Hebrew is Malach, in Greek, Angelos, from which we get our word “angel”.

By the time of Christ, Jewish popular belief included many specifics about angels, with names for many of them. There were thought to be four archangels, named Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel.

Michael (the name means “Who is like God?”) is said to be the captain of the heavenly armies. He is mentioned in the Scriptures:

Daniel 10:13,31; 12:1 (where he is said to be the prince of the people of Israel)

Jude 9 (where he is said to have disputed with the devil about the body of Moses);

Revelation 12:7 (where he is said to have led the heavenly armies against those of the great dragon).

He is generally pictured in full armor, carrying a lance, and with his foot on the neck of a dragon. (Pictures of the Martyr George are often similar, but only Michael has wings.)

What is the value to us of remembering the Holy Angels?

Well, since they appear to excel us in both knowledge and power, they remind us that, even among created things, we humans are not the top of the heap. Since it is the common belief that demons are angels who have chosen to disobey God and to be His enemies rather than His willing servants, they remind us that the higher we are the lower we can fall.

The greater our natural gifts and talents, the greater the damage if we turn them to bad ends. The more we have been given, the more will be expected of us. And, in the picture of God sending His angels to help and defend us, we are reminded that apparently God, instead of doing good things directly, often prefers to do them through His willing servants, enabling those who have accepted His love to show their love for one another.

What Is a Seraph?

Seraphim are mentioned in the Bible in Isaiah’s vision of the heavenly throne-room (Is 6:1-7), where the Lord is seated between two seraphim. Each has six wings, and with two he covers his face, and with two he covers his feet, and with two he flies. Later writers identify these functions with poverty, chastity, and obedience.

What Is a Cherub?

Cherubim are first mentioned in the Bible in Gen 3:24, where Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden, and two cherubim are set at the gate to guard it, so that no one may enter.

The Lord be with you,

O everlasting God, who hast ordained and constituted the Ministries of angels and men in a wonderful order: Mercifully grant that, as thy holy angels always serve and worship thee in heaven, so by thy appointment they may help and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen