Thursday, September 29, 2016

St Michael and All Angels 2016

The church keeps the feast of the Angels for two reasons. The first is that they minister to us, “for they are all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them, who shall receive the inheritance of salvation.” (Hebr. 1, 14) The second is that they fight for us against the wicked angels, and do not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. (cf. 1 Cor. 10, 13). Of this battle it is said in the Apocalypse, “There was a war in heaven.” (12, 7) This war will be especially in the time of the Antichrist, but it has also been and is always in the death of the martyrs. “And the dragon was cast out”, that is, the devil was cast out of heaven, which is to say, out of heavenly men, and down into the hearts of evil men.
St Michael Fights the Dragon, from the Livre d’heures d’Étienne Chevalier, by Jean Fouquet, 1452-60
The leader of this war is the most blessed Michael, and therefore the feast is kept for him, although he is of the last hierarchy, of a lower order. For there are nine orders of Angels…, and although they are all sent (by God to various tasks), they are sent but rarely, … but the prince of those who are sent is Michael, …

But since this is the common feast of all the Angels, why is it specially named the feast of Michael, rather than of Gabriel or Raphael? I answer that it was Michael who was sent into Egypt, and wrought the famous plagues, who divided the Red Sea, who lead the people out through the desert and into the promised land. He is set in charge of Paradise, and the guardian thereof; he receives souls into it, and is the Prince of the Church, and therefore we ought to reverence him more. … (Another) reason is that men by venerating the Angels may come into their fellowship, and for this reason on Sundays and solemn feasts, nine psalms, nine readings and nine responsories are sung, that by singing these things we may come to the company of the Angels, whose proper role is to sing to God. (William Durandus, Rationale 7, 12)

The Archangels Raphael, Michael and Gabriel by Michele Tosini; from the choir of the Abbey of St Michael in Passignano, Italy, ca. 1550.

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