Posted by: Fr Chris | November 8, 2021

Saint Michael’s Day in the Byzantine Rite – Nov. 8

Today we commemorate Saint Michael the archangel and all angels, on a feast day that is nearly 1700 years old, from the council of Laodicea in 364. The day was established in November, the ninth month after March (with which the year began in ancient times) since there are Nine Ranks of Angels. The eighth day of the month was chosen for the Synaxis of all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven since the Day of the Dread Last Judgment is called the Eighth Day by the holy Fathers. After the end of this age (characterized by its seven days of Creation) will come the Eighth Day, and then “the Son of Man shall come in His Glory and all the holy Angels with Him” (Mt. 25:31).

Patrick Comerford: Welcoming strangers and entertaining angels without knowing it

Traditionally there are said to be nine choirs of angels: The nine choirs of angels were listed by Pseudo-Dionysius, an important spiritual writer from the late 300s as Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels and Angels. The Seraphim attend God’s throne in the heavenly Liturgy (Isaiah 6:1-8). While western art has reduced the awesome Cherubim to chubby little babies, in Scripture they are far more impressive: six-winged, and four faces: that of a lion (representative of all wild animals), an ox (domestic animals), a human (humanity), and an eagle (birds), from where we get the symbols of the Four Evangelists of the Gospels. Thrones carry God’s Throne in heaven, and serve the wishes of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Dominions are shown as having two wings but carrying orbs or scepters. They organize the guardian angels. Virtues are the angels through whom God’s signs and miracles are made in creation. Powers fight demons and are shown with shields and swords. Principalities are shown wearing crowns and carrying scepters. They organize bands of angels, fulfill the orders of higher-ranking angels or God Himself. Archangels serve as messengers of God, guard countries, and often help with Christian armies fighting evil forces. Angels serve as messengers to individuals, and from their ranks come the personal guardian angels assigned to protect the billions of human beings.

The word angel is an abbreviation of the Greek “Angelos,” meaning one who is sent or a messenger.  An angel is a spiritual creature naturally superior to man and often commissioned by God for certain duties on earth.  “The name angel,” wrote St. Augustine, “belongs to his office not to his nature.  Your ask what is the name of his office?  He is an angel.” 

            All the angels were created good, so that they would love God and one another, and that they might have from this life of love, continual and great joy.  God did not will to make them love by force, and therefore, He left it up to the angels to decide for themselves – whether they wished to love Him to live in God, or not.

            One was Lucifer, the light-bearer, ended up as the Prince of Darkness.  He did not wish to love God and fulfill the will of God, but desired himself to become like God.  He began to oppose and disagree with Him in all things, and he became a dark, evil spirit – the devil, Satan.  The word devil means slanderer, archenemy of God, and the word Satan means the adversary of God and all that is good.  This evil spirit tempted and took with him many other angels who also became evil spirits and are called demons. In the Middle East one reason people built and lived inside of walled towns and villages was because they feared Satan who ruled over the wilderness.

            Lucifer either wanted to be like God, or was offended by God taking on a human nature – we really don’t know. But in the Book of Revelation, we read:  Then one of the highest archangels, Michael, came forth against Satan and said: “Who is equal to God?  There is none like God!” And there was a war in heaven: Michael and his angels made war against Satan; and Satan and his demons made ware against them (Rv 12:7 ff).

Saint Michael The Archangel Photograph by Michael Arend

             Evil power could not stand against the angels of God. Good will always win. Satan, together with his demons, fell like lightning into the nether regions, hades. Hades, or the nether region, is the name for the place of separation far from God, where the evil spirits now dwell.  There they are tormented in their malice, beholding their powerlessness against God.  All of them, because of their refusal to repent, have become so confirmed in evil that they can no longer be good. They strive by deceit and cunning to tempt every person, whispering false ideas and evil desires in order to bring us to damnation and join them in hell.

God has assigned guardian angels to us to help us make the free choice to reject hell and to choose heaven. These angels know what hell is like – so they seek to save us, guide us, lead us. It is easy to choose evil – original sin has damaged humanity with the tendency to commit sin.

Today is the opportunity to renew our awareness of the holiness that surrounds us – the guardian angels who protect us, the archangels who watch over the world and fight evil, the choir of angels involved in the worship of God in paradise and who stand firmly against the forces of darkness, like Michael. The challenge is to listen to our own guardian angel’s prompting, to hear the voice of God, to resist all temptation. If we do that, then we fulfill our mission of being with God, just as the nine choirs do.

KNOW YOUR ANGELS…. - ICONS AND THEIR INTERPRETATION in 2020 | Angel, Archangels, Painting

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