29 Sep Saint Michael the Archangel
Today is the feast day of Saint Michael the Archangel.
The Church considers St. Michael, who stands between mankind and the Divinity, as the mediator of her liturgical prayer. God, who made the visible and invisible hierarchies with an admirable order, makes use of the ministry of the celestial spirits for his glory. The angelical choirs, who contemplate ceaselessly the face of the Father, know, better than men, how to adore and contemplate the beauty of His infinite perfections. (14)
By Dom Gueranger
THE glorious Archangel appears today at the head of the heavenly army: There was a great battle in Heaven, Michael and his Angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his Angels. [Apoc. xii. 7] In the sixth century, the dedication of the churches of St. Michael on Monte Gargano and in the Roman Circus increased the celebrity of this day, which had however been long before consecrated by Rome to the memory of all the heavenly Virtues.
The east commemorates on the sixth of September an apparition of the victorious Prince at Chone [The ancient Colossae] in Phrygia; while the eighth of November is their solemnity of the Angels, corresponding to our feast of today, and bearing the title: ‘Synaxis of Saint Michael prince of the heavenly host, and of the other spiritual Powers.' Although the term synaxis is usually applied only to religious assemblies here on earth, we are informed that in this instance it also signifies the gathering of the faithful Angels at the cry of their chief, and their union eternally sealed by their victory. [Menotog. Basilii]
Who, then, are these heavenly Powers, whose mysterious combat heads the first page of history? Their existence is attested by the traditions of all nations as well as by the authority of holy Scripture.
If we consult the Church, she teaches us that in the beginning God created simultaneously two natures, the spiritual and the corporal, and afterwards man who is composed of both. [Concil. Lateran. iv. cap. Firmiter] The scale of nature descends by gradation from beings made to the likeness of God, to the very confines of nothingness; and by the same degrees the creature mounts upwards to his Creator. God is infinite being, infinite intelligence, infinite love. The creature is for ever finite: but man, endowed with a reasoning intellect, and the Angel, with an intuitive grasp of truth, are ever, by a continual process of purification, widening the bounds of their imperfect nature, in order to reach, by increase of light, the perfection of greater love.
God alone is simple with that unchangeable productive simplicity, which is absolute perfection excluding the possibility of progress; He is pure Act, in Whom substance, power, and operation are one thing. The Angel, though entirely independent of matter, is yet subject to the natural weakness necessary to a created being; he is not absolutely simple, for in him action is distinct from power, and power from essence. [Thom. Aquin. Summa Theol. i. q. liv. art. 1-3] How much greater is the weakness of man's composite nature, unable to carry on the operations of the intellect without the aid of the senses!
‘Compared with ours,' says one of the most enlightened brethren of the angelic doctor, ‘how calm and how luminous is the knowledge of pure spirits! They are not doomed to the intricate discoursings of our reason, which runs after the truth, composes and analyzes, and laboriously draws conclusions from premises. They instantaneously apprehend the whole compass of primary truths. Their intuition is so prompt, so lively, so penetrating, that it is impossible for them to be surprised, as we are, into error. If they deceive themselves, it must be of their own will. The perfection of their will is equal to the perfection of their intellect. They know not what it is to be disturbed by the violence of appetites. Their love is without emotion; and their hatred of evil is as calm and as wisely tempered as their love. A will so free can know no perplexity as to its aims, no inconstancy in its resolutions. Whereas with us long and anxious meditation is necessary before we make a decision, it is the property of the Angels to determine by a single act the object of their choice. God proposed to them, as He does to us, infinite beatitude in the vision of His Own Essence; and to fit them for so great an end, He endowed them with grace at the same time as He gave them being. In one instant they said Yes or No; in one instant they freely and deliberately decided their own fate.' [Monsabre 15th Conferencc, Lent 1875]
Let us not be envious. By nature the Angel is superior to us; but, to which of the Angels hath He said at any time, ‘Thou art My Son?' [Heb. i. 5; ex Ps. ii. 7] The Only-begotten Son of God did not take to Himself the angelic nature. When on earth, He acknowledged the temporary subordination of humanity to those pure spirits, and deigned to receive from them, even as do His brethren in the flesh, the announcements of the Divine will, [Dionys. Areop. De caelesti hierarchia, iv. 4; ex Matt. ii. 13-16, 19-21] and help and strength. [St. Luke xxii. 43] But ‘God hath not subjected unto Angels the world to come,' says the Apostle. [Heb. ii. 6] How can we understand this attraction of God towards what is feeblest? We can only worship it in humble, loving faith. It was Lucifer's stumbling-block on the day of the great battle in Heaven. But the faithful Angels prostrated themselves in joyous adoration at the feet of the Infant-God foreshown to them enthroned on Mary's knee, and then rose up to sing: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.'
O Christ, my Christ as St. Denis calls Thee, [Dionys. De caelesti hierarchia, ii. 5] the Church today delightedly proclaims Thee the beauty of the holy Angels. [Hymn of Lauds] Thou, the God-Man, art the lofty height whence purity, light, and love flow down upon the triple hierarchy of the nine choirs. Thou art the supreme Hierarch, the centre of worlds, controller of the deifying mysteries at the eternal feast.
Flaming Seraphim, glittering Cherubim, steadfast Thrones, court of honour to the Most High, and possessed of the noblest inheritance: according to the Areopagite, ye receive your justice, your splendour, and your burning love by direct communication from our Lord: [Dionys. ubi supra, vii. 2] and through you, all grace overflows from Him upon the holy city.
Dominations, Virtues, and Powers; sovereign disposers, prime movers, and rulers of the universe: in whose name do ye govern the world? Doubtless in His Whose inheritance it is; in the name of the King of glory, the Man-God, the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord of hosts.
Angels, Archangels, and Principalities; Heaven's messengers, ambassadors, and overseers here below: are ye not also, as the Apostle says, ministers of the salvation wrought on earth by Jesus, the heavenly High-Priest?
We also, through this same Jesus, O most holy Trinity, glorify Thee, together with the three princely hierarchies, which surround Thy Majesty with their nine immaterial rings as with a many-circled rampart.
To tend to Thee, and to draw all things to Thee, is their common law. Purification, illumination, union: by these three ways in succession, or simultaneously, are these noble beings attracted to God, and by the same they attract those who strive to emulate them. Sublime spirits, it is with your gaze ever fixed on high that ye influence those below and around you. Draw plentifully, both for yourselves and for us, from the central fires of the Divinity; purify us from more than the involuntary infirmities of nature; enlighten us; kindle us with your heavenly flames. For the same reason that Satan hates us, ye love us: protect the race of the Word made Flesh against the common enemy. So guard us, that we may hereafter be worthy to occupy among you the places left vacant by the victims of pride. (1)
(Hebrew “Who is like God?”).
St. Michael is one of the principal angels; his name was the war-cry of the good angels in the battle fought in heaven against the enemy and his followers. Four times his name is recorded in Scripture:
(1) Daniel 10:13 sqq., Gabriel says to Daniel, when he asks God to permit the Jews to return to Jerusalem: “The Angel [D.V. prince] of the kingdom of the Persians resisted me . . . and, behold Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me . . . and none is my helper in all these things, but Michael your prince.”
(2) Daniel 12, the Angel speaking of the end of the world and the Antichrist says: “At that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people.”
(3) In the Catholic Epistle of St. Jude: “When Michael the Archangel, disputing with the devil, contended about the body of Moses”, etc. St. Jude alludes to an ancient Jewish tradition of a dispute between Michael and Satan over the body of Moses, an account of which is also found in the apocryphal book on the assumption of Moses (Origen). St. Michael concealed the tomb of Moses; Satan, however, by disclosing it, tried to seduce the Jewish people to the sin of hero-worship. St. Michael also guards the body of Eve, according to the “Revelation of Moses” (“Apocryphal Gospels”, etc., ed. A. Walker, Edinburgh, p. 647).
(4) Apocalypse 12:7, “And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon.” St. John speaks of the great conflict at the end of time, which reflects also the battle in heaven at the beginning of time. According to the Fathers there is often question of St. Michael in Scripture where his name is not mentioned. They say he was the cherub who stood at the gate of paradise, “to keep the way of the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24), the angel through whom God published the Decalogue to his chosen people, the angel who stood in the way against Balaam (Numbers 22:22 sqq.), the angel who routed the army of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:35).
Prayer to St. Michael by Pope Leo XIII
O Glorious Archangel St Michael, Prince of the heavenly host, be our defence in the terrible warfare which we carry on against principalities and Powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, spirits of evil. Come to the aid of man, whom God created immortal, made in his own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of the devil. Fight this day the battle of the LORD, together with the holy angels, as already thou hast fought the leader of the proud angels, Lucifer, and his apostate host, who were powerless to resist thee, nor was there place for them any longer in Heaven. That cruel, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil or Satan, who seduces the whole world, was cast into the abyss with his angels. Behold, this primeval enemy and slayer of men has taken courage. Transformed into an angel of light, he wanders about with all the multitude of wicked spirits, invading the earth in order to blot out the name of God and of his Christ, to seize upon, slay and cast into eternal perdition souls destined for the crown of eternal glory.
This wicked dragon pours out, as a most impure flood, the venom of his malice on men of depraved mind and corrupt heart, the spirit of lying, of impiety, of blasphemy, and the pestilent breath of impurity, and of every vice and iniquity. These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the spouse of the immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on her most sacred possessions. In the Holy Place itself, where has been set up the See of the most holy Peter and the Chair of Truth for the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck, the sheep may be scattered. Arise then, O invincible Prince, bring- help against the attacks of the lost spirits to the people of God, and give them the victory. They venerate thee as their protector and patron; in thee holy Church glories as her defence against the malicious power of hell; to thee has God entrusted the souls of men to be established in heavenly beatitude. Oh, pray to the God of peace that He may put Satan under our feet, so far conquered that he may no longer be able to hold men in captivity and harm the Church. Offer our prayers in the sight of the Most High, so that they may quickly conciliate the mercies of the LORD; and beating down the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, do thou again make him captive in the abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations. Amen.
R. The Lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David, has conquered.
V. Let thy mercies be upon us, O LORD.
R. As we have hoped in thee.
V. O LORD, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto thee.Let us pray:
(An Indulgence of 300 days)
The hymns of the Roman Office are said to have been composed by St. Rabanus Maurus of Fulda (d. 856). In art St. Michael is represented as an angelic warrior, fully armed with helmet, sword, and shield (often the shield bears the Latin inscription: Quis ut Deus), standing over the dragon, whom he sometimes pierces with a lance. He also holds a pair of scales in which he weighs the souls of the departed (cf. Rock, “The Church of Our Fathers”, III, 160), or the book of life, to show that he takes part in the judgment. His feast (29 September) in the Middle Ages was celebrated as a holy day of obligation, but along with several other feasts it was gradually abolished since the eighteenth century. Michaelmas Day, in England and other countries, is one of the regular quarter-days for settling rents and accounts; but it is no longer remarkable for the hospitality with which it was formerly celebrated. Stubble-geese being esteemed in perfection about this time, most families had one dressed on Michaelmas Day. In some parishes (Isle of Skye) they had a procession on this day and baked a cake, called St. Michael's bannock.
|Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.||Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium. Ímperet ílli Déus, súpplices deprecámur: tuque, prínceps milítiæ cæléstis, Sátanam aliósque spíritus malígnos, qui ad perditiónem animárum pervagántur in múndo, divína virtúte, in inférnum detrúde. Ámen|
Image: Saint Michael Vanquishing Satan, artist: Raphael, circa 1518 (15)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff