Tuesday, September 29
September 29th is noted in the Anglican lectionary as celebrating St. Michael and All Angels. I thought I would change things up a bit and list ten things you may or may not know about St. Michael and the topic of angels. Here goes…
- Michael is an archangel in Christian, Jewish and Islamic teachings. Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans and Lutherans refer to him as “Saint Michael the Archangel” or simply “Saint Michael.” Orthodox Christians call him Archangel Michael.
- Michael is the only one the Bible calls an archangel. The Greek word for “archangel” (archággelos) means “chief angel” or “chief messenger.” The word “archangel” isn’t used to describe him in the Old Testament, but another angel calls him one of the chief princes in Daniel 10:13.
- In the fifth century (CE) a basilica near Rome was dedicated in honour of Saint Michael the Archangel on 30 September, beginning with celebrations on the eve of that day.
- Within Protestantism, the Anglican and Methodist traditions recognize four angels as archangels: Michael, Raphael, Gabriel and Uriel.
- Michael is seen as the military commander of God’s army of angels. In Revelation (12:1-9), John tells of a great war in heaven where Michael and his angels battle the dragon (Satan) and his angels. The devil and his forces are too weak to remain in heaven, however, and so they are all thrown down to earth.
- There are three main types of angels, with angelic choirs within each larger type: first sphere, second sphere, and third sphere. Seraphim and cherubim are in the first sphere (highest rank) and are direct servants to God. Archangels and angels are in the third sphere and help humans in the role of guides, messengers and protectors.
- Michael the Archangel is portrayed in art (e.g., by Italian 16th century painter Raphael) with a fiery sword or a spear in his hands, casting out the devil. Paintings of this archangel sometimes hold scales in his other hand to symbolize his participation in the coming Judgment or for his foresight in the field of work that God entrusted to him.
- Rabbinical tradition holds that Michael was closely involved in some of the most crucial events in early history of the Hebrew people. It is believed that he announced to Sarah she would bear a son, stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, and was the angel who wrestled and blessed Jacob.
- Michaelmas (Michael Mass) refers to the Christian feast of St. Michael the Archangel celebrated in the Western churches on September 29. It is one of four English “quarter days” in a year (Lady Day (25th March), Midsummer (24th June), Michaelmas (29th September) and Christmas (25th December)). These days are spaced three months apart, on religious festivals, usually close to the solstices or equinoxes. They were the four dates on which servants were hired, rents due or leases begun. It used to be said that harvest had to be completed by Michaelmas, almost like the marking of the end of the productive season and the beginning of the new cycle of farming. It was the time at which new servants were hired or land was exchanged and debts were paid. This is how it came to be for Michaelmas to be the time for electing magistrates and also the beginning of legal and university terms.
- Folklore from the British Isles suggests that Michaelmas day is the last day that blackberries can be picked. It is said that when St Michael expelled Lucifer, the devil, from heaven, he fell from the skies and landed in a prickly blackberry bush. Satan cursed the fruit, scorched them with his fiery breath, stamped and spat on the fruit, so that they would be unfit for eating. As it is considered ill-advised to eat them after 11 October (Old Michaelmas Day according to the Julian Calendar), a Michaelmas pie is made from the last of the season.
Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
from Collect for Michaelmas (BCP, 1979)