On Sunday, November 8, the Church celebrates the feast of the “Synaxis of the Holy Heavenly Bodiless Powers” especially the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. It was wonderful during the Divine Liturgy yesterday as we were singing the Thrice Holy Hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth…” and to really understand, and know, that we were, at that same moment, singing with the angels, the “song of the angelic host“. In fact, a few times, as I closed my eyes and then opened them – I faintly saw the ethereal shimmer of a few “wings” flying round about the altar!! Or, at least, I wanted to see them! (PS Many of the greatest saints in the Church, in fact, have seen them hovering during the Liturgy!) Such is my hope, in my lifetime!
Because Angels are so interesting, and yet, so poorly understood, I thought about posting some reflections this week on their ministry and their importance in the scope of eternity, and of their crucial role in our daily lives.
I am also grateful on this date, for my mother Patricia, who forty-six years ago – overruled my father when it came time to give me a name, on that hot and humid birth-day, way back in July 1963. It seems that my Dad had this strong notion of naming me “Charles” after his uncle, my grandfather’s brother. Now don’t get me wrong, he was a great man (an Engineer and College Football All American), and I have nothing against the name Charles per say. It’s a powerful, noble, and royal name, but I must be honest, and confess openly that I’m glad that my ‘all too compliant’ mother was adamant about this issue, and won my Dad over to the name of Michael – Michael Christopher. I have come to love and cherish my parents, and my name, because I have come to know and love the ministry of Michael, the Great Archangel of God’s heavenly host; and I have felt his presence and guidance in my life in unmistakably powerful ways in so many ways in my life.
So as a warm up to some posts on angels – I thought you might like to learn more about Michael – and why I am thankful that he is my patron, my namesake, and the guardian and protector of my life – and your life.
From The Prologue from Ohrid – by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
The angels of God were celebrated by men from earliest times but this celebration was often turned into the divinization of angels (II Kings 23:5). The heretics wove all sorts of fables concerning the angels. Some of them looked upon angels as gods; others, although they did not consider them gods, called them the creators of the whole visible world. The local Council of Laodicea (four or five years before the First Ecumenical Council) rejected the worship of angels as gods and established the proper veneration of angels in its Thirty-fifth Canon. In the fourth century, during the time of Sylvester, Pope of Rome, and Alexander, Patriarch of Alexandria, the present Feast of Archangel Michael and all the other heavenly powers was instituted for celebration in the month of November. Why precisely in November? Because November is the ninth month after March, and March is considered to be the month in which the world was created.
Also, as the ninth month after March, November was chosen for the nine orders of angels who were created first. St. Dionysius the Areopagite, a disciple of the Apostle Paul (who was taken up into the third heaven), described these nine orders of angels in his book, On the Celestial Hierarchies, as follows: six-winged Seraphim, many-eyed Cherubim, God-bearing Thrones, Dominions, Powers, Virtues, Principalities, Archangels, and Angels.
The leader of all the angelic hosts is the Archangel Michael. When Satan, Lucifer, fell away from God and drew a part of the angels with him to destruction, then Michael stood up and cried out before the faithful angels: “Let us attend! Let us stand aright! Let us stand with fear!” and all of the faithful angelic heavenly hosts cried out: “Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God of Sabaoth! Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory!”
`Michael” in the Hebrew language means “Who is like unto God?” or “Who is equal to God?” St. Michael has been depicted from earliest Christian times as a commander, who holds in his right hand a spear with which he attacks Lucifer, Satan, and in his left hand a green palm branch. At the top of the spear there is a linen ribbon with a red cross. The Archangel Michael is especially considered to be the Guardian of the Orthodox Faith and a fighter against heresies.
Concerning the Archangel Michael, see Joshua 5:13-15 and Jude 1:9. Among the angels there reign perfect oneness of mind, oneness of soul, and love. The lower orders also show complete obedience to the higher orders, and all of them together to the holy will of God. Every nation has its guardian angel, as does every Christian. We must always remember that whatever we do, in open or in secret, we do in the presence of our guardian angel. On the day of the Dread Judgment, the multitude of the hosts of the holy angels of heaven will gather around the throne of Christ, and the deeds, words, and thoughts of every man will be revealed before all. May God have mercy on us and save us by the prayers of the Archangel Michael and all the bodiless heavenly powers. Amen.
Festal Hymn for the Holy Angels
Who watch over us with great care,
Cover us with your wings,
And shield us with your power.
Armed with the power of God,
Crowned by His glory,
You wield flaming swords,
To cut the demons down.
Swift, swift as rays of light
You soar on the clouds-
The clouds of the air-
Where you do battle for God.
Without fatigue and without sleep
You hover ceaselessly
Over men and created things,
And over countless worlds.
Behold, yours are mighty armies,
And gentle battalions of angels:
And, according to the Creator, our brothers.
Commanders of the might of heaven,
Lead us where we need to go-
To the throne of the Most High
Who created us from nothing
Troparion – Tone 4
Commanders of the heavenly hosts,
we who are unworthy beseech you,
by your prayers encompass us beneath the wings of your immaterial glory, and faithfully preserve us who fall down and cry to you:”Deliver us from all harm, for you are the commanders of the powers on high!”
Kontakion – Tone 2
Commanders of God’s armies and ministers of the divine glory,princes of the bodiless angels and guides of mankind,
ask for what is good for us, and for great mercy,
supreme commanders of the Bodiless Hosts.