Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Synaxis of the Archangel Michael and All Angelic Powers


Today, as in every November since the fourth century, the Eastern Church honors all Angelic Powers, six-winged Seraphim, many-eyed Cherubim, God-bearing Thrones, Dominions, Powers, Virtues, Principalities, Archangels, and Angels. She honors the seven Archangels. The first three are known from Holy Scripture as Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. Many of the Fathers give Uriel as the name of the fourth. There are various traditions about the names of the last three. Foremost among the angels and the leader of all heavenly hosts is St. Michael the Archangel.

In the film Gangs of New York, Priest Vallon points to the medallion around his son’s neck and says,
“Now son, who's that?”
“St. Michael.”
“Who is it?”
“St. Michael!”
“And what did he do?”
“He cast Satan out of Paradise.”
“Good boy.”

Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it (Revelation 12: 7-9).
The name Michael means, “Who is like unto God?” The name well signifies who Michael is. Satan claimed equality with God – “Michael” is Satan’s expulsion from heaven.

Western images of St. Michael often show him in furious combat with Satan, sometimes depicted as an enormous dragon (Rev. 12: 9), or sometimes as a horned, muscular, bat-winged man. Some examples of the latter:

Though defeated, Satan, in these images, appears well-matched to engage Michael in combat. In that central image - I can't say for sure - but it sure looks like Michael is running away to me.

I believe the truth is closer to this:


There - do you see him? that speck at the end of Michael's spear? - that is Satan. The petty black demon is utterly vanquished - not by Michael's might in battle, but by his mere presence.

Angels are spiritual beings; their way of battle is spiritual. St. Augustine says, “‘Angel’ is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is ‘spirit.’”

Michael’s spiritual stillness, his singleness of heart, his oneness of vision – “always beholding the face of our Father who is in heaven” (c.f. Mat. 18: 10) triumphs over the frantic, grasping, envious, and vain energy of the morning star - Lucifer.

Once, Lucifer was the most brilliant of all Angels. Then he said in his heart: “I will scale the heavens; Above the stars of God I will set up my throne…. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will be like the Most High!” (Isaiah 14: 13, 14)*

The Lord’s rebuke is to make Man like the Most High. The Logos became Man to make us “partakers of the divine nature” (1 Pet. 1: 4; c.f. CCC 460). This Man, Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, says, “I saw Satan fall like lightning” (Luke 10: 18). And it was Michael who cast him down.

Brilliance is nothing to humility. The egocentric is nothing to the theocentric. Who can compare to God? “Lucifer” is nothing to “Michael.”

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*The Church Fathers teach us that Isaiah’s taunt-song against the king of Babylon, from which this is excerpted, also, mystically, refers to Satan.

1 comment:

pepita said...

hello! I was hoping you could give me information on the year, name or location of that wonderful depiction of Michael slaying the tiny demon

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