For many centuries, this date—September 29—has been associated with Saint Michael the Archangel. And in the new calendar, the Church has grouped with him the Archangels Gabriel and Raphael so that we celebrate today all the archangels whose names we know from Scripture. This is one of the only two feasts in the Church calendar celebrated in honor of angels. The other one will occur next [Friday] when we celebrate our own Guardian Angels.
Let us review what we know about the various “choirs” of angels, as they are called. All of this comes from the Bible, since we don’t have any direct and personal experience of the angels. We know that they exist; Sacred Scripture is full of allusions to angels and what they do.
We know that they are persons, that is, individuals with intelligence and free will but who, nonetheless, do not have material bodies as we do. We know that God makes use of them in his government of the universe. We know that at the time of their creation, before the creation of man, some of the angels obeyed and were faithful to God; others, out of pride, disobeyed him and became what we call devils or demons. So the angelic world is divided into the good and the bad angels; the former help us in our quest for sanctity and salvation; the latter do what they can to alienate us from God and lead us to sin and our own destruction, as they have destroyed their own happiness by sin.
Scripture mentions nine “choirs” or groups of angels. They are called Angels, Archangels, Seraphim, Cherubim, Dominations, Thrones, Principalities, Powers, and Virtues. They are superior to human beings in that they are not joined to matter as we are. They are not born, nor do they get sick, nor die. God creates them by a simple act of his creative will, and they will live forever either in heaven or in hell. They understand more clearly, know more profoundly, and those who love, love more ardently than we do. Despite that, when the Word of God — the second Person of the Blessed Trinity — wished to become a part of his own creation, he did not become an angel, but a man, thus conferring upon our human race the enormous honor of having him as our human and divine brother.
On [Friday] we will focus our attention through the sacred liturgy upon our own guardian angels — those heavenly persons who are assigned to us to protect and assist us in our journey through this life into eternal life, our destiny.
Down through the centuries of Jewish and Christian history, Saint Michael the archangel has been popular. Think of all the Michaels and Michels and Miguels, the many churches and chapels and monasteries and shrines dedicated to Saint Michael. The name Michael, by the way, is a Hebrew one meaning “Who is like God?” The implication is that NO ONE is like God; God is totally unique.
Back in the early days of the Church in England, this feast was called Michaelmas and was the beginning of the school year among the medieval universities and seminaries. One of the most famous and striking of all medieval monasteries is Mont Saint-Michel (Mount Saint Michael), the beautiful grouping of buildings crowning a hill which rises out of the sea on the French coast between Normandy and Brittany. So Saint Michael and his fellow archangels occupy a very important place in the spiritual life of the Church. They are powerful friends of ours in the great body of holy ones we call “the Communion of Saints.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God Bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.