The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels (transferred) E. Bevan Stanly
October 3, 2021
Psalm 103 or 103:19-22
From the Revelation to John: War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. In the name of one, holy, and undivided Trinity. Amen.
Today is our patronal festival. Our parish is named for the archangel Michael and thus this feast of St. Michael and All Angels is our special day, and the rubrics permit us to substitutes the readings and collect of the feast for those of the Sunday.
Let’s start by defining our terms. The Greek word ἀγγἐλος (angelos) means messenger. Angels are messengers from God. Angels are not fat little babies with wings. Nor are they the souls of good human beings when they get to heaven. No human “earns their wings.” Humans and angels are entirely different orders of beings. Angels are powerful, awesome creatures of light and truth, so mighty that in the Bible people who meet them think they are about to die. Angels are sent to reveal God to us and to point us to God. In the story of Jacob’s Ladder, angels go back and forth between this world and the divine realm. Angels connect us to God. They are messengers and conduits and revealers of the divine.
Only four angels are named in the Bible: Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, and Michael. They are designated as archangels which means chief angels or lord angels. Gabriel is the announcer who comes to Mary to tell her she will be the mother of God. Raphael is the healer who heals Tobit, so many hospitals are named for him, her, or it. (Angels do not have gender, as far as we know, but we will use “he” for convenience.) Uriel is the angel of death and resurrection. Michael is the protector and warrior who makes war against cosmic evil, the evil that is depicted in the Revelation to John as a dragon or serpent.
Since Michael is our Angel, let spend some time thinking about what it means to be a community named for him. Here is what the Revelations says:
War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
The enemy is the deceiver or liar and the accuser, the one who accuses us to God. God is the creator of all reality, of things that are. The Enemy tries to convince of things that are not, that are lies and deceptions. Jesus calls Satan the father of lies. Anyone who deliberately lies or deceives is advancing Satan’s agenda. Truth-telling can be very hard, but as Jesus says, it will set us free. One kind of lie the Devil enjoys most is accusing us to God of not being good enough and whispering in our ears that we are not good enough. Whenever we feel we are not good enough or successful enough or smart enough or strong enough or thin enough, we are listening to the lies of the enemy. In God’s eyes we are always good and beautiful. Of course, we may have behaviors that could be better, but our essence is good. God made us, and God does not make junk.
If we are to take Michael as an example to us as a community, then it would seem that we are to be engaged in fighting against evil. We are to be opposed to greed, hypocrisy, falsehood, coldness of heart, and cruelty. We are called to act against greed, hypocrisy, falsehood, coldness of heart, and cruelty. When we see these things, we name them. We speak the truth about them. When we see people doing such things, we call them on it. When we see these things in ourselves, we name them in confession, we stop doing them, and we seek help to avoid continuing in habitual thoughts or actions that spring from these evils.
The Gospel reading tells of Jesus meeting Nathanael for the first time. Nathanael is amazed at how much Jesus knows about him, and says, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answers, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” Jesus is referring, of course, to the story we heard in the first reading about Jacob’s dream of a ladder reaching to heaven where “the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” The angels as messengers and Jesus as the incarnation of God both connect our world to the world of God, of the world of the divine. If we are to be taking an archangel as our example and model and if we are striving to follow Jesus as our teacher, then we are called to be connectors as well. We are to be pointing people to God. We are to be seeing and naming the myriad ways that heaven and earth are joined and connected. Indeed, we ourselves, like the ladder, should have our feet on the earth and our heads in heaven.
When Jacob awakes from his dream he says, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” A few years ago we raised and spent a lot of money repairing this building and adding four new stained glass windows. we continue to spend much time and money maintaining it. This is by far the most beautiful church in town; I think in the state. But more than its beauty, this is a holy place. Once can sense that it is a place of prayer. It is a place where people meet God. It is a place where we listen for and hear the word of God in the Scriptures. It is a place where we ingest the essence of God in the Eucharist. It is a place where we are joined to God in baptism. It is a place where we are joined together in marriage. It is a portal through which we send our loved ones on to their new life when their life here has come to an end. This a thin place, where the two realms meet and coinhere. Surely God is in this place, it is the house of God and gate of heaven. And we know it.
We are not called to be angels; we are called to imitate angels as messengers of God as pointers to God, and as warriors against all evil in ourselves, among ourselves, and in the world around us. It is interesting to me that the extraordinary window of St. Michael in the Chapel shows him in full armor with spear, but there is no serpent. Instead, he is standing on a globe that represents the world. The archangel stands as protector and guardian of the world. We are to be protectors and guardians as well.
We are the people who gather as a community under the name of St. Michael the Archangel. May we rededicate ourselves to our special charism of connecting the world to God and striving against all forms of evil, protecting this world and all we love from the lies and false accusations of the Enemy. We will be swift to love and make haste to be kind.
We will find the promise of God to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob will continue to be fulfilled, namely that all nations and peoples will be blessed in us and that God is with us always wherever we go.
And we will come to this place and invite all whom we know to this place that is the house of God and gate of heaven. Where all can experience the presence of the divine. Where God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is worshiped and glorified always.
 Revelation 12:7-9