Today, September 29, is the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels. With every liturgy we celebrate we “[join] our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven,” who are forever proclaiming the glory of God’s Name. The liturgy here on earth becomes one with the heavenly liturgy. The voices of Angels, Archangels, the saints, loved ones who have died, and we who live on earth become one in the divine liturgy.
The Book of Common Prayer’s collect for today reminds us:
- Angels are of the created order;
- Angels are always serving and worshiping God in heaven; and
- God appoints angels to help and defend us here on earth.
The Church Fathers’ teaching about the angels is significant. For them the angelic order is not a sweet picture to be hung on the wall. It is not about sentimentality. The angelic order are messengers, warriors, defenders, ministers and intermediaries for God. The following quotations are taken from Jean Danielou’s The Angels and their Mission According to the Fathers of the Church:
- Speaking about the ascension, St. John Chrysostom writes, “Today the angels have obtained what they were always waiting for; today the archangels have received what they ardently desired. They have seen our nature upon its royal throne, shining with immortal glory and beauty. Even though it has the honor of being exalted above them, they rejoice at our good, just as they suffered when we were deprived of it.” (p.44-45).
- Methodius of Philippi borrowing ideas from Athenagoras said,” For this was the condition of the angels: they had been established by God to watch over the realities governed by Him, in such a way that it was God who watched over the whole of the universe by His providence, Himself holding all things within His power and directing the world infallibly, like a ship, through the rudder of His wisdom, and certain of the angels were set up to watch of the each individual part of the universe.” (p. 46).
- Hippolytus compares the Church to a ship and angels to sailors. He writes, “The Church also has its sailors, on port and on starboard – that is, the holy angels who help her; she is always watched over and defended by them.” (56).
- Concerning the Christian assembly, Origen says, “When the saints are assembled together, there is a twofold Church present, that of men and that of angels.” (62).
- Regarding the Eucharist “the angels surround the priest,” writes St. John Chrysostom. “The whole sanctuary and the space before the altar is filled with the heavenly Powers come to honor Him who is present upon the altar.” (62).
- St. Basil says, “An angel is put in charge of every believer, provided we do not drive him out by sin. He guards the soul like an army.” (69).
- St. Hilary writes, “In the warfare we carry on to remain strong against the evil powers, the angels are our helpers.” (74).
- Origen taught that the angels support us in our prayers. “In the same way we must suppose that the angels who are the overseers and ministers of God are present to one who is praying in order to ask with him for what he petitions. The angel, indeed, of each one, even of the little ones in the Church, always seeing the face of the Father who is in heaven and beholding the divinity of our Creator, prays with us and cooperates with us, as fas as is possible, in what we seek.” (79).
- Speaking about the role of angels at the time of death, St. John Chrysostom writes, “If we need a guide in passing from one city to another, how much more will the soul need someone to point out the way when she breaks the bonds of flesh and passes on to the future life.” (p. 96).
Prayer to St. Michael, Archangel
Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle, be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Hosts, by the power of God, thrust down to hell Satan and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.
O Prince Most Glorious, Michael the Archangel, keep us in remembrance: here and everywhere, always entreat the Son of God for us. Amen.
Prayer to a Guardian Angel
O Holy Guardian Angel, to whose care God, in his mercy, has committed me, stand by me now and at my last hour; protect me against all the powers of darkness; defend me from all my enemies, and conduct my soul to the mansions of bliss. Amen.