Today the Holy Church celebrates a special feast, not only in the reverence of the Archangel Michael, but in honor of all the holy angels, and the Mass and the office are directed to honor with special solemnity all those blessed spirits who are so interested in our salvation . His holiness, his excellency, the good offices he did with all men, with all the universe, and in particular with the holy Church, demanded this respectful recognition of justice; and although this feast is only called St. Michael, it is because this blessed spirit was always recognized by all the celestial militia and particular protector of the Church of Jesus Christ, just as it had been in the Synagogue [in the Old Testament]. The Church teaches us that God gave beginning to the creation of the world by creating before all things heavenly intelligences, as to form itself a numerous court, and to have ministers ready to execute their orders. We believe (says the Fourth Lateran Council) firmly that there is but one true God; who in the beginning of time drew together from nothing a creature, the spiritual and the corporeal, the angelic and the mundane; and then formed as an average nature between the two, which was human nature composed of body and soul (Denzinger 428). That is, angels are created, intelligent and purely spiritual substances, not intended to be united with bodies, of which they have complete independence. They are endowed with gifts more or less perfect, according to their different degrees of perfection and excellence. God having determined from eternity not to give heaven or angels or men, but as a crown and reward, created the heavenly spirits with full knowledge of good and evil, and with perfect freedom. A growing number of them, seeing themselves so perfect, and vanished with their own excellence, instead of referring to their Creator all that was good and excellent, they pleased themselves; and filled with pride, denied obedience to God, so that they were plunged into the depths to be unhappy for all eternity. But the other holy angels persevered in good, always faithful to their Creator, humble, surrendered and obedient to his orders, so they were confirmed in his grace. Forever eternally in heavenly Jerusalem, they are always before the same God, they see him, worship him, bless him, and never cease to love him with a perfect and ardent love. They are the ministers of God always ready to obey them, and from them God serves to execute his orders concerning all creatures, but especially men. The angels are the ones who present our prayers to the Lord, and the Lord uses them to communicate his will to men, and to work great wonders for them on extraordinary occasions, God having destined them for guards and protectors of all Church and each individual faithful. The angel of the Lord (says the prophet) will always surround the righteous, and will cover them from all danger (Psalm 33).
In all parts of the Old and New Testament there is talk of these blessed spirits, their functions and ministries. Three angels appeared to Abraham, and they announced the birth of a son (Genesis 12). The angel Raphael accompanied the young Tobias (Tobias 5). The angel Gabriel instructed Daniel in what was to happen, and told him the time when the Messiah was to be born (Daniel 5). The same angel predicted to Zacharias the birth of St. John, and announced to the Blessed Virgin the incarnation of the Word in his bowels, greeting her full of grace and Mother of the Redeemer. The angels announced to the shepherds the birth of the Savior of the world. They served Christ in the wilderness, and comforted Him in the garden of Olives; they announced their resurrection, and after their ascent to the heavens they foretold their second coming as judge.
We know, says St. Gregory, that the angels are divided into three hierarchies, and each hierarchy in three choirs or three orders. The first hierarchy is of the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones: the second of the Dominations, Virtues and Powers; and the third of the Principates, Archangels and Angels. Seraphim are those who are more inflamed than the others in the fire of divine love. The Cherubim are more enlightened than the others, who communicate what they understand and what they know. Scripture tells us that, after God had cast Adam and Eve out of the earthly paradise, He put a Cherubim with a sword of fire at the door, so that no one would ever enter the tree of life again. The Thrones are spirits that serve as throne to the Majesty of God. Virtues are those that excel in forces to perform portentous effects. The Powers are spirits that contain the power and malignity of the demons; they preside over the inferior and second causes, hindering that the contrary qualities ruin the economy of the universe. They are given this name (says St. Gregory) because they are the ones who show us the power of God. Dominations are those spirits who rule over men, and dominate the lower angels. The Principates are those who have particular power to guard and defend the kingdoms. Although the name of Angel is common to all those celestial spirits, but is attributed particularly to those that compose the eighth and ninth choir of all its hierarchy.
The word angel means the same thing as sent; but between the Angels and the Archangels there is the difference that angels are those spirits that God sends for common and ordinary things; more the Archangels, as of a higher order than the angels, are sent for extraordinary and most important business. To this class belong the angels Gabriel, Rafael and Miguel. All things (says the Apostle Paul) were made in Jesus Christ, those of heaven and those of earth, the visible and the invisible; the Thrones, Dominations, and Principalities were all created in Him and by Him (Colossians 1). It is rare for the prophet not to speak about the Cherubim and the Seraphim, says St. Gregory: You, who are seated, and are led on the wings of the Cherubim (David says). The Seraphs were about the throne (Isaiah says), and cried one to another, saying, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of hosts. Almost every page speaks of the Angels and the Archangels, says St. Gregory; and if to these eight choirs of angels you add that of the Thrones, of which St. Paul speaks when writing to the Ephesians, you will find that there are nine choirs of angels: Proculdubio novem esse Angelorum ordines inveniuntur.
There was, therefore, nothing more convenient than to decree a particular feast in honor of those heavenly spirits, who from the first moment after their creation are favored by the Most High, compose their court in heaven, and do not cease to make men more important services; always jealous of our salvation, always attentive to everything that can lead us to this life and to the other. The Church instituted a special feast in the reverence of the holy angels of the guard on October 2: it seemed only fitting that another particular should be instituted in honor of all the other angels, and this is the one celebrated on September 29. There are few saints whose worship, it seems, is older than that of the holy angels, especially that of St. Michael. This cult came to be excessive, and to degenerate into a kind of idolatry from the beginning of the Church. The heresiarch Cerinthus, as well as Simon Magus, according to the testimony of Tertullian, St. Epiphanius and Theodoret, said that the worship and veneration of the angels was an absolutely necessary degree to raise us to God, without whose scale would the Lord be inaccessible to US; being on the other hand as a just recognition due to the law that was communicated to the people of Israel by the ministry of an angel, to which the heresiarch wanted to hold us. No more blasphemy could be invented against Jesus Christ, our only true mediator for his Father, and the divine deliverer who exempted us from the Old Law. Against this pernicious doctrine St. Paul wrote to the Colossians, preventing them from letting themselves be deceived by the appearances of a false virtue, subjecting themselves to a superstitious cult of angels, and diverting themselves from that of Jesus Christ, the one and only mediator of angels and men with God, his eternal Father: Nemo vos seducat, volens in humanitate, et religione angelorum, etc. The henchmen of Cerinthus, who, according to Theodoret, were scattered throughout the provinces of Phrygia and Pisidia, had erected in them some temples to San Miguel, in which they paid him a cult that became idolatry. Exterminated after these heretics, the Catholics who from the time of the great Constantine ruined the temples of the false gods, conserved those who were dedicated to the archangel San Miguel, being very religious the cult of the angels, being content to purge them of the heretical superstitions.
We have in the Church but three angels known by particular names: St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael; to show us, says St. Gregory, by the three particular names the special virtue and the character of each one. Michael, says the same Saint, means Who is like God? Were you God? Gabriel means strength of God: Gabriel autem fortitudo Dei; and Raphael means medicine of God: Raphael vero dicitur medicine Dei. Among all the angelic spirits St. Michael was always recognized as the head of all the heavenly militia, to whom the faithful should adore more religiously, professing a more particular devotion for many reasons. In chapter 10 of the prophet Daniel Michael is called the first among all the chief leaders. No one attends to me in all these things except Michael, who is your Prince, said the Angel [Gabriel] who spoke with the Prophet; and the Angel himself, speaking of what was to happen at the end of the world. Then it will be seen (said) to the great prince Miguel that takes the defense of the children of your town.
Michael means Who As God?
But long before the prophet Daniel was already Saint Michael known to men, as we see in the epistle of St. Jude on account of the victory he got from the devil. When Moses, who was a great workman of so many wonders, died, the devil knew well that the people of Israel, so naturally inclined to idolatry, remembering as many prodigies as he had seen him, would not cease to worship divine bodies. he an idol; and with this depraved end he intended to move the Israelites to a magnificent mausoleum. But St. Michael hindered him as a protector of the same people, and arranged things so that the Israelites never came to discover the body of Moses.
In the Apocalypse of St. John there is mention of another battle between St. Michael and the rebellious angels. There was a great battle in heaven (says); Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, that is, against Lucifer: the dragon with his own fought against him; but these were defeated, and since then they have not reappeared in the sky. This great dragon, this ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world was precipitated in the underworld with all his angels.
Many believe that it was also St. Michael that Angel who appeared to Joshua after he crossed the Jordan, representing him as a figure of an armed hero, and offering to help him to conquer and hold the Canaanites. Are you of our own, or of the enemies? Asked Joshua. No, "replied the Angel," I am the prince of the armies of the Lord. They also want some who were the archangel Michael that Angel who appeared to Gideon to move him to free the people of Israel from the servitude of the Midianites. Nor are there any who think that this blessed spirit was that which represented the majesty of God, as in the burning bush, as in Mount Sinai. What does not admit of doubt is that Saint Michael has always been venerated as a special protector of the holy Church; mindful that after the ascension of Christ to the heavens we have no authentic appearance of St. Gabriel or of St. Raphael, although we have many and many parts of the glorious St. Michael, who has appeared to the faithful in shows of its particular protection to the universal Church. Depranio Floro, a Christian poet, speaks of an apparition of St. Michael in Rome. The one of Mount Gárgano, province of the Pulla, in the time of Pope Gelasio I, by the years of 493, is the most famous one; and the Church wanted to consecrate her memory for a special feast on May 8: Boniface III erected in Rome a church in honor of St. Michael on the eminence of the mole or the tomb of Hadrian, which for this reason is called Monte, and today the castle of Saint Angel. It is also Saint Michael protector of France in particular. There is in that kingdom a famous monastery called Monte San Miguel, erected in the middle of the sea on an islet or rock, in consequence of another similar appearance that made San Miguel to San Auberto, bishop of Avranches, the year of 709. To recognize and to to merit more and more this ancient protection, in 1496 Louis II instituted in Amboisa the military order of St. Michael, whose great master is the same king; and ordered that the knights should always wear a necklace of gold made of conchites linked to each other, hanging from their necks, and hanging from it a medal of the archangel Saint Michael, former protector of the kingdom of France.
But what should stir more and more light the devotion of the faithful to the glorious Saint Michael is to be destined to lead the souls and present them to the terrible court of God to be judged when leaving this life. Nothing interests us more than to achieve by special protector with the sovereign Judge to which can call its prime minister; to whom it is in charge of presenting ourselves to the Lord at that decisive moment of our eternal fate, and the one in whose hands, so to speak, surrender the soul with the last breath. This is, says the Church in the office of the day, this is the archangel Michael: Princeps militiate angelorum, prince of the militia of the angels. The honors paid to him deserve a thousand blessings to the peoples, and his intercession leads us to the kingdom of heaven: Cujus honor praestat benefits poipulorum, et oratio perducit ad regna caelorum. To Saint Michael (added the same Church) God commissioned the souls of his chosen ones to lead them to the abode of the blessed: Cui tradidit Deus animás sanctorum, ut perducat eas in regna caelorum. In that time of trial and calamity, said the Angel who announced to Daniel what was to happen in the ages to come, Michael, protector of your people and of all the faithful, will be seen to defend them against the enemy of salvation. In tempore illo consurget Michael, qui stat pro filiis vestris. The archangel Michael (saith the Holy Scripture) came to the rescue of the people of God, and never fails to help and protect the righteous: Michael archangelus venit in adjutorium populo Dei; stetit auxilium pro animabus justis. It is not surprising, therefore, whether a special veneration and devotion in the Church to the Archangel Michael has been professed at all times.
In the fourth century, or at least at the beginning of the fifth century, there were two leagues from Constantinople a famous and magnificent church, called Michalion, or the temple of St. Michael, because God worked in it miraculous healings through the intercession of St. Michael. He speaks of her as the one who experienced in himself the wonderful effects of his power with God. If angels are our intercessors (St. Ambrose says), if they are our advocates and our lawyers, we must honor them, invoke them, and direct our prayers so that they do not deny us their protection: Sed et illi, si custodiunt, vestris custodiunt orationibus advocati. In the canon of the Mass and in the liturgies mention is made of the holy angels; and the Litanies, which are like a summary of public prayers, begin by the angels after the Blessed Virgin. Thus, it is true in a certain sense that, in the same way as the general feast of the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Sacrament, and all Saints was celebrated before private parties were instituted, in the same way the general feast of all the angels was celebrated in the liturgies and in the Churches before a particular day was fixed for its solemnity. And as this feast was instituted on the occasion of the apparitions of St. Michael, particularly that of Mount Gargano, where a kind of vault was found in a figure of a church open on a rock, and St. Michael himself hinted that it would please him which was dedicated to him, that is why he always kept the title of Dedication the feast that was instituted today in occasion of these apparitions and of these temples in honor to St. Michael.
Purposes: It is to be admired that, having so much need of the protection of the holy angels, we should have so little devotion to them; and that, knowing the important services they can do to us, let us take care so little or nothing of deserving their benevolence, of putting them at the side of our interests. Have your whole devotion deeply in your heart, and give every day a religious cult to these heavenly intelligences. Let no day pass without a prayer. St. Francis Xavier, an apostle of the Indies, said nine times the Glory of the Father, in the reverence of the holy angels. Take this devotion. It honors St. Michael as a special protector of the whole Church, and as the head of the heavenly militia, who is to receive your soul when you leave the body, and present it to the court of God to be judged. Give him a special prayer, asking him for all his protection for that decisive moment of our eternal fate.
Other images of St. Michael Archangel
Archangel St. Michael and the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe
St. Michael, Heavenly Prince
St. Michael Archangel defend us in battle
Lea este artículo en Español: La Fiesta de San Miguel Arcángel (29 de Septiembre)