FROM THE ARCHIVES
By Tom Peterson
©2001 by Thomas H. Peterson
In past treatises, we’ve reflected much upon the saintly actions of humans called by the Almighty to His service. This month, I’d like to discuss with you the subject of St. Michael and All Angels, whom we remember on September 29th each year. This feast is referred to in many parts of Christendom as Michaelmas.
Canon David Veal reminds us in Saints Galore (now called Calendar of Saints) that the Greek word angelos literally translates to messenger in our language. He states that God’s messengers can be visible or invisible and may assume human or non-human forms.
In the Epistle of Jude 1:9, the author refers to the time “…when the archangel Michael contended with the devil and disputed about the body of Moses…” alluding to an apocryphal tale of Michael’s concealing the location of the tomb of Moses from the devil. Michael is described in Revelation 12:7 as leading the angels in battle against the forces of Satan. The scripture concludes, “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.”
Canon Veal points out that Michael has been the patron saint of numerous churches, which include Mont-Saint-Michel off of Normandy and the modern Coventry Cathedral. Encarta Encyclopedia notes that Michael is the patron saint of the sick, grocers, soldiers and mariners as well as being the patron saint of Germany. The same source states that it is thought that September 29th was selected to commemorate Michael and all angels since it is the anniversary of the dedication of the Church of Saint Michael and All Angels on the Salarian Way in Rome in the 6th century A.D.
Encyclopaedia Britannica makes reference to the occasion when St. Francis of Assisi was engaging in a 40-day fast in preparation for the feasts of the Assumption (August 15th) and St. Michael and experienced a vision of a Seraph (see Kiefer’s scholarly discussion at http://elvis.rowan.edu/~kilroy/JEK/ of the ranks of angels developed by St. Paul) with his body affixed to a cross coming toward him. During his life ever afterward, Francis was reported to have been marked with the stigmata (the wounds in the same places on his body as those inflicted upon Jesus during the Crucifixion) which he took pains to hide from view.
I, myself, cannot report having seen one of these heavenly creatures, but I do believe that they are “out there,” in the words of a popular television show of our time. Angels are frequently mentioned in the Bible, but not always identified. Only Michael (See Daniel 10:13, 31 and 12:1; Jude 1:9 and Revelation 12:7), Gabriel (who appears in Daniel 8:16; 9:21 and, in Luke, announces the births of John the Baptist and Jesus), Uriel and Raphael are named in scripture, with the latter two being mentioned in the Apocryphal books of 4 Esdras and Tobit respectively. You will recall that Jacob saw a vision of a ladder from earth to Heaven with angels descending and ascending as he tried to sleep at a place he called Bethel. Later at a place called Peniel Jacob wrestled all night with a being, possibly another angel. He was later renamed Israel by God. You may have noticed that the letters “EL” appear in all these names. These letters represent God. Hence, the name Michael means “Who is like God”; Gabriel means “God is my champion”; Raphael means “God heals” and Uriel means “God is my light.” Similarly, Bethel is translated “God’s house”; Peniel stands for “face of God” and Israel denotes “God strives.”
So, observing Michaelmas and at all times, let’s go out there and give others in the world “EL”.