In the Christian Calendar this is the Feast of Michael and All Angels - hence 'Michaelmas'. This is the only feast dedicated to angels that the Church of England did not discard at the reformation. One reason to keep this feast is its reminder that we humans are not the top of beings created by God. Come to think of it, given how flawed we are, surely God must have created something better? Something more awe-inspiring and powerful like angels and archangels? It is interesting that a tradition of angels is strong in Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Yes, all 3 mono-theistic religions come from the same root, but belief in angels whether literal or as symbolic myth is widespread beyond those faiths.
As I wrote in Michael and All Angels I am a bit tongue-tied when speaking of angels. They have not previously featured strongly in my theology. I may be changing, partly thanks to Jane Williams' book 'Angels' (Lion Books 2006). I think previously I have been put off by the twee little china guardian angels that are popular with some people. They couldn't say boo to a goose, never mind hurl a Satanic being out of heaven.
And speaking of goose - no, we will not be eating one today although that's traditional on Michaelmas day. I haven't made a Struan Michael loaf either. We'll eat bean soup instead because of our massive bean harvest. A better way to observe today could be to pray in the confidence that no-one who prays is ever alone. My prayer is feeble but in the great company of all the saints and with angels and archangels, who knows what great things prayer can do today? (See Michalemas: praying with angels and archangels.)
As so often, when I cannot find a way to express what I feel about special days in the Christian calendar I find inspiration in poetry. For today I turn to the contemporary Christian poet, Malcolm Guite. His sonnet 'Michaelmas' from his collection Sounding the Seasons is published and can be listened to through his blog post here. It weaves together themes of the changing season, the cosmic battle between good and evil which Archangel Michael represents and prayer to be set free from darkness and 'the tyrannies of Hell'. Here is the sonnet in full:
Michaelmas gales assail the waning year,
And Michael’s scale is true, his blade is bright.
He strips dead leaves; and leaves the living clear
To flourish in the touch and reach of light.
Archangel bring your balance, help me turn
Upon this turning world with you and dance
In the Great Dance. Draw near, help me discern,
And trace the hidden grace in change and chance.
Angel of fire, Love’s fierce radiance,
Drive through the deep until the steep waves part,
Undo the dragon’s sinuous influence
And pierce the clotted darkness in my heart.
Unchain the child you find there, break the spell
And overthrow the tyrannies of Hell.
Image Credit Michaelmas Daisy: Flickr: Creative Commons License
Image Credit: St Michael's Statue: Wikimedia Commons