Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Michaelmas Feast

Do you believe in angels?

The idea of angels is popular today. It seems many people who don't have much faith in God are comforted by trust in guardian angels, often of a rather domesticated sentimental variety. I wonder if worship of angels has replace worship of God for some?

Today is Michaelmas - the Feast of Michael and All Angels - a feast so popular in England in past times that when other feasts of angels were removed from the Church of England calendar during the Reformation period, Cranmer retained the Feast of Michael and All Angels which falls on 29 September every year. It comes around the turning of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, the end of harvest time when hours of daylight are becoming shorter, autumn is here and winter approaches. It's a good time for a feast.

One reason to keep this feast is its reminder that we humans are not necessarily 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. 

When angels are mentioned in the Bible it is often as God's messengers, who deliver God's message. In St John's visions in the book of Revelation angels and archangels are pictured as created heavenly beings who serve and praise God. If I were to meet one in heavenly form today I think I would be terrified. I think though that I have met angels in disguise - often.

The figure of the Archangel Michael in Revelation is described as serving God by leading a heavenly army in the struggle between good and evil, culminating in Michael and his angels ejecting the Devil from heaven:
"And 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."
Revelation 12: 2-9 NRSV

I read this as a metaphor for the cosmic struggle between good and evil which we see going on in the world and experience in our own hearts. It recognizes the reality of the power of evil. It also rejoices in the power of God to bring good where there is evil, hope where there is despair, love where there is fear and peace where there is war.
Everlasting God,
you have ordained and constituted the ministries
of angels and mortals in a wonderful order;
grant that as your holy angels
always serve you in heaven,
so, at your command,
they may help and defend us on earth;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. 
Amen.

Collect for Michael and All Angels





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