THERE was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. (Rev. xii. 7)
Today is the Feast of St. Michael & All Angels. It is our Patronal Feast. And, evidently, our Patron and His angelic compatriots are soldiers of war. We don’t tend to think of angels –and St. Michael is a sainted angel, as being at war at all. Because of the modern psychologizing of Christianity, Christ, His Saints, and His angels have been reduced to props in a modern melodrama of despair where God must affirm a dysfunctional creation because it has no hope beyond its own disease. Think about it, our Christ, the Saints and Angels tend to be treated as those who must make us feel good about ourselves. They come to assure us that we are ok just the way we are. They demand no change, no alteration in spirit, no transformation of heart, and certainly no conversion to the high expectations of the old Christian God. Of course, this Christ, these Saints, and Angels are actually Satan and his soldiers in disguise and the ones whom St. Michael and His Angels are chiefly bound to confront, conquer, and vanquish in our hearts and souls so that we might be made right with the real Christ.
Angels are intellectual substances. The word angel comes to us from the Greek aggelos, and it means messenger, envoy, or one who is sent. Because they are pure spirits, they have no bodies. Like everything else that God has created, they are good by nature. The canonical Scriptures tells us of two angels, Michael and Gabriel. The Apocryphal Tobit mentions Raphael. The Book of Enoch tells us of Uriel and Phanuel. An anonymous company of angels visits the Shepherds prior to Christ’s birth and another warns the Wise Men not to return to King Herod. One angel exhorts St. Joseph to take Mary and Jesus into Egyptian exile and then again to return to Galilee. Others minister to Jesus after His temptations in the wilderness. One strengthens him at His agony in the Garden. Another rolls back the stone of the sepulcher to allow for Jesus’ Resurrection. Two are present to ask the women why they seek the living among the dead. Two more rebuke the Apostles for trying to follow the Ascended Christ into Heaven when their work on earth was just about to begin. Angels liberate both Peter and Paul from their respective imprisonments. For the future, Christ promises to send angels to herald His Second Coming. An angel bids Cornelius call for St. Peter and another angel sends St. Philip on his mission to the Ethiopian Eunuch.
But we also know from Scripture that some of the angels declared war on God at the beginning of the Creation and out of pride, envy, and treachery cast off God’s light and embraced the darkness. When St. John tells us that there was war in heaven (Rev. xii. 7-9), he is speaking of the original spiritual combat that commenced at the dawn of creation when the Angels of Darkness tried to conquer the Angels of Light and to usurp God’s nature and power. That there could have been any desire to challenge God’s authority illustrates that all rational creatures have free will. Heaven is, to our minds, mostly that place where there is no struggle, strife, or division, where there is only peace, joy, and loving union with God. But St. John reminds us that this reality was the effect of a hard-won battle. Sin originated in Heaven’s presence and sought to overcome God’s rule and governance. St. Augustine tells us that Moses had a vision into the cause of sin on the First Day of Creation. And God said, Let there be light, and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: And God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. (Gen. i. 3,4) God had no sooner made the first light than it became necessary for Him to separate it out from the rebellious and contrary darkness. This was not physical light that God created since He had not yet made the sun and the moon. Augustine insists that this is the spiritual light. The good angels, then, are the created partakers of the eternal light which is the unchangeable Wisdom of God…who are created to become spiritual light and to become the first Day of God’s new creation. (D.C.D. xi. 9) God divided the light from a darkness that the bad angels chose to become. The darkness is the bad angels’ willful rejection of the eternal Light of God that informs the life of the good angels. Because the good angels live in the Light of God, they are commissioned to be the created light of God’s first spiritual Day. The bad angels are called the darkness and so are banished from Heaven into the spiritual Night of everlasting darkness. (D.C.D. xi, xii)
So from the very beginning of their creation, angels have been involved in a spiritual war. The better part become God’s messengers and warriors of light; the contrary part become God’s enemies and the carriers of darkness. Satan and his friends’ sin were full of pride and envy. St. John tells us that the bad angels envied God’s wisdom, power, and love. Not content to be those who were made to receive and reflect the Light of God’s truth, beauty, and goodness, the bad angels rather wanted to be God. Unable to rejoice in the gift of God’s goodness, they belligerently war against the need to embrace its truth, beauty, and goodness with a humble and submissive heart. Their intent is to prevent others from discovering God’s loving determination to create and redeem all creation.
Against them stands Michael and the Good Angels who never cease to surrender themselves to the Divine Fatherhood with all gratitude, humility, and obedience. Michael and the Good Angels are forever inspired and moved by God’s desire to make and to redeem. They are over-awed by the beauty of God’s Wisdom, the Power of His Grace, the Love of His heart. The Love that they embrace is the Light that fortifies them against Lucifer and his friends and protects those who would be faithful to God.
So today we honor and venerate our Patron Saint Michael and All Angels. Michael is the chief of all the angels. The name Michael means he who is like God. The Greek Church refers to him as Archistrategos or God’s Chief Angel. We honor St. Michael and All Angels not merely because of his past victory. The parable of Michael’s victory has real meaning for us today. For, as we know, there is always war in Heaven. Of course, it may not be readily apparent to earthly clods whose spiritual senses are dulled by sentient saturation. Far from fighting off demons in order to cleave to God’s will, our world seems superficially sunk in slavery to them! Truth is relative, it grunts and groans. The human body and its carnal cravings are all that there is to human perfection. Hope for any psychic and spiritual healing is mostly unbeknownst to our society since most men don’t ever get around to discovering that they have souls in the first place. The Devil says that looking for the root causes of sadness, despair, depression, anxiety, and sloth might threaten immanent unnecessary and uncomfortable warfare. The Devil wants us to believe that all of life is genetically predetermined. The Devil desires to destroy any confidence we might have in reason and free will. The Devil promises us a peace and comfort that need not involve either of them. The Devil wants to enforce conformity to sameness in idiocy, irrationality, and imbecility. Differences are evil. The Devil knows that the pursuit of higher ends lifts you above the mundane, mediocre, and moronic mass of most men!
Thus, we are encouraged by Satan to trust that there is hope for betterment and perfection. Although, curiously enough, his spiritual conclusions will not lead to any unity in the end but chaos, anarchy, and real warfare. Satan knows this and loves to surprise people with the effects of their stupidity. Against all of this, angels are Christ’s ministering spirits and they long to assist us in our battle against all demons who divide us from God and one another. They long to carry purification, illumination, and unification to us. (Hier. Coel. ix. 2, op. cit. Danielou; The Angels and Their Mission) From Jesus, they carry the Heavenly power to purify our souls, illuminate our minds, and unite us with God and neighbor in love. The good angels long to couple us in lasting communion with God; the bad angels yearn to divide, disjoin, and dissever us from God and one another.
Let us remember that there is always war in heaven. Nothing that is good and true can be won or retained without a struggle. The good must always hold their heritage at the price of ceaseless vigilance. He who would attain and keep truth and prove himself faithful to it must be prepared to engage in constant battle…Every attempt to make earth more in harmony with heaven will be challenged. (The Christian Year in the Church Times, p. 274) Michael and his Angels are fighting constantly for the victory of right over wrong, good over evil, and light over darkness Their battle extends from Heaven’s throne to our earthly abyss. Their vocation or calling is to lift us up into the realm of God’s truth, beauty, and goodness. They long to situate us in that Light from which emanates the truth that reveals who we are and what we need from our God.
Today, my friends, let us remember that we stand at the gates of heaven. There was war in heaven. (Idem) May good St. Michael and All Angels alert us to the devil and his temptations. May they bring us vigilance, acuity, and alert. May they strengthen us with Christ’s might in the inner man so that we might obey and serve God alone. May they equip us with self-mastery and help us to courageously confront and fight evil with God’s goodness in the warfare of a lifetime. May they stir in us watching and waiting with circumspection as we learn to embrace the courage that joins in Christ’s final and ultimate victory over Satan and His Sin. With the poet, let us wonder:
|Is there care in heaven?…Is there love|
|In heavenly spirits to these creatures base,|
|That may compassion of their evils move?|
|There is:—else much more wretched were the case|
|Of men than beasts: but O the exceeding grace||5|
|Of Highest God! that loves his creatures so,|
|And all his workes with mercy doth embrace,|
|That blessèd angels he sends to and fro,|
|To serve to wicked man, to serve his wicked foe!
(E. Spenser: F.Q. ii. 8)