By Scott Baker
I am writing on the eve of Michaelmas. A liturgical feast day not often celebrated in this country. However, in England and other parts of the world it is somewhat more prominent. In fact, in many English schools the fall school semester is referred to as the Michaelmas term and the spring semester is referred to as the Easter term. The official liturgical name for Sept. 29 is The Feast of St. Michael and all Angels. It is the day the church celebrates the many ways God watches over us both directly and indirectly.
Michael is probably best known as the opponent of Lucifer in the book of Revelation. Michael is the captain of the heavenly armies and it is his force that will meet with Satan’s at Armageddon. All too often I am surprised by well-educated Christians who think the opposite of God is Satan. When, in fact, the Bible tells us that not only is there no opposite of God, but that the opposite of Satan is not God, but rather, Michael the Archangel. Which, when you think about it, is fitting that the opposite of an Archangel would be a fallen Archangel (Lucifer).
Angel, in Greek, simply means “messenger.” These messengers from God occur throughout the Bible. From the one standing at the entrance of the garden of Eden with a flaming sword preventing Adam and Eve’s return to the garden, to Gabriel and his task of announcing to the ever-blessed virgin Mary that she will be the bearer of Emmanuel, God’s savior. Peppered throughout holy Scriptures these messengers of God bear God’s saving word and his command to his people. Sometimes, they even show up to help as they did for Jesus in the wilderness after his 40-day fast. Although God’s messengers pop up all through the Bible, we have the names of just four, who we call the Archangels of God. Michael, of course, who we commemorate on Sept. 29, and whose name means “Who is like God?” And there’s the memorable Gabriel, whose name means “God is my champion,” and his role he played in the birth of Christ.
Yet there are two others, albeit, not as well-known because they appear only in the Apocrypha (the 16 books of the Bible that were written in the inter-testimonial period and are included in the Catholic bible): Raphael, whose name means “God heals” has a role in the book of Tobit; and Uriel, whose name means “God is my light,” and appears in 4 Esdras. Outside of that, all we know is that Jesus refers to 12 legions of angels at the time of his arrest. Just to give us a point of reference, a legion in the Roman army was a unit of 3,000 to 6,000 men. Needless to say, heaven must be packed with God’s Messenger Corps.
I don’t know about you, but as we round the bend toward the end of 2020, I feel I could use as much celestial guidance and help as possible. It doesn’t have to come in the form of one of the archangels, I’d settle for a lowly private from the Messenger Corps. From my perspective, we are certainly going to need help, and a lot of it.
So, on the feast of Michaelmas may the prayer appointed for the day come true, “Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
THE REV. SCOTT BAKER is the pastor of Emmanuel Episcopal Church. Contact him at 757-562-4542.