Monday 29 September 2008

Michaelmas: the Feast of St Michael the Archangel

Michaelmas is the Feast Day of St Michael the Archangel, the Captain and leader of all the Angel hosts.

There are 7 Archangels in all, but only the three mentioned in Sacred Scripture are commemorated liturgically; St Gabriel's Feast is on 24 March, and St Raphael's Feast is on 24 October (the Guardian Angels are remembered on 2 October). The other archangels, whom we know from the Book of Enoch, are Uriel, Raguel, Sariel, and Jeramiel.

The name of St Michael the Archangel, in Hebrew, means, "Who is Like God" or Quis ut Deus, in Latin.

The Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, written in 1275, says this of him:

"For like as Daniel witnesseth, he shall arise and address in the time of Antichrist against him, and shall stand as a defender and keeper for them that be chosen. [Daniel 10:12-13]

He also fought with the dragon and his angels, and casting them out of heaven, had a great victory. [Apocalypse 12:7-9]

He also had a great plea and altercation with the devil for the body of Moses, because he would not show it; for the children of Israel should have adored and worshipped it. [Jude 1]

He received the souls of saints and brought them into the paradise of exultation and joy.

He was prince of the synagogue of the Jews, but now he is established of our Lord, prince of the church of Jesu Christ.

And as it is said, he made the plagues of Egypt, he departed and divided the Red Sea, he led the people of Israel by the desert and set them in the land of promission, he is had among the company of holy angels as bannerer. And bearing the sign of our Lord, he shall slay by the commandment of God, right puissantly, Antichrist that shall be in the Mount of Olivet. And dead men shall arise at the voice of this same archangel. And he shall show at the day of judgment the Cross, the spear, the nails and the crown of thorns of Jesu Christ.

As to the final victory of St Michael over Antichrist, it continues:

The fourth victory is that the archangel Michael shall have of Antichrist when he shall slay him. Then Michael, the great prince, shall arise, as it is said Danielis xii.: “He shall arise for them that be chosen as a helper and a protector, and shall strongly stand against Antichrist”. And after, as the Gloss saith: “Antichrist shall feign him to be dead, and shall hide him three days,” and after, he shall appear saying that he is risen from death to life, and the devils shall bear him by art magic, and shall mount up into the air, and all the people shall marvel and worship him. And at the last he shall mount up on the Mount of Olivet, and when he shall be in a pavilion, in his siege [seat - ed], entered into that place where our Lord ascended, Michael shall come and shall slay him. Of which victory is understood, after St. Gregory, that which is said in the Apocalypse, the battle is made in heaven.

This word of the treble battle in heaven is expounded of the battle that he had with Lucifer when he expulsed him out of heaven, and of the battle that he had with the devils that torment us.”

There is a great devotion to St Michael in the Eastern Church.

St. Michael is the great warrior against Satan, and ought to be invoked in times of temptation, particularly by use of the famous Prayer to St. Michael:

SANCTE MICHAELE ARCHANGELE, defende nos in proelio, contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium. Imperit illi Deus, supplices deprecamur: tuque princeps militiae caelestis, Satanam aliosque spritus malignos, qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo, divina virtute in infernum detrude. Amen

"ST MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL, defend us in battle; be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast down into Hell, Satan, and all the other evil spirits, who wander throughout the world, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen".

This great champion of Israel has made many important appearances throughout the years. In A.D. 590, during the reign of Pope Gregory, a great pestilence swept through Rome. During a procession and litanies led by the Holy Father there, St. Michael appeared over the Castel Sant'Angelo - a building which was formerly Hadrian's tomb, but which was converted to papal use, connected to the Vatican by a long tunnel.

A statue of St. Michael sits atop the Castle to this day.

Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome

Mont St. Michel was built off the coast of Normandy, France, in honour of St. Michael and stands gloriously, to this day. Pious tradition tells us that St Michael appeared there in 708 to St. Aubert, Bishop of Avranches.

Mount St Michael lies of the coast of Cornwall and is a smaller version of Mont St Michel.

St Michael also appeared, together with Sts Margaret and Catherine, to St Joan of Arc (d.1431) when she was thirteen years old, encouraging her to assist King Charles VII of France to defeat the English who were usurping part of the Kingdom of France. When she was later put on trial for sorcery by the Burgundians (who were allies of the English), she told her judges, “I saw them with these very eyes, as well as I see you”.

St. Michael is usually depicted in Roman armour as a Roman knight-at-arms with spear, slaying the Devil. He is patron of knights and soldiers, for the sick, and for a holy death.

His feast day gives the name to the season of Michaelmas (St Michael’s Mass) which is a season of the year starting on his Feast Day. It is still used in the Law as the name of a Law Term, the Autumn term.

The Michaelmas Daisy is named so because it blooms at this time of the year. Geese used to be plentiful at this time, too, as the hunting season started at this time and so they were often eaten – hence the name “Michaelmas goose”.

Michaelhouse at Cambridge University was once a great College and St John Fisher was once its head and made it famous for learning. Part of the old buildings are now a cafe and church centre attached to the Anglican Church of Great St Marys.

St Michael the Archangel, pray for us in the day of battle!


1 comment:

Julie said...

You have a wonderful blog.