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Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are the three named biblical angels, depicted as the belovèd messengers of God. Michael, which means ‘who is like God?’, is described as protector of Israel and leader of the armies of God and is perhaps best known as the slayer of the dragon in the Revelation to John. He is thus regarded as the protector of Christians from the devil, particularly those at the hour of death. A basilica near Rome was dedicated in the fifth century in honour of Michael on 30 September, beginning with celebrations on the eve of that day, and 29 September is now kept in honour of Michael and all Angels throughout the western Church.
O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
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 our Lord.
The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom has dominion over all.
Bless the Lord, you angels of his,
you mighty ones who do his bidding
and hearken to the voice of his word.
Bless the Lord, all you his hosts,
you ministers of his who do his will.
Bless the Lord, all you works of his, in all places of his dominion;
bless the Lord, O my soul.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
Reading: John 1.47-51
When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’
The final verse of today’s reading refers us back to the book of Genesis. In Genesis, chapter 28, we read of the dream that Jacob had as he was fleeing the wrath of his brother, Esau. In that dream Jacob saw a ladder with its foot on the ground and its top reaching into heaven. God’s angels were going up and down the ladder. In his dream, Jacob was standing beside the Lord himself, and he was promised that the day would come when he would be able to return to his homeland in peace and prosperity.
This recollection of the book of Genesis seems out of place, coming as it does, at the beginning of John’s gospel. Like many such short passages of scripture, it is often glossed over, but it is important and deserves some attention.
The important point about Jacob’s ladder is that it demonstrates the constant presence of God in our lives. Coming at the end of the chapter which famously describes Jesus as ‘the Word’ becoming flesh and living among us, this reference to Jacob’s ladder can be seen as a direct reference to a promise fulfilled.
Today’s reading opens with Jesus demonstrating his remarkable insight in respect of Nathanael, but it ends on a totally different scale. Jesus is telling his disciples that the promised connection between heaven and earth is about to be thrown wide open. Furthermore, at the beginning of John’s gospel, in this encounter with Nathanael, we are being told that if we commit ourselves to travelling as a companion of Jesus it will be as though we are already in God’s house. Not only will we be in God’s house, but we should know that, like Jacob, we will experience God’s presence alongside us at all times.
Every day of our lives brings new challenges, and not just during times of pandemic. As we face those challenges, let us remember the image Jesus gives to Nathanael and his other disciples at the beginning of the gospel narrative. Let us then speak with God and trust in his guidance and love.
Prayers of Intercession
With the whole company of Heaven, let us pray to the Lord.
Strong in the power of God, may the Church never fail in the fight against evil. Strengthen her ministers to be faithful guides and guardians of those entrusted to them in this world.
Bring peace to the conflicts in the world, where nations are at war and anger rules in many human lives. Teach those who rule over others to know and follow the unseen love which is all around them.
In our personal lives let us trust in the heavenly protection which does not leave us to face our problems alone. Be near to all in our community who are especially vulnerable, and uphold those who care for them.
We pray for the victims of war and violence, for the homeless and refugees, for families separated by conflict. Grant comfort and courage to all who are near to death and those who watch with them.
Have mercy on the departed, especially those who have died in war. May St Michael and all the angels lead them into the life that will not end.
May our prayers be heard in the name of Jesus Christ, King of angels.
Prayer for the week
we pray for all who are any way troubled at this time,
and especially for those known to us.
Give relief to those in pain,
friendship to those who are alone,
reassurance to those in doubt or distress of mind;
and may our love be so strong that seeing need
we may never pass by on the other side.
We ask it in Christ’s name.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
As Jacob with travel was weary one day,
at night on a stone for a pillow he lay;
he saw in a vision a ladder so high
that its foot was on earth and its top in the sky:
Alleluia to Jesus who died on the tree,
and has raised up a ladder of mercy for me!
From Christmas Carols Old and New, 1871
probably of 18th-century origin