Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are the three named biblical angels, depicted as the beloved 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.
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.’
How often have you met a person whose faith radiates from him or her in a way that cannot be mistaken? Sadly, I suspect the honest answer is: ‘Not very often, if ever!’ In the earlier moments of the gospel narrative we see Jesus doing just this. Fishermen, a tax collector and, today, a man sitting under a fig tree, were all picked out by Jesus as having a faith strong enough to stand the trials and tribulations that would inevitably befall his disciples.
Today, the Church celebrates the Festival of Michael and All Angels. This festival, alongside that of Peter and Paul, is often associated with the ordination of deacons and priests. It is on this festival that those whom God has called into his ordained ministry line up with the archangel Michael in resisting the malign influence of the devil in our daily lives.
Talk of the devil may seem medieval and superstitious, but is it? The word ‘devil’ conjures up pictures of ugly creatures with tails, horns and pitchforks … the pictures we might see in the paintings of the old masters; the pictures we see in the medieval wall paintings in our church in Corby Glen. But, such images belittle the power of the devil in our daily lives. Every time we are tempted to do something we know to be contrary to God’s command we are allowing the devil to distance us from the God who created us and who loves us. All those harsh words, dubious transactions and dirty dealings are the works of the devil. Similarly, every time we put our love of God and neighbour on the back-burner we are following the path of the devil and not that laid for us by God.
The opportunities to stray from the Christian way are numerous and not always obvious. Even when we believe we are doing something in a spirit of Christian love and service we may find ourselves following a self-serving path that will inflate our status and influence in the world. The devil lurks around every corner, and we need to be careful.
In the baptism service, candidates or their godparents are asked: Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God? Let us pray for the strength to honour the answer to that question: I reject them. Let us pray that we might set aside all that distances us from God. Let us pray that we might join the company of Michael and All Angels as we play our part in the battle against evil in this world.
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
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.
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.