Feast of the Archangels — Christ Child Society
Today’s feast of the three great archangels reminds us of the mysterious reality of the non-material world. The existence of angels is a truth of our faith. Throughout Scripture, we hear about angels, creatures of a spiritual nature. They are personal beings, created like us in God’s image and likeness, but they do not have bodies. They are spiritual creatures who have intellect and free will. Their intellect is superior to ours. Their free will is powerfully focused on God so they don’t have the tendency we have to fall into sin. They are not limited like us by the laws of nature. They can be at our side while they also never lose sight of God. It really is quite amazing to reflect on the life of the angels.
Today the Church honors the three angels whose names we know from Sacred Scripture: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. Each of them was entrusted by God with an extraordinary mission.
Saint Michael had the great mission of defending God’s people. We know from the Book of Revelation that Michael was the angel who fought against Lucifer, Satan, and all his evil angels. He is known as “the prince of the heavenly host.” He is often portrayed in art as a strong warrior with a sword. We invoke Saint Michael in our fight against Satan. We can seek his intercession when we are tempted to do evil. He helps us to allow the victorious power of Christ the Redeemer to enfold our lives. Given the many evils the Church is fighting in the world today, it is good to invoke Saint Michael. I’ve noticed that in some of our parishes the Prayer to Saint Michael is making a comeback. I think that’s a good thing. Pope Leo XIII composed this prayer in 1884. Pope Leo had some kind of terrifying experience involving the devil, a vision in which the devil had boasted to God that he could destroy the Church if he were given more time (100 years) and more power. When we think about the threats against the Church today, in areas of persecution or even in secularist societies like ours, it would be good to invoke the protection and intercession of Saint Michael more often. That’s Michael’s mission – to defend God’s people!
The archangel Gabriel had a stupendous mission. He was sent by God to announce the greatest message to the world: the Incarnation of His Son. He had come to Daniel in the Old Testament to explain a vision from God. He had appeared to Zechariah to announce the conception and birth of John the Baptist. But his greatest mission was at the Annunciation when he announced to Mary that she would conceive and bear the Son of God in her womb. Do you ever invoke Saint Gabriel? I think he is a good archangel to invoke for courage when we are afraid or confused. Remember his words to Mary: “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.” We can ask Gabriel to help us to overcome fears and to be strong and courageous like Mary. His very name “Gabriel” means “strength of God.”
We read about Saint Raphael in the Old Testament book of Tobit. He cured Tobit’s blindness. The name “Raphael” means “God’s remedy” or “God heals.” We can invoke Saint Raphael for healing. He is also the angel who travelled with Tobit’s son, Tobias. He accompanied Tobias when he left home. I like the idea of some parents I know who entrust their children to Saint Raphael when they leave home and go to college. Given the large number of migrants and refugees in the world today, we can also invoke Saint Raphael to accompany and watch over them. When I think of all the needy children you serve in the Christ Child Society, you may wish to say a little prayer to Saint Raphael for them, like when you give a child a coat, asking the angel Raphael to watch over them.
In our readings today, we are reminded of the presence of the angels in heaven, worshipping God. In the book of Daniel, we read of the Ancient One, God, with thousands upon thousands, myriads upon myriads, Daniel says, ministering and attending to Him. In the Gospel today, Jesus tells Nathaniel that he will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. These are all mysterious glimpses of heaven. I was thinking about our celebration of Mass. In various prayers, the Church reminds us that in our worship we are joined to the angels in praising God. As we sang in Psalm 138 today: “In the sight of the angels, I will sing your praises, Lord.” At every Mass, at the beginning of the Eucharistic prayer, we sing the Sanctus: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts.” The host are the angels, the heavenly hosts. When we praise the Lord, we do so with the angels who behold God’s glory face to face. In a mysterious way, we are united with the angels and the saints at Mass: the earthly liturgy is joined with the heavenly liturgy.
It is good to keep in mind that on the journey and in the trials of life, we are not alone. We are accompanied and sustained by the angels of God. “The whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of angels” (CCC 334). May Saint Michael defend us, Saint Gabriel strengthen us, and Saint Raphael walk with us in our journey to be with them in heaven!