Part 13b: St. Michael and the Angels at Mass
It is said that St. Michael presides over the worship of adoration rendered to the Most High and offers to God the prayers of the faithful symbolized by incense whose smoke rises towards Heaven. In fact, the liturgy presents St. Michael to us as the incense-bearer, standing beside the altar as our intercessor and the bearer of the Church's prayers before the throne of God. "An Angel of the Lord stood near the altar of the temple, having a golden censer in his hand, and there was given to him much incense, and the smoke of the perfumes ascended before God." [Offertory, Mass of St. Michael]
At the beginning of Holy Mass [the Traditional Roman or Latin Mass], his name is mentioned in the confession of faults made by the priest at the foot of the altar, and by the faithful in turn. At the offertory, in Solemn High Mass, the priest implores the blessing of the Almighty upon the oblation through the intercession of St. Michael. And during the Canon of the Mass [The Canon was obliterated in the Novus Ordo, as were several other beautiful orations, for which either nothing was supplied at all or banal prose was added.], after the Consecration, the priest prays God to command that the oblation be borne by the hands of His holy Angel to His altar on high. The Angel here referred to is doubtless the Archangel Michael. With loving solicitude he watches over the Precious Blood, that no accident may occur, and also over all the tiny particles which may fall from the consecrated Hosts at the time of Holy Communion, that they may not be lost or desecrated.
But St. Michael is not alone present at the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar. Christian tradition assures us that innumerable Angels also assist at Mass. St. John Chrysostom, among others, states that "When Mass is being celebrated, the Sanctuary is filled with countless Angels who adore the Divine Victim immolated on the altar." Besides the guardian Angels of the faithful who are present, thousands of Heavenly spirits assist at Mass, reverently worshipping their Lord and God. With what sentiments of profound veneration do they not adore the Precious Blood being shed anew upon the altar! It is the self-same Blood that was shed on Calvary, but with this difference, that then It fell upon the ground and stones, whereas in Holy Mass, It is applied to the souls of those present. The efficacy of the Mass is so wonderful, God's mercy and generosity are then so unlimited that there is no moment so propitious to ask for favors as when Jesus is born on the altar. The Angels know this full well and come in throngs to adore their Divine Master and make their petitions at this hour of mercy. What an example for us! Whenever we attend Holy Mass, therefore, let us unite with St. Michael and the holy Angels, "and place our offerings and petitions in their pure hands, to be presented to the Most High, that He may receive them graciously and pardon our lack of devotion for the sake of the devotion of the celestial spirits with whom we associate ourselves. It was revealed to St. Mechtilde that three thousand Angels from the choir of Thrones are ever in devout attendance around every Tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. Doubtless a much greater number are present at Holy Mass, which is not merely a Sacrament but also a sacrifice." And we read in the revelations of St. Bridget: "One day when I was assisting at the Holy Sacrifice, I saw an immense number of Holy Angels descend and gather around the altar, contemplating the priest. They sang heavenly canticles that ravished my heart, Heaven itself seemed to be contemplating the great Sacrifice. And yet we poor mortals, blind and miserable creatures, assist at Mass with so little love, relish and respect!" Do Catholics ever think of this amazing truth, namely: that at Mass they are praying in the midst of thousands of God's Angels?
Let us beg St. Michael and his Angels to impart to us a greater realization of the infinite value of the Mass, "where Christ spiritually sprinkles the souls of the faithful with His Blood." St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi says of this spiritual sprinkling: 'This Blood when applied to the soul, imparts to it as much dignity as if it were decked in a costly robe. It imparts such brilliance and splendor that couldst thou behold the effulgence of thy soul when sprinkled with that Blood, thou wouldst fall down to adore it.' Happy the soul adorned with such beauty! Let us go to Holy Mass often, that we may be sprinkled with this adorable Blood and our soul arrayed in rich apparel which will render us glorious forever in the sight of the Angels and the Saints. The Catholic Church owns no greater, no more costly treasure than the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ; for a single drop of this Blood, which is united to the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, outweighs in value all the riches of Heaven and earth.
Let us remember also that one Mass heard during life is of more benefit to the soul than many heard for it after death, and that every Mass will go with you to Judgment and plead for pardon. They will, moreover, shorten your Purgatory and win for yourself a higher degree of glory in Heaven. How pleasing to God is the frequent attendance at Mass, is well illustrated in the following gracious little story:
A poor farmer was wont to attend daily Mass for many years of his life. He was crossing the snow-covered fields one cold morning on his way to church, when he thought he heard foot-steps behind him, and turning, he saw his Angel Guardian bearing a basket full of beautiful roses which exhaled a delightful perfume. "See," said the Angel, "these roses represent each step you have taken on the way to Mass and each rose represents also a glorious reward which awaits you in heaven. But far, far greater are the merits you have acquired from the Mass itself."
thought of the
advantages that are to be derived from devout assistance at Mass, ought
to be a stimulant for us to hear it not only on Sundays, but also on
days; whenever possible. Should illness or some other serious reason
us from doing so, let us send our Guardian Angel in our stead with the
prayer following the next section.
Fittingly is the Blessed Sacrament called the "Bread of Angels," because of the ardent love with which the Angels cherish the adorable Sacrament and the profound adoration which they render to their God hidden beneath the Sacramental veils. But this designation reminds us also of the Angelic purity which ought to adorn our hearts when we receive Holy Communion. We ought, therefore, to think of our Guardian Angels and their incomparable purity whenever we approach the Table of the Lord, asking them to obtain for us the grace to approach the Heavenly Banquet with true purity of heart and worthy dispositions.
It is particularly when we approach the Holy Table that our Guardian Angels exercise their most watchful care over us, for here there is question of a very special homage to their most beloved Lord in the wondrous condescension of His Eucharistic state. With what glowing love they hasten to render Him their services! And yet the Holy Eucharist was instituted not for the Angels, but for men. Ought we not to be wholly abashed in contemplating the Angels' fervor?
When we are preparing for Holy Communion, the Angels strive to awaken in us holy sentiment; they urge us to banish distractions and to repeat pious acts of contrition, longing and love. The evil spirit takes delight in disturbing us in order to hinder us from receiving Holy Communion fruitfully, for he knows that this is the fountain of all good. On this account, we often experience that just during Holy Mass and at the time of Holy Communion we are most violently assailed by distractions and temptations. But our faithful Angel also redoubles his watchfulness at this sacred time, and if we cooperate with him, he will assist us to conquer the enemy and to receive the adorable Sacrament with proper dispositions. We must also strive not to displease our good Angel by want of reverence in approaching the Holy Table.
also rejoice in uniting with us in adoration before the Most Blessed
and during the time of Holy Mass. They do all they can to keep us from
Prayer When Unable to Assist at Daily Mass
It is related of St. Catherine of Siena, who was also favored with the visible presence of her Guardian Angel, that once while praying in the church she turned her head slightly to gratify her curiosity. Her Guardian Angel gave her so severe a look for her disrespect in the presence of the Most Holy that for several days St. Catherine was inconsolable and performed severe penance in atonement.Blessed Veronica of Binasco relates a similar experience: "Once," she writes, "when, prompted by curiosity, I happened during the time of Mass to look at one of the Sisters who was kneeling near the altar, the Angel of God who is constantly beside me rebuked me with such severity that I almost fainted with terror. How threateningly he looked at me as he said, 'Why dost thou not keep watch over thy heart? Why dost thou gaze thus curiously at thy sister? Thou hast committed no slight offense against God.' Thus spoke the Angel, and by Christ's command he enjoined on me a heavy penance for my fault, which for three days I bewailed with tears. Now, when I hear Mass, I never venture so much as to turn my head, for fear of incurring the displeasure of the Divine Majesty." What a lesson for those who give free rein to their eyes in church and even talk during the time of Holy Mass!