Madonna della Cintolo with Sts. John the Evangelist and Michael
---¤¤¤¤¤--- The Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel ---¤¤¤¤¤---
THE glorious Archangel appears today at the head of the heavenly army: There was a great battle in Heaven, Michael and his Angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his Angels. [Apoc. xii. 7] In the sixth century, the dedication of the churches of St. Michael on Monte Gargano and in the Roman Circus increased the celebrity of this day, which had however been long before consecrated by Rome to the memory of all the heavenly Virtues.
The east commemorates on the sixth of September an apparition of the victorious Prince at Chone [The ancient Colossae] in Phrygia; while the eighth of November is their solemnity of the Angels, corresponding to our feast of today, and bearing the title: 'Synaxis of Saint Michael prince of the heavenly host, and of the other spiritual Powers.' Although the term synaxis is usually applied only to religious assemblies here on earth, we are informed that in this instance it also signifies the gathering of the faithful Angels at the cry of their chief, and their union eternally sealed by their victory. [Menotog. Basilii]
Who, then, are these heavenly Powers, whose mysterious combat heads the first page of history? Their existence is attested by the traditions of all nations as well as by the authority of holy Scripture.
If we consult the Church, she teaches us that in the beginning God created simultaneously two natures, the spiritual and the corporal, and afterwards man who is composed of both. [Concil. Lateran. iv. cap. Firmiter] The scale of nature descends by gradation from beings made to the likeness of God, to the very confines of nothingness; and by the same degrees the creature mounts upwards to his Creator. God is infinite being, infinite intelligence, infinite love. The creature is for ever finite: but man, endowed with a reasoning intellect, and the Angel, with an intuitive grasp of truth, are ever, by a continual process of purification, widening the bounds of their imperfect nature, in order to reach, by increase of light, the perfection of greater love.
God alone is simple with that unchangeable productive simplicity, which is absolute perfection excluding the possibility of progress; He is pure Act, in Whom substance, power, and operation are one thing. The Angel, though entirely independent of matter, is yet subject to the natural weakness necessary to a created being; he is not absolutely simple, for in him action is distinct from power, and power from essence. [Thom. Aquin. Summa Theol. i. q. liv. art. 1-3] How much greater is the weakness of man's composite nature, unable to carry on the operations of the intellect without the aid of the senses!
'Compared with ours,' says one of the most enlightened brethren of the angelic doctor, 'how calm and how luminous is the knowledge of pure spirits! They are not doomed to the intricate discoursings of our reason, which runs after the truth, composes and analyzes, and laboriously draws conclusions from premises. They instantaneously apprehend the whole compass of primary truths. Their intuition is so prompt, so lively, so penetrating, that it is impossible for them to be surprised, as we are, into error. If they deceive themselves, it must be of their own will. The perfection of their will is equal to the perfection of their intellect. They know not what it is to be disturbed by the violence of appetites. Their love is without emotion; and their hatred of evil is as calm and as wisely tempered as their love. A will so free can know no perplexity as to its aims, no inconstancy in its resolutions. Whereas with us long and anxious meditation is necessary before we make a decision, it is the property of the Angels to determine by a single act the object of their choice. God proposed to them, as He does to us, infinite beatitude in the vision of His Own Essence; and to fit them for so great an end, He endowed them with grace at the same time as He gave them being. In one instant they said Yes or No; in one instant they freely and deliberately decided their own fate.' [Monsabre 15th Conferencc, Lent 1875]
Let us not be envious. By nature the Angel is superior to us; but, to which of the Angels hath He said at any time, 'Thou art My Son?' [Heb. i. 5; ex Ps. ii. 7] The Only-begotten Son of God did not take to Himself the angelic nature. When on earth, He acknowledged the temporary subordination of humanity to those pure spirits, and deigned to receive from them, even as do His brethren in the flesh, the announcements of the Divine will, [Dionys. Areop. De caelesti hierarchia, iv. 4; ex Matt. ii. 13-16, 19-21] and help and strength. [St. Luke xxii. 43] But 'God hath not subjected unto Angels the world to come,' says the Apostle. [Heb. ii. 6] How can we understand this attraction of God towards what is feeblest? We can only worship it in humble, loving faith. It was Lucifer's stumbling-block on the day of the great battle in Heaven. But the faithful Angels prostrated themselves in joyous adoration at the feet of the Infant-God foreshown to them enthroned on Mary's knee, and then rose up to sing: 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.'
O Christ, my Christ as St. Denis calls Thee, [Dionys. De caelesti hierarchia, ii. 5] the Church today delightedly proclaims Thee the beauty of the holy Angels. [Hymn of Lauds] Thou, the God-Man, art the lofty height whence purity, light, and love flow down upon the triple hierarchy of the nine choirs. Thou art the supreme Hierarch, the centre of worlds, controller of the deifying mysteries at the eternal feast.
Flaming Seraphim, glittering Cherubim, steadfast Thrones, court of honour to the Most High, and possessed of the noblest inheritance: according to the Areopagite, ye receive your justice, your splendour, and your burning love by direct communication from our Lord: [Dionys. ubi supra, vii. 2] and through you, all grace overflows from Him upon the holy city.
Dominations, Virtues, and Powers; sovereign disposers, prime movers, and rulers of the universe: in whose name do ye govern the world? Doubtless in His Whose inheritance it is; in the name of the King of glory, the Man-God, the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord of hosts.
Angels, Archangels, and Principalities; Heaven's messengers, ambassadors, and overseers here below: are ye not also, as the Apostle says, ministers of the salvation wrought on earth by Jesus, the heavenly High-Priest?
We also, through this same Jesus, O most holy Trinity, glorify Thee, together with the three princely hierarchies, which surround Thy Majesty with their nine immaterial rings as with a many-circled rampart.
To tend to Thee, and to draw all things to Thee, is their common law. Purification, illumination, union: by these three ways in succession, or simultaneously, are these noble beings attracted to God, and by the same they attract those who strive to emulate them. Sublime spirits, it is with your gaze ever fixed on high that ye influence those below and around you. Draw plentifully, both for yourselves and for us, from the central fires of the Divinity; purify us from more than the involuntary infirmities of nature; enlighten us; kindle us with your heavenly flames. For the same reason that Satan hates us, ye love us: protect the race of the Word made Flesh against the common enemy. So guard us, that we may hereafter be worthy to occupy among you the places left vacant by the victims of pride.
Taken from THE LITURGICAL YEAR, Vol. XIV, by Dom Gueranger.