The Feast of the Archangels
September 29th Readings Reflection: Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels
“When you are before the altar where Christ reposes, you ought no longer to think that you are amongst men; but believe that there are troops of angels and archangels standing by you, and trembling with respect before the sovereign Master of Heaven and earth. Therefore, when you are in church, be there in silence, fear, and veneration.” — St. John Chrysostom
Today is the feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, the three archangels who are named in the Bible. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the role of archangels is to accomplish God’s will for creation, using such means as “the laws of nature, and the guardianship of societies and individuals” (“Angelic Hierarchy,” at EWTN).
The Book of Apocalypse tells how St. Michael fought the devil and cast him into Hell (see Apoc 12:7-9 DRB). St. Michael’s name means “who is like God.” His role of battling the devil gives us a stark contrast between the devil’s disobedience and St. Michael’s undying obedience to God. St. Michael is called the “Prince of the Heavenly Host” and is usually depicted with a sword and armour. The Church encourages us to pray to St. Michael often and ask for his protection against the “wickedness and snares of the devil.”
St. Gabriel is the archangel who appeared to Our Lady at the Annunciation, telling her that she would bear God’s incarnate Son. He is also the angel who appeared to Zachary and told him that his wife Elizabeth would conceive a son, St. John the Baptist (see Lk 1:11-20). St. Gabriel’s name means “God is my strength,” and he is often depicted with lilies, which symbolize purity. Pope St. Gregory the Great pointed out that there is a paradox in St. Gabriel’s name: the angel who was named after God’s strength announced the coming of the One Who appeared in all humility, an Infant laid in a manger.
St. Raphael is the archangel who appeared in the Book of Tobias. He accompanied Tobias on his journey and released the young man’s bride from her demonic obsession so that the two could be wed. Raphael, whose name means “God is my health,” later healed Tobias’ father from his blindness. St. Raphael is often portrayed with a fish, since he used a fish to deliver Sara from the demon and to heal Tobias’ father from his blindness. For this reason, St. Raphael is invoked in times of illness, as well as for assistance in seeking a good spouse.
As we can see from each of these three archangels, their love for God fills them with a love for mankind as well, and they are powerful intercessors for us in our needs. St. Michael appeared to the children of Fatima in 1916 and identified himself as “the Angel of Peace.” The prayer that he gave the children at Fatima is a beautiful reminder of the archangels’ great love for God and devoted service to mankind as they seek to lead all men to God:
My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love Thee! I beg Thee forgiveness for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love Thee!