The three archangels that we celebrate today are all mentioned in the Scriptures. The readings for today’s celebration focus our attention on one of them, namely Michael. His name appear three times in the Book of Daniel in the Hebrew Scriptures and three times in the Christian Scriptures, twice in Revelation and once in the Letter of St. Jude.
When Michael is depicted in art, he is shown in armor and with a sword, showing that he is the one who stands at the head of the heavenly host. However, our faith tells us that these creatures are spirits rather than corporeal beings. So this depiction is taken from our human understanding of one who does battle. Neither the picture of Michael as a warrior nor the angels that we place atop our Christmas trees nor any of the artistic renderings of angels could possibly be accurate as spirits have no form, especially no human form.
The heavenly battle of the Book of Revelation is the classic struggle of good and evil. The Book of Revelation uses angels to depict good and dragons to depict evil. However, we know that the struggle between good and evil is a struggle that goes on in the world as well as in heaven. There are no angels and dragons doing battle in our world. There is only we, God’s instruments. The story we hear today is meant to help us to understand that just as Michael did battle with evil in heaven, we are meant to do battle with evil in our world.
As a boy, I remember the prayer we said after every Sunday Mass. “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do you, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.” Though the prayer asks Michael to battle evil in the world, the obvious reason for the prayer was to teach each of us that we were also called upon to do battle with evil. The prayer is being resurrected again because of the evils that have recently been revealed within the clergy. Even if angels are pure spirits, it is possible for us to emulate them and continually act against the evil influences that lure us into the snares of sin.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator