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Synaxis of Michael the Archangel and Other Heavenly Powers (Angels)

The feast of the Angels…

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On November 8th we celebrate the Feast of the Synaxis of Michael the Archangel and Other Heavenly Powers. Sometimes this feast is called Michaelmas, and other heavenly powers are also sometimes referred to as bodiless powers or heavenly hosts).

This feast day was established before the 1st Ecumenical Council, at the Council of Laodicea. The council agreed to celebrate the heavenly hosts in November, the 9th month after the creation of the world (See our article on March 25th here). The significance of the 9 relates to the fact that we acknowledge 9 ranks of angels. Also, the 8th day of November was chosen because the Church Fathers often refer to the Last Judgment as the 8th day.

About Angels

What We Know… According to the Catechism

According to the Catechism, the heavenly powers are servants and messengers of God (329). “The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls “angels” is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition.” (328) We call them angels because they are doing God’s will, but spirit is a more accurate term to describe their nature (329).

Angels are spiritual creatures which have will and intelligence, they are immortal, and are created through and for Christ, for the sake of salvation (330-331). And the Church benefits from help of angels, we join with angels in our liturgies, and human life surrounded by intercession of angels (334-336).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church also lists some of the work of angels in regard to the divine plan and biblical presence. (332)

Consensus Of Theologians, And Points Of Scripture, Tradition, And Commentaries Of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure, Etc.

It is commonly understood that angels occupy space, contain space, but are not limited to space. So angels move by exercising power through the use of their will, in one location as opposed to another. Angels can temporarily take on material form for the sake of their mission, such as when Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Theotokos to announce the incarnation.

Angels are referred to as being in a hierarchy, which is understood as a sacred order of beings. The existence of choirs are a “small t” tradition.

  • The roles of the 3 hierarchies:
    • 1st: adoration of the divine presence, contemplating God in his infinite goodness, and the proper end of all things
    • 2nd: to receive knowledge/illumination/truth from 1st Hierarchy, and to govern the material world and the cosmos
    • 3rd: to receive knowledge/illumination/truth from 2nd Hierarchy as to what needs to be done, to carry it out with particular attention to humans, and to serve and direct humanity
  • 3 hierarchies, with 3 choirs in each

1st Hierarchy

      • 1 – Seraphim “(burning) Love of God”
        • Unceasing praise and perpetual contemplation of God
        • Also known for purification (coal/lips of Isaiah)
        • Even though their first task is to God, they may still serve man
        • 6 wings, 3 pairs (face/ feet/ arms)
      • 2 – Cherubim “Truth of God”
        • Contemplation of God
        • Pass down truth, charity, and harmony
        • Gen 3:24 / Ex 25:18
        • Intercessors for life of Christian perfection
      • 3 – Thrones
        • Humility, firmness, simplicity, steadfastness to God
        • Colossians and Revelation
        • Lower hierarchies receive illumination through the Thrones

2nd Hierarchy

      • 4 – Dominions (or Lordships)
        • Has dominion over lower hierarchy
        • They are given power to command
        • They preside over virtues and powers
        • And they make known the commands of God to lower hierarchy
        • Govern sense
      • 5 – Virtues
        • In Ephesians and 1 Peter
        • Move the cosmos
        • And we recognize Virtues in miracles
        • Do everything in alignment with the power/energy of God
      • 6 – Powers (or Authorities) (Warrior Angels)
        • Well directed for fighting demons/evil
        • Name refers to power of God: the irresistible but not tyrannical power of God
        • Eph 6:12 shows that the angels that fell from heaven still have their created power, only now they are utilizing it for evil
        • Chastisements from God come through the powers

3rd Hierarchy (deals most closely with humanity)

      • 7 – Principalities (Princely)
        • About obedience to proper authority
        • So they are responsible for shift in governing powers
        • Also, most fallen angels probably came from this choir
        • Principalities wear a crown and carry a sceptre in icons
        • Then, their duty is to carry out the orders given to them by the Dominions
        • They also bequeath blessings to the material world
        • Therefore, their task is to oversee groups of people as the educators and guardians of the realm of earth.
        • They are also therefore responsible for inspiring living things to subjects such as art or science.
      • 8 – Archangels
        • Officers of lowest hierarchy / In Thessalonians and Jude
        • Deliver messages and preside over the multitude
        • Michael (associated with God the Father)
        • Gabriel (connected to Son) (words of Hail Mary)
        • Raphael (associated with the Holy Spirit) “God heals” (Tobit/healing)
      • 9 – Angels
        • Lowest choir
        • Guardian angels are in this choir (probably)
        • And they comfort, guard, and support man
        • Matthew 18:10 – goal is friendship with angel, communication in love (Guardian angel loves you more than any human being, because they are infused with love directly from God, and their created purpose is to guide you home)
        • The angel has all knowledge needed for your sanctification

More on Angels from Theologians

There is a basic consensus among theologians that the testing of the will of Angels was in the revelation that God would become incarnate. Tradition is that Lucifer felt that men were lower in the order of creation, so though he would worship God, he would not serve a God-man. At this point Michael of the Archangels stated his own name “Who is like unto God” and was chosen, despite being of a lower order in angel hierarchy, to lead the heavenly army … (which makes sense, as God does seem to choose from the lowly rather than the great).

Also, angels require our consent to help us. Which is why it is good to say prayers to our guardian angels and to celebrate the feast of the heavenly powers and to ask for their help.

The Vatican document, Opus Sanctorum Angelorum, lists four ways of proper devotion to angels. First of all, in adoration to God. Angelic beings were created to adore, so we can learn to better adore God from them. Second, in contemplation of God. Also in expiation (when we are doing penance). And finally, asking for their aid in our mission/vocation.

Ways to Celebrate

Attend a Divine Liturgy and worship God with all the angels!

Say a prayer to your guardian angel. Here is a Byzantine version of such a prayer. O Guardian Angel, protector of my soul and body, to your care I have been entrusted by Christ. Obtain for me the forgiveness of the sins I committed this day. Protect me from the snares of the enemy that I may nevermore offend God by my sin. Pray for me, your sinful and unworthy servant, that through your help I may become worthy of the grace and mercy of the most Holy Trinity, and of the Mother of our Lord God, Jesus Christ, and of all the saints. Amen.

Get icons of the angels for your icon corner if you don’t already have them. Print off colouring pages of the icons of the angels for your children to colour.

Pray the propers of this feast day, as listed below!

Troparion: (tone 4)

Princess of heavenly hosts, we, though unworthy, beg you to encircle us through your prayers under the shelter of the wings of your spiritual glory. Guard us as we come to you and sincerely cry: Deliver us from dangers, oh princes of the powers on high!

Kontakion: (tone 2)

Princes of God’s hosts, ministers of glory, leaders of angels and guides of men, pray for our welfare and for great mercy, O princes of the incorporeal powers

Prokeimenon: (tone 4)

He makes spirits His angels and flaming fire His minsters

Verse: Bless the Lord, O my soul; O Lord my God how great Thou art

The Byzantine Life

Thank you for checking out this week’s article. If you haven’t already, you can read our article about getting ready for the Nativity Fast. Or our article on the Fatima and the Rosary.

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