Looking at the calendar turn from September’s end to October, and feeling a little night chill in the air, I know a new season is upon us. The calendar tells me that the feast of The Archangels is September 29th, The Holy Angels is Oct. 2nd and St. Therese in-between on Monday, and here we are on Sunday. In the readings this morn: there’s lots of angels and a saint who loved angels—that’s the Church’s theme going on in the transition of days.
The Sunday Gospel speaks of the apostles and disciples venture into spiritual realms of where they use Jesus’ power to expel demons and that the people who harm the little ones (new believers) will one day have a millstone put on their neck by a good angel executing God’s punishment to come upon a bad person. Angels and demons. That Mark 9 reference to the little ones (meaning new believers, and also including young of age believers) is matched up with Matthew 19’s parallel gospel that adds that these believers each have angels assigned to them who report to heaven and to God. They mark on whom is set for ultimate judgment—that none would escape in the end, though they last for a time now, with appeals to repentance and correction and restitution and penance. Will they repent? If not, “they go into fiery Gehenna,” says the Word of God. That’s a gospel verse certainly urging everyone today to beg for repentance to God for salvation and then for the ongoing humility to enter Confession and appeal to God for mercy for one’s sins, and to pray Mass as such.
In the gospel account of Mark 9, some follower of The Lord, but outside the official group, is using Jesus’ holy power to expel demons. Jesus says: Good to that. In the Psalm of this Sunday, Psalm 19, it speaks of how we are to ourselves grow in the Spirit of God daily, that, “God’s Law is perfecting, refreshing the soul, and one who follow God’s decrees find a trustworthy lead, and a wisdom of life to be simply good….” Then it continues, “(Awe and reverence of God is so important! Or said thus: ) the Fear of The Lord is so purifying, helping one to endure forever in life.” Yes, and as we speak of daily wisdom building, soul strengthening, taking a trustful path of life, becoming truly good, and pure, and having eternal life— well, we are speaking of a life in the realm of the Spirit, and as being assisted by God’s good angels.
Let’s talk of angels. There are the Archangels, and other types, and there are the holy and guardian angels.
An Archangel is the chief messenger or a higher messenger of God, who is above the angel. … When talking of archangels, three good ones and one bad are most listed. The good are Gabriel, Michael, Raphael that the Church recognizes, and the bad and fallen one is Lucifer. Another one named is Uriel, in later Hebrew writings. Angels are the spirit beings God has made, evidently before humankind’s entry to earth. “Angel” means messengers, for their role in that in connecting humankind to heaven and its Kingdom and our God.
In their names, El refers to God, and the other part of the name describes them: Uri-el Light=Uri God=El. Angel of God the Light. Gabriel. Gabri—Strength El—God. Gabriel—Angel of the Strength of God. This Archangel gives a Biblical introduction of likely five times in Luke’s Gospel: “I am Gabriel, who stand before God.” (Luke 1, 19) Gabriel announces the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zacharias, and at the Incarnation of the Word in the womb of Mary. Catholic tradition says it is he who appeared to St. Joseph and to the shepherds, and also that it was he who “strengthened” Jesus during his agony in the garden of Gethsemane. As Scripture describes.
The Archangel Michael, whose forces cast down Lucifer and the evil spirits into Hell, is invoked for protection against Satan and all evil. He is Might of God, or Angel of the Might of God. Pope Leo XIII, in 1899, having had a prophetic vision of the evil that would be inflicted upon the Church and the world ahead, instituted a prayer asking for Saint Michael’s protection. It was once said aloud at the end of every Mass, before the Novus Ordo, new Mass of the late 1960’s and on. “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 thou, 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..”
There are other prayers invoking Michael’s help. “O glorious prince St. Michael, chief and commander of the heavenly hosts, guardian of souls, vanquisher of rebel spirits, servant in the house of the Divine King and our admirable conductor, you who shine with excellence and superhuman virtue, deliver us from all evil, as we turn to your service with confidence and we ask that you enable us, by your gracious protection, to serve God more and more faithfully every day.
Archangels can be addressed personally like that, but it is always is relation to whom they serve and we serve, God Almighty, and it is God Who gives us what we need, but He has appointed messengers for the work. We don’t worship angels. We work with them. An angel is assigned to each of us and in today’s gospel we hear that is true for even (or most particularly for the young and the weak or defenseless or the poor). As angels report activity to God, though He sees all and knows all, He chooses to work through angels—He will listen to reports of the weak and defenseless being mistreated, and we hear how God has prepared a millstone around the neck for the offenders, to throw them into a sea of oblivions. Angels are used for this punishing work, too.
We can speak of types of angels and levels and spheres. You hear of such things in some of the prayers of the Sacred Liturgy. Listen today as the prayer I’ll use calls on and honors those Seraphim. Cherubim. Thrones. Dominions or Lordships. Virtues or Strongholds. Powers or Authorities. Principalities or Rulers. And Archangels. These are classes of angels.
As the Bible tells, angels are quite involved in the story of Revelation. Some are described as in heavens in that realm, such as those “throne” angels. Some are described as mixing in with the realm of earth; In the Christ of God, Emmanuel, seraphim and cherubim have a part in God’s Incarnation and visitation to us. In sacred art, cherubim in art are blue, and like flying babies—though they are not just cute and little in person, but mighty. The seraphim are depicted often in red. They are spoken of as swift flyers, like in the speed of light quick. In the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas, and his Hymn of Eucharistic Adoration, he sings of “cherubim and seraphim in unceasing chorus raising—filling the heavens in sweet accord” as praising together unto the Lamb, The Blessed Son of the Holy Trinity God. I picture those angels joining us here when the Eucharist is present, as they do in Glory. When the Lord is made present in Eucharist here, surely an angelic host does amass in the sanctuary: It is then we sing or pray the words of angels: “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts…” and this prayer is in the Bible when its inspired writer defines what Isaiah or St. John or others has seen. They’ve seen angels. Mystics see angels at Mass, even ordinary believers can become aware of them… I recall feeling close to angels at the Gloria, even as a child—knowing it was what words these heavenly creatures sang over the Baby Jesus. Now in Mass, as we begin Mass to greet the Lord coming, in Word and Blessed Sacrament, we can sing those same words as to the Same Lord. The angels good tidings are most apropos to begin a welcome to the Lord at Mass. I still feel the angel’s nearness in Holy Mass. When I became pastor at Holy Angels Church in Avenue, I put the Angel Gabriel at Gethsename on my installation holy card.
The feast of the Archangels is Sept. 29 and the feast of Holy Guardians of Holy Angels is October 2nd. Patron Day of Holy Angels, Avenue. Monday is the Feast of St. Therese. St. Thérèse of Lisieux was very devoted to all the Holy Angels especially her guardian angel. This fit very well into her Little Way Spirituality of doing many, many little things in great love, as assisted with the presence and protection of all the Angels, for God’s goodness sake. .
In Therese’ writings, she puts: “Almost immediately after my entrance at the Abbey, I was received into the Association of the Holy Angels. I loved the pious practices it imposed, as I had a very special attraction to pray to the blessed spirits of heaven, particularly to the one whom God gave as the companion of my exile.” Writing of herself as a weak young woman–
“O Jesus, Your little bird is happy to be weak and little… it doesn’t feel desolate; its little heart is at peace and it begins once again its work of love. It calls upon the Angels and Saints who rise like eagles before the consuming Fire, and since this is the object of the little bird’s desire the eagles take pity on it, protecting and defending it, and putting to flight at the same time the vultures who want to devour it.”
She similarly implored her Guardian Angel: “O Fair Angel of the Fatherland, / give me your holy fervor. / I have nothing but my sacrifices / and my austere poverty / With your celestial delights, / offer them to the Trinity. Amen.”
As Catholics, we believe in Archangels and Angels. We need to remember these friends of God and messengers and defenders, of whom God has given for our help, as we call out to Him. May the Holy Angels lead you, my friends.