The Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels (also known as Michaelmas or the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael) is a minor Christian festival celebrated on 29 September according to the Western liturgical calendar.
Angels in the Bible
When anyone is asked to describe an angel, what comes to our imagination is the commercialized image of an angel, the cute little babies with warm faces and a couple of wings on greeting cards. However, the angels in the Bible are not even close to what most of us have in mind.
The Holy Scripture talks about created intelligences other than humans who worship God in Heaven and serve as His messengers and agents on earth. However, not much is told about them and many argue that what is actually told is not literal but only figurative. What stirred up this debate is the description of angels in the Bible. In the Bible, angels sound completely terrifying. For example, prophet Ezekiel mentions in his visions (Ez 1 and 10) that cherub has four faces with each face facing in each direction. These faces are the face of a man, a lion, a bull, and an eagle. No wonder they usually say “Don’t be afraid” before they encounter humans on earth.
The Angels Orders
There are nine orders or choirs of angels. In ascending order, the classes are Angels, Archangels, Principalities, Powers, Virtues, Dominations, Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim. The highest order is the Seraphims, then comes the Cherubs, and the lowest order in the nine orders of angels are simply called angels. They are God’s messengers and guardians of the human race. They are a medium between God and humans. After all, The English word “angel” comes from the Greek word “angelos” which literally means “messenger”.
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Each order is supposed to help revealing God's glory to the order below it. Seraphims are another kind of angelic beings that devote their existence to behold the face of God, and to praise and contemplate him for eternity. Cherubs are pictured as winged lions or winged bulls guarding the throne of God.
The Saints Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael
The name of the archangel Michael means, in Hebrew, who is like unto God? and he is also known as ‘the prince of the heavenly host.’ He is usually pictured as a strong warrior, dressed in armor and wearing sandals. His name appears in Scripture four times, twice in the Book of Daniel, and once each in the Epistle of St. Jude and the Book of Revelation. From Revelation we learn of the battle in heaven, with St. Michael and his angels combatting Lucifer and the other fallen angels (or devils). We invoke St. Michael to help us in our fight against Satan; to rescue souls from Satan, especially at the hour of death; to be the champion of the Jews in the Old Testament and now Christians; and to bring souls to judgment.
This day is referred to as "Michaelmas" in many countries and is also one of the harvest feast days. In England this is one of the "quarter days", which was marked by hiring servants, electing magistrates, and beginning of legal and university terms. This day also marks the opening of the deer and other large game hunting season. In some parts of Europe, especially Germany, Denmark, and Austria, a special wine called "Saint Michael's Love" (Michelsminne) is drunk on this day. The foods for this day vary depending on nationality. In the British Isles, for example, goose was the traditional meal for Michaelmas, eaten for prosperity, France has waffles or Gaufres and the traditional fare in Scotland used to be St. Michael's Bannock (Struan Micheil) — a large, scone-like cake. In Italy, gnocchi is the traditional fare.
St. Gabriel's name means "God is my strength". Biblically he appears three times as a messenger. He had been sent to Daniel to explain a vision concerning the Messiah. He appeared to Zachary when he was offering incense in the Temple, to foretell the birth of his son, St. John the Baptist. St. Gabriel is most known as the angel chosen by God to be the messenger of the Annunciation, to announce to mankind the mystery of the Incarnation.
The angel's salutation to our Lady, so simple and yet so full of meaning, Hail Mary, full of grace, has become the constant and familiar prayer of all Christian people.
Our knowledge of the Archangel Raphael comes to us from the book of Tobit. His mission as wonderful healer and fellow traveller with the youthful Tobias has caused him to be invoked for journeys and at critical moments in life. Tradition also holds that Raphael is the angel that stirred the waters at the healing sheep pool in Bethesda. His name means "God has healed".
The name means "God is my light".
Blackberries and Michaelmas Superstition
It is said that on Michaelmas, is the day the devil was expelled out of heaven and when he fell from the skies, he landed on a blackberry bush. The devil cursed the fruit, stamped on it, spat on it, and some people believe he went as far as urinating on them. The legend suggests that Lucifer annually renews his curse on blackberries, thus, gathering them after Michaelmas Day is considered bad luck.
On Michaelmas Day the devil puts his foot on the blackberries.
On this feast day, we remember God's heavenly messengers and remind ourselves of our place in the universe that we are not on the top of the heap and there are higher entities than us like angels. On this day we should also contemplate the belief that demons are considered to be fallen or rebellious angels and how the higher we are the lower we might fall. Thus, let this day remind us to submit to God and be more humble in our hearts.
Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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