Monday, September 28, 2009

Feast of the Archangels: Ss. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael - September 29

Angels are an essential part of the Christian faith. They are a "truth of the faith" and are mentioned over a hundred times in the Bible. Tomorrow, September 29th, the Church's liturgy celebrates the Feast of the Archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

Michael (Who is like God?)(Hebrew: מִיכָאֵל‎, Micha'el or Mîkhā'ēl; Greek: Μιχαήλ, Mikhaḗl; Latin: Michael or Míchaël; Arabic: میکائیل‎, Mikā'īl) was the archangel who fought against Satan and all his evil angels, defending all the friends of God. He is the protector of all humanity from the snares of the devil. The symbols of Saint Michael, the one God appointed to drive Satan and his followers out of heaven and who stood baring the entrance to the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve were forced to leave it are dragons, swords, and the scales of justice.

Gabriel (Strength of God)(Hebrew: גַּבְרִיאֵל, Modern Gavriʼel Tiberian Gaḇrîʼēl; Latin: Gabrielus; Greek: Γαβριήλ, Gabriēl; Arabic: جبريل, Jibrīl or جبرائيل Jibrail; Aramaic: Gabri-el) announced to Zachariah the forthcoming birth of John the Baptist, and to Mary, the birth of Jesus. His greeting to the Virgin, "Hail, full of grace," is one of the most familiar and frequent prayers of the Christian people. Gabriel, the messenger is represented by a lily, the flower of purity.

Raphael (Medicine of God)(Standard Hebrew רָפָאֵל, Rāp̄āʾēl, "It is God who heals", "God Heals", "God, Please Heal", Arabic: رافائيل, Rāfāʾīl) is the archangel who took care of Tobias on his journey.Raphael, the guide and healer is symbolised with loaves, fishes and an ointment jar.

From the sixth century to 1970, September 29 was originally observed as Michaelmas Day and honored only St. Michael. St. Gabriel was observed on March 24 and St. Raphael on October 24. Since 1970, September 29 has been celebrated as the Feast of all three Archangels.

The Orthodox Church also pays honour to the Archangels on a different day, November 8th, which they call the "Synaxis of the Archangels." The Orthodox believe that Archangels comprise only one of the ranks of angels. They believe there are Seven Archangels. "Michael, Gabriel and Raphael" are descriptive titles as their names are too terrible for men to know. Here, these three give honor to Jesus Christ and reveal Him to mankind.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (328, 329, 330) has this to say about angels in general:

“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.

St. Augustine says: ‘Angel’ is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is ’spirit’; if you seek the name of their office, it is ‘angel’: from what they are , ’spirit’ from what they do ‘angel.’ With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God. Because they ‘always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven’ they are the ‘might ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word.”

As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness.”

For a comparative description of the archangels, go to the posting in the AMEIA blog.

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