The angels of God were celebrated by men from earliest times but this celebration was often turned into the divinization of angels (IV Kings 23:5 [II Kgs KJV]). The heretics wove all sorts of fables concerning the angels. Some of them looked upon angels as gods; others, although they did not consider them gods, called them the creators of the whole visible world. The local Council of Laodicea (four or five years before the First Ecumenical Council) rejected the worship of angels as gods and established the proper veneration of angels in its Thirty-fifth Canon.
In the fourth century, during the time of Sylvester, Pope of Rome, and Alexander, Patriarch of Alexandria, the present Feast of Archangel Michael and all the other heavenly powers was instituted for celebration in the month of November. Why precisely in November? Because November is the ninth month after March, and March is considered to be the month in which the world was created. Also, as the ninth month after March, November was chosen for the nine orders of angels who were created first. St. Dionysius the Areopagite, a disciple of the Apostle Paul (who was taken up into the third heaven), described these nine orders of angels in his book, On the Celestial Hierarchies, as follows: six-winged Seraphim, many-eyed Cherubim, God-bearing Thrones, Dominions, Powers, Virtues, Principalities, Archangels, and Angels. The leader of all the angelic hosts is the Archangel Michael.
When Satan, Lucifer, fell away from God and drew a part of the angels with him to destruction, then Michael stood up and cried out before the faithful angels: “Let us attend! Let us stand aright! Let us stand with fear!” and all of the faithful angelic heavenly hosts cried out: “Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God of Sabaoth! Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory!” Concerning the Archangel Michael, see Joshua 5:13-15 and Jude 1:9. Among the angels there reign perfect oneness of mind, oneness of soul, and love. The lower orders also show complete obedience to the higher orders, and all of them together to the holy will of God. Every nation has its guardian angel, as does every Christian. We must always remember that whatever we do, in open or in secret, we do in the presence of our guardian angel. On the day of the Dread Judgment, the multitude of the hosts of the holy angels of heaven will gather around the throne of Christ, and the deeds, words, and thoughts of every man will be revealed before all. May God have mercy on us and save us by the prayers of the Archangel Michael and all the bodiless heavenly powers. Amen.
HYMN OF PRAISE
The Holy Archangel Michael and all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven
Who watch over us with great care,
Cover us with your wings,
And shield us with your power.
Armed with the power of God,
Crowned by His glory,
You wield flaming swords,
To cut the demons down.
Swift, swift as rays of light
You soar on the clouds-
The clouds of the air-
Where you do battle for God.
Without fatigue and without sleep
You hover ceaselessly
Over men and created things,
And over countless worlds.
Behold, yours are mighty armies,
And gentle battalions of angels:
And, according to the Creator, our brothers.
Commanders of the might of heaven,
Lead us where we need to go-
To the throne of the Most High
Who created us from nothing.
Holy Scripture clearly and irrefutably witnesses that angels ceaselessly communicate with this world. The Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church teaches us the names of the seven leaders of the angelic powers: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Salathiel, Jegudiel, and Barachiel (an eighth, Jeremiel, is sometimes included).
“Michael” in the Hebrew language means “Who is like unto God?” or “Who is equal to God?” St. Michael has been depicted from earliest Christian times as a commander, who holds in his right hand a spear with which he attacks Lucifer, Satan, and in his left hand a green palm branch. At the top of the spear there is a linen ribbon with a red cross. The Archangel Michael is especially considered to be the Guardian of the Orthodox Faith and a fighter against heresies.
“Gabriel” means “Man of God” or “Might of God.” He is the herald of the mysteries of God, especially the Incarnation of God and all other mysteries related to it. He is depicted as follows: In his right hand, he holds a lantern with a lighted taper inside, and in his left hand, a mirror of green jasper. The mirror signifies the wisdom of God as a hidden mystery.
“Raphael” means “God’s healing” or “God the Healer.” (Tobit 3:17, 12:15). Raphael is depicted leading Tobit (who is carrying a fish caught in the Tigris) with his right hand, and holding a physician’s alabaster jar in his left hand.
“Uriel” means “Fire of God,” or “Light of God” (III Esdras 3:1, 5:20 [II Esdras RSV]). He is depicted holding a sword against the Persians in his right hand, and a fiery flame in his left.
“Salathiel” means “Intercessor of God” (III Esdras 5:16). He is depicted with his face and eyes lowered, holding his hands on his bosom in prayer.
“Jegudiel” means “Glorifier of God.” He is depicted bearing a golden wreath in his right hand and a triple-thonged whip in his left hand.
“Barachiel” means “Blessing of God.” He is depicted holding a white rose in his hand against his breast.
“Jeremiel” means “God’s exaltation.” He is venerated as an inspirer and awakener of exalted thoughts that raise a man toward God (III Esdras 4:36).
Contemplate the Apostle Paul’s miraculous resurrecting of Eutychus (Acts 20):
- How Paul preached in a house at Troas by night;
- How the young man Eutychus drifted into a deep sleep, and fell from a third-story window to his death;
- How Paul came down, embraced him and restored him to life.
on how Christ brings to life men who are dead in sin
Even when we were dead in sins, [God] hath quickened us together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5).
God first brought Christ to life: He first raised Him as a man from the grave. And Christ is our Head. Thus, in order to resurrect the whole generation of the faithful, it was necessary to resurrect the Head first. When the Head resurrected, then the resurrection of the whole body, with all its members, was assured. Therefore, the Apostle Paul speaks of our resurrection and glorification as a completed thing. So it is that God resurrected us also with Christ: And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6). God resurrected us-together with Christ as man-who once were dead in sins, slain by our sins. He not only makes us worthy of resurrection with the Lord Jesus Christ, but He also puts us on the same level with the resurrected Christ in the heights of heaven, above the whole realm of incorporeal spirits. Brethren, God did not come to earth for the sake of some petty, inconsequential thing, but for something completely unique, something greater than great. When an earthly king visits a place in his country, the benefit of his visit is felt long after. The Lord, the King, visited mankind on the earth and the benefit of that visit will be felt to the end of time. That visit means life instead of death for us, glory instead of shame, closeness to God instead of estrangement, and blessing instead of a curse. In other words, that visit means our resurrection from the dead, and our eternal reign in the heavens with Christ.
O Lord, thanks be to Thee; O Lord, glory be to Thee.
With prayers on the Feast of Archangel Michael for the servants of God
– Stratoniki, Michael, Gabriel, Stamatia, and Photini Mikella.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From Prologue of Ohrid by Nikolay Velimirovich