Today is the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, September 29th, one of the fixed Holy Days of the Church Kalendar. Whereas a great many of our Holy Days commemorate mortal men like ourselves who have lived exemplary lives, this day we remember the holy angels, a higher order of creation than ourselves, and most particularly Michael the Archangel, leader of the heavenly host. Where does this understanding come from?
The opening words of the Bible are, Genesis 1:1-5 1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. As ordinary humans, we read those opening words and consider this to be about the description of the earth on the first day of creation, but what we tend to overlook is that on that same first day, God also created Heaven which had not previously existed. He created Heaven as a home for men and for angels, with earth as a place of pilgrimage for men.
The angels were created in that first day, in a state of grace by which they might receive the glory God would confer upon them. In the very first moment, they were on probation, and did not see the face of God directly. In the first instant, they were perfect creatures, but unable to see the face of God until they had heard His will and command given to them. This was the period when they would learn their role in creation as messengers and servants of the Most High God Eternal, and to acknowledge Him as their Creator and Lord. It is at this point that some of the angels, who like us have free will, chose to rebel, bringing us to the Scripture text appointed to be read for this day:
Revelation 12:7-12 7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. 12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
Thus we have Satan (Lucifer) and his angels thrown out of Heaven, down to earth where he continues to bedevil men and seek to subvert their souls today. Michael and the hosts of Heaven defeat the rebellious angels, and they are cast down, to the earth where they will have only a limited time to perpetrate their evil upon men.
The name Michael means, “Who is like God(?)” where it is not entirely clear whether the question mark belongs there or not (is it an interrogatory, or a declaration?). But notice what the passage from Revelation says, about who actually effects the defeat of the rebellious angels. It is not actually Michael and his host at all, but rather they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb which is to say that it is the blood of Jesus Christ that actually overcomes the Devil, even here on the first day of Creation. Jesus Christ, who was present and active at Creation, was redeeming Creation by casting down the devil even at that time, long before His coming to earth at the Incarnation. Let us recognize role of our Saviour from the very beginning, working for the salvation of the world.