Feast of the Archangels: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael



And he said to him, "Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will see heaven opened
and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."


Every book of the Bible affirms the presence of angels. No scripture writer addressed the question of their existence because there was no question. Jesus almost casually mentions them in this conversation with Nathanael. 

They were always welcome in our churches in the form of statues and stained glass windows until the modernizing era after the Second Vatican Council. More than a few wits noticed that, just as our Protestant brethren and sistren were developing greater interests in Catholic rituals and traditions (anointing, Mary, holy water, Eucharist, etc) Catholics were losing theirs. Angels also appear often on Broadway, TV and the silver screen.At Mount Saint Francis, angels who lighted the way for visitors to the chapel are now overseeing the lake and marking wooded trails.  

Since I was a part of that mighty upheaval I don't worry too much about it. Newer, more dynamic forms of art will soon reintroduce angels to our worship with all their rushing fire intact.

Angels and saints represent the personhood of God. The scholastic theologian would speak of God's wisdom, authority, compassion, protection, justice and so forth. Though the theologian intended to give God the glory with these words, they lacked vitality. 

But angels and saints personify God's virtue with added dimensions of mystery. Gabriel was known as the Guardian of Israel but when he appears in Mary's bower the terrifying warrior is gracious and deferential; glittering, gleaming and beaming with all his glory, he patiently awaits her reply. 

We encountered God's mighty power in the first book of the Bible when a word created the heavens and the earth, but we're bowled over by the instantaneous victory Michael wins over the heavenly Dragon. We hope that God cares for our marital problems and physical ailments but the Book of Tobit shows us just how particular God's care can be through the ministry of Raphael. 

The angels display the mysterious, personal depths of a God who cares for each and all of his people. There is no impersonal doom, luck or karma in the Bible. Nor is their a deus absconditus -- an absent god -- of secular thought. Our faith in angels, not our fate, assures us of the mystery of the One who comes to meet us in our world and lead us by the hand. 

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