September 29: Saints Michael, Gabriel, & Raphael, Archangels

Feast; Liturgical Color: White
Patrons of soldiers (Michael); mailmen (Gabriel); travelers and the blind (Raphael)


<<<      The air between God and man is thick with mystical beings.     >>>

It is a principle of Catholic theology that salvation is mediated, that individual man does not go to God alone, and that God does not come to man alone. This means that there are layers of words, symbols, art, priests, nuns, catechists, music, books, churches, shrines, and endless other things and places and people that channel God to us. Even using the name “God” or “Father” or “Jesus Christ” presupposes the mediation of language. So although someone may say they want to “cut out the middleman”of the Church and go directly to God, they can’t. At some point in their youth, they absorbed who God was from others, so even the most basic, apparently innate knowledge we have of God is mediated, if only by nature itself. Today’s feast is about the created spiritual beings known as angels who fill the space between God and man, communicating His message, protecting man from harm, and battling against the armies of Satan. The Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael transmit some of God’s most important messages.

Michael leads the war cry in a mysterious, metaphysical battle against the Devil and his minions in the Book of Daniel. “There is no one with me who contends against these princes except Michael, your prince” (Dn 10:21), and “At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise” (Dn 12:1). Michael means “Who is like God.”

Gabriel is an essential figure in the events surrounding the Incarnation. We first meet him in the Jerusalem Temple, announcing the birth of Saint John the Baptist to his father, Zachary: “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news” (Lk 1:19). He later conveys the message of all messages to the Virgin Mary, eliciting her “Yes” to God’s sublime invitation. Gabriel means “the strength of God.”

Raphael appears in the disguise of a man in the Book of Tobit, guiding the young Tobiah along his journey. “…God sent me to heal you and Sarah your daughter-in-law. I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand ready and enter before the glory of the Lord” (Tb 12:14–15). Raphael means “God heals.”

The Old Testament description of the angels worshipping before the throne of God is one of fierce power: “…each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Is 6:2–3)

These beings are far from the pudgy, pillow-soft, fat-cheeked baby angels so often depicted in art. Today’s feast is for the mighty six-winged angels, the deadly serious ministers of God’s messages. These Archangels engage in consequential spiritual battle, know that God and His Word are not frivolous, and carry out their missions as emissaries of the Most-High. We invoke them now just as Saint Patrick did in the fifth century: “I arise today through the strength of the love of cherubim, in the obedience of angels, in the service of archangels, in the hope of resurrection to meet with reward.” Amen.

Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, we invoke your powerful intercession before the throne of God in heaven. By your spiritual assistance, protect us from harm, heal us of our infirmities, and convey to us God’s will for our lives. Amen.

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