The Feast of Angels

Being raised in Protestant churches, I learned little about angels. Since coming to Orthodoxy, I’ve been introduced to a large body of teaching, and some practices that help me learn experientially, too. Some lessons come through the feasts such as on November 8th (beginning with Vespers tonight, actually), when we celebrate the Feast of The Synaxis of the Chief of the Heavenly Hosts, Archangel Michael and the Other Heavenly Bodiless Powers.

I read that the commemoration was established at the beginning of the fourth century at the Council of Laodicea. It was set to be celebrated in what was at that time the ninth month of the year, because there are nine ranks of angels.

This very rich article also tells a lot about angels according to our tradition. One teaching that gets me thinking about the mysteries of God’s Kingdom is about the angels’ bodies. But aren’t they body-less, as the name of the feast calls them? On that topic and others, here are some excerpts from the blog post, passing on to us the teachings of several church fathers:

St. John of Damascus says they are creatures limited in space and time; they have their own specific external appearance. Compared to humans, they are bodiless due to the human’s “heavy body,” but compared to God they have a body. “We speak about the angels as bodiless and immaterial compared to us, but in fact everything is heavy and material compared to God, to Whom nobody can be compared, because only the Divine is non-material and bodiless.”

St. John Chrysostom says that “… every one of us has his angel;” and St. Basil the Great adds, “Beside every believer in God sits his angel, so repent.” Finally, the angel of prayer is the angel who helps us to pray. St. Clement of Alexandria says, “Even when a person prays alone, he is accompanied by angels.” Tertullian commands the Christian not to sit when he prays in respect for the angel of prayer standing beside him.

That last sentence is the kind of nugget of truth that I can hope to remember, and let it influence my everyday life. Some will say, Why not just remember that God Himself sits with you, so repent? etc. What I have concluded after debating about these things many years ago is that if God has chosen to use angels in His salvation work, why should we ignore or reject them? Why don’t we just say, Thank you, Lord! and show our appreciation by our acts?

In our parish we have many who are named for the Archangel Michael; we’ll have Divine Liturgy tomorrow morning and give thanks for the work of angels in our lives. I’d like to muse longer over more quotes from this article but I better return to my housework if I want to make it to church in the morning.

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