St. Michael and All AngelsFrom a sermon by St. Gregory the Pope
We are accustomed to speak of nine choirs of Angels, because holy Writ seemeth to witness to that number when it speaketh severally of Angels, Archangels, Mights, Powers, Principalities, Dominions, Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim. Very many pages of holy Writ witness to Angels and Archangels. The books of the Prophets, as is well known, do often make mention of Cherubim and Seraphim. Paul, writing to the Ephesians, counteth up the names of four choirs, where he saith that Christ is set far above all Principality, and Power, and Might, and Dominion. Again, writing to the Colossians, he speaketh of Thrones as well as of Dominions, Principalities, and Powers. If then we add the Thrones to the four choirs mentioned to the Ephesians, we have five choirs. And when we add unto them the Angels and Archangels, the Cherubim and the Seraphim, we com to the final conclusion that there are nine choirs of Angels.
Now it must be understood that the word Angel is the name of an office rather than the designation of the nature of these beings. For those holy ones of heaven are always spirits, but they are not always accurately called Angels, which is, being interpreted, Messengers, for they are Angels only when they are sent as Messengers. Hence also it is said by the Psalmist : He maketh his Angels spirits, and his Ministers : as if to indicate that he hath made them spirits, and that of these spirits he sometimes maketh some to minister in the office of messenger. They that go on a lesser ambassage are called Angels, that is Messengers. They that go on a great ambassage are called Archangels, that is Chief Messengers. Hence it is that unto the Virgin Mary was sent no common Angel, but the Archangel Gabriel. For the delivery of this, the highest message, it was meet that there should be sent one of the highest Angels. Their individual names also are so given as to signify the kind of ministry wherein each is powerful. Michael is by interpretation : Who is like unto God? Gabriel: The Strength of God. Raphael : the Medicine of God. As often as anything very mighty is to be done, we see that Michael is sent, that by that very thing, and by his name, we may remember that none is able to do as God doeth. Hence that old enemy, whose pride hath puffed him up, so that he is fain to be like unto God, is reported by the Prophet Isaiah to have said : I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will be like the Most High. But this old enemy, when at the end of the world he is about to perish in the last death, having no strength but his own, is shewn unto us a-fighting with Michael the Archangel, even as saith John in the Apocalypse : There was war in heaven ; Michael and his Angels fought against the dragon ; and the dragon fought and his angels. Unto Mary is sent Gabriel, whose name signifieth Strength of God, for he came to herald the coming him who was content to appear lowly that he might fight down the powers of the air. Raphael, whose name signifieth Medicine of God, is the one who, as a physician, treated the eyes of Tobit, so that his blindness was cleared away.
Antiphon on the Benedictus:There was silence in heaven for a space, whenas Michael and his Angels made war against the dragon, * and Michael waxed valiant in fight, and turned to flight the armies of the contrary part (Alleluia)
Collect:O EVERLASTING God, who hast ordained and constituted the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order; Mercifully grant that, as thy holy Angels always do thee service in heaven, so, by thy appointment, they may succour and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.