Today’s great feast is devoted to Archangel Michael – the chief commander of the heavenly angelic host, the innumerable assembly of angels, faithful and zealous servants of the Almighty God, the Creator of everything visible and invisible. Angels – spiritual fleshless beings, free from all sensuality – were created by God according to His great love. They dwell in Heaven, where they surround the Throne of God and sing ceaselessly the Glory of the Creator – and on earth, where the Lord realizes through them, as through His servants, His Divine will in relation to people and everything created by Him.
The word “angel” means “messenger”; fleshless spiritual beings have this name because they are sent by the Lord with instructions and do His will precisely and with humility. Angels are filled with obedience to God, they have no wishes of their own, but only the desire to do the good will of the Creator. Being in close proximity to God, the angels are illuminated by the reflection of the eternal Divine light, by Divine holiness and wisdom; they are filled with the greatest love for the Creator and for all His creation. They constantly sing the Divine song of fiery love in gratitude to their Creator: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord, Sabaoth, the Heaven and the earth are full of Your glory!”
The Lord Creator made man as a being equal to the angels: “You have made him a little lower than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor” (Ps. 8:5), endowed him with free will to choose good or evil. But man, having chosen evil, fell away from God, and the angels, having free will, were strengthened in good. At the beginning of creation, though, some of them misused this freedom and wanted to become independent, not to be dependent on God. This is exactly what happened to one of the chiefs of the angels, Lucifer, who opposed God out of pride and vanity. As a result, the spiritual world was shaken, and some of the angels followed the fallen Lucifer. At that time, from among the angels who remained faithful to God, the champion of the glory of God and the defender of the honour of the angelic world, the archangel Michael, stepped forward. He said firmly and imperiously: “Nobody is like God!” – appealing to all the angels to remain faithful to the Creator alone. With these bold and resolute words Archangel Michael, whose name is translated from Hebrew: “Nobody is like God!” – showed that he recognizes only One God – the Ruler of the entire universe, thus testifying to the greatness of God.
The head of the angelic army entered into a fight with the proud Licifer. This struggle was difficult, because Lucifer, who later received the name Devil, or Satan, was endowed with great perfections, was cunning and crafty. But the forces of good and light prevailed and defeated the forces of evil and darkness. The angels who fell away from God were then called “the aggels of Satan” and cast out from Heaven, as it is said in the Gospel: «I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven» (Luke 10:18). And the archangel Michael was confirmed by God as the commander of the entire angelic army.
The fallen spirits directed all their anger at people, first of all at all those who are faithful to God and worship Him. The holy heavenly forces, led by Archangel Michael, wage war with the aggels of evil and darkness, shielding and protecting the faithful children of God from the insidious schemes of the devilish forces. We must thank God and rejoice that we have such reliable and courageous defenders, and at the same time remember that they will protect us if, through sin, we do not enter into the alliance with the enemies of God and men – with the demonic hordes, against whom Archangel Michael and all the holy heavenly host are fighting.
Many examples in the Holy Scripture show us the angelic intercession of people. Thus, it tells us, that in ancient times patriarch Jacob blessed his children with the name of an angel, who then accompanied and kept them on all paths of life (Gen. 48:16). Later on we see how righteous Tobias is accompanied by an angel on his way, saved by him from troubles and, finally, hears from him that the angel was a witness to all his actions (Tov. 12:15).
If we, like angels, desire not to sin and become their allies in the fight against the forces of darkness and destruction, serve only the Lord, fulfilling His good commands, then we will receive the possibility of approaching God. Many saints carried the fiery love for God in their hearts, becoming similar to angels in this respect. This is why their lives speak about them in these ways: “Having lived angelically on earth…”, “Their life was equal to angels’…”, “They were earthly angels and heavenly men…” Due to their permanent striving towards purity and light, some saints were honoured to see Heaven opened and the faces of angels at the throne of God.
In order for us, brethren, to also be able to feel the existence of angels, their constant presence, let us cleanse our hearts and souls from sinful thoughts and deeds and sing along with prophet David: «I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the angels I will sing Your praise» (Ps.138:1).
The number of angels is immeasurably great – «ten thousand times ten thousand» (Dan. 7:10), according to the expression of the Holy Scripture. Together they constitute the Assembly of fleshless forces. Equality exists only between the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As for the angelic host, not all angels are equal before God. Some angels have greater dignity, while others obey and follow. Saint Dionysius the Areopagite, disciple of saint Apostle Paul, lists nine ranks of the holy heavenly fleshless powers: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Powers, Authorities, Rulers, Archangels and Angels.
Archangels and angels have been given special grace from God to help people on the path to salvation. The apostle Paul says that angels are «ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation» (Heb. 1:14). So, archangels and angels, according to the power given to them, can defeat the hostile forces of adversaries, save from all kinds of troubles, preach the mysteries of God, heal diseases, help on the way, encourage to prayer, enlighten darkened minds, help the offended and the labouring, keep the purity of soul and body, kindle love for God, protect from various troubles and misfortunes, which we ourselves sometimes do not even suspect. Through the archangels and angels, God’s blessing is sent to people for every good deed, for every undertaking useful to the soul that helps us to enter the Heavenly Fatherland. Since sometimes our sins prevent us from bringing our prayers directly to the throne of God, as it is written: «For we do not have audacity, for the greatness of our sins,» — the angels ask God for us for the forgiveness of our sins, bring Him our sorrows and requests, rejoice about our salvation, as it is said in the Gospel: «There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents» (Luke 15:10).
We, unworthy ones, will thank and honour our great patrons, who guard us with «the protection of the wings of their immaterial glory” and keep us from the troubles and attacks of the enemy. Let us pray to them every day, and especially on the day of angels, which is Monday, which announces and points to the future Assembly of all the powers of heaven on the day of the Last Judgment of God, when, as the Holy Gospel proclaims, «the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him» (Matt. 25:31).
Of all the angelic host, the guardian angel is the closest to us. The holy guardian angel is our true friend, the kind and loving mentor. We are entrusted by God to his angel from baptism, we have an unbreakable bond with him, because he always remembers us, helps us on our earthly path, lifts us from earth to Heaven. Since the wisdom and power of angels are much higher than the understanding and strength of man, the guardian angel invisibly divert dangers from us or warns about them in advance; the angel can secretly admonish us and put good desires into our hearts, inspire, pacify and comfort us in sorrows and troubles.
The Guardian Angel wishes us the deliverance from the vile mortal sin, and all his concerns are directed towards this goal. But, since we are autocratic in our actions, the angel cannot force us or order us to do only good deeds. And if we do good deeds according to his instruction, then he rejoices for us, and if he sees us in neglect of our soul, he grieves and cries, leaving us.
It is always useful for us to think: is our guardian angel next to us, did we not drive him away? This can be understood by the inner mood of our soul. If there is light in our soul, lightness, quietness and peace in our heart; if we do not judge our neighbor and repent of our sins, then the angel is near us. When there is a storm in our soul, passions and anger, pride and despair in our heart, then you should know: our guardian angel has departed from us, and instead of him the demon-tempter has approached the soul. And if this is so, then at home and in the church pray, cry with tears, call upon your angel:
“Holy guardian angel, forgive me for my sins with which I have offended and driven you away.” Venerable John of the Ladder writes about the influence of good and evil forces on our soul: “When an evil spirit approaches invisibly, then the body fears, and when an angel approaches, the soul of the humble one rejoices. So, when we recognize the coming of the angel of God by this effect, let us quickly rise up to the prayer, for the good guardian has come to pray with us.”
If you want to always be with the angel in joy and peace – be afraid to sin. St. Basil the Great said: “As bees are driven away by smoke and pigeons by stench, so the guardian of our life – the angel – is driven away by much-lamentable and stinking sin.” It is especially important to venerate our Guardian on the day of the angel, or the name day, when we also honour the saint, in whose honour we bear our name.
On the day of the angel, it is fitting to go to church to pray, put a candle to the icon of the saint, in whose honour name we were named, and to the guardian angel, with these words: «Saint (his or her name), pray to God for me, a sinner. Angel of Christ, my holy guardian, save me, your sinful slave. It is appropriate on this day to invite guests who are close in spirit to glorify the guardian angel together. Usually the guests greet the person who celebrates the day of his or her angel with the following words: “To the angel – a golden crown, and to you, dear, who celebrates his (her) name-day, good health and spiritual salvation!”
But the glorification of the guardian angel and the saints should not be limited to one day, we need to pray to them every day – in the morning and in the evening – and also to read the canons compiled in honour and praise of our faithful mentors and guardians, the angels of God.
Although a guardian angel is given to a person until death, but if a person lives in the impenitence of his sins, falling more and more into vices and submitting to passions, then the guardian angel, although he does not leave such a person completely, is prompted by the incompatibility of his pure nature with the stinking of sin to move away from him, and the sinner is deprived of the angelic protection. Then the aggels of darkness approach the person to ruin his unclean soul. But even the greatest sinner can return his guardian angel and be reconciled with him, if he sincerely repents of his sins and leaves them forever. Then there is great joy not only for the guardian angel, but also for all other fleshless forces in Heaven.
Brothers! Let us remember that the guardian angel is always with us, from baptism to our death. And after our death, the guardian angel continues to serve us and protect us from demonic attacks. The guardian angel raises the souls of the righteous to the throne of God and implores God for the forgiveness of sins and the granting of eternal life in the Heavenly Kingdom with the holy angels and archangels. And for evil, unrepentant souls, a meeting after death with their guardian angel is the source of shame, sadness and eternal remorse. Let us try to turn the ministry of the guardian angel to our salvation for the good, so that when the time comes for us to leave this sinful world, the meeting with our guardian angel would be for us not for reproach and shame, but for eternal consolation and joy.
On the Day of the Last Judgment, “on the eighth day”, when the Son of Man comes with the holy angels and sends them to gather the weeds throughout the world and burn them, and to gather the wheat, that is, his faithful children, into His barn (Matt. 13:30). May God grant that among those elect the angels take us as well, who now celebrate their holy Assembly with honour! Glory to our God, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages! Amen.