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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Feast of the Archangels

Tomorrow is the Feast of the Archangels: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Tradition tells us that there are more than 3 angels that share the title of "archangel" however the 3 occupy a special place in the mind of the church. Since tomorrow we remember them, I thought I would give you some background...

It is on the day of the dedication of a basilica in honor of Saint Michael in the northeastern part of Rome, during the fifith century, that we celebrate the feast of the Holy Angels. "Their splendor shows us your greatness, which surpasses in goodness the whole of creation." (Preface)
Scripture mentions but briefly the archangels Michael and Gabriel and speaks of Raphael only in the Book of Tobit. In the New Testament, Gabriel is the messenger who announces the birth of John the Baptist and that of Jesus, while Michael appears at the head of the heavenly hosts, the conqueror of Satan in the great battle of the endtime (First Reading from Revelation). From the paradise of Genesis to that or Revelation, however, the angels fill the entire span of the history of salvation with their invisible presence. They are the Lord's "angels" or messengers (Entrance Antiphon), revealing his designs and carrying out his commands. Above all, they sing his praises (Communion Antiphon), an immense host of adorers seen by Daniel and John around the throne of the living God: "Thousands upon thousands were ministering to him, and myriads upon myriads attended him" (First Reading from Daniel). Earth's liturgy joins us to that of the angels in heaven. Not only do we "make their hymn of praise our own" (Preface), proclaiming that the Lord is holy, but in offering the sacrifice we ask God "that your angel may take this sacrifice to your altar in heaven...
That part gets me. It is fun to imagine the enigmatic scene during the liturgy...a striking being of light alights at the foot of the altar to take the offering to God's throne in heaven. Then as we proclaim the hymn "Holy Holy Holy"....just picture the roof of the church blown completely off and here we are kneeling in the company of the heavenly host: The Holy Trinity, Our Lady, the Saints, Angels and all the holy ones; moms, dads, children, friends long past...all of us present in the eternal NOW. Time and Space no longer obstacles to our vision. There's a whole lot more going on in the unseen world than we could possibly fathom. The three archangels played a pivotal role in human history, bringing this vision, this message, near to us. I believe that angels do attend us during our earthly pilgrimmage and will accompany us to our destination beyond the grave. We remember the archangels and join with them in praise and worship of the One who made us all.
Ye watchers and ye holy ones,
bright seraphs, cherubim and thrones,
Raise the glad strain, Alleluia!
Cry out, dominions, princedoms, powers,
Virtues, archangels, angels' choirs,
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
O friends, in gladness let us sing
Supernal anthems echoing,
To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

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