The Festival of St. Michael and All Angels
Everlasting God, You have ordained and constituted the service of angels and men in a wonderful order. Mercifully grant that, as Your holy angels always serve and worship You in heaven, so by Your appointment they may also help and defend us here on earth; through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
We meditate on Holy Scripture:
Old Testament: Dan. 10:10-14; Dan. 12:1-3
Epistle: Rev. 12:7-12
Gospel: Matt. 18:1-11
The festival of St. Michael and All Angels is an opportunity to reflect on the blessing of God in the form of His angels, who serve Him, by serving His “little ones” — all believers in our Lord Christ Jesus.
The great theologian Johann Gerhard is quoted in the Treasury of Daily Prayer and offers four reasons why the angels serve believers, and the last and final one particularly caught my eye. Gerhard writes: “Because we shall someday be with them in heaven and join their choir in praising God, the angels are happy to serve us here on earth.” Here is a helpful pamphlet on angels that offers a good summary of what angels are, and what they do.
No one can dispute that angels are a hot topic these days. Bookstores have several shelves filled with books about angels. People are simply fascinated about the subject of angels.
Unfortunately, much of the talk about angels strays from what the Scriptures have to say on the subject. The Church, however, has always held angels in high regard and has acknowledged their unique status in God’s creation. In fact, there’s a day on the Church’s calendar that is devoted specifically to angels: September 29–St. Michael and All Angels. Let’s take a look at some of the changeable parts of the liturgy for that day (these are called the “propers”) and see what they teach us about the angels.
In the Introit these words from Psalm 103 are prayed:
Praise the Lord, you His angels,
you mighty ones who do His bidding,
who obey His word.
Praise the Lord, all His heavenly hosts,
you His servants who do His will. (Psalm 103:20-21)
In just a few words, we learn a lot about the angels. They’re mighty, possessing great power given them by God. More importantly, however, they serve God. They do His bidding and obey His will.
Of course, it’s important to remember that there are certain angels who don’t do God’s bidding, namely, those who have fallen away (2 Pet.2:4). Satan leads that band of rebels. Though Jesus has defeated Satan and all his evil hosts, we should never take the devil for granted, for he too possesses great power and can quickly lead us astray.
The Collect of the Day for St. Michael’s beautifully sums up the work that the angels perform on our behalf:
O everlasting God, whose wise planning has ordained and constituted the ministry of men and angels in a wonderful order, mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve you in heaven, so by your appointment they may also help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
In the Gradual, a single verse (Ps. 91:11) points to the reason why we can ask God to continue to send His angels to protect us:
God will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
That promise doesn’t give us the license to tempt God, as Jesus made very clear during His temptation in the wilderness (Matt. 4:5-7). Yet, it is a great comfort to hear God’s promise that He does send His angels to guard and keep us. Is it any wonder that Luther concluded his morning and evening prayer in the Small Catechism with these words: “Let Your holy angels be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.”
There are several sets of readings assigned for St. Michael and All Angels, and they would require another article to comment on them sufficiently. They are offered here with the encouragement that you read them for your own edification:
- Joshua 5:13-15 or Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3
- Revelation 12:7-12
- Matthew 18:1-11 or Luke 10:17-20
Finally there are hymns that sing about the angels. The following stanzas are from a hymn written by Philipp Melanchthon, Luther’s colleague at Wittenberg:
They never rest nor sleep as we;
Their whole delight is but to be
With You, Lord Jesus, and to keep
Your little flock, Your lambs and sheep.
Increase, we plead, our song of praise
For angel hosts that guard our days;
Teach us to ceaselessly adore,
To serve as they do evermore.
(LW 189, st. 3 & 4; public domain)