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On Michaelmas

On Sunday, September 29th, we will celebrate the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels, which is often called Michaelmas. We’re told in the Revelation to Saint John that Michael is the Angel that has the great privilege of leading the host of heaven into battle against the great dragon:

"Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world — he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him." (Revelation 12:7–9 RSV)

John’s vision is that of a battle between angelic spirits in which Satan, the one who accuses the saints before God day and night, is ultimately defeated. Our limited sight, so confined as it is to the physical realm, is not usually graced with seeing the angels, although some have had that great joy. So, we never know what kind of battles are raging around us. But, that does not mean that we are without a stake in the battle. Paul reminds us that “we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) In essence, spiritual warfare is not the domain of a mere handful of Christians, but the duty of every Christian. But, we do not fight alone. We have a fierce and formidable army of angels of light to fight for us.

Yet, as C.S. Lewis reminds us, we should not imagine a demon behind every tree, nor should we believe that Satan doesn’t exist. Somewhere in between is a fervent trust in God, who in Christ “made a spectacle of the powers of darkness" (Colossians 2:15) on the Cross. Angels, being part of the created order, and therefore held together and under the authority of Christ Himself, operate to establish His Kingdom. As servants and messengers of God, they both accomplish His will and bear witness to His glory. 

In our home, we make a habit of asking God to send his holy angels to guard our home against all assaults of the enemy, to keep us from danger, and to keep us from temptation. The joy of this through the years has been that even as we have faced great difficulties, we have been upheld by unseen forces. 

On Michaelmas, we rejoice in the company of the Angels and in the gift of God that they are to us.

Let me share a few of our family Michaelmas traditions:

We eat festive fall foods including carrots, roast pork, apples, and blackberries. There is an old legend that held that when Satan falls from heaven, he’ll fall into a blackberry bush. Medieval Christians held that since, every year on Michaelmas, Satan would be thrown once again into the blackberry bushes, that the blackberries would be bitter after the feast!We invite neighbors and friends into our house to feast with us.It is also traditional to put Michaelmas daisies on the family table. These are smaller daisies, ranging from yellow to purple in color.

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