Feast of the Archangels

Homily for the readings of Sept. 29, Feast of the Archangels Michael, Rafael and Gabriel

The existence of the angels is probably one of the most well-known and yet misunderstood Christian beliefs.

In our culture, angels are everywhere, from interior decorating items, to “New Age” books, to TV shows and even horror movies. However, they are most often misrepresented both in what they are and what they do, due in part to literal interpretation of symbolic scriptural and artistic imagery.

Angels are spiritual beings, and do not have bodies, much less wings; they can appear to human beings as if they had bodies and act on the world, but they are not corporeal by nature, and the wings are a symbol of their spiritual nature and intellect, and their closeness to God in heaven. Nor are they the souls of human beings who have died; when we die, we temporarily lose our bodies and so are like the angels, but angels are not former humans, nor are humans future angels.

So then, what are angels, and what do they do? Angels are purely spiritual beings, with intellect and will and varying degrees of power. They praise and worship God, and serve Him in many ways – in part, by helping to carry out God’s plan for the salvation of humanity. For instance, today we celebrate the feast of the three archangels. First there is Michael, who defends us and fights against the rebellious angels. There is also Gabriel, who is known for his role in bearing messages; it was he who announced God’s plan of the Incarnation to Mary. Lastly there is Rafael, whom we know from his role of guide and healer in the book of Tobit.

Angels and devils (who are nothing but angels who rejected God) are real and play a role in salvation history. We can ask the angels for assistance when we are having difficulty (especially in spiritual matters) and in certain specific circumstances we cannot rule out the influence of fallen angels – in which case we can call upon St Michael the Archangel to help us. We should avoid the extremes of either seeing their hand in everything that happens, good or bad; or of thinking of them only as legends or myths with no real impact on reality.

I invite all of us today to renew our awareness of the reality of the angels, and to listen attentively for all the references to the angels in our prayers and in the liturgy. Let us be comforted by the assurance of their protection and guidance, and truly join their hymn of praise as we raise our voices to God in prayer and song.

Prayer to St Michael the Archangel
St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.


About Matthew Green

I am a translator, origami artist/teacher, and photographer, a blogger, former philosophy professor, and I love to sing. You can see my photos on Flickr and buy prints of some of them on Fine Art America. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter (@mehjg), and in various and sundry other social media sites on the web.
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