On the Byzantine calendar, today is the feast of St. Michael the Archangel and the Angelic hosts. On my mom’s calendar, it’s her youngest child’s forty-third birthday. I was born just days after she turned forty-seven. So — as those whiz-kid math majors among you have already figured out — my mom just passed that milestone ninetieth birthday. (She points out, however, that zeroes don’t count for anything, so she’s only nine. But I digress.)
My family of origin is 100% Latin Rite, so I was not named for the archangel on his Feast in the East. I was named for my dad (God rest his soul). But I was very pleased when I learned of the coincidence of my birthday with the Byzantine memorial. I found out because of the coincidence of landing an apartment a couple of blocks away from St. Michael’s Byzantine Catholic Church in Canonsburg, Pa. It was that neighborly experience that got me looking Eastward for the first time, and all under the auspices of my heavenly patron.
So, I say, let the festivities begin, even here in the West.
St. Clement of Alexandria gives us good reason. Commenting on Jude 9, he said: “The one who fought with the devil as our guardian angel is here called Michael.” Clement’s countryman St. Anthony of Egypt had a vision that confirmed the continuing role of Michael as a warrior on behalf of humankind. And the sixth-century North African bishop Primasius chimed in that “Michael with his angels fights [present tense] against the devil, because by praying according to the will of God for the Church in this world and by granting her his aid, he is properly understood to be fighting for her. And so the apostle says, ‘Are not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?” (Heb 1:14). Primasius went on to interpret Daniel 10 and 12 in favor of Michael’s continuing role in your life and mine.
I don’t know about you, but I’m very glad to know I have an archangel like Michael on my side.
And Venerable Bede tells us that Michael’s more than a guardian; he’s also a role model. “Here is what we have to learn from this incident: if the archangel Michael refrained from cursing the devil and dealt gently with him, how much more should we mere mortals avoid blaspheming, especially as we might offend the majesty of the Creator by an incautious word.”
OK, so try to be nice to all the candidates who won the election, especially the ones you voted against. If you won’t do it for me on my birthday, do it for St. Michael on his feast.
If you want to read more of the best angelology of the Fathers, I urge you to run off right now and buy Revelation: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, volume XII. The whole series, in fact, is mighty fine, gathering patristic commentary on every verse of Scripture. You can even buy it on searchable CD-ROM.