Feast of St. Michael

St. Michael the ArchangelNovember 8

St. Michael the Archangel and all the Bodiless Powers, the best known of the angels, was leader of the heavenly host when they battled Lucifer and his followers.  The name “Michael” means, “who is like God”.

Four times his name is recorded in Sacred Scriptures:

  1. Daniel 10:13 – “But the prince (that is, the guardian angel of Persia) of the kingdom of the Persians resisted me one and twenty days, and behold Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me…”
  2. Daniel 12:1 – “But at that time (end of the world) shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who stands up for the children of your people.”
  3. Jude 1:9 – “Yet when Michael the archangel was fiercely disputing with the devil about the body of Moses…” This dispute between Michael and the devil is nowhere else recorded in the Scriptures and is a reference to Jewish apocryphal writings.  Its cause is not explained, but it seems certain that the devil wished to make some evil use of the body of Moses.
  4.  Apocalypse 12:7 – “And there was a battle in heaven: Michael and his angels battled with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels.”  St. John is speaking here of the great conflict at the end of the world.

Christian tradition, following these Scriptural passages, assigns to St. Michael four offices:

  1. to fight against Satan;
  2. to rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the devil;
  3. to be the champion of God’s  people, the Jews under Old Law, Christians under the New;
  4. to summon men’s souls from this earth and bring them to judgement.  St. Basil and other Greek Fathers place St. Michael over all the angels, calling him “Archangel.”  In the liturgy he is often called “Archistrategos” – highest general.”

The cult of St. Michael can be traced back to remote antiquity.  His feast was introduced either by Pope Sylvester or by Patriarch Alexander of Alexandria, both of whom lived in the fourth century.  In the fifth century, Anatoliius, patriarch of Constantinople, in the eight century St. John Damascene, and in the ninth century the Studites composed many beautiful hymns in his honor.  During vespers we sing the following: “O Michael Leader of host who beholds things indescribable, since you are ranked with great privilege above the heavenly ones and stand in glory before the unapproachable throne, we beseech you to save by your prayers, us who endure the hardships of tribulations and temptations.”  Another hymn from matins, composed by Arsenius declares: “O Archangel Michael, whose countenance is like lightning, gleaming in an ineffable manner with the illuminations of the Trinity and of exceeding divine brilliancy, you travel across the whole of creation like lightning to fulfil the divine command, watching over, preserving and sheltering those who joyfully praise you.”

The first Christina Emperor, St. Constantine the Great (324 – 337), built a church in honor of St. Michael on the Bosphorus at a spot call Anaplus, some fifty miles south of Constantinople.  This place later took the name of Michaelion, after St. Michael was said to have appeared to the emperor.  On the opposite headland, on the Asiatic shore, Justinian also erected a church of St. Michael.  According to DuCanage, there are said to have been no fewer that fifteen churches and chapels of St. Michael in Constantinople and its vicinity.  At an early date other towns also erected churches dedicated to St. Michael, as, for example Ravenna in 545 A.D., his feast being kept there on June 9.

Another famous church was built in the city of Constantinople at the heated baths of the Emperor Arcadiius.  At this church, the Synaxis (synod, assembly) of the Archangel was celebrated on November 8.  This feast spread over the entire Greek Church; and the Syrian, Armenian, and Coptic “Churches adopted it as well.  This is the date we celebrate today.  On this day, Byzantine Catholics honor all the angelic choirs of heaven.  “O divine leaders of God, ministers of divine glory, chiefs of the angels and guides of men, ask what is profitable for us, and great mercy, for you are the commanders of the spiritual hosts.” (kontakion)

— Basil Shereghy

Next Feast Days

October 26 Feast of St. Demetrius
 November 8 Feast of St. Michael
 November 12 Feast of St. Josaphat
(Our Cathedral is named after this Feast Day)
 November 21 Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple