This week, as we anticipate the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, we seek to learn more about these “majestic messengers and ministers” of God’s glory.
By: Rev. Robert J. Wagner, Secretary to Bishop Paul S. Loverde
We know from the Creed we confess each Sunday at Mass that God is the Creator of all things, both “visible and invisible.” The majesty of the visible world fills our senses as we revel in the glory of God found in the beauty of a sunset and the great expanse of an ocean, but to find the most glorious of God’s creation, we need to “look” into the realm of the invisible. It is there, hidden in our midst, that we find angels: purely spiritual beings created by God, who, like humans, are blessed with intellect and will, but who surpass all visible creatures in perfection (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 330).
Our culture often portrays angels as cute, smiling, human-like creatures with wings, but nothing could be further from the truth to what they actually are. According to Scripture, when angels allow themselves to be seen, their splendor is overwhelming and awe-inspiring. Saint Luke tells us that when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah and then to the Blessed Virgin Mary, he announced to each of them, “Do not be afraid,” knowing that the human response to his magnificence is fright (Lk 1:13, 1:31). Later, we hear that the shepherds in the surrounding fields “were struck with great fear” at the appearance of the angels proclaiming Christ’s birth (Lk 2:9-10).
On September 29, the universal Church celebrates the Feast of the Archangels. The Archangels are the principal messengers of God. The name “angel” comes from the Greek word for messenger – angelos – and thus the angel is defined by what it does: it is a messenger of God, bringing His word to all the earth. This is also the reason why they are so often portrayed as winged creatures, for they travel between heaven and earth in service of God’s mission.
Scripture reveals the names of three of the Archangels: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. In Hebrew, each of these names represents a phrase: “Who Is As God?” (Michael), “Strength of God” (Gabriel), and “Healing of God” (Raphael). It is fitting that each of their names reflects a relationship of God, for such is their existence, worshiping and serving God for all of eternity.
Let us rejoice that these majestic and powerful beings are working with us to accomplish this mission on earth and in heaven. It does not take much to be discouraged by the state of the world today, which seems to disregard not just the will of God, but even His very existence. When we feel helpless against the tide of the culture, we can take comfort knowing that Saint Michael the Archangel led the charge that cast Satan and his demons from heaven. He and the angels of God continue to battle with the powers of evil today, protecting us and guiding us as we, too, strive to do the will of God in our lives.
Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel and Saint Raphael, pray for us!