Picture from Una Voce Orange County California Handout/Bulletin Insert for guests to the EF, Michaelmas
Yeah we all know Christmas and Easter are big days in the Church, but did you know that there are many other "Big days" in the Church? There's many more feast days. That's right, Feasts. And they pop up annually in the Church Calendar, be it Novus Ordo or Extraordinary Form/TLM. So, what are these feast days?
According to the Revised and Updated Catholic Encyclopedia, edited by Broderick, feast days in the Church calendar are: "... the sequence of festivals to commemorate a teaching or event or religious improtance, or saints' days .... Feasts are celebrated within the limits of a natural day ..." (1)
So, on this day, September 29th, the Church commemorates a Saint's feast day, an event of religious importance, and indirectly teaching of an event. Today is the feast of the Archangels Sts. Michael, Raphael and Gabriel. These are the only angels that are named in the Bible (that is known to us by name). St. Michael is principally who is celebrated today, though all 3 are implied. So what's up with these three big head honchos cause they aren't just angels. Their bigger.
What is an angel? Again I turn to the Catholic Encyclopedia (2):
"... angels are spiritual beings, created by God, and superior in nature to man. They are immortal beings whose role is to minister to God and to do thw will of God in obedience. They are bodiless, spiritual intelligences who have their knowledge, not as man who acquires knowledge through his senses, but by intuition. Thus they do not arrive at conclusions following upon principles by a process of reason but immediately know the principles as truth ...."
Also, there are 9 "choirs" of angels in descending order: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominations, Principalities, Powers, Virtues, Archangels, and Angels (2). Now, that's a nice nutshell definiton for you, but what about the three I mentioned? Let's save the popular one, St. Michael, for last, and let's get Gabriel and Raphael out of the way.
Gabriel means "Man of God/God has shown Himself Mighty." This angel announced to Daniel the prophecy of the 70 weeks in Daniel 9:21-27 and also appeared to Zechariah to announce the birth of St. John the Baptist (Luke 1:11). Finally, he announced to Mary she'd bear Christ who'd be conceived by the Holy Spirit and well, save the world (Luke 1:26) This is the famous angel who is named in the Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, the Annunciation. (3)
Means "God has healed." Appears in the Book of Tobit as a guide to Tobiah. Raphael also bings the demon Asasel in the desert of Egypt in the book ot Tobit, helps Tobiah find a wife and recover his debt, and heals Tobit from blindness. He also reveals his identity directly in the book of Tobit. (3)
Michael (the Big Shatoonah, and my personal favourite Angel)
Clearly you have heard of this angel. Really? No? Well those named Michael have a mane meaning "Who is Like God" which is translated in Latin as "Quis et Deus". You may have seen that expression on some coats of arms or symbols dedicated to Michael. I could tell the story of Michael in a Nutshell, but I found a good summary via the ArchBishop of Ottawa, Ontario, Cannada, +Prendergast's blog: http://archbishopterry.blogspot.com/2011/09/archangels-michael-gabriel-raphael.html. The summary was taken from The Catholic Herald Newspaper in the UK at: http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/spirituallife/saintoftheweek/2011/09/22/the-saint-who-threw-satan-out-of-heaven/ . Here it is in full text:
"The Archangel Michael is honoured as the leader of the heavenly host which threw Satan and his fellow rebels out of heaven.So that's what this feast day is all about in the Catholic Church. For those interested in the Scriptural Readings for today's masses, here they are for both forms:
Today, the Catechism of the Catholic Church stoutly maintains the existence of angels as “true of faith”: “The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of tradition.”
Angels, the Catechism elucidates, “are servants and messengers of God. Because they ‘always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven’ (Mt 18:10) they are ‘the mighty ones who do his word’ (Ps 103:20).
“The whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of the angels. From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession.”
This is a development of Jewish tradition. In the Old Testament there are copious references to angels, although Michael’s status is not precisely clear. In the Book of Daniel, written c 550 BC, he is “the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people”.
Jesus Christ speaks (Mt 26:53) of having “more than 12 legions of angels” potentially at his side. And although the term “archangel” does not appear in the Bible, the reference in Revelation (12:7) to “Michael and his angels” suggests his supremacy.
In Hebrew the name Michael actually means “Who is like unto God?” The implication, which the rebellious angels learned to their cost, is that no one possibly could be like God.
In Catholic tradition, Michael serves four distinct roles. Just as he had defeated Satan in celestial combat, so he provides aid in the spiritual struggle fought in every human soul.
“With me,” the worldly Bishop Blougram explains in Browning’s poem:
faith means perpetual unbeliefSecondly, Michael is present at every deathbed, offering the hope of redemption.
Kept quiet like the snake ’neath Michael’s foot
Who stands calm just because he feels it writhe.
Thirdly, he weighs the merits of the soul after death.
Fourthly, he stands forth as the guarantor of Christ’s promise to the Church that it will endure to the end of time.
The cult of Michael developed in Byzantine Christianity, though stories of his apparition on Monte Gargano (southern Italy) in the late fifth century helped to spread his fame in western Europe.
Around 495 a vision of the archangel in Cornwall apparently led to the naming of St Michael’s Mount. By the end of the Middle Ages nearly 700 churches in England (many of them on high ground) bore Michael’s name. His feast was even retained in the ultra-Protestant Prayer Book of 1549.
Since 1969 the Catholic Church has combined his feast day with those of Gabriel, Raphael “and all angels”. Michael, though, is still in control of the army." (4)
Extraordiary Form/Tridentine Latin Mass (1962): Apocalypse (a.k.a. Revelation) 1:1-5 And Matthew 18:1-10
Novus Ordo (1962): Revelation 12:7-12a, Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 and John 1:47:51
Also, as to more about the fall of the traitor angels and the Devil (a.k.a. Satan, Lucifer, prior to the fall) with regard to St. Michael, check out the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 391 to 395. I am referring you for now, but as always, I could do a catechesis session in future on the fall of the traitor angels, the spiritual war,etc. in future.
Sources (cited according to MLA Style Maual, 5th Ed.)
(1) Broderick, Robert C., Thomas, Ed."Feasts of the Church" Revised and Updated Catholic Encyclopedia. 1987.
(2) Broderick, Robert C., Thomas, Ed."Angel" Revised and Updated Catholic Encyclopedia. 1987.
(3) "Sept. 29. Saints Michael, Gabriel, Raphael" Lives of the Saints For Every Day of the Year. New York: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1977. 396-398.
(4) "The Saint Who Threw Satan Out of Heaven." The Catholic Herald. 29 Sept 2011. <http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/spirituallife/saintoftheweek/2011/09/22/the-saint-who-threw-satan-out-of-heaven/>