Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I'm a Bad Person

Why? Because I ramble on and on here and neglect those closest to me. St. Michael is my patron saint, and I let his feast day slide by without mentioning nary a word. No offense to Gabriel and Raphael, with whom Michael now shares a feast day, but what with his being my patron, I'm going to focus on him.

"Who is like unto God?" is the translation of Michael's name. This bears more significance than one might think at first glance. The tradition of the Church is that the first sin was Satan's sin of pride. In other words, Satan actually wanted to supplant God. Now, there are many theories on how this went down, but the main point is that the goal of the rebellion was the overthrow of the Almighty. Also of interest is the fact that you can go to many Protestant churches and hear all sorts of sermons about this first sin, how it happened, etc., even though Scripture is almost completely silent on the issue.

Anyways, Michael's name is a complete repudiation of Satan's pride. Satan says, "I will be like unto God," or later, as he says to Eve, "You will be like unto God." The response of St. Michael is one reflecting the proper posture of humility and awe before the Divine Majesty.

"Who is like unto God?"

Nobody, of course.

Not only do we see St. Michael, by his very name, making response to the first sin, we see him as the party who has the annihilation of the rebels as his mission. We see him as God's general in Revelation and as Israel's protector in Daniel. On the former point:

And there was a great battle in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought, and his angels. And they prevailed not: neither was their place found any more in heaven.

I have often attempted to imagine what combat between celestial and demonic powers must be like. Once it occurs to me that something so terrible and fierce is way beyond my ability to comprehend, I quickly move on to another subject. I also wonder sometimes how much Satan must hate Michael so much more than anyone or anything else, outside God and the Blessed Mother. Hate him and fear him, hating him even more because of how afraid of him he must be.

Ultimately, we know that Michael casts Satan down and drives him out of heaven. There are some older traditions that also portray St. Michael slaying the AntiChrist when he attempts to ascend to heaven after killing Enoch and Elijah.

All this is neat stuff, but perhaps the most important thing about St. Michael is how ignored he is these days, even by those who claim him as their patron (like me). In the latter part of the 19th century, Pope Leo XIII required the faithful to recite certain prayers after Low Mass, including the prayer of St. Michael. The explanation for this is that Leo had a vision in which he saw Satan's power exponentially expanded in the 20th century. The prayer was meant to seek the protection of the Prince of the Heavenly Hosts against The Adversary. These prayers, known as the Leonine Prayers, fell into disuse after Vatican II. I have seen no sign that they were formally suppressed. In fact, John Paul II encouraged their use. Given the current state of local and world affairs, I heartily second our popes' recommendations on this point.

Saint Michael the Archangel,defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -by the Divine Power of God -cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.

Although this prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask everyone not to forget it and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the evil spirits of this world.

Pope John Paul II, Regina Coeli Address, April 1994

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