Feast of Saints Michael and All Archangels
Albert Einstein once said: The most important question for humanity to answer is, Is the universe a friendly or an unfriendly place? How we answer that question determines how we live in the universe. Is the universe subject to random forces and are we victims or mere pawns of powers that do not care about us? If so, then we use our understanding and technology to defend and protect ourselves, to overpower any perceived enemies until our time is spent. There is no meaning to save us from isolation and the impersonal manipulation of powers and principalities that slowly bleed life from our bones. Our need for community and connection has to be met by allegiance to sport teams or political parties.
Our liturgical celebration of the ministry of the archangels gives us a lens to view the world and universe from a new perspective. It enables us to imagine the world as open to the presence of God, as the locus of His self-revelation. The first reading from Daniel reveals the world and cosmos as God’s domain, with all levels of being moving towards Him as their fulfillment and flourishing. We see the same world that the devil sees, but see in it the ministering powers of divinity to bind all creation into a communion of life where all things are connected. Our vision, blinded by fear, mistrust, and the myopia that culture inculcates as a norm, is healed. Even as St. Raphael healed the vision of Tobit, he heals our vision and imagination so that we can look with God’s vision into hidden depths and providence ruling reality. It is the vision in the night. The true powers are personal and depend on living communication that lets real life emerge.
To see the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man is to see him as the new locus of God’s interaction with the cosmos and world. Benedict affirms this imagination in his chapter on humility (7) where he identifies our life in this world as the ladder uniting earth and heaven. Our life in the body is the sacrament of being transformed into the image he has of us, transformed by God’s imagination. The ascent and descent of the angels is the work of God drawing us into full communication and integration with the hosts of heaven. We already share in the flow of life from and to God, the heavenly choir.
Heaven is open to us in that imagination of faith which releases the transcendent possibility latent in every emerging moment (Walter Wink). Our lives, which can seem so enslaved by impersonal laws which reach to the limits of the cosmos, are meant to be touched by the transcendent possibility communicated to us by the angels. They are messengers of God’s life, love, and healing which break through the limits and weights of artificially defined possibilities. They are spirits who can use as instruments the words of affirmation, correction, or appreciation of a fellow pilgrim. A breakthrough of conversion, of insight, of connection with the cosmos is a sign that we have been visited by an angel. The move from stagnation to generativity on hearing the Word from Gabriel; the move from darkness and confusion to a God-centered vision of reality as whole and healed, under the ministry of Raphael; the move from lukewarm indifference to a readiness to combat forces of evil with the armor of God’s justice supplied by Michael.
The world is the domain of God and it is held together by His active care and providence. The angels are the communication and messengers calling us bring life, healing, and justice to the world. These are not impersonal forces. They even have names: Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael. The universe is friendly and worth our commitment, because in it we meet God.