Today we celebrate the feast of the Archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.
The word archangel in Greek means ‘chief angel’. An archangel is a member of one of the choirs (or orders) of angels, generally counted as the eighth of nine. The word appears only twice in the Bible – once in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and once in Jude 1:9.
The three Archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, each had their own feast day before the revision of our calendar. Earlier, the feast of St Michael was celebrated today, Gabriel’s feast was celebrated on 24th March and Raphael’s feast was celebrated on 24th October. Now we celebrate them together.
Most of us are aware of Michael who led the angelic host against Lucifer and his fallen angels which is described in the Book of Revelation. When I was a child, at the end of Mass, the priest led us in a prayer to St Michael. I always recall the phrase :
“Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.” This prayer was added by Leo XIII in 1886.
Michael’s name means ‘Who is like God’. He show us God’s strength and protection.
The two other Archangels we celebrate today are also named in scripture. Raphael, whose name means “God who heals”, we meet in the book of Tobit. He guides Tobit’s son, Tobias, through a series of adventures which led to Tobias marriage to Sarah, the healing of Tobit’s blindness and the restoration of the family fortune.
Gabriel, whose name means, “God is my strength”, was God’s messenger sent to Daniel, when he prophesied the coming of the Messiah. He was also sent to Zechariah to tell him of the birth of his son, John the Baptist, and he appeared to Mary to tell her of her destiny.
As one writer put it, “Earlier belief that inexplicable events were due to the actions of spiritual beings has given way to a scientific worldview and a different sense of cause and effect. Yet believers still experience God’s protection, communication and guidance in ways which defy description. We have every reason to believe in angels.”