Saint September 29 : #Archangels : St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael : Patrons of Protection, Travel and Art
The term archangel occurs only in St. Jude and 1 Thessalonians 4:15; but St. Paul has furnished us with two other lists of names of the heavenly cohorts. He tells us (Ephesians 1:21) that Christ is raised up "above all principality, and power, and virtue, and dominion"; and, writing to the Colossians (1:16), he says: "In Him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominations, or principalities or powers." It is to be noted that he uses two of these names of the powers of darkness when (2:15) he talks of Christ as "despoiling the principalities and powers . . . triumphing over them in Himself". And it is not a little remarkable that only two verses later he warns his readers not to be seduced into any "religion of angels". He seems to put his seal upon a certain lawful angelology, and at the same time to warn them against indulging superstition on the subject. We have a hint of such excesses in the Book of Enoch, wherein, as already stated, the angels play a quite disproportionate part. Similarly Josephus tells us (Bel. Jud., II, viii, 7) that the Essenes had to take a vow to preserve the names of the angels.
The following passages from St. Gregory the Great (Hom. 34, In Evang.) will give us a clear idea of the view of the Church's doctors on the point:
We know on the authority of Scripture that there are nine orders of angels, viz., Angels, Archangels, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Dominations, Throne, Cherubim and Seraphim. That there are Angels and Archangels nearly every page of the Bible tell us, and the books of the Prophets talk of Cherubim and Seraphim. St. Paul, too, writing to the Ephesians enumerates four orders when he says: 'above all Principality, and Power, and Virtue, and Domination'; and again, writing to the Colossians he says: 'whether Thrones, or Dominations, or Principalities, or Powers'. If we now join these two lists together we have five Orders, and adding Angels and Archangels, Cherubim and Seraphim, we find nine Orders of Angels.
(Hebrew "Who is like God?"). St. Michael is one of the principal angels; his name was the war-cry of the good angels in the battle fought in heaven against the enemy and his followers. Four times his name is recorded in Scripture:
(1) Daniel 10:13 sqq., Gabriel says to Daniel, when he asks God to permit the Jews to return to Jerusalem: "The Angel [D.V. prince] of the kingdom of the Persians resisted me . . . and, behold Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me . . . and none is my helper in all these things, but Michael your prince."
(2) Daniel 12, the Angel speaking of the end of the world and the Antichrist says: "At that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people."
(3) In the Catholic Epistle of St. Jude: "When Michael the Archangel, disputing with the devil, contended about the body of Moses", etc. St. Jude alludes to an ancient Jewish tradition of a dispute between Michael and Satan over the body of Moses, an account of which is also found in the apocryphal book on the assumption of Moses (Origen, De Principiis III.2.2). St. Michael concealed the tomb of Moses; Satan, however, by disclosing it, tried to seduce the Jewish people to the sin of hero-worship. St. Michael also guards the body of Eve, according to the "Revelation of Moses" ("Apocryphal Gospels", etc., ed. A. Walker, Edinburgh, p. 647).
(4) Apocalypse 12:7, "And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon." St. John speaks of the great conflict at the end of time, which reflects also the battle in heaven at the beginning of time. According to the Fathers there is often question of St. Michael in Scripture where his name is not mentioned. They say he was the cherub who stood at the gate of paradise, "to keep the way of the tree of life" (Genesis 3:24), the angel through whom God published the Decalogue to his chosen people, the angel who stood in the way against Balaam (Numbers 22:22 sqq.), the angel who routed the army of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:35).
Following these Scriptural passages, Christian tradition gives to St. Michael four offices:
To fight against Satan.
To rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death.
To be the champion of God's people, the Jews in the Old Law, the Christians in the New Testament; therefore he was the patron of the Church, and of the orders of knights during the Middle Ages.
To call away from earth and bring men's souls to judgment ("signifer S. Michael repraesentet eas in lucam sanctam", Offert. Miss Defunct. "Constituit eum principem super animas suscipiendas", Antiph. off. Cf. The Shepherd of Hermas, Book III, Similitude 8, Chapter 3).
"Fortitudo Dei", one of the three archangels mentioned in the Bible.
Only four appearances of Gabriel are recorded: In Daniel 8, he explains the vision of the horned ram as portending the destruction of the Persian Empire by the Macedonian Alexander the Great, after whose death the kingdom will be divided up among his generals, from one of whom will spring Antiochus Epiphanes. In chapter 9, after Daniel had prayed for Israel, we read that "the man Gabriel . . . . flying swiftly touched me" and he communicated to him the mysterious prophecy of the "seventy weeks" of years which should elapse before the coming of Christ. In chapter 10, it is not clear whether the angel is Gabriel or not, but at any rate we may apply to him the marvellous description in verses 5 and 6. In the New Testament he foretells to Zachary the birth of the Precursor, and to Mary that of the Saviour.
Thus he is throughout the angel of the Incarnation and of Consolation, and so in Christian tradition Gabriel is ever the angel of mercy while Michael is rather the angel of judgment. At the same time, even in the Bible, Gabriel is, in accordance with his name, the angel of the Power of God, and it is worth while noting the frequency with which such words as "great", "might", "power", and "strength" occur in the passages referred to above. The Jews indeed seem to have dwelt particularly upon this feature in Gabriel's character, and he is regarded by them as the angel of judgment, while Michael is called the angel of mercy. Thus they attribute to Gabriel the destruction of Sodom and of the host of Sennacherib, though they also regard him as the angel who buried Moses, and as the man deputed to mark the figure Tau on the foreheads of the elect (Ezekiel 9:4). In later Jewish literature the names of angels were considered to have a peculiar efficacy, and the British Museum possesses some magic bowls inscribed with Hebrew, Aramaic, and Syriac incantations in which the names of Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel occur. These bowls were found at Hillah, the site of Babylon, and constitute an interesting relic of the Jewish captivity. In apocryphal Christian literature the same names occur, cf. Enoch, ix, and the Apocalypse of the Blessed Virgin.
As remarked above, Gabriel is mentioned only twice in the New Testament, but it is not unreasonable to suppose with Christian tradition that it is he who appeared to St. Joseph and to the shepherds, and also that it was he who "strengthened" Our Lord in the garden (cf. the Hymn for Lauds on 24 March). Gabriel is generally termed only an archangel, but the expression used by St. Raphael, "I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord" (Tobit 12:15) and St. Gabriel's own words, "I am Gabriel, who stand before God" (Luke 1:19), have led some to think that these angels must belong to the highest rank; but this is generally explained as referring to their rank as the highest of God's messengers, and not as placing them among the Seraphim and Cherubim (cf. St. Thomas, I.112.3; III.30.2 ad 4um).
The name of this archangel (Raphael = "God has healed") does not appear in the Hebrew Scriptures, and in the Septuagint only in the Book of Tobias. Here he first appears disguised in human form as the travelling companion of the younger Tobias, calling himself "Azarias the son of the great Ananias". The story of the adventurous journey during which the protective influence of the angel is shown in many ways including the binding "in the desert of upper Egypt" of the demon who had previously slain seven husbands of Sara, daughter of Raguel, is picturesquely related in Tobit 5-11, to which the reader is referred. After the return and the healing of the blindness of the elder Tobias, Azarias makes himself known as "the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord" (Tobit 12:15. Cf. Revelation 8:2). Of these seven "archangels" which appear in the angelology of post-Exilic Judaism, only three, Gabriel, Michael and Raphael, are mentioned in the canonical Scriptures. The others, according to the Book of Enoch (cf. xxi) are Uriel, Raguel, Sariel, and Jerahmeel, while from other apocryphal sources we get the variant names Izidkiel, Hanael, and Kepharel instead of the last three in the other list.
Regarding the functions attributed to Raphael we have little more than his declaration to Tobias (Tobit 12) that when the latter was occupied in his works of mercy and charity, he (Raphael) offered his prayer to the Lord, that he was sent by the Lord to heal him of his blindness and to deliver Sara, his son's wife, from the devil. The Jewish category of the archangels is recognized in the New Testament (1 Thessalonians 4:15; Jude 9), but only Gabriel and Michael are mentioned by name. Many commentators, however, identify Raphael with the "angel of the Lord" mentioned in John 5. This conjecture is based both on the significance of the name and on the healing role attributed to Raphael in the Book of Tobias. The Church assigns the feast of St. Raphael to 24 October. The hymns of the Office recall the healing power of the archangel and his victory over the demon. The lessons of the first Nocturn and the Antiphons of the entire Office are taken from the Book of Tobias, and the lessons of the second and third Nocturns from the works of St. Augustine, viz. for the second Nocturn a sermon on Tobias (sermon I on the fifteenth Sunday), and for the third, a homily on the opening verse of John 5. The Epistle of the Mass is taken from the twelfth chapter of Tobias, and the Gospel from John 5:1-4, referring to the pool called Probatica, where the multitude of the infirm lay awaiting the moving of the water, for "an angel of the Lord descended at certain times into the pond; and the water was moved.And he that went down first into the pond after the motion of the water was made whole of whatsoever infirmity he lay under". Thus the conjecture of the commentators referred to above is confirmed by the official Liturgy of the Church.
Text is shortened from The Catholic Encyclopedia