Feast Day of St. Michael and All the Angels

For the Christian communions in the West that formally observe the liturgical calendar (as well as for individuals in other traditions who play along *grin*), this is the feast day that commemorates the ministry of angels, especially the Archangel Michael. This celebration unites the liturgical and the charismatic spirit in Christianity, as it ritualizes a recognition of the presence and power of supernatural agents.

My mother has an extensive collection of angel collectibles, most of which are kept in a cabinet in the foyer of my parents’ home. As a faithful Southern Baptist who believes her Bible, she will tell you with 100% certainty that angels are real and and active in the world. She watched the television show Touched by an Angel when it aired on CBS. She sang along with the country music band Alabama whenever the song “Angels Among Us” came on the radio.

Being largely non-liturgical and non-charismatic, however, it seems to me that Baptists have been functional naturalists when it comes to angels. Perhaps those among us on the progressive end are convinced naturalists, demythologizing angels and demons alike. The discourse and literature of popular, New-Age spirituality may be rife with angel encounters, but the testimonies of Baptists have not. Our Jesus-centric devotion shoves aside other agents of grace. If others’ experiences have been different, I would like to hear about it.

I don’t think about angels often and I have no personal experiences that I might consider to be angelic encounters, but the thought of angels does fill me with a sense of the numinous. Whatever, wherever, and however they may be, angels have a way of enchanting me. So I do look forward to this feast day each year.

The image below is the cover of a contemporary edition of Charles W. Leadbeater’s posthumous work, Christian Gnosis. Leadbeater (1854-1934) was a Theosophist and founder of the esoteric Liberal Catholic Church. I post this cover not as an endorsement of the contents of Christian Gnosis per se, but because it features what is perhaps my favorite image of an angel. The angel displays a beautiful panoply of colors on its garments and wings. It treads upon the clouds, but its gaze is upward still as it swings a thurible filled with burning incense. The appealing portrait of the angel draws me in, but ultimately to invite my gaze upward so that I, too, may be “lost in wonder, love and praise.”

I believe there are angels among us.

Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Book of Common Prayer

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