In our baptismal vows we make what can feel like an impossible promise. John H. Westerhoff in Living Faithfully as Prayer Book People posits, “Our first act is to renounce evil, that is, to acknowledge evil’s influence on our lives and to make a formal declaration to refuse, with God’s help, to follow, obey, or be influenced by evil. To renounce evil is to assert that with God’s help we will not permit ourselves to be victimized by our experience of evil—evil that, in this case, in this case, is the result of its influences on others whose resulting actions affect us” (64). The Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels can inspire us as we commit to keep this baptismal vow and as we endeavour together as a community to be faithful to our Lord.
1. The Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels reminds us to renounce evil.
Renouncing evil is a life-long commitment, and if left to ourselves we would fail. This is why God has given us advocates—the Holy Spirit and the angels to watch over us. In Holy Scripture, angels are messengers, servants of God and guardians God’s people (Psalms 91.11–12; Psalms 34.6–7; Luke 1.11–13; Hebrews 1.14). We find them throughout the pages of Holy Scripture showing up in the most unexpected times to help or announce God’s saving activity behind the scenes of history to bring about his rule and reign of love. Angels reveal the will and purposes of God; they remind us of the cosmic reality that exists beyond our sight. In Lesser Feasts and Fasts a reading from the book of Revelation is appointed for the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels, Revelation 12.7–12. My first real encounter with Revelation 12 was during my first year as a seminarian, and what struck me most was the description of a cosmic battle between good and evil through the birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Revelation 12 provides the account of the victory of Saint Michael over Satan, the accuser.
2. The Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels reminds that our God fights for us.
Revelation 12.7–12 relates Jesus’ victory in his death and resurrection, his victory over the powers of Sin, Death, and the Devil—to the victory of Michael the Archangel over Satan, a fight in which Michael triumphs over Satan casting him down to earth. The triumph of Saint Michael over Satan is so identified with Jesus’s triumph over the powers of Sin, Death, and the Devil that the connection between heaven and earth is revealed: the connection between a bloody Messiah and a triumphant king, between the lifting up of the cross and an enthronement of royalty, between the agony of a mother and the celebration of angels in heaven who recognized that through death, the Christ has become victorious. Revelation 12.7–12 pictures the scene in which the Messiah has won, giving grounds for Saint Michael to act, to cast out the accuser in preparation for the Lord’s ascent to the right hand of the Father.
Saint Michael the angelic warrior, the patron saint of our church is a “powerful agent of God who wards off evil from God’s people and delivers peace to them at the end of this life’s mortal struggle” (Lesser Feasts and Fasts 330). The Feast of Saint Michael is a time to remember that as God’s people, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6.12). There is a battle beyond what we see. Evil forces seek to devour this world and God’s people. As we witness and suffer the tragedies of the world—sex trafficking, racial prejudice embodied in unjust laws, economic exploitation of the poor, illicit uses of power, and church scandals, etc. —we must remember that these challenges are more than they seem. They reflect a cosmic battle between the forces of evil and our mighty and merciful God with angels and archangels involved in a battle for the souls and bodies of men and women. This is not a reality that we can simply watch in a state of hopelessness unable to affect change. We are called to join the cosmic battle in renouncing evil and resisting sin. Christ himself is already victorious!
3. The Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels reminds us that our church is a fighting church.
Every time we gather, we renew our baptismal vows and renounce evil when we recite the Nicene Creed and pray for God to act. As a community who worships the God who is love, our church is a place for healing, safety, and reconciliation. It’s a place where we are developed and formed in love. We are renewed in God’s image so that we can share the reconciling mercy of God, that his “holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the people of this land], that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace” (BCP 823).
Because “our struggle is not against flesh and blood,” we fight through the gospel, “the word of our testimony,” and we fight though our prayers (Ephesians 6.12, 18–19). We are a church that fights, but we fight through love and prayer as we “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12.15). In this ‘battle of love’, we seek strength and nourishment through Holy Communion. And as a community reliant upon the grace of God, we must be assured that we don’t fight alone. Our God fights for us. He defends his people. He has sent his angels into the world for our protection and to do his will.
At St. Michael’s by the Sea Episcopal Church we must remember and participate in God’s will to oppose evil and seek to be a place of refuge for the weary. Our God has gained the victory. We have triumphed over Satan, Sin, and Death by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony because—as a people of faith—we do not love [our] lives so much as to shrink from death (Revelation 12.11). On our patronal feast, we can pray with assurance and conviction:
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, now and forever.
Collect for the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels
This article was published by an anonymous parishioner.