Sunday, September 28, 2008

Angels and Archangels

Tomorrow is the Feast of St Michael and All Angels and back in the days when I was active at St Thomas Huron Street it was one of my favorite feast days. There was something about the readings, the music and the ceremonies of Michaelmas which I loved. I always made sure I was scheduled to serve at the Procession and High Mass of the day - perhaps as Master of Ceremonies, sometimes Crucifer or Attendant but never as Thurifer. The Thurifer is the one with the burning purse as Tallulah Bankhead use to say. After having almost set the sanctuary aflame at one memorable evensong I decided creating holy smoke was not for me.

Icon of the Archangels
Angelic Council (Ангелскй Собор). Orthodox icon of the seven archangels. From left to right: Jegudiel, Gabriel, Selaphiel, Michael, Uriel, Raphael, Barachiel. Beneath the mandorla of Christ Emmanuel are representations of Cherubim (blue) and Seraphim (red).

Angels are part of many world religions - amongst them Judaism, Bahai, Zoroastrianism, Islam and Christianity. By the Middle Ages Christianity had broke angels down into 9 categories: Angels, Cherubim, Seraphim, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Dominions, Thrones and Archangels. The latter being the greatest in the hosts of the heavenly and also the ones held in common with both Judaism and Islam.

Although Gabriel the Messenger is the best know from the Christmas story, St Michael is the most important in both the Orthodox and Roman church. He is the Defender of the faith, the chief warrior against Satan and heresies. He is often depicted defeating Lucifer during the great battle that led to his fall.
San Michele - Castel San Angelo
Here in Roma the best known - and certainly most visible - statue of St Michael stands atop Castel San Angelo. Legend says that a vision of the Archangel sheathing his sword appeared over the Castel signaling an end to the plague that had devestated the city in 590 AD. The current bronze - created by the Flemish sculptor Peter Anton von Verschaffelt in 1753 - commemorates that event.

28 settembre - San Prospero


sageweb said...

Wow st. michael was pretty buff.

Sling said...

This is wonderful!
I've been fascinated with the Ranks of Angels,and their names for as long as I could read.
Thanks for this post my friend.

SubtleKnife said...

Hmm... I think the fact that these religions share the concept of angels is pretty simple to explain: they all share the same roots.

Zoroastrianism influenced Judaism, which influenced Christianity and Islam; and then Bahaï borrowed from Islam.

Other than that, I do think angels are an interesting idea.

evilganome said...

I have been pretty fascinated by angels myself. Or at least the idea of them and their significance.

If you ever want to read a great short story about angels, get a copy of Murder Mysteries by Neil Gaiman. It's a wonderful story and I recommend the illustrated version, which is beautiful!

Elizabeth said...

1. I have been accused, on occasion, of having a burning purse myself! Some days a girl just has to shop, though.... (Did Tallulah B. really say that? Hysterical.)

2. The first time around I read "thurifier" as thrifter. It's all about me - the thrifter with the burning purse.

3. Lovely image, and as much as I would like to believe in that kind of angel, I'm at least certain that there are angels among us and they have human faces and sometimes even blogs.

Yannis said...

Wow!! Now i know where it came from! Sorry to be away from the angel issues and all but one of the stories you hear when you go to Mykonos island is the story of a priest walking outside a famous gay bar "pierros" during the good friday march and one of the customers of the bar saying that phrase:"Darling, your gown is lovely but I’m afraid I have to tell you that your purse is on fire."
LOL!!! hey ho Tallulah!

Willym said...

North American urban legend attributes the story to the wonderful Tallulah Bankhead and the venue was The Church of St Mary the Virgin (Smoky Mary's) in New York City at a Christmas Midnight Mass. The one known for her quick wit and sharp tongue, the other known for its smells, bells and processions, make for a highly credible story.