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Prologue from Ochrid - November 8 [November 21]

1. The Holy Archangel Michael and all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven.

The angels of God have been commemorated by men from the earliest times, but this commemoration often degenerates into the divinization of angels (IV Kings 23:5; A.V. II Kings). Heretics always wove fantasies round the angels. Some of them saw the angels as gods and others, if they did not so regard them, took them to be the creators of the whole visible world. The local Council in Laodicea, that was held in the fourth century, rejected in its 35th Canon the worship of angels as gods, and established the proper veneration of them. In the time of Pope Sylvester of Rome and the Alexandrian Patriarch Alexander, in the fourth century, this Feast of the Archangel Michael and the other heavenly powers was instituted, to be celebrated in November. Why in November? Because November is the ninth month after March, and it is thought that the world was created in the month of March. The ninth month after March was chosen because of the nine orders of angels that were the first created beings. St Dionysius the Areopagite, a disciple of the Apostle Paul (that Apostle who was caught up to the third heaven), writes of these nine orders in his book: 'Celestial Hierarchies'. These orders are as follows: six-winged Seraphim, many-eyed Cherubim, godly Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels and Angels. The leader of the whole angelic army is the Archangel Michael. When Satan, Lucifer, fell away from God, and carried half the angels with him to destruction, then Michael arose and cried to the unfallen angels: 'Let us give heed! Let us stand aright; let us stand with fear!', and the whole angelic army sang aloud: 'Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Sabaoth; heaven and earth are full of Thy glory!' (See on the Archangel Michael: Joshua 5:13-15 and Jude v.9). Among the angels there rules a perfect unity of mind, of soul and of love; of total obedience of the lesser powers to the greater and of all to the holy will of God. Each nation has its guardian angel, as does each individual Christian. We must keep in mind that, whatever we do, o or in secret, we do in the presence of our guardian angel and that, on the Day of Judgement, a great multitude of the holy angels of heaven will be gathered around the throne of Christ, and the thoughts, words and deeds of every man will be laid bare before them. May God have mercy on us and save us at the prayers of the holy Archangel Michael and all the bodiless powers of heaven. Amen.

Reflection

Holy Scripture clearly and irrefutably witnesses that angels ceaselessly communicate with this world. The Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church teaches us the names of the seven leaders of the angelic powers: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Salathiel, Jegudiel, and Barachiel (an eighth, Jeremiel, is sometimes included).

"Michael" in the Hebrew language means "Who is like unto God?" or "Who is equal to God?" St. Michael has been depicted from earliest Christian times as a commander, who holds in his right hand a spear with which he attacks Lucifer, Satan, and in his left hand a green palm branch. At the top of the spear there is a linen ribbon with a red cross. The Archangel Michael is especially considered to be the Guardian of the Orthodox Faith and a fighter against heresies.

"Gabriel" means "Man of God" or "Might of God." He is the herald of the mysteries of God, especially the Incarnation of God and all other mysteries related to it. He is depicted as follows: In his right hand, he holds a lantern with a lighted taper inside, and in his left hand, a mirror of green jasper. The mirror signifies the wisdom of God as a hidden mystery.

"Raphael" means "God's healing" or "God the Healer." (Tobit 3:17, 12:15). Raphael is depicted leading Tobit (who is carrying a fish caught in the Tigris) with his right hand, and holding a physician's alabaster jar in his left hand.

"Uriel" means "Fire of God," or "Light of God" (III Esdras 3:1, 5:20 [II Esdras RSV]). He is depicted holding a sword against the Persians in his right hand, and a fiery flame in his left.

"Salathiel" means "Intercessor of God" (III Esdras 5:16). He is depicted with his face and eyes lowered, holding his hands on his bosom in prayer.

"Jegudiel" means "Glorifier of God." He is depicted bearing a golden wreath in his right hand and a triple-thonged whip in his left hand.

"Barachiel" means "Blessing of God." He is depicted holding a white rose in his hand against his breast.

"Jeremiel" means "God's exaltation." He is venerated as an inspirer and awakener of exalted thoughts that raise a man toward God (III Esdras 4:36).

Contemplation

Contemplate the Apostle Paul's miraculous resurrecting of Eutychus (Acts 20):

  1. How Paul preached in a house at Troas by night;
  2. How the young man Eutychus drifted into a deep sleep, and fell from a third-story window to his death;
  3. How Paul came down, embraced him and restored him to life.

Homily

On how Christ brings to life men who are dead in sin

Even when we were dead in sins, [God] hath quickened us together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5).

God first brought Christ to life: He first raised Him as a man from the grave. And Christ is our Head. Thus, in order to resurrect the whole generation of the faithful, it was necessary to resurrect the Head first. When the Head resurrected, then the resurrection of the whole body, with all its members, was assured. Therefore, the Apostle Paul speaks of our resurrection and glorification as a completed thing. So it is that God resurrected us also with Christ: And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6). God resurrected us-together with Christ as man-who once were dead in sins, slain by our sins. He not only makes us worthy of resurrection with the Lord Jesus Christ, but He also puts us on the same level with the resurrected Christ in the heights of heaven, above the whole realm of incorporeal spirits. Brethren, God did not come to earth for the sake of some petty, inconsequential thing, but for something completely unique, something greater than great. When an earthly king visits a place in his country, the benefit of his visit is felt long after. The Lord, the King, visited mankind on the earth and the benefit of that visit will be felt to the end of time. That visit means life instead of death for us, glory instead of shame, closeness to God instead of estrangement, and blessing instead of a curse. In other words, that visit means our resurrection from the dead, and our eternal reign in the heavens with Christ.

O Lord, thanks be to Thee; O Lord, glory be to Thee.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK