Today is the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels. Usually this feast is celebrated on September 29, but this year it is transferred because the 29th fell on a Sunday.
I love this festival because of the way it reminds me of God’s ultimate victory over all evil that opposes God and God’s people. St. Michael is the prince of the heavenly host who defeated the Lucifer-led rebellion in the heavenly realm. This victory is a foretaste of the final victory that will accompany the return of Jesus and the full restoration of all things.
Throughout the Bible, angels are seen as messengers of God’s favor and protectors of the righteous. Angels are also seen participating in the worship of heaven, the eternal liturgy that we join each time we gather at the Lord’s Table.
Angels still carry out their God-appointed ministry today. As always, the collect for the day in the Book of Common prayer puts it beautifully:
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.
During the time of the Reformation, a German theologian (and good friend of Martin Luther) named Philip Melanchthon wrote a hymn for the Feast of St. Micheal and All Angels that is still sung today. It tells the story of the angels and their work as God’s ministers in heaven and on earth. If you want to try singing it today as part of your St. Michael celebration, it goes to the tune of “Old Hundredth,” better known to most of us as simply “The Doxology.”
1. Lord God, to Thee we all give praise,
Thanksgivings meet to Thee we raise,
That angel hosts Thou didst create
Around Thy glorious throne to wait.
2. They shine with light and heav’nly grace
And constantly behold Thy face;
They heed Thy voice, they know it well,
In godly wisdom they excel.
3. They never rest nor sleep as we;
Their whole delight is but to be
With Thee, Lord Jesus, and to keep
Thy little flock, Thy lambs and sheep.
4. The ancient Dragon is their foe;
His envy and his wrath they know.
It always is his aim and pride
Thy Christian people to divide.
5. As he of old deceived the world
And into sin and death has hurled,
So now he subtly lies in wait
To ruin school and Church and state.
6. A roaring lion, round he goes,
No halt nor rest he ever knows;
He seeks the Christians to devour
And slay them by his dreadful pow’r.
7. But watchful is the angel band
That follows Christ on ev’ry hand
To guard His people as they go
And break the counsel of the Foe.
8. From Daniel’s case this may be seen,
When he sat in the lions’ den,
And likewise angels rescued Lot,
That the ungodly harmed him not.
9. When the three Hebrews were at last
Into the fiery furnace cast,
No pow’r had fiercest flames to harm
Against the rescuing angel’s arm.
10. And thus our God, still at this day,
From harm and many‿an evil way
Keeps near us His dear angel-guard,
Placed over us as watch and ward.
11. For this, now and in days to be,
Our praise shall rise, O Lord, to Thee,
Whom all the angel hosts adore
With grateful songs forevermore.
12. We also pray Thee to defend
By them until the latter end,
Thy fold, that little flock, O Lord,
That holds in honor Thy blest Word.