ANGELS: Michael by Rosemary Ellen Guiley
From Encyclopedia of Angels
Michael is the most prominent and greatest angel in Christian, Hebrew, and Islamic lore. His name in Hebrew means, “who is like God,” or, “who is as God.” Michael is Chaldean in origin. In angelologies, his chief roles are many: He is warrior, protector, healer, guardian. He holds numerous offices in Heaven: He is chief of the virtues and archangels, a prince of the presence, and the angel of repentance, righteousness, mercy, and salvation. Some of his roles overlap with those of the other two great archangels of Christian lore, Gabriel and Raphael. In Christian art, Michael usually is portrayed in warrior garb, holding a sword and scales and trampling Satan.
Michael is mentioned by name in Daniel, Jude, and Revelation. In Daniel he is the guardian angel of the people of God (Israel). In Daniel 10:13, Michael is named and described as one of the chief princes, and in Daniel 10:21, one having the appearance of a man tells Daniel, There is none who contends by my side except Michael, your prince. In Daniel 12:1, the prophecy of the time of the end states that, At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time; but at that time your people shall be delivered, every one whose name shall be found written in the book. (This is a reference to the Israelites’ departure from Egypt, led by Moses and guided by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. In Exodus 23:20, God promises to send his angel before them. Though Michael is not named here, it is widely interpreted that he is that angel.)
In Jude 9, the archangel Michael contends with Satan over the body of Moses (according to Jewish lore, Satan wishes to reveal the tomb of the prophet in order to seduce the Israelites into the sin of idolatry; Michael, obeying God, concealed the tomb).
In Revelation 12:7-12, Michael and his legions battle Satan and his forces in Heaven, and Satan is thrown down.
Numerous other biblical references to the angel of Yahweh, and the angel of the Lord, are interpreted as meaning Michael. Besides Exodus, another example is found in Zechariah 3:1-2, which tells of an angel of the Lord who confronts Satan before God and the high priest Joshua.
In Roman Catholic devotion there is no greater angel than Michael; the Roman Catholic church refers to him as “Prince of the Heavenly Hosts.” Churches were built and dedicated to him from the fifth century onward. So intense was adoration of Michael that many devotional cults sprang up all over Europe, peaking in popularity in the late Middle Ages. Devotion to Michael (as well as to Gabriel and Raphael) today is still encouraged by the Roman Catholic church through devotional cults, prayer, and mass.
Michael is the guardian angel of the Hebrew nation. Michael wages ceaseless war against the forces of Satan. He is the special defender of Christians (and particularly Roman Catholics) and the church. Satan trembles at the mere mention of his name, and all the angels of Heaven bow down before him in obedience. Michael inspires fidelity to God. Saint Francis de Sales wrote that veneration of Michael is the greatest remedy against despising the rights of God and against insubordination, skepticism, and infidelity.
At Mass, Michael presides over the worship of adoration to the Most High, and sends to God the prayers of the faithful, symbolized by the smoke from incense. The prayer to Saint Michael, asking him to defend Christians in battle, is a condensed form of the general exorcism against Satan and evil spirits composed by Pope Leo XIII.
One of his important duties is as psychopomp to the dead, guiding the souls of the newly departed to the afterlife. In this capacity, he resembles the Greek / Roman god, Hermes / Mercury, and the Egyptian god, Thoth. Michael weighs the souls for righteousness. He is associated with benevolent aspects of the Angel of Death, and has the ability to shapeshift when he comes to take a soul away. In lore, Michael is the angel designated to appear to Mary to announce her death.
In Roman Catholicism, Michael guards the gates of purgatory and has pity on the souls therein. Legends tell of prayers made to Michael for souls in purgatory; he appears and takes them into Heaven.
Michael shares with Raphael special healing duties, a function naturally associated with him as protector of the general welfare. Roman Catholic tradition holds that Michael caused a medicinal spring to appear at Chairotopa near Colossae; anyone who bathed there and invoked the Blessed Trinity and Michael was said to be cured. Michael also caused a healing spring to appear form a rock at Colossae. Pagans attempted to destroy it by directing a stream against it, but Michael split the rock with lightning, giving a new bed to the stream and sanctifying the waters forever.
Michael was considered the great Heavenly physician at Constantinople, and is credited with banishing a pestilence in Rome during the days of Saint Gregory the Great.
Apparitions of Michael
There have been numerous apparitions of Michael reported over the centuries, usually on or near mountaintops. One of the most famous sites is the Michaelion church near Constantinople, erected in the fifth century by the emperor Constantine. At the command of Mary, Queen of the Angels, Michael came to the aid of Constantine in his battle against the pagan emperor Maxentius. Constantine built the church for Michael in gratitude. After its completion Michael appeared there to the emperor and said, I am Michael, the chief of the angelic legions of the Lord of hosts, the protector of the Christian religion, who while you were battling against godless tyrants, placed the weapons in your hands. Miracles attributed to Michael have been reported at the Michaelion over the centuries.
Another famous apparition of Michael appeared to the Bishop of Siponto on Mount Gargano in Apulia, near Naples, Italy, during the reign of Pope Gelasius. A shrine erected in the cave of the apparition attracted hordes of pilgrims. In the seventh century the shrine was at a peak of popularity, due in part to a Lombard victory over the Saracens in 663 that was attributed to the help of Michael. According to lore, the Lombards, who went to the shrine to give thanks for their victory, found the imprint of Michael’s foot near the south door of the temple.
In France, Michael has appeared on Mont St. Michel, where a sanctuary was erected.
In Spain, where the cult of Michael peaked in popularity in about the thirteenth century, one of the best-known apparitions was the 1455 appearance to a shepherd about halfway between Navagamella and Fresnedillas, in the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama. The sighting was investigated in 1520, when some of the witnesses were still alive, and also in 1617.
According to testimony, Michael appeared late one afternoon in 1455 on a holm-oak tree and a rockrose plant, to shepherd Miguel Sanchez. Michael told the shepherd not to be frightened, but to tell others that a shrine should be erected on the site and a brotherhood founded, both in honor of the angelic messengers. Sanchez protested that no one would believe him, but Michael insisted that he tell his employer. I will make them believe you so they build a shrine here to the holy angels, he said. He then made an imprint of his hand on the tree.
However, Sanchez did not tell the story. A few days passed, and one morning he awakened crippled. His legs were folded in a bizarre manner, so that the backs of his calves touched his thighs and his heels touches his buttocks. His employer, Pedro Garcia de Ayuso, tried unsuccessfully to cure him with herbs and oils. At last Sanchez told of his vision. Garcia de Ayuso consulted with authorities, and they carried the shepherd to the site of the apparition. There they found the handprint on the tree trunk. It was considered proof, and plans were made immediately for construction of a chapel. A Mass was said there for the shepherd’s health; when it was completed, he was cured. Sanchez was named keeper of the shine.
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