The Great War in Heaven

This last week we celebrated St. Michael and All Angels, the defender of heaven and our defender too.

There was great war in heaven, so Scripture tells us, and Archangel Michael and his heavenly host of angels cast out the angel Lucifer, who had rebelled against God.

Myth?  Dream?  Real event?

While many passages of Holy Scripture are indeed myths, telling greater truths, or dreams, predicting real events, this account of the war in heaven rings true.  I see the war in heaven all around me in our fallen world, and in my own fallen heart.  Good and evil battle continually, and sometimes we see it, sometimes we don’t.

So I love the feast day of St. Michael.  I love that Satan is defeated and thrown out.  For I know God wins in the end.  It is good to remember too that God is not fighting Lucifer.  God and Satan are not equal combatants.  Michael and Satan fight this war in heaven. The angel Lucifer grew too proud, too full of himself, setting himself up as God.

Today’s Gospel was the parable of the lilies of the field, where Jesus tells us to not be anxious about tomorrow, consider the lilies, how they are not anxious. Christ is not telling us not to carry out our responsibilities to society, to one another.  But once these obligations are met, we have no need to worry.  Let God do the rest.  Enjoy him and his creation.

God’s acting in time and eternity, his final victory, his valiant angels, also give me peace of mind.  I know that by believing in Christ and his great redemptive acts, I shall become one with him in the Eucharist, and one with him in eternity in heaven.  This knowledge gives me peace.

The hymns today were all about Michael, and we sang with intense anticipation and praise as the thurifer prepared the way along the red-carpeted aisle, throwing incense into the air, processing to the candle-lit altar and the green tented tabernacle.  The crucifer followed, holding the crucifix high, an extension of himself.  The clergy came last.  They stepped joyously and solemnly, filled with God’s certain love.  The stunning liturgy of the Holy Eucharist began, the immense offering prayer of God’s people, the liturgy of sacrifice repeated again and again since that last supper on Maundy Thursday so long ago, an offering repeated until the return of Christ to earth.

Today we welcomed our new vicar who is also named Michael, and I prayed that he would renew our people, fill them with the golden goodness of God in Scripture and Sacrament, in prayer and song.  I prayed that he would cast out the evil and nurture the good.

As we left, I recalled that this Tuesday is the Feast of Saint Francis, a poor beggar filled with the same confidence as Archangel Michael.  Francis had no worries, padding the trails of thirteenth-century Italy, walking through the fields, talking to the birds, at one with God and his creation.

I gave thanks for the poetic symmetry of the lessons and feasts, Michael yesterday, the lilies today, Francis tomorrow.  It is harvest time, and we offer thanks for our crops, for sun and rain and wind.  We are at once a part of it and not a part of it, somehow the same but different, with our creator binding us together.  In time we will understand this mystery.

For now, the Archangel Michael defends heaven and Saint Francis celebrates earth.  Creator, we the created, and creation, are one.

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