Today is the eve of the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, or “Michaelmas.” Michaelmas marks the end of harvest, the beginning of fall and the shortening of days.
I believe in angels. They have fluttered through my life, ordering and arranging, guarding and nudging, strengthening and leading. And so today in church I was especially pleased to rediscover this marvelous hymn, #122, sung to a traditional Irish melody:Angels and ministers, spirits of grace, Friends of the children, beholding God’s face, Moving like thought to us through the beyond, Moulded in beauty, and free from our bond! Messengers clad in the swiftness of light, Subtle as flame, as creative in might, Helmed with the truth and with charity shod, Wielding the wind of the purpose of God! Earth’s myriad creatures live after their kind, Dumb, in the life of the body confined; You are pure spirit, but we here below, Linked in both orders, are tossed to and fro. You do God’s bidding unshaken and strong; We are distraught ‘twixt the right and the wrong; Yet would we soar as the bird from the mesh, Freed from the weakness and wonder of flesh.
Percy Dearmer, 1867-1936
Angels are “free from our bond… free from the weakness and wonder of flesh.” We, however, are “Dumb, in the life of the body confined… Linked in both orders… tossed to and fro.” We are made for another country, to be sure. We are alien creatures on this earth, sensing another home, a home calling us. Each time we respond to goodness, beauty, truth, and love we are touched by this heavenly world. We are pulled. Each time we pray, each time we make the Sign of the Cross, each time we receive the Holy Eucharist, we reach and touch heaven. We are both body and spirit, unlike angels, who are only spirit. We have a foot in each world; we straddle two countries or perhaps toggle between.
And it is true, as Father Dearmer says, that our flesh is both weak and wondrous. Today, as cultural forces seek to merge the male and the female, to create androgyny and deny gender, I see this wonder disappearing. Men and women were created to be delightfully complementary to one another; they are uniquely different and yet when joined together they produce new life. So within the sacred union of marriage, God works these miracles, transforms our fleshly weakness into creative strength. He unites heaven and earth through our flesh.
Michael the Archangel is described in Scripture as the great warrior-angel who defeated the rebel angel Lucifer in the war in heaven. And of course there are choirs of angels, angels appearing to comfort and guide as well as protect, messenger angels bridging heaven and earth. There are many accounts of people seeing angels, often testimony of children whose vision is unguarded.
Angels are “unshaken and strong,” but we are torn between “right and wrong.” And yet, angels help us to choose when we are torn and strengthen us in our good choices. For angels wield “the wind of the purpose of God.”
I pray for such a wind daily, especially as I work my way through the first draft of my novel-in-progress, The Fire Trail. I know that I cannot write it alone. I need help and, as I reach for help, angels lift up my hands to the heavens, leaving my feet firmly planted on earth. I can feel the stretch of my soul, my mind, my heart, and sometimes it hurts.
I pray for such a wind for our nation and those of the Western world, as we fight to defend our boundaries, both of liberty and land, as we build a wide fire trail to keep out those who will burn to ash our way of life, our freedom.
I pray for the angels all around us to open our eyes that we may see the truth. And I thank God for Father Dearmer and his dear portrait of our ministering heavenly friends.
As the Mass ended this morning, we sang another powerful hymn, #600, and my husband turned to me to whisper, “My favorite.” The organ thundered and as the crucifer and torchbearers recessed triumphantly down the aisle, followed by the clergy in their gleaming white robes, we sang, “Ye holy angels bright, Who wait at God’s right hand,/Or through the realms of light/Fly at your Lord’s command,/Assist our song, For else the theme/Too high doth seem/For mortal tongue…”