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COLLECTS OF THE ROMAN MISSAL - SAINT MICHAEL

Today’s feast of St. Michael the Archangel supersedes the normal Sunday Propers in the Extraordinary Form. The following is the 2010 ICEL translation of the Collect for this feast, whose Latin is identical in both Missals traditions:

“O God, who dispose in marvelous order ministries both angelic and human, graciously grant that our life on earth may be defended by those who watch over us as they minister perpetually to You in heaven. Through our Lord, etc. Amen.”

St. Michael appears in a few places in Sacred Scripture, but most prominently in Rev. 12:7-12, where St. John sees him and the heavenly hosts engaged in a cosmic battle with the devil and the fallen angels. What exactly is the nature of this battle, and on what terms is it being fought? (For a complete summary of the dogmatic truths and theological opinions regarding angels in the Judeo-Christian tradition, read Fr. Jean Danielou’s classic work, The Angels and Their Mission, published by Sophia Press).  

Firstly, we have to remember that this cosmic battle is non-physical. The angelic nature is pure spirit, like the divine nature. The battle, then, is noetic, that is, it takes place on the planes of intellect and will. The devil and rebel angels misuse their intellects and wills to rebel against God in an attempt to mar His providential designs in the world. St. Michael and the whole angelic hierarchy of heaven, on the other hand, exist in perfect conformity with the divine will. They freely, joyfully, and powerfully use their intellects and wills to carry out God’s perfect plan on earth. Unfortunately, this meets with considerable diabolical opposition. As we read, however, the battle is not some kind of dualistic yin-yang conflict, as if the two sides were evenly matched. Far from it! When we read St. John’s account of this battle in Rev. 12, we find that the power of Christ exercised in His angelic hosts and His martyrs is infinitely superior. 

Scripture and Tradition teach us that angels exist in a hierarchical, that is, an ordered structure in which Christ is King, and those in His service adore Him and obey Him with a free and joyful promptitude. Our Collect’s ascription clause praises God for the wonder of this hierarchical structure of creation, both visible (human) and invisible (angelic).

Let us not pass by this phrase without taking it in. Our liturgical prayer is consonant with the witness of Scripture and Tradition: hierarchy is a good thing that testifies to God’s beauty, power, goodness, and wisdom! This is in stark contrast to the prevailing anti-hierarchical and anti-religious mentalities of many modern Western cultures. Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment philosophy have permeated the minds of many with the premise that one should view both the invisible world and religious institutions with suspicion as fabricated constructs.

Scripture and Tradition, however, as well as the lives of the saints, all demonstrate in an overwhelmingly clear and wondrous way that the angelic order is integral to our daily lives as Christians, and to the carrying out of God’s purposes on earth. Thus, we pray for angelic protection: “graciously grant that our life on earth may be defended by those who watch over us as they minister perpetually to you in heaven.” The latter part of this petition is, in fact, a motive clause, and it is quite important.

The angelic nature can truly “multitask.” The angels are constantly in the presence of God and lovingly adore Him with all their being. And it is from this dynamic and continual state of adoration of God that they simultaneously carry out His will on earth and defend us. Our Lord Himself teaches this in the Gospel (cf. Mt. 18:10). 

Oftentimes, the angels operate by way of direct intervention and protection from known or unknown evils, both moral and physical, but most especially by good inspirations leading us to greater union with God and His will. It is for this reason that Catholics and Orthodox foster strong devotion to St. Michael and the Guardian Angels. 

 

 

 

(David Allen)

Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.

 

About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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