Michael and All Angels
The festival of St Michael and All Angels is celebrated on 29 September. The liturgical colour is white. The name Michael means ‘Who is like unto God?’ (1) – implying that no one is like God.
Michael the Archangel is mentioned in the Book of Daniel as “one of the chief princes” of the angels (NRSV, Daniel 10:13) and a special protector of the people of Israel (Daniel 12:1). He is also mentioned in the Letter of Jude: “…the archangel Michael contended with the devil…” (NRSV, Jude 1:9). In the Book of Revelation Michael and his angels fought against the devil (dragon) and his angels and defeated them (Revelation 12: 7-9).
From the beginning of Christian history there is evidence that Michael was held in honour. (2) In the Western Church he was honoured as ‘captain of the heavenly host’ and a protector of Christians. In the Eastern Church he was regarded as a special guardian of sick people. The 2nd century Shepherd of Hermas (see Similitude 8, Chap 3) depicts Michael as a majestic angel with a role in judgement. (3)
Constantine (3rd/4th century) built a church dedicated to Michael at Sosthenion outside Constantinople (4) and his feast day on 29 September is probably the anniversary of the dedication of a church in his honour on the Salarian Way at Rome in the 6th century. (5) In England, by the end of the Middle Ages, there were as many as 686 churches dedicated to Michael. (6)
Michael is portrayed in art in several ways. He is depicted as an angel in armour slaying the dragon as in a stained glass window at St Michael’s Church, Stoke St Michael in Somerset. A medieval stained glass window in the Church of St Michael and All Angels, Eaton Bishop, Hereford shows Michael weighing a soul on a pair of scales i.e. judging. At the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Chaldon, Surrey there is a medieval wall painting in the upper left quadrant of which Michael is standing with a pair of scales. A devil is trying to weigh the scale pan down as a soul is about to climb on it.