Message from the Benefice

25th September 2022

Dear Friends,

The feast of Saint Michael and All Angels falls on September 29th. I think most of us think of angels as little blonde girls with gauzy wings, often confused with our idea of fairies. In fact, the term ‘angel’ comes from the Greek word angelos which means ‘messenger’. So, angels are God’s messengers. The three mentioned by name in the Bible are in fact Archangels, the ‘arch’, coming from the Greek word arkhos meaning ‘chief’. Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael have for centuries featured in the calendar of saints in the Eastern church, and for about a hundred years in the Roman Catholic church but, as far as I know, September 29 is the only day in which a non-human is venerated as a saint in the Church of England, and all other angels are included with Saint Michael, and their work as described in the Bible is not the sort of thing to be left entirely to little girls.

‘And war broke out in heaven, when Michael with his angels attacked the dragon. The dragon fought back with his angels, but they were defeated and driven out of heaven’. This passage, from Revelation 12:7-8 in the Bible, explains why Saint Michael is usually pictured slaying a serpent or dragon. It is generally possible to distinguish him from Saint George, that other slayer of dragons, because Michael, as an angel, has wings. As a guardian of the gates of heaven, he is also often portrayed with scales, weighing the souls of the dead. It is thought that this is the basis for the well-known American folk song ‘Michael, row the boat ashore’.

In view of his battling with the devil, it is not surprising that Saint Michael stands alongside Saint George a patron saint of soldiers. His wielding of scales on occasion means that he is also the patron saint of grocers.

Visions of Saint Michael seem to have been experienced all over Europe, explaining the dedication of the many churches and chapels dedicated to him, including Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy and Saint Michael’s Mount in Cornwall.

Chris Farley, Licensed Lay Minister (Reader)

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