The Archangel Michael

According to Catholic tradition, angels are spirits without bodies who are surpassing in strength and holiness. In Revelations 12 we see the great battle of Michael and his angels, fighting against Satan, who is hurled down. He is described in

Lord have mercy. 

St. Michael, crowned with honor and glory.

St. Michael, victor over Satan.

St. Michael, honor and joy of the Church Triumphant.

St. Michael, light of the angels. 

St. Michael, Ambassador of Paradise,.

St. Michael, Terror of the evil spirits. 

Pray for us. 

According to Catholic tradition, angels are spirits without bodies who are surpassing in strength and holiness. In Revelations 12 we see the great battle of Michael and his angels, fighting against Satan, who is hurled down. He is described in the Scriptures are “one of the chief princes” and as a leader of the forces of heaven. The Church has venerated him since the fifth century, and since then, he has become a widespread intercessor and patron of the Church.

In this piece, The angel Michael stands, having conquered Satan, the battle, at the conclusion of an epic battle against the forces of darkness. With wings lit by the flame of his sword, which burns with divine strength, St. Michael’s hand is stilled, at the ready. With a strength greater than that of man or his angels, he stands holding the Prince of Darkness at bay with only his foot. Dressed in red, St. Michael wears a visual symbol of the blood of Christ. Red likewise symbolizes a double character: war and love. Is St. Michael not an excellent model of a warrior? Fighting for that which is the fullness of love? Taking up the sword to battle for his bride? Further, his golden armor is emblazoned with symbols of his Lord, his chief in command. The three crosses imitate the sign of the cross, which the decorative chestpiece bears the simplified triquetra. 

Behind St. Michael is the smoke of a recent battle, lit by the fires of Hell. Above, the streaks of heavenly light can be seen, illuminating St. Michael as a blessing in his fight. Satan is coloured in a greyer version of the lighting above, as his rebellion distorts our understanding of Heaven and of perfect union with our Heavenly Father. Below, as we know, is the path of darkness. This is the picture of spiritual warfare, and serves as a reminder that despite the small victories and defeats in our own spiritual lives, the war has already been won. 

Michael means, “Who is like God?” In many ways, St. Michael is for us not only a spiritual protector, but an image of God. God fights for us. Like the father in the story of the prodigal son, God waits for us, fights for us, and remains our bulwark in the battles of the spiritual life. St. Michael is the leader of God’s armies, who fights the powers of evil. Is this not the same battle we are called to fight every day? To carry our own daily crosses, to engage in spiritual warfare? It is not a battle we can simply shrug off – rather, should we not engage, should we not choose to fight, the battle can quickly, silently, overcome us. We all know what this feels like. When we have been away from prayer for a while and the familiar feelings of desolation and aimlessness creep in. When we wake up and realize we haven’t been to confession in a substantial amount of time. When our prayer is lackluster or non-existent, it is then we know we have not picked up our sword and shield, not taken on the initiative of our souls, and suddenly we feel overwhelmed by our littleness and powerlessness. So maybe then we try to be overly scrupulous as a way to counteract our own spiritual insecurity, or try to take on too much spiritually as a way of overcorrection, as if trying to force an intensive spiritual routine. In the moment, we feel accomplished for our renewed promises and exercises. But not even a week later, do we not find ourselves slipping again into old habits and a desolating lack of focus?

Catholic tradition tells us that the name of Michael is the war cry of the powers of heaven against the armies of Satan. Should this not also be our cry in the times of our struggles? That we might be like God? Not that we might replace God, or that we might be able to muscle through and come out victorious. No, we, who are imperfect, are not called to make ourselves perfect in spiritual things, but rather to work to put ourselves in the hands of God, to allow ourselves to be molded by Him. We are called to diligently come to prayer, but not dictate the outcome of that effort.

St. Paul puts this incredibly well in his letter to the Philippians. He writes:

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:10-14)

Of course, we should diligently work to not sin, to take up our cross, to build our prayer life, to discerned the Lord’s will for our lives, and walk where he leads us, that is, to build intimacy with our Lord. But it is important to remember: we are not yet who we are made to be. We have models like Paul and protectors like St. Michael to help along this spiritual journey, as we experience metanoia, joining ourselves to Christ and living out of our baptisms. 

Remember: prayer and fasting is the means by which we are made holy. Take up the battle as Michael does. But know, the Lord is making you to be a Saint, even though you are not there yet. Be faithful, and abide in the Lord.

Let us pray.

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.

Joshua Terpstra is a sacred artist at Ars Sacra. This commissioned piece by Joshua is exclusively for sale at the Exodus Freedom Store.

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