One of our family’s favorite things to do is to celebrate special days. Of course, we celebrate birthdays, but I’m also talking about celebrating special events that happen, or in today’s case, special days in the church year. We belong to an Anglican church, a church that uses what is called a liturgical calendar – basically, a calendar that defines certain seasons like Advent (a time of preparation before Christmas), Lent (a time of preparation before Easter), etc., and also sets aside certain days to remember events and to remember those who have gone before us in faith (saints).
Today’s celebration (September 29th) is known as Michaelmas or the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels. I should have posted about this celebration earlier, but don’t worry, you actually have a chance to extend this celebration on Thursday (more on that later). Also, a disclaimer – I am not a theologian, just a simple mom trying to mark the days with remembrances of the goodness of the Lord. So, on to the good stuff . . .
There are many Bible passages to pick from to read about angels (I once read there are more than 300 passages about angels!). Billy Graham’s book Angels is an excellent study of angels, but here are a few points that we go over with our children on St. Michael’s Day.
- Angels are messengers. The very word “angel” means “messenger,” and we read of angels (especially Gabriel) as messengers to Daniel, Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, etc.
- Angels are helpers of the children of God. They helped Jesus after the temptation in the wilderness and in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 4:11, Luke 22:43). They are ministering spirits (Hebrews 1:14), and guardians and keepers (Matthew 18:10, Psalm 34:7, and Psalm 91:11).
- Angels are around the throne of God in heaven (Revelation). The cherubims guarded the Tabernacle in the wilderness and guard the Tree of Life in Eden (Genesis 3:24). Angels were at the tomb (Matthew 28:2-7, John 20:11-12), they rejoice when a sinner repents, and they will come with Jesus at the Second Coming (Matthew 16:27, 25:31).
St. Michael is mentioned in Daniel 10:13 and following, Daniel 12, Jude 9, and Revelation 12:7. He is the patron saint (special helper) of police officers, soldiers, and EMTs/paramedics. He is also the patron saint of paratroopers; mountaineers; and all who work in high places, mariners and sailors; grocers; artists; bakers; endangered children; and the sick.
Since St. Michael is the patron saint of police officers, when my children were smaller, we made up this poem to pray for police officers:
“Thank you, God, for cops.
At protecting us, they are tops!
Keep them safe both day and night
As they keep us safe with all their might.”
We also figured that St. Michael would probably be the patron saint of Regional One (the air ambulance of Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System). So, we made up this prayer that we pray whenever we see the Regional One helicopter flying overhead or whenever we see or hear an ambulance or police car:
fly with thee.”
A beautiful prayer with more elevated language is the collect for St. Michael’s Day as found in the Book of Common Prayer, the prayer book of the Anglican Church, the 1928 edition, page 251:
“O everlasting God, who hast ordained and constituted the services of angels and men in a wonderful order; Mercifully grant that, as thy holy angels always do thee service in heaven, so, by thy appointment, they may succor and defend us on earth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
And a final beautiful prayer is this one,
“Visit, we beseech thee, O Lord, this habitation:
Drive far from it all snares of the enemy;
let thy holy angels dwell herein to preserve us in peace,
and let thy blessing be ever upon us.”
One of our family’s favorite hymns is “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” particularly to the tune of Picardy, and for a contemporary version, the artist Leah does a nice job (available on Google Play). Two other good hymns for this day are “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones” and “Angels and ministers, spirits of grace” to the familiar tune of Slane (you’ll know it if you know “Be thou my vision). We learned this year that “Slane is the hill near Tara in County Meath where St. Patrick lit his Easter Even fire challenging King Loegaire” (The Hymnal 1940 Companion) – more on that at St. Patrick’s Day, I hope.
Hearkening back to my college days, “Ashton” and “The Throne” from Michael W. Smith’s I2(EYE) recording are especially fun for children to dance (or sword fight) to.
Thomas Blackshear II did a beautiful contemporary painting called Watchers in the Night for the Masterpeace Collection (a division of Dayspring) that shows a strong angel watching over a sleeping child. Ron DiCianni’s Spiritual Warfare shows an angel protecting a father praying for his sleeping child. I’m sure there are many beautiful classical art renditions of angels as well (a project for next Michaelmas?)
Some fun activities to do for St. Michael’s Day or the Feast of the Guardian Angels are:
- If you have a police officer, solider, or EMT as a family member or friend, thank them for what they do to protect us. Let them know you are praying for them.
- There are some nice coloring pages of St. Michael on the Internet if you Google “St. Michael coloring pages” or similar search terms.
- Tons of angel crafts are online as well.
- Eat! Angel hair pasta. Even those these don’t go together, angel eggs — convert “deviled eggs” into angel eggs. When my daughter was young, she thought it was a terrible injustice to call deviled eggs as such, and so she christened them “angel eggs.” So that’s what we call them. And for dessert — make (or buy) angel food cake or buy little plastic sword toothpicks (they have them in the party aisle at Publix) and stick them into devil’s food cupcakes or devil’s food doughnuts from Krispy Kreme (but just “stab” once so they are still edible!)
So, I hope this post inspires you to celebrate a belated St. Michael’s day, or – as I mentioned before, you have a chance to extend this celebration, since this Thursday (October 2nd) is the Feast of Guardian Angels J.