Ground workers

The feast of Michaelmas suggests that we are occupying holy ground alongside God’s co-workers. Far from the angels working out God’s divine purpose in heaven, Michaelmas celebrates the messengers of God as part of the divine plan on earth.

Michael is celebrated as the captain of troop, the lead archangel. The feast of Michaelmas (which we are transferring to this Sunday, 1st October) recognises Michael and all of God’s holy angels.

St Gregory the Great preached about the phenomenon of the angelic realm just over 500 years after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. As one of the formative Pope’s and teachers of the faith, Gregory was also known as the ‘Doctor of desire’, because he preached with a passion about the God of love and the journey of the soul into that source of love. Gregory was also styled as the ‘Servant of the servants of God’, a label which characterised his practical theology.

Gregory understood that the word ‘angel’ denoted a function rather than a nature. We so often call people ‘angels’ because they have displayed characteristics of kindness or generosity. However, Gregory, ‘the doctor of desire,’ maintained that angels can only be called angels when they deliver a message – that is their divine function. Hence the word ‘angel’ in Greek has the meaning of messenger. Gregory went on to say that angels were given proper names to describe the role or function that they perform. For example, Michael means “who is like God.” Michael is given Godly powers to defeat evil; he is sent when mighty, awesome work is needed, illustrated by his fight with Satan in heaven. Gabriel is named “the strength of God” whose purpose is to announce the good news as he did to a shocked Mary. Raphael, meaning “God’s remedy”, is called to heal, the messenger of prayer for health and healing.

The Synaxis of Archangels – the gathering for holy worship – of Michael (in the middle), Gabriel (to the left), and Raphael (on the right).

Have you encountered one of God’s messengers? If you have met an angel you will probably have been on the floor. Angels shock us, excite us, and inspire us. The knock us to the ground of reality. the narrative between God and his people displays the work and function of angels throughout the Old and into the New. People fall like leaves to the ground! And in that fall we realise something of mysterious, wonderful, awesome function of angels, God’s ground workers. We try to seek to understand and identify the source of divine favour but we cannot. We are too busy picking ourselves back up off the floor while the messenger has whispered away.

Michaelmas is a time for us to pay attention to the messengers of God. What might the angels want to communicate to the world, to the Church and to ourselves? If only we could write down all that God would want us to hear and receive… This Sunday we will have opportunity to do just that, to display the messages of the angels at the All Age Eucharist at 10am. What might your message be?

For more information on this Feast of Michaelmas and news about St Michael & All Angels, Summertown – please click here.


Author: Gavin Knight

The Revd Gavin Knight has been the Vicar of St Michael & All Angels, Summertown in the Oxford Diocese since September 2011. After serving his title at St Alphege, Solihull, Gavin became parish priest of St Andrew's Fulham Fields in London. He moved to Wales in 2005 becoming Chaplain to Monmouth School. He is married to Jo, a clinical psychologist, and they have three sons.