Metropolitan Panteleimon of Antinoes
The Synaxis of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel and all the Heavenly Powers
The love of Almighty God is a quality which is externalized through the creation, from non-being, of both the invisible world, or that of the angels, and the creation of the material and visible universe. The culmination of the whole creative love of God was expressed with the formation of human beings and finally with the salvation of our race in Christ.
The world of the angels was the first creative act of God. The holy angels are noetic creations, immaterial spirits which are forever in motion. Angels are free and independent spirits: they had the choice to remain firmly in their holiness or to turn to wickedness, as was the case with Lucifer, who conceived evil, and with all those angels who followed him and fell. The angels are bodiless and serve God, ceaselessly praising His sanctity and limitless power. God created angels in the beginning to be immortal and strangers to both corruption and death. They are, however, capable of change, as regards their nature and their outlook, that is they have the ability to alter their nature and to make the leap from good to evil. They take their glory and brightness from God. Angels are circumscribed, they aren’t able to be everywhere at once, as is the case with God.
According to the sacred Tradition of the Church, angels are separated into three classes and nine celestial orders. The first class contains: the seven-winged seraphs, the many-eyed cherubs and the thrones; the second has the dominions, strongholds and powers, while the third consists of the principalities, archangels and angels. Today, the Church celebrates the Synaxis of the Archangels. Synaxis means ‘assembly’ or ‘conclave’. Why do we celebrate the assembly of the Archangels and all the Heavenly Angelic Powers?
When God created the angels, He give them complete freedom over their thinking. They had to show, however, that they were worthy of the honor with which they’d been invested. This is why their faith was tested. One of them, Lucifer, the first in all the ranks of the angels, the most splendid, most powerful and brilliant, succumbed to overweening pride and thought he could supplant God and place his own throne above that of God. That was his sin: his great pride. He revolted against God and took with him a large number of angels who, with their fall, were transformed from lambent angels into dark ones, from holy to wicked. When the evil angels, the demons, fell, all the ranks of the heavenly powers assembled and the Archangel Michael stood in the middle and cried aloud: ‘Let us stand aright. Let us stand in fear of God’. Immediately all the holy angels proved their loyalty to God and refused to follow the wicked thinking of Lucifer. This is the event we celebrate today. We don’t celebrate the fall of the evil angels, but the convocation of the holy ones who demonstrated their true and unshakable loyalty to the one True God and Creator of all things. The holy angels came together to express their loyalty to the Creator, and since then they’ve remained firm in holiness and goodness.
Today’s feast of the Archangels reminds us of two things. First, if the angels who fell into pride lost their merit and brightness through sin, how much more true is this of us Orthodox Christians, if we don’t meet the requirements of virtue? If such an irreparable calamity could befall Lucifer, because he wasn’t watchful and turned to wickedness, how much more will some such catastrophe occur to those who of their own volition remain bound to sin?
Secondly, we should learn from the example of the angels. Society today is a constant challenge and every day we have to confess our loyalty to Christ. When sin, however it presents itself, casts its enticing snares to trap us, then we have to be firm in the virtues. We have to cry aloud in faith: ‘Let us stand aright, let us stand in fear of God’, so that what happened to Lucifer doesn’t happen to us as well.
We have to resist evil every day, because our struggle isn’t against flesh and blood but against the authorities and powers of darkness of this age. In this engagement, we have the holy angels on our side, continuously praying to the Lord for our salvation. Amen