Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Homage to Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels

          This great feast is an occasion once each year to reflect upon the singleness of purpose characteristic of this sublime order in God’s creation, the order of Archangels.
Pope St. Gregory the Great reflects in the passage assigned to the Office of Readings for the Feast that it really isn’t a tragedy from the point of view of heaven that we only know by name these three of the rank of Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. The Prophet Daniel recounts his vision: “A thousand thousand waited on him, ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.” Countless hosts of angels, as another passage goes, sing God’s praises night and day. Pope St. Gregory the Great teaches that all these thousands upon thousands are well-known in heaven, named or not. The singleness of purpose of each (the 100% correspondence between “what you see” and “what you get”) is what, name or no name, makes that angel or archangel readily recognizable in heaven. It is a situation very different from that of our world, where there is any amount of duplicity, or simply where folks live lives unknown, or are forgotten as they become more absent from society by reason of their physical frailty caused by chronic illness or advanced age.
          For some odd reason today, I cannot help but think of another passage in the Gospel where the Sadducees, who did not believe either in spirits or in the resurrection from the dead, attempted to stump Jesus with the consequences for heaven of the case of the Levirate marriages of a woman to all seven brothers who died one after another leaving no children and the question of whose wife she’d be in heaven. Young people and perhaps old jump too quickly to the conclusion that when Jesus corrects his questioners saying that heaven is otherwise, and that there people will be like the angels, not giving or taking in marriage, that His point had to do with either urges or bodies as we experience them in this world. I think rather that Jesus was saying something positive about knowing and being known in heaven; He was talking about optimal communication amongst persons and singleness of purpose, not different from that demonstrated by Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, whom we know from Scripture.
           Perhaps that is why Raphael in the Book of Tobit is my favorite. He is truly the messenger of healing and hope for both blinded Tobit and Sarah in her desperation. Under the tutelage of Raphael, Tobias becomes both a model adult son and the kind of bridegroom that the best sort, the most wholesome sort which dreams are made of.
          God may not have a task in life for you or me that requires sending an archangel, named or unnamed, to our aid. Perhaps our guardian angel will do. Nevertheless, I rejoice once a year at being able to reflect upon the ultimate in terms of transparency and singleness of purpose as evidenced in the witness of the three archangels we do know by name. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael fulfill God’s will; they are His messengers and our champions in the fight against all which is contrary to His light in our world and in our lives.

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