Thursday, September 29, 2016

366 Project - Day 273 - "Feast of the Archangels"

September 29, 2016 - "Feast of the Archangels"

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Archangels.

There are nine "Choirs" of angels which are then split into three groups of three. The highest-ranking of these groups consists of the "Seraphim" (which are the closest to God)... followed by the "Cherubim" and finally the "Thrones". They form the first of the three groups - and are the closest to God and chiefly serve Him alone.

The second group consists of the "Dominions"... followed by the "Virtues" and finally the "Powers". These are the mid-level angels.

Lastly there's the lowest of the three groups, which consists of the "Principalities"... followed by the "Archangels"... and, finally, the "Angels" - which are the bottommost level. Therefore "Archangels" are actually the second-lowest group of angels. However it is this third group of angels which God uses to interact with and deal with humans... and though they fall in the middle of the third group, it is the Archangels which we are most familiar with.

The Bible tells us that there are seven Archangels... however only three are ever named:

Saint Raphael is only mentioned once - in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Tobit in the Old Testament. His name means "God has healed" - and is regarded as being an angel of healing and companionship.

Saint Gabriel is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments. His name means "Power of God". He is the angel who appeared to the Virgin Mary to announce that she would bear the Son of God - and who also appeared to Zachariah to announce that his wife Elizabeth would become pregnant with John the Baptist. Tradition holds that Gabriel is also the angel who appeared to St. Joseph... and who comforted Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He is regarded as being an angel of mercy and consolation - as well as the Messenger of the Lord.

Saint Michael is the angel who is mentioned the most in the Bible. His name means "Who is like God"... and he is the only angel who is specifically referred to in Scripture as being an "Archangel". St. Michael the Archangel is the angel who defeated Satan, who is thought to have been the highest of the Seraphim (meaning he was the closest to God of all the angels). Despite his "lowly" position, it was St. Michael the Archangel who ultimately defeated Satan and cast him and the other fallen angels out of Heaven. Therefore St. Michael is generally viewed as being the leader of angels, and as such is typically given the title of "Prince of Heaven" or "Prince of the Heavenly Hosts". St. Michael is the angel who guides souls to God to face their judgement - and is known as the "Angel of Judgement".

Many people believe that when a person dies, their soul goes to Heaven and they "earn their wings" and become known as "angels". This is NOT the case, however! All the angels that have ever existed and will ever exist were all created by God before the first human. Humans cannot become angels... and angels cannot become human. When a person dies their soul goes to one of three places: Heaven, Purgatory or Hell.

If your soul goes to Hell... that's the end of the road for you! You do not pass "Go"... you do not collect $200... and there's no such thing as a "Get out of Hell for Free" card! Once you've been damned to Hell, you're there for all eternity... and can NOT gain entrance to heaven.

If you lived an absolutely saintly life, you "might" go straight to heaven... in which case you become a "Saint", NOT an "angel". This is very rare, of course. The Blessed Virgin Mary was "Assumed" directly into Heaven... and St. Joseph most likely got a Golden Ticket for the Express Train to Heaven.

Most people, however, fall in-between those two extremes. Souls that were not so "stained with sin" that they must be damned to Hell for all eternity - but which are still "stained with sin" enough to keep them from going directly to Heaven will go to "Purgatory". Why? To be cleansed of the remnants of and attachments to our sins. If you go to Purgatory, you WILL move on to heaven at some point. How long that move takes varies from individual soul to individual soul - and is completely between that person and God. Once a soul is guided from Purgatory to Heaven, the soul becomes - you guessed it - a "Saint", NOT an "angel". This is why so many priests will remind us that we are all "called to become saints".

So what does it mean when the Church has declared someone to be a Saint? It means that the person's soul has been recognized by the Church as definitely being in Heaven... and that, due to the proven intercession of that person's soul (proven by way of the investigation of claimed miracles, among other things), the person is now worthy of veneration by all Catholics as being a "Saint" they can pray to for intercession. This is what just happened to Mother Teresa, who is now known as "Saint Teresa of Calcutta". Being Canonized (declared a Saint) is just a formal recognition. It isn't the Church just suddenly deciding to say that someone is in Heaven and their face can now be sold on Holy Cards, Bobbleheads, T-shirts and such!

But I digress...

Today is the day we celebrate the Archangels and ask for their intercession... as we continue to live our lives in pursuit of Sainthood.

St. Michael the Archangel, pray for us!
St. Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us!
St. Raphael the Archangel, pray for us!
All Saints of God, pray for us!

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