People have long been fascinated by angels – servants of God whose mere appearance is so frightening that their first words to those who see them are usually “Do not be afraid!”. And that is the message of the readings for this week – do not be afraid, for your name has been written in God’s book. We didn’t write our names in the book – God did. It is not by our own strength that we triumph, but by the blood of the Lamb. And so we need not fear Satan or evil powers, whose final defeat is also written in God’s Word. Though we may face hardship or even death, eternal life and the joy of heaven are ours in Christ. As Paul says in Romans:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18
The Old Testament lesson is from the book of Daniel, chapter 10, verses 10-14, and chapter 12, verses 1-3:
A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.
Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.”…
“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.
The Epistle lesson is from Revelation, chapter 12, verses 7-12:
Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.
They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.
Therefore rejoice, you heavens
and you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
because he knows that his time is short.”
The Gospel for the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels is from Luke, chapter 10, verses 17-20:
The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Michael Tramples Satan, by Guido Reni in Santa Maria della Concezione church, Rome, 1636 [Public domain]