The Synaxis of the Archangels, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and all the Heavenly Hosts: November 8th
Those of you named after the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, or their feminine counterparts, no doubt realize the importance of the date November 8th when we celebrate the Synaxis of the Archangels and of the other Bodiless Powers of heaven.
As Orthodox Christians, however, this date should be equally significant for all of us as the holy Archangels and angels play an integral role in our lives. That is, if we want them to.
What do we know about them? We consult the Bible for the answer. Beginning in Genesis to the last book of Revelation, angels are mentioned over 200 times. We know nothing of their creation, nor when it occurred. They are not the cute, baby-faced cherubs often depicted in Western art.
On the contrary, from scripture we know that they are imposing and powerful. They are celestial beings, bodiless spirits who can move with great speed. “So the living creatures came and went, vivid as lightning flashes” (Ezek.1:14). An angel has character, intelligence and a will of his own, just as we do; but naturally they do not resemble us.
Unfortunately, we are not often aware of their presence because we seldom think of them, pray or talk to them. Yet our services are replete with the presence of angels. There are numerous prayers, canons, and akathists devoted to them; however, they are often ignored or dismissed as unimportant.
For the monastic, though, angels are extremely significant. Our goal is to lead the angelic life, continually praising God as the angels do, and to implore them to intercede for our protection and guidance, not only for ourselves but for the whole world. Every Monday is dedicated to angels hence monastics fast on this day and one of the canons read at Matins is devoted to them.
Both the Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church teach that there are guardian angels of nations, countries, churches, monasteries, families, as well as individuals. “He set the boundaries of the Nations by the number of God’s angels” (Deut. 32:8). “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write….” (Rev. 2:1).
The fact that each individual has a guardian angel is based on the scripture Matt. 18:10, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”
Origen says, “We must say that every human soul is under the direction of an angel who is like a father.”
St. Basil says, “An angel is put in charge of every believer, provided we do not drive him out by sin. He guards the soul like an army.”
In the Holy Liturgy and other services, we hear repeatedly the petition, “An angel of peace, a faithful guide, the guardian of our souls and bodies.”
Call him to mind throughout the day, build a relationship with him so that not only on November 8th, but every day you will feel the presence of your guardian angel and all the hosts of bodiless beings.
by Mother Macrina, Holy Dormition Monastery