Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,
A blessed Michaelmas.
Genesis 28:10-17 Psalm 103:19-22 Revelation 12:7-12 John 1:47-51
Tomorrow we celebrate the feast of Michaelmas in our Mission. It is time to reflect both on the phenomenon of Angels
and our Ministry of our Mission. First , Angels.
The word "Angel" comes from the Greek for "messenger". Angels are seen as messengers from God. Because it has long been held that no one can survive direct contact with God's holiness, Angels have come to be known as intermediary spirits which make contact between God and human beings possible. Though without form themselves, they are portrayed in art and poetry as luminous creatures whose wings symbolize that they are not restricted by time and space, with swords to symbolize their power, and with dazzling garments which represent their power to enlighten us. Such imagery is also present in the gospel narrative of the Transfiguration of our Lord, in which Jesus, accompanied by the twin lights of Law and Prophecy, Moses and Elijah, shines as the fulfilment of both. There are, of course, variations on this imagery. In the first reading for today, Jacob's dream is of a ladder joining earth to heaven, with Angels ascending and descending on it. The angels prepare the way for God to appear beside Jacob and to make with him a covenant of a promised land, and of innumerable descendants through whom God will bless all the peoples of the earth.
The passage from Revelation speaks of "war in heaven" between God on the one hand and Satan on the other, each with legions of Angels. This passage reflects the growth of dualistic thinking and the influence of Babylonian and Greek mythology. In the Book of Job Satan was seen as one of God's agents and messengers, whose function in that classic work was to test Job's faithfulness in the face of undeserved suffering. By the time we get to John's gospel and the Book of Revelation (also attributed to John) we are well past the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Two elements of Judaism survived this tragedy, but only by adapting to life without the Temple. The Pharisees led the movement into what we now know as Rabbinic Judaism, while the followers of Jesus moved increasingly into the Gentile world and (tragically) into a split from the Jewish community which laid the foundation for centuries of Christian persecution of Jews. In the writings attributed to John this split is clearly reflected, along with the depiction of Satan as God's rival -- to a point where there is a decisive showdown prefiguring the Battle of Armageddon, the end of the world, and the Last Judgment. This apocalyptic vision fuels much of the contemporary rhetoric of both the current U.S. administration and the Islamist fundamentalists. Each uses the same kind of language to justify their common desire for the destruction of the other.
On a more individualistic note, there has been a revival of interest in personal, or guardian Angels. Souvenir shops are replete with Angel figures, while TV shows such as "Touched By An Angel" appeal to many who have no religious affiliation but seek some kind of spiritual protection.
In our Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne on the feast of Saint Michael and All Angels it is expected of us to have some kind of message for those engaged in their own spiritual struggles.
Perhaps it can remind and encourage us as we discover how universally human it is to seek a final reconciliation and integration of our own light and dark sides. In the current climate of controversy within both church and society our Mission may also stand as a reminder that, as people of faith, we need not be afraid, but can trust that the forces of darkness will not overcome us, and we are free to love, trust and build community.
As we celebrate the feast of St. Michael and All Angels, we can give thanks for those invisible and intangible aspects of our faith which can be so important, yet which are all too often neglected. And we can pray that the Angels which guide and protect us may lead us into deeper faith, abiding hope, and all-embracing love.Tomorrow we shall pray for our Bishop Ordinary Denis and all our clergy and for the whole Ministry of the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia and New Zealand.
Finally, we may wish to note that, in the world of theatre, "Angels" are those who invest in shows by providing financial backing. Within the Christian enterprise we are all called to be Angels -- supporting the work of the whole church with our time, our talents, and our material resources. For the whole ministry of Angels of all kinds and in all dimensions, thanks be to God! Alleluia!
Father Ed Bakker,
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne
Launceston on Tasmania