Michael shall arise


Daniel 12:1-3

File:Giovanni di Paolo - St Michael the Archangel - WGA09465.jpg1“At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise.

We have a pretty good idea of the exact moment in which the Book of Daniel in its final form was distributed. Suddenly the exquisite detail of Daniel’s visions of the kings that rise and fall and the woes that come upon God’s people gets rather generic. The reign of Antiochus Epiphanes IV about which Daniel’s visions speak so precisely suddenly becomes vague. Our author knows what has brought the nation to its present moment in 164 BCE. He doesn’t know what lies ahead. But the purpose of his book remains. God knows. History is in God’s hands. The kings of the earth may take their stand against the Lord and his anointed, but God has them in derision. God knows his plans and purpose for the world. Michael shall arise.

God will not let his people fall. God will not let the earth fall. God will triumph over evil.

These are words of great courage spoken in a time of great tribulation. We confess them to be inspired. Inspired doesn’t mean that Daniel was an historical figure of the Persian era to whom God granted visions that would have no meaning for hundreds of years. Inspired means that God speaks through these words of hope (presented in the mouth of the cultural figure of Daniel) to summon us to faithfulness, to remind us that God is yet God, to proclaim to wavering hearts that the God who cast down pharaoh will establish his justice on earth. Somehow.

ISIS will not reign. Not ultimately. No injustice shall endure. Not ultimately. Mary sings of this at the visitation: God has cast the mighty down from their thrones and lifted up those of low degree. The psalmist declares that all nations shall come and bow down before God. The prophets proclaim that all the boots of the tramping warriors will be burned as fuel for the fire,” that “God’s word will go forth from Zion” to bring peace to the world.

God will not let his people fall. God will not let the earth fall. God will triumph over evil.

It is a hope hard to hold onto sometimes, when we see the bodies of children lying in the surf, when children are murdered by police, when nations war upon nations, when earthquakes shake the foundations of the earth.

It is a hope hard to hold onto sometimes when we see evil close to home, when death and tragedy strikes, when misfortune prevails.

But then comes the promise of Daniel: “At that time Michael… shall arise.” At that time. At the right time. The world will not be surrendered to evil. We will not be surrendered.

The author of Daniel confesses this even though he knows that many faithful have been slaughtered at the hand of imperial troops. He sees beyond our narrow horizons into the great mystery: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake.” Even death shall not prevent God’s deliverance.

The prophetic writer is not giving us a doctrine; he is giving us a promise – God’s promise. What we see is but a city surrounded by armies, but there is much more beyond our sight.

God will not let his people fall. God will not let the earth fall. God will triumph over evil. Michael shall arise.


Image: Archangel Michael, Giovanni di Paolo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The dragon falls and heaven sings

Watching for the morning of September 29

St. Michael and All Angels

St Michael

St Michael (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

Michaelmas, the mass of St. Michael, falls on a Sunday this year and so we turn our attention to the hosts of heaven that serve as God’s messengers (the word angel is from the Greek word for messenger) and as the heavenly warriors in the spiritual battles that reflect the battles between good and evil on earth.

The scriptures do not indulge in the speculation about the ranks of heaven found in other works from the time.  The messengers of God cede the stage to the message of God.  Indeed, we are warned against such speculation.  This feast day focuses instead upon the grace and victory of God whose warriors battle on behalf of humanity and bear his word to us.  In one of the great metaphors of scripture, Michael and his angels fight against the dragon, the dragon and his messengers are thrown down, and heaven and earth bursts with song.  All that devours and destroys God’s precious world shall be forever defeated and Christ alone reign: the lamb who was slain but lives.

The Prayer for September 29, 2013

Almighty God,
before whom all heaven sings
and whose messengers do your bidding,
surround us with the song of heaven
and make us faithful as your servants;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.  

The Texts for September 29, 2013

First Reading: Daniel 10:10-14, 11:36, 12:1-3
“At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise.”
– Writing to the time of the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes IV, the author uses the Daniel traditions to call the community to faithfulness.  In a series of visions the author has Daniel see the conflict that is upon Judea and the coming triumph of God.

Psalmody: Psalm 103:1-5, 20-22
“Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will.” –  In an exquisite hymn of praise the poet calls for all creation – and the hosts of heaven – to bless the Lord.

Second Reading: Revelation 12:7-12
“War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon.”
– Taking up the imagery from Daniel, the prophet describes the heavenly conflict between God and those that reject God’s reign, and their expulsion for the heavens.

Gospel: Luke 15:1-10
“The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’” – Jesus sends out 70 witnesses with the commission to heal the sick and cast out evil spirits.  As they return in joy, Jesus declares that, as they carried out their mission, he saw Satan’s kingdom crumbling.