Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Synaxis of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel and All the Bodiless Powers


On the eighth of this month [November], is the Synaxis of the Chief Commanders Michael and Gabriel, with the other bodiless and heavenly orders.

Verses

To the Archangel Michael*
Michael, a fitting song I wished to sing
As is fit, but one free from matter I have not.

To the Archangel Gabriel**
I behold Gabriel the Angel with great joy,
In you I exceedingly rejoice and fly towards what I long for.

On the eighth the heavens glorify the Leaders of the orders.

To the Assembly of the Nine Orders of Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Principalities, Powers, Archangels and Angels.
What offering worthy of the nine orders,
Could one the offspring of nine months pronounce?


Michael, the most glorious and most brilliant Chief Commander of the bodiless Powers, has shown much beneficence and grace to the human race, as much in the Old Testament as in the New due to the gospel. He first appeared to Patriarch Abraham. Then to Lot, when he rescued him with his daughters from the fire sent by God, and the destruction of Sodom. After this he appeared to Patriarch Jacob, when he rescued him from the murderous hands of his brother Esau. He went before the encampment of the children of Israel, when they were liberated from bondage in Egypt, and together with the pillar of fire and of cloud, he made easier the difficulty of their journey. He appeared to the seer Balaam, when he went to curse the Israelite people, frightening him and clearly preventing him from doing such a thing. He also appeared to Joshua the son of Nun, and responded: "As the Chief Commander of the army of the Lord have I now come." Also during the time of new grace he brought together the rivers which once were released by the impious against the holy spring of Chonae and against its divine church. And many other things are recorded about him in the divinely inspired Scriptures. For this reason we have him as a protector and guardian of our lives for our defense, and we celebrate today his all revered festival, for which reason it is called a Synaxis.

The devil, who out of supreme pride exalted himself against the Creator and Master of all, and boasted of placing his throne on the clouds of heaven, and become like the Highest, as it is written about him in Isaiah (Is. 14:14), he therefore, upon having put his mind to do this, fell from heavenly glory and his archangelic office. For this reason the Lord said in the Gospel: "I saw Satan fall as lightning from heaven" (Lk. 10:18). Together with him an order of Angels fell, who sprung away from God due to their pride, and fell with their leader the devil. And they were all darkened instead of illumined, becoming demons rather than Angels. Therefore it is said at that time the Chief Commander Michael, beholding the pitiful fall of the Angels, understood the cause of their fall. And through subjection and humility, which he showed as a grateful servant and faithful housekeeper towards his Master God, he carefully guarded his own glory and brilliance granted to him by God, as well as the glory of the other Angelic orders. Therefore by his subjection and courtesy, it was determined by God Almighty, that he should be the first among the Angelic orders.***

Gathering together and uniting the choirs of Angels, he cried out: "Let us be attentive!" By this was meant that we should take care and be mindful of what happened with the fallen demons due to their pride, who not long ago were among us Angels. And let us consider what God is, and what Angels are. God is the Master and Creator of us Angels. We Angels are servants and creatures of God. In this way he sang hymns and glorified the God of all, surely crying out that divine and angelic hymn to all the Angels: "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord Sabaoth, heaven and earth are full of Your glory." This mystery which we received from an ancient tradition, we presently celebrate. It is called a Synaxis of the Angels due to their carefulness, harmony and unity.****


Together with the Archangel Michael we celebrate today the most beautiful and graceful Archangel Gabriel.***** For he also showed much beneficence to the human race, as much in the Old as in the New Testament. The prophecy of Daniel gives us his name, when Daniel explained the vision of the King of the Medes and Persians and Greeks: "Gabriel, tell this man [namely Daniel] the meaning of the vision" (Dan. 8:16). Gabriel also revealed to Daniel that after seventy weeks of years, which is four hundred and ninety-seven years, Christ would come, as it says: "While I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice..." (Dan. 9:21). It is he who proclaimed the good news to the wife of Manoah, that she would give birth to Samson. And he also proclaimed the good news to Joachim and Anna that they would give birth to the maiden and Lady Theotokos.

In the New Testament he proclaimed the good news to Zechariah, standing to the right of the altar of incense, that he would give birth to the great John the Forerunner. He fed the Ever-Virgin Mariam for twelve years in the Holy of Holies with heavenly food. No one would dispute that it was he who proclaimed the good news to the Theotokos, that she would give birth by the Holy Spirit to the Son and Word of God. He appeared in a vision to Joseph, and told him to not be afraid, but to take Mariam as his wife, for that which will be born from her is from the Holy Spirit. He also appeared and evangelized to the shepherds, that Christ the Savior of the world was born. And in a vision he told Joseph to take the Child and His Mother and flee to Egypt. Then he himself told them to return to the land of Israel. Many sacred teachers and hymnographers think that it was the divine Gabriel who was the Angel clad in white, that came down from heaven and moved the stone from the door of the tomb of the life-giver Jesus and sat upon it. And he evangelized the Myrrhbearers regarding the resurrection of the Lord. We will say in general, that the most divine Gabriel served in the mystery of the incarnate economy of God the Word from beginning to end. For this reason the Church of Christ has received to celebrate him together with the Archangel Michael, and to call upon him for grace and help.



Notes:

* The name Michael means "power of God," or power of the Chief Commander of the Lord.

** According to Proclus of Constantinople, Gabriel means "God and man." This is why he served exceptionally in the mystery of the incarnate economy of the God-man Word.

*** Some teachers of the Church harmonize the fall of Lucifer and his demons and the bravery of the Archangel Michael, with what is written in Revelation 12:7, 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6.

Gregory the Theologian says concerning this: "But since this movement of self-contemplation alone could not satisfy Goodness, but Good must be poured out and go forth beyond Itself to multiply the objects of Its beneficence, for this was essential to the highest Goodness, He first conceived the Heavenly and Angelic Powers. And this conception was a work fulfilled by His Word, and perfected by His Spirit. And so the secondary Splendors came into being, as the Ministers of the Primary Splendor; whether we are to conceive of them as intelligent Spirits, or as Fire of an immaterial and incorruptible kind, or as some other nature approaching this as near as may be. I should like to say that they were incapable of movement in the direction of evil, and susceptible only of the movement of good, as being about God, and illumined with the first rays from God — for earthly beings have but the second illumination; but I am obliged to stop short of saying that, and to conceive and speak of them only as difficult to move because of him, who for his splendor was called Lucifer, but became and is called Darkness through his pride; and the apostate hosts who are subject to him, creators of evil by their revolt against good and our inciters" (Oration 38 - On the Nativity of Christ).

This is why the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 6:12: "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." In their commentaries on this passage, both Theodoret and Jerome explain that the fallen angels did not all come from a single angelic order, but from various orders. However, Maximus the Confessor and John of Damascus say they fell from the ninth order only. Chrysostom, Augustine, Maximus, John of Damascus and Gregory the Dialogist say that Lucifer was the leader of the Angelic orders, while Tertullian specifically says he fell from the Seraphim order. Chrysostom also says that is on account of the multitude of Angels in the air that the Apostle Paul said that women should cover their heads when they pray.

**** Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite defends this ancient tradition as being apostolic and should not be viewed as a myth, and that according to Basil the Great we should keep these ancient traditions as they were delivered to us, both concerning the fall of Lucifer and his demons as well as the nine angelic orders, with the highest illuminating the lowest, after which we have modeled our clerical orders.

***** Because the Synaxarion of Constantinople only mentioned the Archangel Michael, Saint Nikodemos inserted information and iambic verses concerning the Archangel Gabriel also, since they are commemorated together on this day.


Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Chief Commanders of the Heavenly Powers, we implore you that by your prayers you will encircle us, unworthy as we are, with the protection of the wings of your immaterial glory, and guard us who fall down before you and fervently cry: deliver us from dangers, for you are the commanders of the powers above.

Another Apolytikion in the First Tone
Let us praise Cherubim, Seraphim, Thrones, Powers, Authorities and Principalities, Dominions, Archangels and Angels, for they are the bodiless ministers of the Unoriginate Trinity, and revealers of incomprehensible mysteries. Glory to Him Who has given you being; glory to Him Who has given you light; glory to Him Who is praised by you in thrice-holy hymns.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
Chief Commanders of God's armies and ministers of the divine glory, princes of the bodiless Angels and guides of men, ask what is good for us and great mercy, as Chief Commanders of the Bodiless Powers.

Oikos
You said in the Scriptures, Lover of mankind, that the multitudes of Angels rejoice in heaven over one human who repents, O Immortal; therefore we in our sins, O Sinless One, who alone know the heart, dare to implore you each day, for you are compassionate, to take pity on us, Master, and send us, the unworthy, compunction, granting us pardon; for they intercede for us all, the Chief Commanders of the Bodiless Powers.


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