Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Day of Angels

The collect (gathering prayer) for the feast day of Saint Michael and All the Angels:

Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

September 29th is the day wherein the Anglican Communion of churches remembers & celebrates the ministry of the angels and their chief, the archangel Michael. On this day we pray according to the ancient tradition of the undivided church saying the collect above. The earliest version of this prayer comes to us from the Gregorian Sacramentary, and dates back to the 5-6th century. Our present version is however from the 1549 BCP, revised by Archbishop Cranmer. The essence of the prayer remains unchanged; however, in true English poetic fashion the prayer elaborates a few points.

Like most collects, this one opens with a piece of great theological truth (dogma) which is to be handed down to the church year by year as we pray it. Hence, in this collect, like all others, we have a catechizing of sorts taking place. The dogma within this collect reminds us that it is God who ordains & constitutes the wonderful ministries of both angels and men. The dogmatic point is that both angles and men are extensions of God’s work, or energies, in the creation.

Like most collects, the prayer moves on to its petition. The prayer pleads with the Lord to allow the angelic ministry of heavenly service and worship, to be used as a help to us here and now in this temporal part of creation. The prayer pleads for the angels to connect us to their eternal service here and now.

In short, today we remember and celebrate that God has indeed appointed spiritual beings he calls “fiery servants” not only to serve Him and worship Him, but to help and defend us to do the same.

Of the angels he says, "He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire." Heb 1: 7

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