Today is the feast-day of the angels and especially of the two chief angels, archangels Michael and Gabriel. Angels! Who believes in angels today? People have become materialists unfortunately. And the following anecdote is characteristic. When the Russian astronaut flew high with the spaceship and after returned back to Moscow, he ridiculed the Christian faith. He said he didn’t see angels or their feathers anywhere…This was also repeated by an atheist teacher in a school of a certain soviet village. Angels do not exist, she would say to the children. Our astronaut did not see angels. Then a small Russian, most intelligent, said: “Ms., he was flying too low, that is why he did not see them. What wisdom! As the gospel also says today, the mouths of small innocent children speak great truths (cp. Luke 10:21). This child said an astronomical truth. For truly, what was that distance that the astronaut traveled before the distances of light years that separate the stars?The universe that God built is grandiose. We believe that God is creator, the maker “both of things visible and invisible” (Creed of Faith). What are the visible things? It is those things that the five senses apprehend: the mountains, the seas, the rivers, the trees, the birds, the animals…Last, at the pinnacle of visible creatures, is man. With one difference: that man is not only visible, he is also invisible, matter and spirit. And as a certain wise man would say, man is primarily not what is seen but what is unseen. He is a mixture of matter and spirit: matter is the corruptible body, and the soul an immortal and eternal. The question arises. Beyond humans did God not create other beings? Of course he did. He set man in the middle; and on the one side he made material beings, and on the other side the immaterial beings, the angels. Concerning these holy Scripture speaks in many places. The word of God verifies, that the world of immaterial spirits exists. They are distinguished in orders. Their generals are Michael and Gabriel. What work do angels perform? They are announcement-bearers. They transport heavenly messages. Such was for example the saying “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and good will among men” (Luke 2:14) which the chorus of angels sang on that unforgettable night of Christmas. Also, angels are protectors of people. Each one of us has his angel, whom he must not embitter. A certain painter made a beautiful image, which represents a small child passing a dangerous narrow bridge and a winged angel protects him. That is why we humans must be grateful towards our angels. Angels are not only heralds and guardians, they are also hymnologists. Here the birds hymn God in nature and the cantors in church; but at some point they grow tired. In heaven the angels are tireless chanters. Day and night they hymn the holy Trinity “with their mouths unceasingly, in unsilenced doxologies” (Divine Liturgy of Great Basil), and the hymn is heard: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord sabaoth, the heaven and the earth are full of Your glory…” (divine Liturgy; Isaiah 6:3). Shall I say something more? It will appear unbelievable. At one time Chirstians would enter church not with sinful eyes, eyes of fornicators and adulterers and flesh-worshippers, but with transformed eyes, and – it is not a myth, it is reality – , during the time that priests would liturgize, they would see angels!
The apolytikion of saint Spyridon says this, that, When, O saint, you liturgized, “you had angels liturgizing with you.” So angels exist. As certain it is that man exists, so certain and more so is it certain that angels and archangels exist. *** If you ask me, of the millions of angels who is the most brilliant, I will tell you: it was Lucifer, at the head of the heavenly powers. Why is he called thus? In the physical heaven thus is called the first and most brilliant star. In the morning, before the east, that illumines creation, a pre-announcer of the sun, and then we call him Dawn. At night, this same star, we call Aposperiti, and it appears again first after the setting of the sun. Its scientific name is Lucifer. So whatever that is in the physical heaven, this was the angel Lucifer in the spiritual horizon. But, but, he sinned! What did he do, fornication-adultery? No. These sins are serious too; but the most serious sin, the source of disaster for humanity, is one: the so-called luciferian sin, pride. He did not remain satisfied in the position which God had set him. In his intellect there became wedged the destructive idea: “I shall rise up to heaven, I shall set my throne above the stars…, I shall be elevated above the clouds, I shall become like the Most High” (Isaiah 14, 13-14). This thought was the seed of evil. And as soon as he reflected thus, immediately from being a brilliant spirit he became dark; from an angel he became satan. He even today in our society has his instruments. So the moment that Lucifer was falling from heaven “as lightning” (Luke 10:18), another big event occurred. A trumpet was heard. It is that which we hear each time at divine liturgy, but do not pay attention to it: “let us stand aright, let us stand with fear” (divine liturgy). This, according to our tradition, the archangel Michael said. Immediately the angelic orders were called to arms, and they stood unshakable round about the throne of God. And they continue now to serve him with devotion. *** From today’s feast-day we learn, my beloved, that there exists not only the material cosmos. Beyond matter there exists the spirit. The materialists say “From matter comes spirit”, which is an error/deception. What do we say “From spirit comes matter, and that one day we too shall take off the corruption of the body. Man shall reach the angelic height and even higher. Just as the angels day and night live near to God and hymn him, so in like manner we too shall be found in a new state. What else are we taught. As I said, the gravest sin is pride. In truth it is a satanic sin. That is the root of the pre-paternal, or original, sin. Perform an experiment – I performed it many times. Gather together a dozen or so children and ask them: Who among you is the best child? They look among one another and no one recognizes the other; each one of these little twerps considers himself superior to the others. Pride in the hearts of the little ones, pride in the big ones, pride in women, pride in the nations. I was reading when I was small a noteworthy prophesy, which foretold that there shall be a first World War; it enumerated the tribulations that the peoples would suffer, and among other things – 100 years before the war occurred – it would say of germany: “And you, prideful Germany, shall fall…”. And truly she fell. She became prideful over her discoveries, she thought that through science she would be able to dominate the whole world. You would hear in the days of the invading occupation the Germans with their foreheads high, with the gait of a goose, singing “Germany above all”. They considered us [Greeks] an undeveloped people, which is not capable of anything but shepherding swine. Behold the pride. But you heard what the prophesy would say: “And you, O Germany, shall fall…” And in general, whoever goes against God, shall fall, shall become ashes. God, the Almighty and All-Powerful, hates nothing else as much as He hates pride. I remind you of the end of Kosmas the Aeotolean, who journeying various places and preaching concerning humility, used to say: “When we see some humble person, we see him as if he were an angel, his appearance makes us want to open our heart and put him inside; and when we see some prideful person, we see him as if he were the devil, we turn our face to the other side not to see him” (p. 116-117).
Pride is a winged devil. Let us humble ourselves then, let us apply the adage “know thyself” of our ancient forebears; let us live with humility and the deep sense of our sins, and then angels and archangels shall accompany us during our life until our last breath; amen.
+ bishop Augustine (Kantiotes)