Why is Michael - an angel - a saint? Which liturgy do we
use on 29 September, as the liturgy for saints in Common
Worship assumes a saint was a human being?
In the tradition of the Church, Michael and all angels are
ranked as "sancti" or holy ones. In the Litany of the
Saints, for instance, they are acclaimed and invoked as "Sancte
Michæl/Holy Michael" and 'Omnes Sancti angeli et
archangeli/All holy angels and archangels". The great
ninth-century Office hymn at Michaelmas praises "Christ, the fair
glory of the holy angels" (Christe, sanctorum decus
angelorum, New English Hymnal, no. 190).
This implies no confusion of angels with human saints, but the
ascription of holiness to the angelic host. This may help to
explain how the language of devotion unintentionally caused the
Archangel to become known as Saint Michael.
In the past, the liturgical provisions for Michaelmas were less
than satisfactory. Even Common Worship: Daily Prayer's
suggestion of using the All Saints to Advent orders for morning and
evening prayer tends only to compound the problem of Michael's
identity as an angel. Fortunately, a celebration of a real
Michaelmas is a different matter. For this purpose, Common
Worship: Festivals offers a wealth of liturgical texts with
which to embellish the eucharist. A Kyrie confession, Gospel
acclamation, intercessions, and the prayer for the preparation of
the table - not to mention the proper prefaces, post-communion, and
solemn blessing - are permeated with angelic themes.
The C of E makes outstanding provision for Holy Michael the
Archangel on his name day.
(Canon) Terry Palmer
As formerly the incumbent of a parish decided to the Holy
Angels, I, too, felt that the material for saints' days in
Common Worship was unsuitable. But Enriching the
Christian Year (SPCK, 1993) and Enriching the Liturgy
(SPCK, 1998) provide a variety of material for Michaelmas.
(The Revd) Inglis Mayo
Are any churches holding special requiems for the Great
War dead this year? A. W.
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