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by
03 October 2014

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Your answers

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
Magor, Monmouthshire 

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
Southbourne, Bournemouth

 

Your questions

Are any churches holding special requiems for the Great War dead this year? A. W. 

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