The Holy Archangel Michael
and all the Bodiless Powers
of Heaven (November 8)
The angels of God have been commemorated by men from
the earliest times, but this commemoration often degenerates into
the divinization of angels (IV Kings 23:5; A.V. II Kings). Heretics
always wove fantasies round the angels. Some of them saw the angels
as gods and others, if they did not so regard them, took them to be
the creators of the whole visible world. The local Council in Laodicea,
that was held in the fourth century, rejected in its 35th Canon the
worship of angels as gods, and established the proper veneration of
them. In the time of Pope Sylvester of Rome and the Alexandrian Patriarch
Alexander, in the fourth century, this Feast of the Archangel Michael
and the other heavenly powers was instituted, to be celebrated in
November. Why in November? Because November is the ninth month after
March, and it is thought that the world was created in the month of
March. The ninth month after March was chosen because of the nine
orders of angels that were the first created beings. St Dionysius
the Areopagite, writes of these nine orders in his book, “Celestial
Hierarchies.” These orders are as follows: six‑winged Seraphim,
many‑eyed Cherubim, godly Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers,
Principalities, Archangels and Angels.
In Mother Alexandra’s book, “The Holy Angels,” these
nine orders are further divided into three hierarchies. The third
level includes Michael with the Principalities, Archangels, and Angels.
Their special domain is the earth. they execute God’s will, are continuous
guardians of the children of men, and messengers of God. The holy
angels are “more than the bearers of divine messages and the guides
of men: they are bearers of the very Name and Power of God … they
are flashes of the light and strength of the Almighty Lord.”
The leader of the whole angelic army is the Archangel
Michael. He is mentioned by name four times in Scripture: twice in
Dan (10:13 ff. and 12:1), where he is represented a the helper of
the Chosen People, once in Jude (v.9), disputing with the devil over
the body of Moses, and once in Rev. (12:7–9), fighting the dragon.
In Joshua 5:13–15, a “man” with a drawn sword in his hand appeared
before Joshua, identifying himself as the “commander of the army of
By tradition, the Archangel
Michael also represents the "cherubs and the fiery sword that
turns about to keep the way of the tree of life" from Adam and
Eve after God had expelled them from the "Garden of Delight"
(Gen. 3:25. Since the sanctuary represents the Kingdom of Life, the
movement from the sanctuary is always out through this door, while
the door with the Archangel Gabriel represents our return to Paradise,
because he announced to the Virgin the Good News that Immanuel was
to come: God with us.
Archangel Michael also plays an important part in the
apocryphal literature, e.g. in the “Assumption of Moses,” in “Enoch,”
and in the “Ascension of Isaiah,” where he appears as “the great captain”
“who is set over the best part of mankind.” In connection with the
scriptural and apocryphal passages he was early regarded in the Church
as the helper of Christian armies against the heathen, and as a protector
of individual Christians against the devil, especially at the hour
of death, when he conducts the souls to God. His cult originated in
Phrygia, where he was chiefly venerated as a healer, and many hot
springs were dedicated to him both in Greece and Asia.
When Satan, Lucifer, fell away from God, and carried
half the angels with him to destruction, then Michael arose and cried
to the un-fallen angels: “Let us give heed! Let us stand aright; let
us stand with fear!” and the whole angelic army sang aloud: “Holy,
holy, holy Lord God of Sabaoth; heaven and earth are full of Thy glory!”
Among the angels there rules a perfect unity of mind, of soul and
of love; of total obedience of the lesser powers to the greater and
of all to the holy will of God. Each nation has its guardian angel,
as does each individual Christian. We must keep in mind that, whatever
we do, openly or in secret, we do in the presence of our guardian
angel and that, on the Day of Judgment, a great multitude of the holy
angels of heaven will be gathered around the throne of Christ, and
the thoughts, words and deeds of every man will be laid bare before
them. May God have mercy on us and save us at the prayers of the holy
Archangel Michael and all the bodiless powers of heaven. Amen.
Gabriel (detail, south door)
The Other Bodiless Powers Commemorated
That the angels are constantly involved in this world
is testified to, clearly and unmistakably, in Holy Scripture. Both
from the Scriptures and from Holy Tradition, the Orthodox Church has
learned the names of the seven leaders of the heavenly powers: Michael,
Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Salathiel, Jegudiel and Barachiel (and to
these is sometimes added an eighth, Jeremiel).
- “Michael” in Hebrew means “Who is like God?” or “Who is equal
to God?” St Michael was depicted in the earliest Christian times
as a leader, bearing a spear in his right hand with which he attacks
Lucifer, Satan, and holding in his left hand a branch of green
palm. At the top of the spear is a plaited braid with a red Cross.
On our icons, Michael and Gabriel have lightening bolts streaming
from their heads, signifying the speed with which they move from
one place to another. The Archangel Michael is considered especially
to be the guardian of the Orthodox faith and a fighter against
- “Gabriel” means “man of God” or “power of God.” He is the herald
of the mysteries of God, especially the mystery of the Incarnation
and all those that are linked with it.
- Raphael” means “God’s healing,” or “God the Healer” (Tobias
- “Uriel” means “fire” or “light of God” (II Esdras 4:1; 5:20)
- “Salathiel” means “one who prays to God” (I1 Esdras 5:16).
- “Jegudiel” means “one who glorifies God.”
- “Barachiel” means “the blessing of God.”
- “Jeremiel” means “God’s exaltation.” He is venerated as an inspirer
and awakener of those higher thoughts that raise a man God‑ward.
— Composite of the Prologue, ODCC, and Mother
Alexandra, The Holy Angels.
Troparion Tone IV
Supreme commanders of the heavenly armies, we, the unworthy,
do ever entreat you, that by your prayers ye surround us with the
protection of the wings of your immaterial glory, preserving us that
earnestly fall down before you and cry aloud: Deliver us from misfortunes,
in that ye are the leaders of the hosts on high.
Kontakion Tone II
O ye chief commanders of God, ministers of glory divine,
captains of the angels and instructors of men: beg ye great mercy
and that which is profitable for us, for ye are the supreme commanders
of the bodiless hosts.