St. Michael and the Angels, Sept. 29

Michaelmas, or the Feast of Michael and All Angels, is celebrated on the 29th of September every year. St Michael is one of the principal angelic warriors, protector against the dark of the night and the Archangel who fought against Satan and his evil angels. It is the “mass of Michael.” As it falls near the equinox, the day is associated with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days. It used to be said that harvest had to be completed by Michaelmas, almost like the marking of the end of the productive season and the beginning of the new cycle of farming.

Traditionally, in the British Isles, a well fattened goose, fed on the stubble from the fields after the harvest, is eaten to protect against financial need in the family for the next year; and as the saying goes:

“Eat a goose on Michaelmas Day,
Want not for money all the year”.

Part of the reason goose is eaten is that it was said that when Queen Elizabeth I heard of the defeat of the Armada, she was dining on goose and resolved to eat it on Michaelmas Day.

Another piece of folklore in the British Isles suggests that Michaelmas day is the last day that blackberries can be picked. It is said that when St Michael expelled Lucifer, the devil, from heaven, he fell from the skies and landed in a prickly blackberry bush. Satan cursed the fruit, scorched them with his fiery breath, stamped, spat and urinated on them, so that they would be unfit for eating. As it is considered ill-advised to eat them after 29 September, a Michaelmas pie is made from the last of the season.

On this day, we give thanks for the many ways in which God’s loving care watches over us, both directly and indirectly, and we are reminded that the richness and variety of God’s creation far exceeds our knowledge of it.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, it is occasionally reported that someone saw a man who spoke to him with authority, and who he then realized was no mere man, but a messenger of God. Thus we have a belief in super-human rational created beings, either resembling men in appearance or taking human appearance when they are to communicate with us. They are referred to as “messengers of God,” or simply as “messengers.” The word for a messenger in Hebrew is malach, in Greek, angelos, from which we get our word “angel”

By the time of Christ, Jewish popular belief included many specifics about angels, with names for many of them. There were thought to be four archangels, named Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel.

Michael (the name means “Who is like God?”) is said to be the captain of the heavenly armies, the greatest of all the angels. He is the protector against the dark of the night and the Archangel who fought against Satan and his evil angels. As Michaelmas is the time that the darker nights and colder days begin – the edge into winter – the celebration of Michaelmas is associated with encouraging protection during these dark months. It was believed that negative forces were stronger in darkness and so families would require stronger defences during the later months of the year

He is mentioned in the Scriptures in Daniel 10:13,31; 12:1 (where he is said to be the prince of the people of Israel); in Jude 9 (where he is said to have disputed with the devil about the body of Moses); and in Revelation 12:7 (where he is said to have led the heavenly armies against those of the great dragon). He is generally pictured in full armor, carrying a lance, and with his foot on the neck of a dragon. (Pictures of the Martyr George are often similar, but only Michael has wings.)

In Anglican and Episcopal tradition, there are three or four archangels in its calendar for 29 September feast for St. Michael and All Angels: namely Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, and often, Uriel. Gabriel (the name means “God is my champion”) is thought of as the special bearer of messages from God to men. According to the first chapter of Luke, he announced the forthcoming births of John the Baptist and of our Lord to Zachariah and the Virgin Mary respectively.

Gabriel (the name means “God is my champion”) is thought of as the special bearer of messages from God to men.  According to the first chapter of Luke, he announced the forthcoming births of John the Baptist and of our Lord to Zachariah and the Virgin Mary respectively.

What is the value to us of remembering the Holy Angels? Well, since they appear to excel us in both knowledge and power, they remind us that, even among created things, we humans are not the top of the heap. Since it is the common belief that demons are angels who have chosen to disobey God and to be His enemies rather than His willing servants, they remind us that the higher we are the lower we can fall. 

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