THERE WAS A WAR IN HEAVEN. MICHAEL AND HIS ANGELS FOUGHT WITH THE DRAGON. Today's reading from the book of Revelation raises a number of issues that have larger consequences than we might at a single hearing pass over rather lightly. For one thing, the concept of a warfare between the Prince of angels, Michael, and the dragon strikes moderns as being a n early instance of science fiction rather than a solemn revelation intended to serve as an insight into a major event in the history of salvation. And yet this text which takes the form of an ancient myth has a significant message for us in our own times. John, the author of this inspired book is not the only one to speak of struggle with spirits. Saint Paul represents the same tradition and applied his insights to the human condition, by way of alerting us to conflict that we are to encounter on our spiritual journey through this world. He warns the Ephesians that “our struggle is not against enemies of flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (6:12)


In fact, it is not only the disciples who were conscious of the threats posed by hostile spirits, Jesus himself, commenting on the effects of the mission by the seventy two disciples, had declared: “I saw Satan falling from heaven.” Our Lord, as he states in today's Gospel text, was in touch with other occupants of the spirit world, not only with demons. As he told Nathaniel, his disciples “will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (John 1:51). These statements about Satan and angels are nothing less than astonishing soon as we focus our attention what they imply. When we consider well the implications of such experiences with the worlds of spirits we gain the realization that we are not alone in the created world.


The New Testament as well as the Old presents us with an invisible world of spirits, angels and demons, that impinges upon our material world in ways that prove helpful or threatening to us humans. From earliest times the Church has rightly insisted on maintaining this teaching and made it an influential element of the Christian view of life and of creation. In the Apostles Creed we affirm that God is “Creator of all things, visible and invisible.” Interestingly, in our own times the more advanced physicists are putting forth as the best explanation for the material universe we inhabit, the view that ours is but one of multiple universes that co-exist with ours while being invisible. These worlds are considered to be of a very different nature than the material cosmos, not being subject to our senses or even our more refined instruments. However, there are findings that are best explained by positing the existence of such worlds. Whether such speculations prove to be substantiated by scientific methods remains to be seen, but it is noteworthy that the mind of man should be led to posit such worlds that bear upon ours. Already in Old Testament times the inspired authors had no doubt that there are indeed multiple worlds and that they are inhabited by spiritual beings who enter into relation with us humans. Some serve as God's ministering servants; others are hostile to us and resist God's plans.


This liturgy we celebrate today brings these truths to our awareness with a particular focus, making it clear that already the certain victory of the faithful angels is assured, and even now these ministers of heaven act in our favor. The Eastern Churches have a strong sense of the presence of the angels at the Eucharistic liturgy. A  rite I remember vividly when attending the Ethiopian liturgical service at their Church located in the Vatican grounds, gives striking witness to this firm belief. At the time of consecration of the bread first then a second time when the wine is consecrated, minister who holds a staff with a metal attachment shakes it rapidly and there is a deep silence following. The whirring sound is intended to convey the presence of adoring angels whose wings move rapidly in adoration of the Lamb of God. As we offer this Eucharist may the Spirit of God transpose each of us here into the presence of that world of the angels where God the Father is worshiped with his Son who loves us and gives his very self for our salvation.?

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

Go to index page