We must – absolutely must – have something on our lists that is the exception to the rule. Saint Michael is not a true saint. He’s not even a folk saint like Julian. There’s good reason for that. How does one canonise an angel? If not for that reason Michael would be top billing!
His name, Michael (or, broken down, Mika El) translates from its native Hebrew as ‘Who is like God’, which many people take as meaning he is similar to God. Michael is, besides Christ, the closest to God. However it can be read in another way. It can be read as “Who is like God?” That question mark is important. He may not be a being similar to God. He may be the agent who begs the question; Which of you is actually anything like our supreme deity? Who is like God? It’s rhetorical. The answer, an answer Michael is the very enforcer of, is nothing and no one.
The Archangel Michael, then, is God’s spear, God’s hammer, and God’s righteousness. He is also the holy shield, the Aegis, of the pious and particularly is recognised as so in Jewish tradition. He is the protector of the Jewish people. He is the very authority of God and exerts the force of Heavenly superiority.
He’s metal as fuck!
I’m a huge Satan fan. When you put aside deliberate propaganda, Satan seems less evil and more misunderstood. I know that’s a trope, I’m sorry but it’s just how I feel. It’s not Satan who performs untold horrors on Job in the Book of Job, it’s God at Satan’s dare. If Michael begs the question “Who is like God?” then Satan begs the questions “What makes God so great?” and “Who is not capable of being like God?” Satan prods at the imperfections of God that Michael covers up.
Satan is often described as a deceiver, a trickster and a corrupting force on humanity. However, again, reading further around the scripture and particularly other non-biblical translations of the Hebrew books in the Old Testament, and old Hebrew stories, to me it always seems more like he is encouraging people to know they can be bad. They can be, but they don’t have to be. This makes sense since ‘Satan’ is not necessarily used as a proper noun, a name, much at all in the Bible. Rather it is a role, a job title, translating from Hebrew roughly as “Opponent”, “Accuser” or “Adversary” – It is a legal role. The Satan is literally playing Devil’s Advocate!
So Satan, to me, shows one can have knowledge of evil, one can have an awareness of the advantages that can be gained through that evil, but one can also choose to do good regardless; to give up the advantages of evil in the pursuit of good. I find that quite powerful, and it makes those who pursue holiness knowing evil that much more powerful to me.
It’s one of the reasons I hate the ‘fall of mankind’ shtick. That came about not because Eve ate some errant apple God forbade her to eat. The fruit she was forbidden to eat was the ‘fruit of the tree of knowledge good and evil’. Adam and Even were not pious or chaste in Eden, they were just ignorant. Likewise, after eating the fruit they were not impious or evil, they were embarrassed and ashamed.
I’ve got a bible series so read about it there. It just makes me second guess the whole idea that the serpent (not identified in Genesis as a deity or ‘the Devil’ but given that meaning later – There’s a nice article about it here) tempted Eve in a deliberate plot to make humanity ‘evil’. The temptation was to give them knowledge of things God had deemed them to be not worthy of knowing and…Well…Look at my website! I’m totally against any authority claiming there are things the supposedly ‘lowly’ should not know! If we take the serpent as being Satan, I situationally agree with him here.
Needless to say I think Satan is one of, if not the most powerful angel in the Christian lore.
So when I say Michael kills him, and pretty soundly too, well it gives you an idea of Michael’s place. This angel is the very guardian of God, his ways and his people.
“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: He was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”
The ‘dragon’ is clearly identified as Satan and the Devil. Michael leads the armies of heaven into battle with Satan and his unrighteous horde and casts them out into the Earth. Now this may not sound like he kills him but Revelation is a prophetic book, it foretells the end times. Being left on the earth when that happens is akin to death and damnation.
The Book of Revelation is believed to have been written sometime around the end of the 1st century CE – around 90-95. Yet there is an earlier reference to the same event in the Book of Daniel, an apocalyptic book from around 200 BCE. In this book Daniel, the prophet, is having a vision during a period of fasting, foreseeing troubles, conflicts and the end of time. He is told;
“And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.”
Michael is the protector.
Whatever you think of the religion or the theology, Michael is the hero, the angel who shall lead the armies of heaven and ‘goodness’ to victory against the armies of hell and ‘evil’.
I’m well into eschatology (the study of the apocalypse, the end of time itself, the destruction of the universe and life as we know it!) I’m a morbid sort but there’s something about the transformational imagery invoked in almost all end-of-times prophecies that I love. Seldom are these true ends, often they are just a doorway to something new, something different. It takes a subject that could be looked at very nihilistically and instead makes it pose more transcendental questions that warrant thinking about even if you’re not religious.
Life evolves, it always has and it always will. But we do not know if the universe is permanent, we do know that through entropy it is likely to find a state inhospitable for life and organisms as we know them. The earth itself is unlikely to survive the end of the sun’s life. The sun, as it cools, will grow its hellish exterior until it is likely to end up consuming everything between itself and Jupiter. If life is to survive that, how is it to do so? Can it, even? All life will end, life will have an exodus moment and spread to safer parts of the cosmos, or else it must adapt and become something wholly different. This is what eschatology does for me. It makes me think of how life, a physical, chemical, biological process, could transcend these seemingly insurmountable challenges the future almost certainly holds.
There are few more important figures in Abrahamic (relating to the major religions with Abraham as their root – Islam, Christianity and Judaism being the main three) eschatology than Michael. He is so important that some believe Michael is merely the angelic form of Christ himself. On Earth, during his incarnation, he was Yeshua ben Joseph, Joshua son of Joseph, the man we would call Jesus Christ. In heaven, before his incarnation and after his ascension, many believe he is Michael; God’s sword, God’s shield, the very leader of the resistance against evil and the deliverer of the righteous to salvation. I have read it is a particularly prevalent belief among Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Needless to say such an important figure has also achieved the status of being a symbol. The winged warrior, his holy sword or spear and shield in hand, slaying a dragon, demon or monster that symbolises evil itself. I never tire of seeing Saint Michael the Archangel depicted in paintings, statues, sculpture or stained glass. I love to mock art and yet I have few chances to do so with Mike here, because how can you? Unless someone has done a very bad job he just tends to look…cool!
As much as my morals and ethics may empathise with Satan, I try to stand on the side of good. Michael is the very symbol of the unconquerable fighting strength of good. Together they represent a dichotomy, the yin and yang of the human psyche. As much as I may love how Satan enables my questioning and pursuit of knowledge – two things I could never give up. Michael is always there as a holy light. No matter what I learn, particularly where what I learn is a means to gain wealth, status or advantage to myself, I should still follow Michael’s lead and do right.
Michael is the angelic embodiment of good triumphing over evil. He is the symbol of all that I want to see achieved. For that reason, despite the fact that he has not been officially canonised a saint, Michael makes the list. It is also for that reason he is only number two. But our number one is no less deserving of the spot, in my eyes.
Want to know about more saints? Read our full list.
Happy All Saints’ Day!
Top 5 Saints #5: Saint Mary – Our Virgin of Sorrows and Mother of Christ.
Top 5 Saints #4: Saint Sebastian – A former Roman guard turned arrow-filled Martyr.
Top 5 Saints #3: Saint Julian of Norwich – Locked herself in a cell for holiness.
Top 5 Saints #1: Saint Francis of Assisi – Pious, compassionate and a role model.