Michael in Hebrew means: "Who is like God", "Like unto God", "Who is like the Divine".
St. Michael is one of the principal angels; his name was the war-cry of the good angels in the battle fought in heaven against the enemy and his followers. Four times his name is recorded in Scripture:
- Daniel 10:13 sqq., Gabriel says to Daniel, when he asks God to permit the Jews to return to Jerusalem: "The Angel [D.V. prince] of the kingdom of the Persians resisted me . . . and, behold Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me . . . and none is my helper in all these things, but Michael your prince."
- Daniel 12, the Angel speaking of the end of the world and the Antichrist says: "At that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people."
- In the Catholic Epistle of St. Jude: "When Michael the Archangel, disputing with the devil, contended about the body of Moses", etc. St. Jude alludes to an ancient Jewish tradition of a dispute between Michael and Satan over the body of Moses.
- Apocalypse 12:7, "And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon." St. John speaks of the great conflict at the end of time, which reflects also the battle in heaven at the beginning of time. According to the Fathers there is often question of St. Michael in Scripture where his name is not mentioned. They say he was the cherub who stood at the gate of paradise, "to keep the way of the tree of life" (Genesis 3:24), the angel through whom God published the Decalogue to his chosen people, the angel who stood in the way against Balaam (Numbers 22:22 sqq.), the angel who routed the army of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:35).
- To fight against Satan.
- To rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death.
- To be the champion of God's people, the Jews in the Old Law, the Christians in the New Testament; therefore he was the patron of the Church, and of the orders of knights during the Middle Ages.
It would have been natural to St. Michael, the champion of the Jewish people, to be the champion also of Christians, giving victory in war to his clients. The early Christians, however, regarded some of the martyrs as their military patrons: St. George, St. Theodore, St. Demetrius, St. Sergius, St. Procopius, St. Mercurius, etc.; but to St. Michael they gave the care of their sick. At the place where he was first venerated, in Phrygia, his prestige as angelic healer obscured his interposition in military affairs. It was from early times the centre of the true cult of the holy angels, particularly of St. Michael. Tradition relates that St. Michael in the earliest ages caused a medicinal spring to spout at Chairotopa near Colossae, where all the sick who bathed there, invoking the Blessed Trinity and St. Michael, were cured.
Still more famous are the springs which St. Michael is said to have drawn from the rock at Colossae (Chonae, the present Khonas, on the Lycus). The pagans directed a stream against the sanctuary of St. Michael to destroy it, but the archangel split the rock by lightning to give a new bed to the stream, and sanctified forever the waters which came from the gorge.
At Constantinople likewise, St. Michael was the great heavenly physician. His principal sanctuary, the Michaelion, was at Sosthenion, some fifty miles south of Constantinople; there the archangel is said to have appeared to the Emperor Constantine. The sick slept in this church at night to wait for a manifestation of St. Michael; his feast was kept there 9 June. Another famous church was within the walls of the city, at the thermal baths of the Emperor Arcadius; there the synaxis of the archangel was celebrated 8 November. This feast spread over the entire Greek Church, and the Syrian, Armenian, and Coptic Churches adopted it also; it is now the principal feast of St. Michael in the Orient. Other feasts of St. Michael at Constantinople were: 27 October, in the "Promotu" church; 18 June, in the Church of St. Julian at the Forum; and 10 December, at Athaea.
The Christians of Egypt placed their life-giving river, the Nile, under the protection of St. Michael; they adopted the Greek feast and kept it 12 November; on the twelfth of every month they celebrate a special commemoration of the archangel, but 12 June, when the river commences to rise, they keep as a holiday of obligation the feast of St. Michael "for the rising of the Nile", euche eis ten symmetron anabasin ton potamion hydaton.
Well known is the apparition of St. Michael (a. 494 or 530-40), as related in the Roman Breviary, 8 May, at his renowned sanctuary on Monte Gargano, where his original glory as patron in war was restored to him. To his intercession the Lombards of Sipontum (Manfredonia) attributed their victory over the Greek Neapolitans, 8 May, 663. In commemoration of this victory the church of Sipontum instituted a special feast in honour of the archangel, on 8 May, which has spread over the entire Latin Church and is now called (since the time of Pius V) "Apparitio S. Michaelis", although it originally did not commemorate the apparition, but the victory.
Here it is fit to add a very interesting revelation which St. Bridget had on Monte Gargano:
Book 4 - Chapter 131
Lady Bridget saw a multitude of angels singing praises on Monte Gargano and saying: ”Blessed are you, our God, who are and shall be and ever were without beginning or end! You created us spirits to minister to you and to comfort and protect humankind, We are sent to them for their benefit and yet are never deprived of the sweet consolation of the beatific vision. Because we were as though unknown to humankind, you wished on this spot to reveal this your blessing and the dignity given to us, in order that people might learn both to love you and to desire our help. This place, which long was held in honor by many, is now neglected, The inhabitants of the land turn more to unclean spirits than to us, inasmuch as they follow their suggestions more eagerly.”
The lady answered: ”My Lord, my Creator and Redeemer, help them to cease from sinning and to desire you with all their heart!” God said to her: ”They have grown accustomed to filth, and will not learn except by force. Would that they would get to know themselves through discipline and recover their senses again!”
Further reading: Wonderful Revelations of St. Bridget
In Normandy St. Michael is said to have appeared there, in 708, to St. Aubert, Bishop of Avranches. In Normandy his feast "S. Michaelis in periculo maris" or "in Monte Tumba" was universally celebrated on 18 Oct., the anniversary of the dedication of the first church, 16 Oct., 710. In Germany, after its evangelization, St. Michael replaced for the Christians the pagan god Wotan, to whom many mountains were sacred, hence the numerous mountain chapels of St. Michael all over Germany.
In art St. Michael is represented as an angelic warrior, fully armed with helmet, sword, and shield (often the shield bears the Latin inscription: Quis ut Deus), standing over the dragon, whom he sometimes pierces with a lance. He also holds a pair of scales in which he weighs the souls of the departed, or the book of life, to show that he takes part in the judgment. His feast (29 September) in the Middle Ages was celebrated as a holy day of obligation, but along with several other feasts it was gradually abolished since the eighteenth century.
St Michael the Archangel