September 29th used to be known as Michaelmas. Nowadays no one knows what that is. The Catholic Church celebrates today as the feast days of Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel and St. Raphael the Archangels.
I’ve always found it unfair that human saints get their own feast days, but the Catholic Church expects the archangels to shaaaaare. Your proper response to that is “Get over it, Jane,” and I understand. But still, allow me to gripe for a minute: St. Gabriel used to have March 24th for his feast day (the day before the Annunciation) and St. Raphael used to have October 24th, but they got moved over to St. Michael’s feast day. And then no one was put on those two feast days to replace them. It’s kind of like thelandlord breaking your lease so you have to move in with your brother, but then not moving anyone else into the apartment.
I’m done with my self-indulgent rant. You can tune back in now, guys. Sorry.
We’ve seen Michael in the Bible as the defender of the nation of Israel and later as the defender of the Christian faith. (He never identifies himself, by the way. He’s always identified by someone else.) Gabriel shows up as Daniel’s interpreter, and later as the annunciator to Zachariah and to the Virgin Mary. Raphael is one of the main characters of the Book of Tobit (sacred scripture in the Catholic and Orthodox Bibles but not included in Protestant Bibles).
Why are these three special enough to be the only named angels in scripture? No clue. We know there are millions of millions of angels (according to Daniel) and we assume the rest of them have names too. (As Bucky says in Honest and For True, “Hey You just lacks that distinctive ring.”) But we see them in the Bible, when asked, turn it back around at the asker and either refuse to give their name or else ask why the person wants to know. Clearly they don’t want to be worshipped as idols. But three of them in later books do get to tell us their names.
Being as we’re the Philangelus household, tonight we get to celebrate a little for them. Angels don’t eat, but as an Italian I cannot fathom a celebration without food, so I’ll be making a little Michaelmas cake for us tonight. And not angel food cake, either (bad me) but a lemon cake, like grandma used to make.
October 2nd will be the feast day of the Guardian Angels (and so six billion angels get to share a feast day too) so I’ll try to have angel-themed posts between now and then. On the last day, I’ll make a lasagna for our seven household guardians, and if I get ambitious I might buy a cheesecake too.
Bon appetit, and happy Michaelmas!
(Oh, and for my Jewish readers, happy Rosh Hashanah!)