St. Michael the Archangel, Defend Us in Battle

“And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels. And they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven.” (Revelation 12:7-8)

Saint Michael the Archangel
Saint Michael the Archangel (photo: “September” by Hans Thoma (1839-1924))

As we honor St. Michael the Archangel on September 29, let us take a look at the cosmic battle between Michael and Lucifer and explore how St. Michael was able to cast out Satan and his cohort of Fallen angels.

Let us first look at Sacred Scripture to get a view of the Heavenly War:

And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars:

And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered.

And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns: and on his head seven diadems:

And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered; that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son.

And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod: and her son was taken up to God, and to his throne.

And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God, that there they should feed her a thousand two hundred sixty days.

And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels:

And they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven.

And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world; and he was cast unto the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Revelation 12:1-9 Douay-Rheims)

While this depiction of this great battle comes in the last book of the Bible, Jesus referred to this scene when He said to His apostles, “I saw Satan like lightning falling from heaven” (Luke 10:18 Douay-Rheims).

The prophet Isaiah further narrates this event:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, who didst rise in the morning? How art thou fallen to the earth, that didst wound the nations?” And thou saidst in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will sit in the mountain of the covenant, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the height of the clouds, I will be like the most High. But yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, into the depth of the pit. (Isaiah 14:12-15 Douay-Rheims)

From these three passages we see that Satan was once called “Lucifer” or “light-bearer” and sought to usurp God, exalting himself above everyone else. Yet, he was cast down from heaven by Michael the Archangel along with a “third” of the other angels who rebelled against God.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (391) sums up this doctrine of the Fall of the Angels:

Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy. Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called ‘Satan’ or the ‘devil.’ The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: ‘The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.’

The Church affirms that Satan was once a good angel and that he (and many other angels) freely chose to reject God. Their choice was final and definite. Satan has no chance of repentance. This is because angels were given an extraordinary intellect, not clouded in any way. So Lucifer knew exactly what he was doing when he chose to rebel against God and he knew all the implications of it.

This rebellion was accomplished at the beginning of time, shortly after the creation of the angels, before the creation of men. This can be deduced simply by the fact that Satan was already present at the Garden of Eden.

What makes this battle at the beginning of creation even more interesting is the tradition that Lucifer was created by God as a “Seraphim,” in the highest choir of angels, and St. Michael was an “Archangel,” one of the lowest choirs of angels.

In the “logic” of God’s divine Providence this makes perfect sense. God continually uses the “lowest,” “weakest,” and most “vulnerable” of this world to confound the “strongest.”

“God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28 RSV).

When looking upon a crucifix, we see this played out in full force. God did not ride on his war-horse from Heaven to destroy death; He humiliated Himself and became a child, who then grew-up and was killed by men.

This is a great lesson for us all.

We must remember that we will never be able to defeat the influence of the devil or sin by sheer force. We cannot think that somehow “we” will defeat Satan. God alone is our strength and it takes great humility to allow God full power over our lives. To use a phrase of St. John the Baptist:

He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30 RSV)

Then and only then will we be victorious over the Evil One.