Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle…

Today is Michaelmas – the day we read the story from Revelation of the Archangel Michael beating up the beast.

And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

Oddly, I rather like the feast. It is a day for thinking about dragons and angels, and of course, a rather butch, military Michael with all the host of heaven sweeping in to put all things right.

I grew up surrounded with military metaphors for religion and by and large I laid them aside and left them be. In the Salvation Army there are few things that don’t have military imagery attached to them and it leads to a peculiar and, if you think about it, slightly troubling mindset. Plenty of people get very excited about the idea of jihad, holy war in Islam after all. Yet for most Muslims it doesn’t seem to be very far away from the religious language I grew up with.

I managed to rescue just a little of that spirit a number of years ago. A friend’s son had a terrible car accident and was fighting for his life. At the time I was attached to St Michael and All Saints church in Edinburgh. I remember on the Feast itself looking at a statue of Michael about to slay the dragon and realising that there wasn’t at that moment a better visual representation for how I wanted to pray.

Young man in question lived.

Yet whether we live or die, the faith I profess insists, sometimes against all credible evidence, that goodness is stronger than evil.

Worth making a fuss about, is that kind of sentiment and that is part of the reason I like to keep the feast.

The other part is that in a world where half the population believes in guardian angels and the other half is reading Harry Potter, a feast day with both Angels and Dragons just can’t be anything other than a mission opportunity.

Want to know why your young people don’t come to church. Maybe it is because adults don’t get excited enough about feast days like this one.


  1. Thanks for the observation Kelvin. It seems that the rich imagery and mythologies of the Christian tradition do still have a hold on many people’s imagination. Another example would be the Da Vinci Code genre – ‘The Second Messiah’, ‘The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception’, ‘The Genesis Code’ etc etc – usually involving the Vatican, Knights Templar and something buried under Temple Mount.

    There’s a tendency to be embarrassed about all this, to want to strip it all out and sanitise everything to make the faith ‘relevant’ and ‘contemporary’ to ‘modern’ people. But surely it’s the quite literally fabulous elements of the tradition that so many are – even if subconsciously – drawn to? I remember a group of Goth-attired students up for the Edinburgh Festival a few years ago who came to Old St Paul’s every week – they were surprised and delighted to find that such a rich aesthetic could be celebrated in such a boring old institution as the church…

  2. It’s a festival that I think Tolkien would have had a lot of time for. It’s like the great stories, Mr Frodo; the ones that really mattered…

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