Every year on the 29th of September the Church commemorates the three angels whose names have been revealed to us in Scripture for our consolation: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. There is a fourth angel whose name is also revealed, Lucifer, but for a different reason: to warn us clearly about all his works and empty promises. When God unmasks the identity of angelic beings in a public way like Scripture it is because He wants us to know something about them that will assist us on the road to Heaven—or give us sufficient warning. The blessed archangels are three flames of divine love and grace because of their burning desire for our eternal salvation. They exist to lead us to heaven, and their Hebrew names reveal their respective roles.
Michael is the exorcist angel. His name in Hebrew is a rhetorical question: “Who is like unto God?” Christian tradition tell us that he stood up in the assembly of the angels when Lucifer proclaimed his desire to set up his throne there, and in astonishment at the hubris of such a rebellious act uttered that question before casting the devil out of heaven. It’s kind of like the cop who says to a bully, “So you think you’re above the law, do you?” and then tosses the guy into the clink never expecting an answer! Michael helps us in our constant spiritual warfare against the forces of evil. He is especially good when we call upon him in times of temptation and confusion. He always comes. He appears in the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation where we see his humble magnificence.
Gabriel is the evangelist angel. He is revealed in the Book of Daniel and in the Gospel of Luke bringing the good news of Christ’s Incarnation to the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation. Gabriel’s Hebrew name is “Strength” or “Strong One of God” to remind us that belief in Jesus is the strength of our souls. Gabriel and his angels assist us in our personal understanding of the faith and in our sharing of it with others. Parents and teachers will find great assistance in Gabriel for their necessary tasks of teaching children and others the faith, and priests and religious can look to him with confidence when seeking to become dynamic preachers and communicators of the things of God.
Raphael appears only in the Book of Tobit, which is such a rich source of knowledge about this angel. He is the healing flame. His Hebrew name is “Health” or “Healer of God” because he healed Tobit of his blindness and exorcised the spirit of Asmodeus from Sarah, a spiritual healing. Raphael comes to our aid in times of sorrow, weakness, woundedness and in times when we need patience. He accompanied Tobias on his journey to meet and marry Sarah, so Raphael is also traditionally considered the patron saint of travelers and married couples. Those who are eager to find a spouse will appreciate this luminescent spirit as a ready helper in need.
I’m convinced that we do not pay enough attention to the archangels whose radiant love is burning incandescently around us at every moment of our waking and sleeping. Of course we can’t see those divine flames with our eyes. It takes faith to see them. With faith we know that these strong, ravishing spiritual beings drive away evil by their very presence and exist to worship God and to serve God’s greatest desire: our salvation.
Imagine the potency of a hydrogen bomb bound up in a magnificent, living, intelligent being whose one desire is to make sure we get home safely—by that I mean our Heavenly Home of course. They have come from there and they certainly know how to lead us back.