Saturday, October 4, 2014

St Michael and All Angels - Sep 30, 2014

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br.Robert James Magliula, OHC
St. Michael and All Angels, transferred to September 30, 2014

Genesis 28:10-17
Revelation 12:7-12
John 1:47-51

St Michael Archangel defeating Satan
As human beings, we really need this strange festival of angels and archangels. It’s a reminder of how crucial it is for us to be able to use our imaginations. We need our imagination, especially in our tendency to believe only in the tangible. When our religion is material, unbounded faith in human progress and in our own accomplishments, it is faith without imagination. It was imagination alone that enabled Nathaniel to recognize Jesus as “Son of God” and “King of Israel” when he had no other evidence than his imaginings of a Messiah.

In the same way, the author of Revelation draws a vivid picture of something that cannot be seen by the eye, but only in the imagination of mind and heart. Living in a time of terrible persecution and turmoil, the vision of victory for God, the belief that God is winning despite all the losses piling up at hand, sustains the author and his community. It gives meaning to a difficult life. The attempt to believe in God’s triumph was what made the story of Michael and All Angels.

In the story from Genesis, Jacob, a fugitive, falls asleep in his flight. His anxiety and concern don’t rest, but rise from his subconscious in a dream. He sees an image of angels and knows that God has reached him, found him, touched him. He knows that God is not confined and that no matter how far his flight, nor how long, he will never be far from God, nor God from him.

A few of decades ago, in a time that felt for many not unlike that described by the author of Revelation, Tony Kushner set out to dramatize the terror and agony of AIDS that robbed so many of us of those we loved. He found that it was impossible to do so without allowing human suffering a dimension beyond itself and beyond time and space. Only by going beyond the tangible could meaning be found for such suffering. In Angels in America he forced open our imaginations by making Western art return to its ancient roots in Greek tragedy where whatever happened on stage had a meaning beyond itself. There the voices of the chorus sang as the voices of the gods, or the gods themselves walked the higher reaches of the stage.

For so many of us at that time, it opened a door to deeper meaning and the finding of an inner strength to endure. As with Jacob one felt God’s presence despite the anxiety and fear. As with those early Christians, one glimpsed God’s victory, despite the losses.

In our day we need to see angels take their place among us, bringing back dimension and depth to our living and dying, our loves and betrayals, our breaking hearts and vulnerable bodies. We need to own the realization that in Christ we are bearing the mystery of the suffering of humanity, it’s sad woundedness, but we are also bearing the very glory of God---and even sharing in the divine nature.
We are a living paradox of divine and human just as Jesus was.

The Eucharist is the ongoing celebration of the Cross and Resurrection---not one but both”. When we eat it, we eat the good and bad, dark and light, suffering and ecstasy. With Jesus we find the power to hold the pain of life until it transforms us. It is too much to think or understand with the mind alone.
We can only eat it until the very eating of it changes us into Christ.

Since angels come primarily to guide or to warn us, we would also do well on this feast to ask ourselves about the times in our lives when we have been guided or protected---often from our worst selves. When we remember, then we need to recall the people we encountered at those times, realizing in them we were encountering angels as well. Their wings and their glory were hidden, their voices were familiar and they spoke of everyday things. Yet when we remember such times and such people, we realize how much we have been guarded, protected, and guided, most often when we were completely unaware.

Scripture is full of all sorts of people who recognized these encounters as meetings with these ministers of grace. In the comings and goings of our daily lives, may our ears be open to the beating of wings, both visible and invisible.  +Amen.

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