What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


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Today, September 29, is the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, known in Merry Old England as Michaelmas. Michaelmas really is one of my favorite feastdays, and it seems particularly appropriate to us here at What's Wrong with the World, because the whole point of the reading for this feast is that the good guys do win in the end, and by battle, too, but that sometimes the ultimate victory takes a while. Here is the entire (exceedingly cool) reading for today from Revelation.

The Book of Revelation, the twelfth chapter, beginning at the seventh verse:

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the eath and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time."

And just for fun, here it is in Latin from the Vulgate:

7. Et factum est proelium magnum in coelo: Michael, et angeli ejus proeliabantur cum dra- cone, et draco pugnabat, et angeli ejus: 8. et non valuerunt, neque locus inventus est eorum amplius in coelo. 9. Et projectus est draco ille magnus, serpens antiquus, qui vocatur diabolus, et satanas, qui seducit universum orbem: et projectus est in terram, et angeli ejus cum illo missi sunt. 10. Et audivi vocem magnam in coelo dicen- tem: Nunc facta est salus, et virtus, et regnum Dei nostri, et potestas Christi ejus: quia projectus est accusator fratrum nostrorum, qui accu- sabat illos ante conspectum Dei nostri die ac nocte. 11. Et ipsi vicerunt eum propter sanguinem A- gni, et propter verbum testimonii sui, et non dilexerunt animas suas usque ad mortem. 12. Propterea laetamini coeli, et qui habitatis in eis. Vae terrae, et mari, quia descendit diabo- lus ad vos, habens iram magnam, sciens quod modicum tempus habet.

(I took the Latin off a Google books result of a parallel text in Latin and in some Czech language. There were a number of scanning errors in the Latin. If I missed any, please tell me in the comments.)

Here is a recording of Bach's "Nun ist das Heil," clearly intended to be used for Michaelmas. It begins at "Now is come salvation, and strength..." and ends with "...for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night."

The passage ends by crying "Woe!" to the inhabitants of earth. That includes us, for the moment at least. Yet I always find the passage tremendously encouraging. From the perspective of God, all the ill that Satan can do he is doing in a "short time." Yes, I know, we don't experience the divine sense of time, and to us it seems more like, as in the Christmas song, two thousand years of wrong have rolled over us since the coming of Our Lord. But the end of the story is never in doubt, from God's perspective, however long it seems to take from ours. For those of us who try, however imperfectly, to be on the side of the angels, that should be heartening.

Comments (18)

If I am not mistaken, today is also Rosh Hashanah, which in Judaism celebrates the coming of the Messiah.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by that, as according to Judaism, the Messiah has not come. But this may be just my ignorance.

At the moment, I am trying to remember if Michael the Archangel is a figure in Jewish literature as well as Christian. I think not but could be not remembering.

I'm glad to see that Michael is on the right side of the pacifism debate. So, apparently, is God.

I'm glad to see, too, that Lydia is on side of the angels -- not that there was any doubt. Any friend of Michael's is a friend of mine.

By the way, did you notice that Michael is a southpaw, just like St. George, the Dragon slayer? That can only mean that even the angels and the saints have flaws.

It's a flaw to be left-handed? Who says so? (I'm not, myself, but never thought of it as a flaw.) I think myself that the coincidence between St. George and St. Michael is no coincidence and that St. George is loosely "based on" St. Michael.

My patron saint. I've never felt worthy of the honor, honestly. Still, a day for celebration.

Slight correction, Rosh Hashanah signifies the Day of Judgment and not necessarily the Coming of the Messiah.

I believe there's something OT apocryphal (Assumption of Moses?) about Michael disputing with Satan about Moses' body.

Yeah, I think that's in the Talmud. Here's something funny: I was reading that in the book of Jude, and I said to my husband, "Dollars to donuts that's a reference to a Talmudic tradition," and I was right.

That's nice, Lydia, but don't you have anything to say about Bob Dylan?

Sure, Lydia. Southpaw is clearly defective. Always remember, whether in politics or in anything else: right is right and left is . . . wrong. Apparently even Jesus agrees (Rom 8:34).

Just loved Dante's portrayal of St. Michael in the Inferno: so unapologetically no-nonsense.

"That's nice, Lydia, but don't you have anything to say about Bob Dylan?"

Dylan speaks:

Precious angel, under the sun,
How was I to know you'd be the one
To show me I was blinded, to show me I was gone
How weak was the foundation I was standing upon?....

Precious angel, you believe me when I say
What God has given to us no man can take away.
We are covered in blood, girl, you know our forefathers were slaves.
Let us hope they've found mercy in their bone-filled graves.

A very different type of angel. Remember all that stuff I said in the main post about how St. Michael is a guy. That's most important. I'm always intrigued, mildly, by the fact that every single angel mentioned in Scripture is portrayed as masculine, and almost every single angel in art--both great and popular--is portrayed either as feminine, infantile, or epicene.

(I am utterly ignorant of Bob Dylan. A closed book to me.)

Maybe angels are portrayed as male or female for our sakes, not because they're either, in reality. They're just the best, though, aren't they!


For a much more accurate Vulgate text (without the Czech stuff), check out VulSearch, available at . It has some great tools for reading the Clementine Vulgate, and you can scroll the Douay-Rheims simultaneously. It's way more fun that in has any right to be.

Happy Michaelmas!

Maybe he was fighting satan left-handed just to show how bad-ss he is! Or to be more theological about it, to show that is was God's power, and not Mike's skill with a sword that removes satan.

Was Michael mentioned as the angel in the OT that also cast Adam and Eve from the garden or blocked the gate, or was no name given? I also seem to recall the "haggling over someone" bit mentioned above.

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