Monday, September 29, 2014

Saint Michael and All Angels

Today's feast-day for Saint Michael and All Angels is not celebrated as widely as it once was, but sometimes churches (such as my own) will observe it on the nearest Sunday (which we did yesterday).

I realized that the hymn I posted last week was really perfect for today, but fortunately there are dozens to choose from, as this partial list indicates.

High on a hill of dazzling light
As first creation’s glory shone,
Vast troops of angels stretched for flight,
Stand waiting round God’s heavenly throne.

Go, says the Lord, "my Gabriel, go --
Salute the Virgin's fruitful womb; 
Make haste, you seraphs down below,
Sing and proclaim the Savior come."

Here a bright squadron leaves the skies,
And thick around Elisha stands;
Again a heav’nly soldier flies,
And breaks the chains from Peter’s hands.

Your wing├Ęd troops, O God of hosts!
Wait on your wandering church below:
When we are sailing to your coasts;
Let angels be our convoy, too.

Are they not all your servants, Lord?
At your command they go and come;
With cheerful haste obey your word,
And guard your children to their home.

Isaac Watts, 1709; alt.
Thomas Ravenscroft, 1621

This text reminds us of only a few of the scriptural stories of angels: Gabriel's visit to Mary (Luke 1: 26-38). the heavenly host that appeared to Bethlehem's shepherds (Luke 2:8-14), the angels with flaming chariots that protected the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 6:17), and the liberation of Peter from prison (Acts 12:4-11).

Isaac Watts wrote other hymn texts specifically about Saint Michael's war in heaven, from Revelation 12:7-12, so it may have been a particular interest of his, but not all of them are still likely to be sung in many places.  Texts like From heav'n the sinning angels fell and Down headlong from their native skies are perhaps better left in the past. 

Two Years Ago: O Captain of God's host

Four Years Ago: They are evermore around us

Five Years Ago: Stars of the morning, so gloriously bright

Six Years Ago:  Around the throne of God

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