Sunday, September 28, 2008
I figure it's late enough on Michaelmas Eve for me to put up a Michaelmas post here. Be sure to look over at What's Wrong with the World tomorrow for a deluxe version with the reading from the Apocalypse for Michaelmas in both English and Latin.
The thing I like about the above image of St. Michael the Archangel is that he looks undeniably masculine. It's true that he looks maybe a bit too much like a fantasy hero on the cover of a book, but even if so, he's a classy fantasy hero. Too many St. Michael images, even those with a really cool picture of Satan being stabbed by Michael's spear (which unfortunately this one lacks), make Michael's face look feminine. That drives me crazy, because if there is one masculine person in the Army of Light, it's St. Michael.
As C. S. Lewis said, the true opposite to Satan is not God but St. Michael. Both of them are angels, only Satan is a fallen angel, and Michael is a good angel. It looks, if we take Revelation relatively literally, as though God has given to Michael the special job of defeating Satan, and even though the reading refers to Satan's original fall, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if St. Michael were heavily involved in the final binding and throwing into the Lake of Fire at the end of the story when the good guys finally win.
I have a quarrel with John Milton: When he does the war in heaven, he has the Son come in a chariot and throw Satan out of heaven. Now, it's surprising that Milton should allow himself to be unbiblical, Puritan and biblicist that he was. But I think that here Milton's Arianism got the better of him. For in Milton's theology, the Son is the true opposite of Satan. The good angels are not able to defeat him, and heaven is getting all ripped up and such, so the Son has to come with irresistible might and fling him and his armies over the battlements of heaven. The flinging over the battlements ("with ruinous combustion down/Who durst defy th'omnipotent to arms") is great. But it should be Michael who does it.
Michaelmas--specifically, the reading from Revelation--reminds us of several important things: 1) At the end of the book, we win. That is, if we are on the side of God. 2) It's not wrong to win by fighting. Evil should be fought. 3) Things aren't going to be pretty between now and the end, because Satan has been given the freedom to roam around down here on earth and cause all kinds of trouble. 4) From a God's-eye view, Satan's remaining time is short. That's a comfort even for those of us whose threescore years and ten will be long over before it's all over.
Blessings to all my readers, and in particular, a Merry Michaelmas!