Sunday, January 16, 2011

St. Michael the Archangel: Through the Ages

His name in Latin means Quis Ut Deus  ("Who is like unto God?") .

His name is mentioned four times in the Scripture.

Daniel 10:13 The prince of the Persian kingdom has resisted me for twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the leading angels, has come to my assistance.

Daniel 12:1 At that time, Michael will rise, the Great Commander who defends the sons of your people. It shall be a time of anguish as never before since the nations first existed until this very day.

Epistle of St. Jude (Verse 9)
When the archangel Michael fought against the devil and disputed about the body of Moses, he did not dare insult him, but simply said, "May the Lord rebuke you !"

"Him the Almighty Power hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky." [Paradise Lost I:44-45] [Illustrations: Gustave Doré]

Apocalypse 12:7-8 War broke out in heaven with Michael and his angels battling with the dragon. The dragon fought back with his angels, but they were defeated and lost their place in heaven.


Sometime back, I did some research on the appearances of St. Michael the Archangel through the ages and wrote them down in a note book. Here are some ....

I. Asia Minor, 1st Century AD

Caused a medicinal spring to sprout at Chairotopa (present day Ceretapa, Turkey) near the city of Colossae, a city on the left bank of river Lycos, in the ancient land of Phyrgia. Tradition relates that all the sick who bathed in the spring invoking the Blessed Trinity and St. Michael were cured.

According to the Greek Christians, the sprouting of this spring was prophesied by St. John the Theologian and St. Philip the Apostle while passing through the village of Chairotopa.

A 12th century icon of the Miracle at Chonae, St Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai

A wealthy pagan in the nearby city of Laodicea, who had a mute daughter, was instructed by the archangel in a dream to take his daughter to the spring to be healed. After dipping the girl in the spring invoking the Blessed Trinity and St. Michael, she was able to speak. The pagan, after baptizing himself and his whole family, discipled themselves in the Christian faith, and built a church over the spring in honor of the archangel.

Early 15th century Russian icon depicting the miracle of St. Michael at Chonae

Some 90 years later, the pagans tried to destroy the church by directing a spring against it but the great archangel appeared in the guise of a young man in response to the church sacristan's (Archippus) prayer and making the sign of the cross on the surface of the water, stopped it! The water stood like a wall. The archangel then struck the huge rock that lay near the church's altar with lightning, a massive earthquake occured, and the boulder was splitted into two parts forming a huge gorge. He then commanded the water to flow into the gorge thereby sanctifying the waters that came out of it forever. From that time on, the place was called Chonae (present day Khonas), after the Greek word for "funnel" (Chone). The Greeks claim that this incident took place about the middle of the first century. This event is commemorated on Sept. 6 in the Old Church.

Note 1: Unfortunately, the apparitions inspired a little too much zeal in parts of the fledging Christian community in Colossae and the self-appointed teachers began promoting angel worship. St. Paul, then a prisoner in Rome, wrote a letter to them (which later became a book in the New Testament as The Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians) warning: "Let no man seduce you, willing in humility, and religion of angels, walking in the things which he hath not seen, in vain puffed up by the sense of his flesh ... " (2:18) 

Note 2: There was also a healing pool in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus known as the Pool of Bethesda. It is mentioned in The Holy Gospel of St. John as: "And the angel of the Lord descended at certain times into the pond; and the water was moved. And he that went down first into the pond after the motion of the water, was made whole, of whatsoever infirmity he lay under." (5:4)  It is said that healings occured with greater frequency at Chonae than at the Pool of Bethesda, where the descending of an angel of the Lord was unpredictable.

Note 3: Almost the whole of Byzantine Phrygia is now included in the vilayet of Brusa, with the exception of a small part of Parorius and the district about Themisonium (Karayuk Bazar) and Ceretapa (Kayadibi  or Karahayit), which belong to the vilayet of Konia, and the district of Laodicea and Hierapolis, which belongs to Aidin.

II. Michaelion, Turkey, 4th Century AD

Bernard Picart's The Argonauts Pass the Symplegades

The Argonauts, while navigating their way to the Black Sea in search of the Golden fleece, were attacked at the Bosphorus by Amycus, king of the Bebryces tribe. (He was later killed in a fistfight with Polydeuces.) 

The Bosphorus is a strait that forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia

The Argonauts hid themselves in a cave, where they saw an apparition of a man with wings like an eagle, which prophesised their victory over Amycus. The Argonauts in gratefulness built a temple in honour of the winged-being along with its statue and called the temple "Sosthenion."

The Sosthenion is located some 50 miles South of Constantinople. 

Constantine's Conversion by Peter Paul Rubens

When Emperor Constantine (AD 272 - 337) visited the temple, he found the statue as "angeli speciem, in habitu monachi Christiani" ("an angel in Christian monk's habit"). The archangel revealed himself to the emperor in a dream and Constantine built the Michaelion dedicated to the archangel at the site, which later became known for miraculous healings of the sick and the infirm, and also for the apparitions of the archangel.

III. Monte Gargano (Garganus Mons), Italy AD 490 - 493

The city of Sipontum (aka "Siponto") lies at the foot of this holy mountain, which is in the present-day province of Foggia, northern Apulia. The first apparition of the archangel to the bishop of Sipontum, as recorded in the 14th century book Legenda Aurea ("Golden Legend") by Jacobus de Voragine, happened this way:

"... in the year of our Lord three hundred and ninety, was in the same city of Syponte a man which was named Garganus, which, after some books, had taken the name of the mountain, or else the mountain took the name of the man. And he was right rich, and had a great multitude of sheep and beasts, and as they pastured about the sides of the mountains it happened that a bull left the other beasts, and went upon high on the mountain and returned not home again with the other beasts. Then this rich man, the owner, took a great multitude of servants, and did do seek this bull all about, and at the last he was found on high on the mountain by the entry of a hole or cave. And then the master was wroth because he had strayed alone from other beasts, and made one of his servants to shoot an arrow at him. And anon the arrow returned with the wind and smote him that had shot it, wherewith they of the city were troubled with this thing, and went to the bishop and inquired of him what was to be done in this thing, that was so wonderful. And then he commanded them to fast three days and to pray unto God. And when this was done, Saint Michael appeared to the bishop, saying: Know ye that this man is so hurt by my will. I am Michael the archangel, which will that this place be worshipped on earth, and will have it surely kept. And therefore I have proved that I am keeper of this place by demonstrance and showing of this thing. And then anon the bishop and they of the city went with procession unto that place, and durst not enter into it, but made their prayers without forth."

Other versions say that the man's name was Elvio Emmanuele, and the bishop, after the first apparition, doubted his own sanity and dismissed the vision.

Two years later, in AD 492, the pagans from the city of Odoacre beseiged the city of Siponto, which was part of the Bishop's diocese. Again, St. Michael appeared to the Bishop and promised assistance to the city if the people would attack the enemy. The citizens obeyed. Suddenly, sand and hail rained upon the formation of Odoacre and the enemy was dispersed. In gratitude, the bishop led a procession to the mountain but did not enter the cave. 
The last time the archangel appeared to the bishop was on Sept. 29, AD 493, whereby the bishop was instructed to enter inside the grotto promising to show his own marks of consecration of the cavern. When the bishop entered the grotto, he found an altar covered with a scarlet cloth, a crystal cross upon it, and an infantile footprint of the archangel imprinted at the entrance. 

Pope Gelasius I (AD 492 - 496) directed that a basilica be erected enclosing the sacred grotto. The grotto is the now famous "Sanctuario di San Michele Archangelo" or the "Sanctuary of Monte Sant' Angelo sul Gargano" or simply "Monte Gargano."     

Throughout its history, the shrine has been visited by popes, emperors, distinguished saints like St. Francis of Assisi, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Bridget of Sweden, St. Gerard Majella, St. William of Vercelli and the present age stigmatist St. Padre Pio, whose chasuble once worn at the Mass he celebrated in the grotto (not the Novus Ordo mass which he never celebrated) is preserved there, and countless pilgrims from all over the world. 

IV. Rome, AD 597

A great plague struck Rome in AD 597. Pope St. Gregory the Great (Pope Gregory I) led a penitential procession with the image of the Madonna, which is said to be painted by St. Luke and is given the title Salus Populi Romani, from Santa Maria Maggiore to the Church of St. Peter. As the procession reached the bridge across the Tiber, a choir of angels was heard singing:

Regína caéli, lætáre, allelúia: Quia quem meruísti portáre, alleluia: Resurréxit sicut dixit, allelúia

To which Pope Gregory replied:

Ora pro nóbis Déum, allelúia

Castel Sant' Angelo

Suddenly, upon the mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian, near St. Peter's Bascilica, the archangel appeared and seathed his sword, indicating the end of the plague (and it sure did ended). The mausoleum was then renamed Castel Sant' Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel).