Homily on the Synaxis of the Archangel Michael


On this day dedicated to Archangel of God Michael and all the Bodiless Powers, what would we want to discuss more than the Angels?1 What specifically should we talk about? Let’s reproach ourselves. For what? Because we have sins, errors, mistakes, bitterness and problems—for none of this should exist with us when we are surrounded by a host of bodiless powers and each of us has his own guardian angel. Would the Angels of God themselves allow such things to befall us? No—if they allow it, then surely it is our own fault, because we make ourselves unworthy of angelic guidance and help, or because through our contrary actions and disposition we wreck and divert all of the Angels’ efforts to cooperate with us for good. What should we do? We have to tune ourselves to not turn away but to attract angelic cooperation. But how can we do this? Here’s how!

We have to remember that we have a Guardian Angel, and we have to turn to him in mind and heart—both during the ordinary course of our lives, and especially when our lives are disturbed by anything. When we do not turn to him, our Angel has no means of bringing us to reason. When a person walks toward a quagmire, a precipice, or a river with his ears plugged and his eyes shut, what can you do, how can you help him? You can shout, but his ears are plugged; you can make signs to him that danger is ahead, but his eyes are shut. So, when we do not appeal to our angel mentally or with our hearts, it’s as though we’ve turned out backs on him and are heading for danger. He gives us warnings, but the mind does not see them and the heart does not feel them. And therefore we fall into disaster or sin, and get lost.

You say, “Let him take me by the hand and lead me on the right path.” True, he is willing to do that and he is looking for your hand to take it and lead you. But do you have such a hand? After all, he is not going to take you by your physical hand, although that does happen is very special cases, but by the hand of your soul, and not of your body, because he himself is bodiless. The hand of your soul is: active strength directed toward salvation and zealous for it. When the soul has zeal for salvation, the Angel of the Lord will take you by it and guide you; but when it does not have it, then what can he take? You don’t have any spot where he can touch you. For he himself is of the ranks of spirits sent to those who want to inherit salvation. When there is no desire or zeal for salvation, how can he approach you, how can he act upon you, since you have nothing in you that corresponds to his efforts or his obligation to be near you?

Again you will say, “Let him inspire the very desire for salvation in me.” He’s willing to do this, too, and he does it first of all and most zealously of all, for this is the root of spiritual life. He supports and fortifies this desire in those who have it, and makes every effort to encourage it in those who don’t. But he rarely succeeds due to the great disorder that is characteristic of a careless soul. In such a soul all is in a state of confusion—thoughts, feelings, and intentions. It’s just chaotic noise, like at a bazaar. The more we have this lack of inner peace and concentration in us, the more the enemy of Angels works on us. How can an Angel suggest something good to us when we pay no attention? How can the soul hear this suggestion when is filled with noise and confusion? Thus the efforts of the Lord’s Angel remain fruitless!

So, do you want to make use of angelic guidance and cooperation? Tame your inner disorderliness, gather your attention within, and stand by your heart. The angel of the Lord will immediately notice this, approach you, and begin to place thoughts in you that would incline you towards an awakening of the desire for salvation. Reach towards this suggestion and start having zeal for salvation, and then the Angel of the Lord not only will take you by the hand, but also will raise you up in his hands; and he will not only lead you, he’ll carry you along the path of salvation. Only you should continually turn to him mentally and with your heart, not slacken in your zeal, and guard you attention. He will teach you everything you should do, when, and in what measure you should do it; or what not to do, and when it’s needed—and he will give you outward signs to guide you. Everyone who has ever been saved was saved this way. Read or listen to the Lives of the Saints! If we don’t see such perceptible angelic cooperation over us, then we have no one to blame but ourselves. It is we who do not give ourselves into the arms of the Angels and thus make their care for us of no avail. God’s Angel will fight and fight with us, and then leave us alone. And that’s all—until we die. And when we die, the Angel will present the book of our life to the Lord and say, “I did everything I could to bring him to reason, but this soul did not listen to anything.” And our condemnation will be inscribed in the book of life, and will surely be executed at the Last Judgment.

As long as we are alive, the Angels of God are our guardians, protectors, and guides; and after our death—at the Last Judgment—they will be the inexorable executors of God’s righteous determination for us. Did you hear what was read in today’s Gospel reading?! The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 13:41–42). And that will be the end of everything! The seal of God’s righteousness will be placed, and who can remove it!

True, there will be another half there, about whom it is said: Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father (Matt. 13:43). But will we end up among those blessed ones? The promise is given to everyone, but we need to fulfill the conditions. He who fulfills them is a vigilant zealot. If we will bear more resemblance to those of whom it is said in today’s parable: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat (Matt. 13:25), then what good can be expected from us?! When we sleep, that is, do not take care for our salvation and flail about in all sorts of vain things, then the Angel has no access to us—while the enemy has every means at his disposal. He walks up boldly and places all sorts of bad thoughts and desires in us, and teaches us all manner of evil. The careless soul accepts these suggestions, agrees to them, and carries them out at the first convenience. The further it goes, the worse it gets. And then that person becomes like the chaff amid the wheat, whose end is to be burned.

This has been a brief instruction on how to behave ourselves with regard to Angels.

May your souls not be grieved that I have brought you such unpleasant thoughts on this bright angelic feast. I am doing this in order to turn you away from the darkness of sin and towards the light of an angelic life; so that here, having lived in communion with Angels, you will all also be vouchsafed a life together with the Angels in heaven, and live in blessedness with them in the Kingdom of our Heavenly Father. Amen.

November 8/20, 1864

1 In this text, we are following the Russian practice of capitalizing the word Angel as it applies to angels of God. Russian spiritual texts usually do this to visibly distinguish God’s Angels from the fallen angels—the demons, which are of course in lower case.
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