Word Magazine November 1999 Page 53
OPERATING IN THE REAL WORLD
By Father Stephen Rogers
As we approach the end of the 20th century, we are living in the midst of what has aptly been labeled the Information Age. Computers, the world wide web, hundreds of television channels, talk radio, and print media inundate us with information.
The creed of our age is “knowledge is power.” Day after day, new discoveries extend the boundaries of human reasoning and knowledge. Our understanding of the world and how it works extends our ability to master and control that world. Unfortunately, this drive to “understand” the world — to explain it, quantify it and thereby control it — has also had the effect of demystifying the world, of leaving no room for the miraculous. In the Information Age, that which cannot be understood cannot be part of the “real” world. That which is mystical, that which is spiritual rather than physical, is part of a mythical or psychological world separate from the “real” world we operate in every day.
For the Christian, nothing could be further from the truth. The world of spirit is part of reality; in fact it is a higher reality that shapes and defines the physical world in which we live. Spiritual truth and spiritual forces impact our lives in dramatic ways.
On the eighth day of this month, the Church reminds us of this spiritual reality and its impact upon the physical world when it celebrates the Synaxis of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel and All the Heavenly Powers.
The angels are pure spirit, created by God to adore and reflect the infinite divine beauty. They were also created according to the Book of Hebrews to be “sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Heb. 1:14).
As ministering spirits, the angels throughout the history of creation have intervened in the affairs of man to reveal the will of God. Since the fall of man, angels have served as warriors in spiritual warfare protecting the “heirs of salvation from the attacks of the Devil. Each Christian at his baptism is yoked to a guardian angel who serves as his advocate, protector and intercessor throughout his earthly life.
How easy it is in this age of secularism to lose sight of the reality of the spiritual realm, of the work of angels, of the reality of the Evil One, that is, the devil, who “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
How easy it is and dangerous to forget that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the ruler of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness. . .” ( Ephesians 6:12). How comforting to know that we do not contend against these powers alone, but that we are surrounded by “ministering spirits,” that is, the heavenly host of angels.
In warfare, the most dangerous enemy is that adversary we are unaware of. To lose sight of the reality of the spiritual world and the warfare between good and evil, to fail to seek the intercession and protection of the heavenly hosts because they are not part of the “real” world, is to place ourselves in the most vulnerable of positions.
In the troparion of the feast chanted at Vespers, we cry out to the Archangels Michael and Gabriel: “O ye foremost of the heavenly hosts, we who are unworthy beseech you that by your petitions ye encompass us with the shadow of your immaterial glory, preserving us from oppression, since ye are the princes of the ranks of dominion on high.”
As we gather in church for the Synaxis of the Angels, let us be reminded of what is truly real, what is true knowledge, what is the true pathway to subjecting the forces of the world; let us be reminded of God’s love and mercy extended through the intercession and protection of His holy angels who minister to us, the “heirs of salvation.”