Angels were created as messengers of God. The Scriptures reveal that God created nine orders of angels: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominations, Principalities, Powers, Virtues, Archangels, and Angels. Out of this order come the familiar seven Archangels which include Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Raguel, Sariel, and the fallen Lucifer. Before outlining the roles of the two that have been most prominent with man in the divine plan of the universe, it is required to cite him who has been the source of evil in our world with whom others, divine and mortal have had to contend with over the centuries since the dawn of man.
Lucifer, whose ambitions were a distortion of God's plan, is known to us as the fallen angel, with the use of many names, among which are Satan, Belial, Beelzebub and the Devil. An outcast since his expulsion from Paradise, this force of evil has been a thorn in the side of mankind and in all probability responsible for the miseries which Christianity has been striving to eliminate throughout the world.
The Archangel Michael is the outstanding figure in the eyes of the Greek Orthodox Church and is depicted in the many houses of worship in an icon always on the extreme left where he is pictured as a guardian of Paradise from whence Adam and Eve were evicted. In some icons he is seen with a flaming sword as a symbol of the righteousness that called for the casting out of the Garden of Eden of Adam and Eve after they had fallen victim to Satan in the form of a serpent. Among other things, it was Archangel Michael who was sent by God to countermand the command of God himself that Abraham sacrifice the life of his own son Isaac. Archangel Michael was also the messenger who warned Lot to flee from the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Archangel Michael's involvement with mankind is also seen in other ways, including his protection of Jacob from the wrath of his brother Esau over a matter of inheritance for which there are probate courts today. The Scriptures also tell us that it was Michael who battled the Devil for the soul of Moses following the death of the founder of the Israel nation. The Devil based his claim on the soul of the great Moses on the basis of Moses having killed an Egyptian prior to the Exodus, but the defence of the monumental figure of the Bible by Michael saved the soul of Moses from the clutches of Satan.
We are further told that it was Michael who stood by Joshua during his first encounter with his enemies in the land of Canaan. Mentioned in the New Testament numerous times, in which his lofty position is recognised, accounting for many miracles recounted as being attributed to the handiwork of Michael, chief of which is the changing of the course of a river at a place called Chonais in Asia Minor.
Michael's many miracles are commemorated by the church on September 19 of each calendar year.
A sweep of the eyes to the other end of the icon screen in Greek Orthodox churches falls on the Icon of St. Gabriel, seeming like twin sentinel with Michael over all mankind. Gabriel's name is synonymous with redemption, particularly since he was chosen to be sent by God to bring the electrifying news to the Virgin Mary that she was about to become the mother of God. What ensued changed the course of history and brought the promise of the deliverance of man through Jesus Christ. On the left is the symbol of guilt, on the right the symbol of salvation and between those can be seen the inspiring spiritual greats who have woven an enduring fabric to clothe all mankind and keep him from exposures that are life threatening.
Few are aware of the assignments of the lesser known and not so often mentioned saints, aside from Michael and Gabriel and the fallen one. Scant mention is made of the others but much could be made out of their responsibilities as ordained by God through painstaking study of Scriptures which the average reader overlooks because of what is considered more interesting or engrossing. Gabriel is principally mentioned in the Book of Daniel but there are others who have been mentioned who could do with considerably more attention.
Too little is said of Raguel, who is in charge of the spirits of humans but Sariel, whose duties are not defined whose role as avenger upon the world of lights is somewhat confusing. This brings us down to Sariel, whose duties are not clearly defined. However there is a clear definition of Uriel's role as leader of angelic hosts who guard the underworld (Sheol). Together this holy group is honoured with a feast day on November 21.
Archangel Michael occupies one of the highest places in the hierarchy of angels, he is very closely associated with the destinies of the Church. The Holy Scripture teaches us that besides the physical world there exists a great spiritual world, inhabited by intelligent and kind creatures called angels. In Greek the word "angel" means "messenger" since it is through them that God often declares His will to people. What the life of angels is like in the spiritual world that they inhabit and what they perform – we know almost nothing and actually we would be unable to grasp it anyway. They exist under conditions that are totally different from those of our material world; time, space and all mode of existence have a completely different content there. The prefix "arch-" added to the names of some angels show that in comparison with other angels they serve God in a more sublime way.
The name Michael in Hebrew means "Who is like God." The Holy Scripture mentions only some of the angels by personal names when describing instances of their appearing to various people. Obviously those are the angels that carry out a special mission in establishing the Lord’s Kingdom on the earth. Among them are archangels Michael and Gabriel who are mentioned in canonical books of the Scripture, as well as archangels Raphael, Uriel, Sariel, Jerahmeel and Raquel mentioned in some non-canonical books (The "canon," or the official list of Old Testament sacred books, was set up in the 5th century BC. Old Testament sacred books written after that were not included into the canon and are therefore called non-canonical.). Archangel Gabriel usually appeared to some righteous people as a herald of great and joyous tidings about events to happen to the people of God (Dan. 8:16, 9:21; Luke 1:19, 26). In the book of Tobit archangel Raphael says about himself: "I am one of the seven angels who bring prayers of saints to God and ascends to appear in front of the Holy God (Tob. 12:15). This accounts for the concept of there being seven archangels in Heaven and Michael is one of them.
The Scriptures call Archangel Michael "prince" and "leader of the Lord’s army"; he is depicted as the major fighter in the battle against the devil and people’s transgressions. Thus the Church has given him the name of "archstratig," which means senior warrior, leader. In this capacity Archangel Michael came to Joshua to help him and the Israelites to conquer the Promised Land. He also appeared to Prophet Daniel during the fall of the Babylon kingdom and the beginning of establishment of the Mesopotamian kingdom. Daniel received a prophecy of assistance that would be rendered by Archangel Michael to the people of God in the times of the coming persecutions from the antichrist. In the book of Revelation Archangel Michael is the forefront leader in the battle against the dragon-devil and other rebellious angels. "And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent call the devil or Satan." The Apostle Judah briefly mentions Archangel Michael as the enemy of the devil (Joshua 5:13; Dan. ch. 10, 12:1; Jude 9; Rev. 12:7-9; Luke 10:18).
In the spirit of the Holy Scripture some fathers of the Church regard Archangel Michael as a participant of other important events in the life of God’s people, though he is not mentioned by his name there. For example, he is believed to appear in the form of the mysterious fire pillar that led the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt and destroyed pharaoh’s army. The victory over enormous Assyrian armed forces besieging Jerusalem in the time of prophet Isaiah (Exod. 33:9 14:26-28; 2 Kings 19:35) was also ascribed to Archangel Michael.
The Church venerates Archangel Michael as a defendant of faith and a fighter against heresy and all evil. He is depicted on icons casting down the devil with a fire sword or a spear. In the beginning of the 4th century, the 8th of November was instituted by the Church as the holiday of "Council" (congregation) of holy angels headed by Archangel Michael. You can learn more about angels from the brochure devoted to them (see Missionary Leaflet # E12 on Angels).
Supreme leaders of the Heavenly Hosts,/ we implore you that by your prayers you will encircle us,/ unworthy as we are,/ with the protection of the wings of your immaterial glory/ and guard us who fall down before you and fervently cry:/ deliver us from dangers,/ for you are the commanders of the powers above.