Put on your red shirts! Today's another one of those major feasts days: St. Michael and All Angels or Michaelmas as it's called.
Actually, I don't care what you wear, and neither do they, probably.
Angels have become quite popular. If you go into any new age or Christian book store, you're bound to find books and statuettes and trinkets of all kinds for people to buy. I'll occasionally see a car with the bumper sticker "Protected by Angels". And even in my massage class, one of my fellow students, who often reported having visions, insisted that we include our class T-shirts:
"Massage is from Heaven and we are angels on Earth."
I think the best description I found for why we should consider angels today was this snippet by James Kiefer from satucket.com/lectionary:
"What is the value to us remembering Holy Angels? Well, since they appear to excel us in both knowledge and power, they remind us that, even among created things, we humans are not the top of the heap. Since it is the common belief that demons are angels who chose to disobey God and to be His enemies rather than His willing servants, they remind us that the higher we are the lower we can fall. The greater our natural gifts and talents, the greater the damage if we turn them to bad ends. The more we have been given, the more will be expected of us. And, in the picture of God sending his angels to help and defend us, we are reminded that apparently God, instead of doing good things directly, often prefers to do them through His willing servants, enabling those who have accepted his love to show their love for one another."
I would only add to that last point that, having experienced angelic intercession on our behalf, we can see in such characters as Michael, the dragon slayer, or Gabriel, the deliverer of good tidings, or Raphael, the guide to Tobias, further examples of "the way" we are to be with our selves and one another. In the Episcopal Church liturgical tradition, we are never far removed from this gathering of heavenly beings as we are called during the Eucharist to join our voices "with angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven" to sing the Sanctus. We become a choir of Heaven and Earth, all turning our attention to God without whom we are simply adrift. Neat, eh?
I also appreciate what Kiefer is saying about seeing the Holy Angels as reminders that when we are given gifts, we are to put them to good use. And the more that is given, the greater the expectation. This is something that I have always understood about my education. Because I was able to attend a New England prep school, and have a college degree, and now certification in massage therapy, I feel it is my obligation to put what knowledge I've gained to good use in serving others. Hence when I was asked to help out with a program to encourage middle school children at one of the more dysfunctional public school districts to write poetry and record it and set their poems to some kind of music, I was pleased to meet the challenge. Children in private schools are already getting rewarded; children in America's public schools are just expected to pass state-mandated standardized tests so the school district can get funding. There is little to no room for creative thinking. And yet being taught to think creatively, and express themselves in creative ways, the children that I, and others, were working with saw improvement on their state-mandated tests! And greater than that: they had the validation from adults for their ideas, their thinking, their odd age... where they aren't old enough to be considered adults, but they are in that transitional stage... with some forced by family circumstances... to get to adulthood immediately.
So, maybe there was something to my classmate's vision about being "angels on earth." That is, if we all take our gifts, the treasures that have been bestowed on us, and put them to good use... are we not fulfilling the command to love our neighbors as our selves and keep the path clear of debris so that others may see eternal life for themselves?