of the Sobor [Assemblage] of the Leader of the Heavenly Hosts Michael,
and the Other Heavenly Bodiless Hosts was established at the beginning
of the IV Century at the local Laodician Council, which occurred several
years before the First Ecumenical Council. The Laodician Council by its
35th Canon condemned and renounced as heretical the worship of angels as
creators and rulers of the world and it affirmed their proper Orthodox
veneration. A feastday was established in November -- the ninth month from
March (with which month the year began in ancient times) -- in accordance
with the 9 Ranks of Angels. The eighth day of the month was decreed for
the intended Sobor [Assemblage] of all the Heavenly Powers -- in conjunction
with the Day of the Dread Last-Judgement of God, which the holy fathers
called the "Eighth Day" -- since after this age in which the seven days
[of Creation] have elapsed will come the "Eighth Day" -- and then "shalt
come the Son of Man in His Glory and all the holy Angels together with
Him" (Mt 25:31).
The Angelic Ranks are divided into
three Hierarchies: highest, middle, and lowest. In the Highest Hierarchy
are included the three Ranks: the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones. Closest
of all to the MostHoly Trinity stand the six-winged Seraphim [Seraphimy]
(Flaming, and Fiery) (Is 6:12). They blaze with love for God and impel
others to it.
After the Seraphim there stand before
the Lord the many-eyed Cherubim [Cheruvimy] (Gen 3:24). Their name
means: outpouring of wisdom, enlightenment, since through them -- radiating
with the light of Divine-knowledge and understanding of the mysteries of
God, there is sent down wisdom and enlightenment for true Divine-knowledge.
After the Cherubim, stand God-bearing
through grace given them for their service, the Thrones [Prestoly]
(Col 1:16), mysteriously and incomprehensibly upholding God. They serve
the uprightness of God's justice.
The Middle Angelic Hierarchy consists
of three Ranks: Dominions, Powers, and Authorities:
Dominions [Gospodstva] (Col 1:16)
hold dominion over the successive ranks of Angels. They instruct the earthly
authorities, established from God, to wise governance. The Dominions influence
rule by miracles, they quell sinful impulses, subordinate the flesh to
the spirit, and provide mastery over the will to conquer temptation.
Powers [Sily] (1 Pet 3:22) fulfill
the will of God. They work the miracles and send down the grace of wonderworking
and perspicacity to saints pleasing to God. The Powers give assist to people
in bearing obediences, encourage them in patience, and give them spiritual
strength and fortitude.
Authorities [Vlasti] (1 Pet 3:22,
Col 1:16) have authority to quell the power of the devil. They repel from
people demonic temptations, uphold ascetics and guard them, helping people
in the struggle with evil ponderings.
In the Lowest Hierarchy are included
the three Ranks: Principalities, Archangels, and Angels:
Principalities [Nachala] (Col
1:16) have command over the lower angels, instructing them in the fulfilling
of Divine commands. To them are entrusted to direct the universe, and protect
lands, nations and peoples. Principalities instruct people to render honour
to everyone, as becomes their station. They teach those in authority to
fulfill their necessary obligations, not for personal glory and gain, but
out of respect for God and benefit for neighbour.
Archangels [Arkhangely] (1 Thess
4:16) announce about the great and most holy, they reveal the mysteries
of the faith, prophecy and understanding of the will of God, they intensify
deep faith in people, enlightening their minds with the light of the Holy
Angels [Angely] (1 Pet 3:22)
are closest to all to people. They proclaim the intent of God, guiding
people to virtuous and holy life. They protect believers restraining them
from falling, and they raise up the fallen; never do they abandon us and
always they are prepared to help us, if we so desire.
All the Ranks of the Heavenly
Powers have in common the name Angels -- by virtue of their service. The
Lord reveals His will to the highest of the Angels, and they in turn inform
Over all the Nine Ranks, the Lord
put the Holy Leader ["Archistrategos"] Michael (his name in translation
from the Hebrew means "who is like unto God") -- a faithful servitor of
God, wherein he hurled down from Heaven the arrogantly proud day-star Lucifer
together with the other fallen spirits. And to the remaining Angelic powers
he cried out: "Let us attend! Let us stand aright before our Creator and
not ponder that which is displeasing unto God!" According to Church tradition,
in the church service to the Archistrategos Michael concerning him, he
participated in many other Old Testament events. During the time of the
Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt he went before them in the form of
a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Through him the
power of the Lord was made manifest, annihilating the Egyptians and Pharaoh
who were in pursuit of the Israelites. The Archangel Michael defended Israel
in all its misfortunes.
He appeared to Jesus Son of Navin
(Joshua) and revealed the will of the Lord at the taking of Jericho (Nav
/ Josh 5:13-16). The power of the great Archistrategos of God was manifest
in the annihilation of the 185 thousand soldiers of the Assyrian emperor
Sennacherib (4  Kings 19:35); also in the smiting of the impious leader
Antiochos Illiodoros; and in the protecting from fire of the Three Holy
Youths -- Ananias, Azarias and Misail, thrown into the fiery furnace for
their refusal to worship an idol (Dan 3:22-25).
Through the will of God, the Archistrategos
Michael transported the Prophet Avvakum (Habbakuk) from Judea to Babylon,
so as to give food to Daniel, locked up in a lions' den (Kondak of Akathist,
The Archangel Michael prevented the
devil from displaying the body of the holy Prophet Moses to the Jews for
idolisation (Jude 1:9).
The holy Archangel Michael showed
his power when he miraculously saved a lad, cast by robbers into the sea
with a stone about his neck at the shores of Athos [Athos Paterikon].
From ancient times the Archangel
Michael was famed by his miracles in Rus'. In the Volokolamsk Paterikon
there is included a narrative of the Monk Paphnutii of Borovsk with an
account of Tatar "baskaki" [tax-gatherers] concerning the miraculous saving
of Novgorod the Great: "And wherefore Great Novgorod never was taken by
the Hagarites ... when by the sufferance of God for our sins the godless
Hagarite emperor Batu devoured and set aflame the Russian land and was
come to the New City (i.e. Novgorod) and God and the MostHoly Mother of
God shielded it with an appearance of Michael the Archistrategos, which
did forbid him to enter into it. He [Batu] was come to the Lithuanian city
and did come towards Kiev and did see the stone church over the doors of
which the great Archangel Michael had written and spoken unto the prince
his allotted fate: 'By this we have forbidden entry into Great Novgorod'."
Intercession for Russian cities by
the MostHoly Queen of Heaven always involved Her appearances with the Heavenly
Hosts, under the leadership of the Archistategos. Grateful Rus' acclaimed
the MostPure Mother of God and the Archangel Michael in church singing.
To the Archistrategos Michael are dedicated many a monastery, cathedrals,
court and merchant churches. In old Kiev at the time of the accepting of
Christianity, there was erected a cathedral of the Archangel, and a monastery
also was built in his name. Archangel cathedrals stand at Smolensk, Nizhni
Novgorod, Staritsa, a monastery at Great Ustiug (beginning XIII Century),
and a cathedral at Sviyazhsk. In Rus' there was not a city, wherein was
not a church or chapel, dedicated to the Archangel Michael. One of the
chief temples of the city of Moscow -- the burial church in the Kremlin
-- is dedicated to him. Numerous and beautiful icons of the Chief-in-Rank
of the Highest Powers are also in his Cathedral. One of these -- the Icon
"Blest Soldiery" --written in the Uspenie [Dormition] Cathedral of the
Moscow Kremlin, where the saintly soldiers -- Russian princes -- are depicted
under the leadership of the Archistrategos Michael.
From Sacred Scripture and Sacred
Tradition are likewise known the Archangels:
Gabriel -- strength (power) of
God, herald and servitor of Divine almightiness (Dan 8:16, Lk 1:26)
Raphael -- the healing of God,
the curer of human infirmities (Tobit 3:16, 12:15)
Uriel -- the fire or light of
God, enlightener (3 Ezdras 5:20)
Selaphiel -- the prayer of God,
impelling to prayer (3 Ezdras 5:16)
Jehudiel -- the glorifying of
God, encouraging exertion for the glory of the Lord and interceding about
the reward of efforts
Barachiel -- distributor of the
blessing of God for good deeds, entreating the mercy of God for people
Jeremiel -- the raising up to
God (3 Ezdras 4:36)
On icons the Archangels are depicted
in accord with the trait of their service:
Michael -- tramples the devil
underfoot, and in his left hand holds a green date-tree branch, and in
his right hand a spear with a white banner (or sometimes a fiery sword),
on which is outlined a scarlet cross.
Gabriel -- with a branch from
paradise, presented by him to the MostHoly Virgin, or with a shining lantern
in his right hand and with a mirror made of jasper in his left.
Raphael -- holds a vessel with
healing medications in his left hand, and with his right hand leads Tobias,
carrying the fish [for healing -- Tobit 5-8].
Uriel -- in raised right hand
hold a bare sword at the level of his chest, and in his lowered left hand
"a fiery flame."
Selaphiel -- in a prayerful posture,
gazing downwards, hands folded to the chest.
Jehudiel -- in his right hand
holds a golden crown, in his left a whip of three red (or black) branches.
Barachiel -- on his garb are
a multitude of rose blossoms.