St. Dimitry of Rostov on the Synaxis of St. Michael and other Bodiless Powers November 8/21

November 21, 2014  (Source:
A Homily on the Synaxis of the
Holy Chief Commander Michael
and the Other Bodiless Powers
(From The Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints, Volume 3: November,
compiled by St. Demetrius of Rostov)


The Holy Church, which rejects the impious worship of angels devised by idolaters and heretics of old, has received from the divinely inspired Fathers the tradition of celebrating with reverence the Synaxis of the Holy Angels. In the days of the Old Testament, the people of God, having fallen away from their Creator, began to worship that which the Lord created. They made idols after the likeness of things visible, of that which is in heaven above and earth beneath, the work of their own hands. At that time, when the people offered oblations unto the sun, the moon, and the stars as gods, imagining that these possessed living souls, they also began to worship angels. The Book of Kings makes mention of this, saying that they burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the twelve signs of the Zodiac, and to all the host of heaven, that is, to the angels; for the host of heaven is comprised of the angels, as is said in the Gospel: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host.This impious worship of the angels spread through many lands in the days of the holy apostles. The holy Apostle Paul sought to root it out when he wrote to the Colossians, saying, Let no man beguile you in voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding the Head,which is Christ; for there were at that time certain heretics who made a show of humility but proudly imagined that they were like the angels because of their abstinence and the purity of their lives. These men taught that angels were to be worshipped in the same manner as God. After this, there arose other heretics who taught that the angels were the makers of the visible creation and that they are more honorable and exalted than Christ, the Son of God, since they are bodiless.These heretics called the Archangel Michael the God of the Hebrews. Finally, still others appeared, who devoted themselves to sorcery and deceived the people, calling upon the demons whom they served under the name of angels. This heresy grew especially strong in Colossae, a city under the jurisdiction of the metropolitan see of Laodicea, where many secretly worshipped the angels in an impious manner akin to idolatry. The local council of the holy fathers that met at Laodicea denounced this heresy, but while it anathematized and rejected the heretical worship of angels, it decreed lawful the pious and proper veneration of the holy angels as God’s servants and the guardians of the race of man, establishing the celebration of the festival held in their honor on this day. Thus it was in Colossae, where the evil and heretical worship of the angels had once appeared in secret, that the Orthodox first began to celebrate the feast of the Synaxis of the Angels. Many splendid temples dedicated to the holy Archangel Michael were built there, such as the most glorious and wondrous church erected in Chonae over the wonder-working spring where the holy Chief Commander Michael appeared to Saint Archippus. The council decreed that the feast of the angels be celebrated in November, the ninth month counting from March, when the world was created, since there are nine orders of angels, according to Saint Dionysius the Areopagite, the disciple of the holy Apostle Paul. Saint Paul was taken up to the third heaven, where he saw how the holy angels are divided into ranks, and he told his disciple of this. These nine ranks are grouped in three hierarchies of three orders: the highest, the middle, and the lowest.The highest hierarchy of angels, which is the nearest to the Most Holy Trinity, consists of the seraphim, the cherubim, and the thrones. Closest of all to the Creator and Fashioner stand the seraphim, beloved of God, of whom Isaiah said, Seraphs stood round about Him: each one had six wings. They are like fire, because they stand nearest to Him of Whom it is written: Our God is a consuming fire, and His throne is like a fiery flame, and The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire. Since they stand before such fiery glory, the seraphim are themselves fiery, as it is written: He maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire. They burn with love for God and kindle the love of God in others, as their name itself reveals, for in the Hebrew tongue “seraphim” means “burning” or “consuming.”