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St. Michael and All Angels

September 29 on the church calendar is a day to honor St. Michael and All Angels.

The readings for Michaelmas are Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3, Psalm 91, Revelation 12:7-12, and Luke 10:17-20. The liturgical color for this festival is white.

Michael, according to Revelation 12, led the heavenly army against Lucifer before the creation of the world. This festival has its origins in the fifth century when a church, six miles from Rome, was dedicated to him. The day became popular in Europe and England because it marked the beginning of the last cycle of the Pentecost season. The importance of this festival was not only liturgical but also related to its civil context. In England, Michaelmas marks the beginning of the fall term in the law courts and fall academic terms at Oxford and Cambridge. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael are commemorated together on this day. A history magazine from the United Kingdom has an online article describing some of the civil observations that take place on Michaelmas.

The day falls near the equinox, the day associated with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days. The festival has served as a reminder to people that in the darker and colder days of life we are encouraged to find protection in God and His holy messengers. It was believed by some that this protection was especially needed during the days that had less sunlight because negative forces were stronger during the darkness. Nonetheless we have confidence in both the power and grace of our Lord God to keep and guard our bodies and souls. Romans 8:31ff remind us that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

The practice of annual commemoration of local martyrs began early in the church during the middle of the second century. The celebrations were often at the place of burial. The liturgical calendar of the church over the years became overloaded with festivals and commemorations. Lutheran reformers tried to reduce the overloaded calendar. They retained feasts of our Lord, the days of the apostles and evangelists, St. Stephen the first martyr, Holy Innocents, St. John the Baptist,  St. Michael the Archangel, and All Saints.  Two of these feast days remained widely celebrated during the Reformation because they enjoyed the status of serving as civil holidays as well: The Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24) and St. Michael and All Angels (September 29). Among Lutheran preachers, St. Michael's Day has provided an occasion to preach on the doctrine of angels and to give thanks for their ministry.

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