The Heavenly Powers
Today the Armenian Church observes the feast day dedicated to the holy archangels Michael and Gabriel and to the Heavenly Powers.
Every Sunday during the Divine Liturgy we proclaim in the Nicene Creed: “We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of things visible and invisible”.
According to Bible and Tradition parallel to the physical creation there is an invisible world created by God. The Bible sometimes calls it “the heavens” and other times refers to it as “above the heavens.” Whatever its symbolical description in the Holy Scriptures, the invisible world is definitely not part of the physical, material universe. It does not exist in space; it has no physical dimensions.
Invisible created reality consists of the hosts of bodiless powers, generally—and somewhat incorrectly—called the angels. Angels (which means literally “messengers”) are, strictly speaking, but one rank of the incorporeal or bodiless powers of the invisible world.
In the hymn of the feast of Archangels and Angels we sing: “You (God) created by your Word the nine ranks of the fiery beings”. The Christian Tradition teaches about three hierarchies and nine ranks of bodiless powers or the Hosts:
1. Seraphim (Is 6:12), Cherubim (Gen 3:24), Thrones (Col 1:16).
2. Dominions (Col 1:16), Powers (1 Pet 3:22), Authorities (1 Pet 3:22, Col 1:16):
3. Principalities (Col 1:16), Archangels (1 Thess 4:16), Angels (1 Pet 3:22):
The first hierarchy is described as offering continual adoration and glory to God with the incessant and ever-resounding cry of Holy! Holy! Holy! (Is 6.3; Rev 4.8).
Those in the middle of the above listing are little-known to men while the angels and archangels are seen as the active workers, warriors, and messengers of God relative to this world. Thus, angels and archangels are seen to struggle against spiritual evil and to mediate between God and the world. They appear in various forms to men in both the Old and New Testaments as well as in the life of the Church. The angels are those who bring the power and presence of God and who are messengers of His word for the salvation of the world.
From Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition are known the Archangels:
1. Gabriel - strength (power) of God, herald and servitor of Divine almightiness (Dan 8:16, Lk 1:26)
2. Raphael - the healing of God, the curer of human infirmities (Tobit 3:16, 12:15)
3. Uriel - the fire or light of God, enlightener (3 Ezdras 5:20)
4. Selaphiel - the prayer of God, impelling to prayer (3 Ezdras 5:16)
5. Jegudiel - the glorifying of God, encouraging exertion for the glory of the Lord and interceding about the reward of efforts
6. Barachiel - distributor of the blessing of God for good deeds, entreating the mercy of God for people
7. Jeremiel - the raising up to God (3 Ezdras 4:36)
In popular culture the appearances of the bodiless powers to men are described in a physical way (“six-winged, many-eyed”; or in the “form of a man”). However, these are merely symbolical descriptions. By nature and definition the angels have no bodies and no material properties of any sort. They are strictly spiritual beings.
On this Feast day, let us thank our Lord for the Heavenly Powers who have often entered into history as messengers in God's providential plan of salvation. Let us also remember our close connection with them in Christ, and frequently turn to them for their intercessory protection and assistance in times of trouble.
St. Gregory of Narek
Prayer to the Angels (Prayer 81)
Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart
Accept, kind and merciful God,
with the prayers of the Mother of God,
the petitions of the immortal angels, adorned in light,
which sing, without ceasing, with their pure mouths
in constant intercession for my sake.
The angels are virtuous, created good by you,
doer of good,
They are ignorant of evil, established by your command, which rules all, God who is.
They are a mighty force at your disposal, exalted God,
holy, pure, spotless, blessed,
splendid, victorious and invincible,
swift as a flash of the mind.
These guardian angels serve us and plead for us,
just as for the barren fig tree
that did not give fruit for three years,
an eternity encompassing past, present and future,
for a long period it took root
in the vineyard of this world,
decorated with useless foliage, but gave no fruit.
And this is the very image of wretched mankind.
The angels brood over us constantly.
They aid us in our frailty.
They tend our portion of virtue
with everlasting life they pray for our salvation,
saying these words: “Forsake not the work
of your hands.”
For truly, this prayer is ours.
You, God on high arranged for them
to say this for our sake,
for they were created by the word,
and we by the action of your hand.
They shall come with your only begotten Son,
as fearsome witnesses at the last judgment,
true accusers of the sins of earthly beings,
before the terrifying tribunal,
justly and fairly counseling us.
There too, they sympathize with us, pleading with sighs,
the perpetual chant of their voices:
Have mercy, you who created them.
Do not destroy them.
Now, with their voices in thanksgiving
and their prayers, immortal and sublime,
inhale also the savory scent of our sighs, creator of all.
You exceed those above and below with
since from you flow all good deeds for us and for them.
And for the sake of the splendor of the
incorruptible beings, miraculous in their fiery forms,7
unadulterated purity, sinless, made of fire and
spirit, invincible, with the immense advantage of
their higher status,
their abundant, brilliant knowledge,
fervent with an ardor that does not cool,
with an innate passion for the love of God,
like them, may our cold, smoldering hearts,
be rekindled brightly at the sublime mystery of
the holy table, which is your sanctuary,
and without drowsiness or lethargy,
may we await the blessed command
of your life-giving will, creator of all,
to be united with God inseparably
in cherubic virtue.
They are the great heavenly principalities,
soldiers, pure and awesome,
the virtuous and noble ministers in your
the glimmering rays of your cloud of light, God on high.
Through them, Jesus, show your merciful
love for mankind
for me also, sinner born of earth that I am.
Through the prayers of my guardian angel
turn me toward the good path of your light,
so that the inheritance of my soul
which you entrusted to his protection,
may be received by you from this life,
with a joyous heart, jubilant within me,
blameless and blessed by you,
might he bring me forward and present me
with a glad and cheerful face,
to you, praised and merciful Lord,
sublime king of glory beyond comprehension,
in the midst of the blissful choir in tumultuous jubilation.
And to you, who are beyond understanding,
with your Father, beyond reach,
and your Holy Spirit beyond words –
glory, honor and adoration,
unto the ages of ages.