Thursday 29 September 2011

A Michaelmas miscellany

Holy Michael the Archangel is one of our family's favourite saints: the clue's in the blog title, really. St Michael is the patron saint of this blog. We have pictures of him in several places in the house which are comforting reminders that his aid can be invoked in time of need. We pray the "Saint Michael" prayer at least twice daily, and I like to think of Saint Michael poised to help us in our hour of need. He's traditionally been invoked in times of war, is the champion of warriors (including the spiritual kind, I have no doubt) and is usually pictured carrying the scales of judgement and often simultaneously casting Satan down into Hell.

Until I returned to the Church, "Michaelmas" didn't really mean much to me. I knew that it was the name of the first term at Cambridge (and the other place, apparently as well) but assumed that this was down to an old and long forgotten English folk tradition. Basically, I didn't have a clue. (That's where going to a heterodox Catholic school in the 1970s will get you!)
Later on I learned that St Michael is patron of the Church, especially called upon in times of great need or crisis; he is also the patron saint of the dying, of the holy souls in purgatory, of the Jewish nation, sick people, mariners, and grocers.  He is the Captain of the Heavenly Host, the fearless warrior angel who banished Lucifer to the depths of Hell; for this he has been known as the "love that conquers pride". 

Years later, I realised that Michaelmas wasn't just the feast of St Michael, but also of all the angels: the other two archangels mentioned in the canonical scriptures are Sts Gabriel and Raphael. No other angels are mentioned by name in the Bible.

Michaelmas is bound up with folk traditions: one of the most well known is that on his eviction from Heaven, the Devil supposedly landed in a bramble patch and spat upon the berries in his anger. This is why it's said that  blackberries are no good after 29 September, and why blackberry pie is traditionally eaten on this day (Quick! Use them up before the Devil gets them!). Goose is the meat traditionally eaten at Michaelmas in Britain, but I think that this may be a protestant addition as it supposedly dates back to Queen Elizabeth hearing the news of the defeat of the Spanish Armada whilst eating goose, and declared that goose should always be eaten on Michaelmas Day. Perhaps she was eating what was already a traditional meal for the day - does anybody know?

The Benedictine monastery at Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy was built by St. Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, and according to the legend, by direct command of the Archangel Michael himself, who appeared to the Bishop in a dream on three separate occasions. Some versions of the story  claim that the bishop ignored the Archangel's repeated requests until St Michael burned a hole in the Aubert's skull with his finger. Ignore an Archangel's request at your peril! 

If you have a waffle iron or waffle maker you might like to try this French recipe for "St Michael's Waffles". Obviously to keep it authentic you'll want to make a blackberry syrup to eat them with. Failing that, fresh blackberries (picked before today's feast) and whipped cream would be delicious as well.

(St. Michael's Waffles)

2 eggs
1 egg yolk
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/3 cups flour
3/4-1 cup milk
4 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Blend eggs and sugar. Add flour and milk alternately. Beat hard. Add butter and vanilla. The mixture is thin and should spread evenly on the preheated iron. If Gaufres tend to stick, butter both sides of the iron. Serve hot or cold. (thanks to Catholic Cuisine for the recipe)

St Michael's name is invoked four times in the Bible (all texts in full below): twice in the book of Daniel 10:13 and 12); IN the Epistle of Saint Jude where the Jewish tradition of a battle between Satan and Saint Michael over the body of Moses is alluded to (Satan attempted to dupe the Jewish people into the sin of hero-worship by disclosing Moses's tomb to them; Saint Michael had previously concealed the tomb to avoid subjecting the Jewish people to this temptation); and, probably most well known,  in the book of the Apocalypse when Saint Michael and his army of angels vanquish Satan and his demons - the battle at the end of time reflecting the battle at the beginning of time. Interestingly Jesus describes the fall of Satan from Heaven in Luke 10:18: "And he said to them: I saw Satan like lightning falling from heaven". Lucifer's fall from grace is described in Isaiah 14. 

Daniel 10:13 But the prince of the kingdom of the Persians resisted me one and twenty days: and behold Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, and I remained there by the king of the Persians. (Princeps autem regni Persarum restitit mihi viginti et uno diebus : et ecce Michaël, unus de principibus primis, venit in adjutorium meum, et ego remansi ibi juxta regem Persarum. )
 Daniel 12: But at that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who stands for the children of your people: and a time shall come, such as never was from the time that nations began, even until that time. And at that time shall your people be saved, every one that shall be found written in the book. ( In tempore autem illo consurget Michaël princeps magnus, qui stat pro filiis populi tui : et veniet tempus quale non fuit ab eo ex quo gentes esse cœperunt usque ad tempus illud. Et in tempore illo salvabitur populus tuus, omnis qui inventus fuerit scriptus in libro.)
 Jude: ...When Michael the archangel, disputing with the devil, contended about the body of Moses, he dared not bring against him the judgment of railing speech, but said: The Lord command you.(Cum Michaël Archangelus cum diabolo disputans altercaretur de Moysi corpore, non est ausus judicium inferre blasphemiæ : sed dixit : Imperet tibi Dominus. )
Revelation 12:7  And there was a great battle in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought, and his angels.  And they prevailed not: neither was their place found any more in heaven. And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduces the whole world. And he was cast unto the earth: and his angels were thrown down with him.(Et factum est prælium magnum in cælo : Michaël et angeli ejus præliabantur cum dracone, et draco pugnabat, et angeli ejus: 8 et non valuerunt, neque locus inventus est eorum amplius in cælo)

The Catholic Encyclopedia also says " According to the Fathers there is often question of St. Michael in Scripture where his name is not mentioned. They say he was the cherub who stood at the gate of paradise, "to keep the way of the tree of life" (Genesis 3:24), the angel through whom God published the Decalogue to his chosen people, the angel who stood in the way against Balaam (Numbers 22:22 sqq.), the angel who routed the army of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:35)."

There are lots of recipes for St Michael's Bannock on the internet -- Bannock is a cakey bread traditionally eaten in Ireland and Scotland. Here's one that's easy and sounds tasty (we haven't tested it yet) from Our house of joyful noise

 St. Michael’s Bannock

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Mix together:
2 cups of flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cut in 2 tablespoons butter (not margarine)
1 cup buttermilk or yogurt
handful of raisins or currants
On a floured surface, knead the dough until smooth, then pat into an 8 inch round loaf, and bake on a greased baking tray for 40 minutes... and enjoy!

... I think all this post is missing is the obvious:

Holy Michael, the Archangel, 
defend us in our day of battle. 
Be our safeguard 
against the wickedness and snares of the devil. 
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; 
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, 
by the power of God 
thrust down into hell 
Satan and all evil spirits 
who wander through the world 
for the ruin of souls. 

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, 
defénde nos in proélio, 
cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium. 
Ímperet ílli Déus, súpplices deprecámur: 
tuque, prínceps milítiæ cæléstis, 
Sátanam aliósque spíritus malígnos,
 qui ad perditiónem animárum pervagántur in múndo, 
divína virtúte, in inférnum detrúde. 

Sancte Michael Archangele - defénde nos in proélio - Ora pro nobis!

1 comment:

  1. St Michael is one of our favourie saints too. We have several icons of him around our house. Also my husband was known as Mike in his youth and we have a son called Michael.

    I love this story of St Michael. His name means "who is like God' not because Michael WAS like God but because as he battled with the Devil his war cry was "WHO IS LIKE GOD???" because that is what Satan claimed to be. Michael proved him wrong!