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ARCHANGEL - CHOIR

One of the accepted choirs of angels as established by the sixth-century theologian Dionysius the Areopagite; the archangels are ranked eighth in the nine choirs, above angels and below principalities. The chiefs of the choir are given as Metatron, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Barachiel, and Barbiel, although of them Michael is most commonly mentioned as leader the seven heavens; here they act as "rulers of the stellar orders."

METATRON

Metatron is linked with Creation and Sacred Geometry.

MICHAEL

In the bible Michael is said to have been a friend of Lucifer before the fall of the Angels. He is shown as carrying a sword or spear. He is often depicted fighting the dragon or serpent energy. Raphael supposedly incarnated and took form to walk with the boy Tobias in the middle ages and teach him the arts of healing. Raphael is a teacher associated with medicine, healing with herbs, and all sorts of natural healings.

Michael is also St. Michael the Archangel and, in Arabic, Mika'il, perhaps the greatest of all the angels, whose name likely means "Who is like God?" He is captain of the hosts of the Lord and the most beloved of all residents of the heavenly host (with the possible exceptionof the archangel Gabriel). The figure of Michael probably originated in Chaldaea as a protective god or spirit. Accepted by the Jews, he emerged as so major an angel in Jewish lore that he was honored as the patron angel of the nations (out of seventy) who did not fall from grace, his bias entirely understood since it favored God's Chosen People.

Michael appears twice in the Old Testament and is noted, with Gabriel (and Raphael in the book Tobit), as one of the few angels actually mentioned in the Bible: in Daniel (10:13), he is called "Michael, one of the chief princes," and later (12:1) is a "great prince." Besides from these specific references, he is declared the ruling prince of the archangels, chief of the choir of virtues, the prince of the presence, and an angel of mercy and repentance. He is also credited with being the angel who spoke to Moses in the burning bush (an honor often bestowed upon Zagzagel); the messenger who stayed the hand of Abraham before he sacrificed his sin; and the angel responsible for massacring the Assyrian army of Sennacherib, a deed normally attributed to an otherwise unnamed angel of destruction but perhaps accomplished by Uriel, Gabriel, or others. He is accepted in lore as well as being the special patron of Adam. Supposedly he was the first angel in all of the heavens to bow down before humanity.

Michael than kept an eye on the first family, remaining vigilant even after the fall of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. In the apocryphal Book of Adam and Eve, Michael taught Adam how to farm. The archangel later brought Adam to heaven in a fiery chariot, giving him a tour of the blessed realm. After Adam's death, Michael helped convince the Lord to permit Adam's soul to be brought to heaven and cleansed of its great sin. Jewish legend also states Michael to be one of the three "men" who visited Abraham and one of the five angels, with Uriel, Metatron, Raphael, and Gabriel, who buried Moses.

Apparently Michael had to fight with Satan for the body of the Lawgiver, an event mentioned in the New Testament Letter of Jude. Finally, in the Dead Sea Scrolls is the story "The War of the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness," in which Michael is described as the prince of light, leading forces of good against the darkness of evil.

Michael was embraced enthusiastically by Christianity and honored as the leader of the angels whose very name was used as a war chant by the holy angels during the war in heaven. As commander of the heavenly host, he led the good angels in their successful conflict against Satan and the fallen angels. He is named in the book of Revelation, fighting against Satan, and at the end of the world will command the hosts of the Lord in final conflict.

The Catholic Church honors Michael with four main titles or offices. He is the Christian angel of death, carrying the souls of all the deceased to heaven, where they are weighed in his perfectly balanced scales (hence Michael is often depicted holding scales). At the hour of death, Michael descends and gives each soul the chance to redeem itself before passing, thus consternating the devil and his minions. Michael is the special patron of the Chosen People in the Old Testament and is guardian of the Church; it was thus not unusual for the angel to be revered by the military orders of knights during the Middle Ages. Last, he is the supreme enemy of Satan and the fallen angels.

Michael has been the object of considerable examination on the part of theologians, especially regarding the apparent inconsistency of having an archangel-a member of the eighth and second-lowest choir of angels-lead the hosts of the Lord. Some, such as St. Thomas Aquinas, declare him to be the chief of the order of archangels. His high post is presumably explained by the fact that archangels are in the forefront of the fight in the world against evil, so Michael, as their chief, assumes the command of the angels by virtue of his experience. Others, most notably the Greek fathers such as St. Basil the Great, wrote that Michael was superior to all the angels; others appointed him the ruling prince of the seraphim, which would place him in the highest position in heaven.

Michael has been venerated by the Church from early time. His elevated position is made clear by his title of saint, by the number of churches dedicated to him, and by his many appearances in history. He supposedly visited Emperor Constantine the Great (d.337) at Constantinople, intervened in assorted battles, and appeared, sword in hand, over the mausoleum of Hadrian, in apparent answer to the prayers of Pope St. Gregory I the Great (r.590-604) that a plague in Rome should cease. In honor of the occasion, the pope took to calling the mausoleum the Castel Sant'Angelo (Castle of the Holy angel), the name by which it is still known.

The last visit certified one major aspect involving Michael, namely his role as an angel of healing. This title was bestowed at Phrygia, in Asia Minor, which also propagated the cult of angels and became a leading center for their veneration. Michael is reputed to have caused a healing spring to flow in the first century at Colossae, and his churches were frequently visited by the sick and lame. The angel is invoked additionally as the patron of sailors in Normandy (the famous monastery of Mont-Saint-Michel on the north coast of France is named after him) and is especially remembered in France as the spirit who gave Joan of Arc the courage to save her country from the English during the Hundred Years' War) 1337-1455). Perhaps his most singular honor was given to him in 1950 when Pope Pius XIII (r. 1939-1958) named him patron of policemen. Michael is also said to have announced to the Virgin Mary her impending death, declaring himself to be "Great and Wonderful."

Among the Muslims, Michael is one of the four archangels (with Azrael, Isfrafel, and Gabriel), and one of the two angels, with Gabriel, named in Qur'an. He resides in the seventh heaven and is popularly believed to have wings of emerald green.

A favorite angelic subject in art, matched only by Gabriel, Michael is most often depicted as a proud, handsome angel in white or magnificent armor and wielding a sword, shield, or lance. In some paintings he is shown with a banner or holding scales. Quite often he is seen, like St. George or some Madonnas, in conflict with a dragon or standing upon a vanquished devil. Of him was declared in Milton's Paradise Lost (Book VI).

GABRIEL

Gabriel is an archangel whose name means "God is my strength" and who is the one of the most beloved of all members of the heavenly host. Gabriel is also one of the highest ranked of all angels and is only one of two (or three) actually named angels in the entire Bible, with Michael and Raphael. Among the Jews, Gabriel's power and strength-as implied by his very name-were frequently noted in legends and tales. He has been called the angel of the power of God and also the angel of judgment and has been equated with thunder and majesty. In the role of judgment angel he will supposedly appear on the last day and blow the final trumpet that will call all of the living and the dead to come forth and face the final, irrevocable judgment of the Lord. Known in the Arabic as Jibril, Gabriel has a prominent role in Islamic teachings, for he believed to have dictated the entire Qur'an, surah by surah, to Muhammad and is called the angel of truth and the chief of the four favored angels.

RAPHAEL

Raphael is one of the seven archangels and one of the best loved of all angels. Raphael is honored as the regent of the sun, the angel of healing, the angel of science, the angel of knowledge, head of the guardian angels, and chief of the angelic orders of virtues, although he is also a member of the seraphim, the dominations, and the cherubim. Raphael, whose name means "God has healed," is best known for his appearance in the Book of Tobit. Raphael is said to possess the happiest disposition of any of the angels, having as well the best sense of humor. This may well be a result of his close relationship with the sun; he is, after all, regent of the orb and was called by the poet Longfellow the angel of the sun. He delights in bringing health, happiness, and joy everywhere he goes and encourages the guardian angels in their work.

URIEL

Uriel is an oft-named member of the seven archangels and one of the most important angels in all of the heavenly host, with Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. Unlike those three archangels, however, the existence and labors of Uriel are not supported in any way by the Scriptures, meaning that he is known entirely through legend, tales, and angelic lore. Nevertheless, Uriel, whose name means "fire of God," is truly a formidable angel, so much so that until the eighth century he was accepted entirely as an archangel to be honored by the Church and its faithful. Uriel is named as both a cherub and a seraph, holding a wide variety of offices and titles: regent of the sun, prince of the sun, angel of the presence, archangel of salvation, patron of prophecy, angel of music, and master of Tartarus.

According to the First Book of Enoch, he is the angel over thunder and terror and was sent to Noah to give him warning of the coming deluge. Two characteristics seem to predominate in the legends surrounding Uriel: his sharpness of mind and eye and his total, objective, and impersonel fulfillment of the divine will. Long accepted as one of the seven archangels in the Christian Church, Uriel's position was first scrutinized only in the eighth century. The Christian Church had grown alarmed at the rampant and excessive zeal with which many of the faithful were revering angels. At a council in Rome in 745 under Pope Zachary, seven angels were removed from the ranks of the Church's recognized angels. One of them was Uriel. Although stripped of his post as an archangel, Uriel was still honored by the Church under the name St. Uriel. As an angel he bore the symbols of the scroll and the book; as St Uriel he had the symbol of an open hand bearing a flame.

ANGELS OF THE FOUR WINDS

The name given to those angels who guard over the four winds of the Earth. The four are: Raphael-(the west), Gabriel-((the north), Michael-(the east), and Uriel-(south, with the aid of Raphael).

ELIJAH

The ninth-century Hebrew prophet who, with the patriarch Enoch, was one of only two Old Testament figures to be translated to heaven while still living upon the earth: aside from being one of the most revered of all Jewish religious leaders, Elijah is also declared in legend to have been transformed, like Enoch, into an angel. On the basic of this fiery exit, Elijah became the source of a host of tales and traditions. He was, it was said, transformed into an angel and given a large place in the celestial hierarchy. The name most associated with his angelic persona is Sandalphon,, the twin brother of Mettatron (the onetime Enoch) and one of the tallest angels in heaven.

In Jewish lore he stands at the crossroads of paradise, waiting eagerly to direct the holy to their places of eternal bliss; he also is reported in the Talmud to act as the recording angel, keeping track of all deeds by the living. Finally, he is nicknamed the "bird of heaven" in recognition of his constant flight from heaven to mediate or participate in earthly affairs. Several stories exist to explain how Elijah might have managed to escape death. One has Elijah actually being the incarnation of an angel, in the same way that Issas was supposedly always an angel. His elevation to heaven was thus more of a return than a transportation. The other tale has him engaged in a fascinating struggle with Death itself. His journey to heaven was apparently opposed by the angel of death, and the lord gave his permission for the angel to stop Elijah before reaching the gates of heaven. The two grappled, and to the angel's surprise, Elijah gained the upper hand. The prophet would have finished off Death entirely had God not intervened. The angel stepped aside, and Elijah went on to become Sandalphon, and angel most concerned with the welfare of humanity.

ENOCH

The seventh-named patriarch of the Old testament Book of Genesis and one of the best-known figures in the field of angelology because of his reputed authorship of the Books of Enoch and his supposed transformation by God into the mighty angel Metatron. One of the so-called antediluvian patriarchs (the patriarchs prior to the Flood of Noah fame), Enoch was the son of Jared and was himself the father of Methuselah, who would live to be 969 years old. Said to be exceedingly pleasing to God, Enoch received the high honor of being taken to heaven. Despite these relatively brief mentionings in Scripture, Enoch (called Idris in the Qur'an and honored as a "truthful man, a prophet" by the Muslims) became the basis of a large body of legends. He is the supposed author of 366 books, collectively termed Enochian literature.

The most famous writings bearing his name are the First, Second, and Third Books of Enoch, ranked among the large body of literature termed apocryphal and pseudepigraphical, meaning that they are noncanonical (not accepted into the body of recognized books of the Bible) and are-in the case of the pseudepigrapha-attributed to some person of note and written in the style of genuine biblical books. Most interesting of all the legends is the one in which Enoch was transported to heaven and there transformed into the angel Metatron. Once there, he was, with the divine flourish, made into Metatron, the angel of the face, high priest of the heavenly temple, and one of the supreme angels in all of the celetial hierarchy-not to mention the tallest of angels, with 36 wings and 265,000 eyes.

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