by Laurie Gudim
It seems like everybody is afraid, these days. I know I am – afraid of the polarization in this country, of the escalating racism that is leading us to commit untold atrocities and of the ignorance worn like a badge of courage on the breasts of decent people.
To reach for assistance with the roiling anxiety that freezes me and makes me want to bar my doors and windows, I’ve stepped up my prayer life. Both intercessory prayer and contemplative prayer help me sink into that place where God dwells and where we all belong together, no matter our differences. It helps me remember that, no matter what, we are linked through that “room” in our souls where we are one with The Holy One.
One of my spiritual disciplines is praying with icons. I have a mystical family of saints, the icons who are windows to the realm of heaven. Gazing at them, I find a deep equilibrium. They teach me, beckon me and heal me.
But lately I’ve been feeling the need for a little more muscle. I’ve found myself reaching beyond the simple, prayerful folk who usually receive my veneration to a fierce and mighty presence. I’ve needed a messenger. I’ve needed a being whose incisive vision and vigilant steadfastness can confront the spirits whispering diabolic nonsense into our ears. So I have been praying to the Archangel Michael.
St. Michael is a dragon-killer, the agent responsible for ousting Lucifer from heaven. Fiercely protective of the innocent, he is a no-nonsense adversary of evil in all its forms. I imagine him teasing out the evil spirits – creatures I imagine to be like C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape – who whisper in our ears and lead us into combative distrust. “Come with your mighty, flaming sword,” I pray. And by that I mean that I hope the light as well as the cutting edge of that blade can dispatch the demons who plague us.
(How did they get such a strong hold on us? What do we most need?)
It is especially appropriate to pray to St. Michael today, as it is Michaelmas, the Feast Day of St. Michael and All Angels. Today is one of the Quarter Days in the Anglican tradition. Near the fall equinox (in the Northern Hemisphere), it marks that moment before the plunge into the short hours of daylight and long night hours of winter. It is the end of the harvest season and the beginning of a more introverted time.
In the days ahead may we continue to witness as we are called to in these dangerous and frightening times. And may St. Michael guard us, keep us safe, and scatter the devils who surround us, whispering in our ears.
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.
Image: St Michael’s Victory over the devil by Jacob Epstein at Coventry Cathedral