At least for a time, the Western church recalled the Archangel Raphael on this day, the 24th of October. In more recent years he’s been mushed together with Michael and Gabriel and together are celebrated on the 29th of September.
I went back into my blog archives and see while I am interested in angels and occasionally reference them, I’ve devoted most of these reflections, a small handful to Michael. Makes some sense. He gets the most attention in the Bible, in Daniel and especially in the Book of Revelations.
There are in fact references to seven (or sometimes four) archangels, although only three are named, the afore mentioned Michael, Gabriel, with his horn, and Raphael.
In case you’ve forgotten. An archangel is a chief or principal angel. While angels are supernatural beings who often serve as mediators between the heavenly and earthly realms. It appears angels entered Judaism and later Christianity through the influence of Zoroastrianism. Where they got it, I don’t think we know with any certainty. Although, on first blush it does sort of look like they’re a positive adaptation of local deities by monotheistic religions. A demotion, but better than being cast as demons.
In Buddhism we have devas. They don’t precisely map. But, they seem to touch similar visceral feelings. Wherever they come from, the idea of spiritual beings that muck about between heaven and earth, whispering warnings, making announcements, and occasionally directly intervening, certainly has its resonances.
And, I believe, speak to some realities. Within history or simply within our human ways of knowing is not the point.
Raphael means “God has healed.” He isn’t actually mentioned in the canonical scriptures, but features in important texts of the Western traditions, Tobit & 1 Enoch. In Jewish tradition he’s one of the three mysterious visitors to Abraham at the Oak of Hamre. Christian tradition sometimes suggest he’s the angel who stirred the waters of the Pool of Bethesda. In Islam it is he who is given the trumpet which will mark the end of days.
He has occasionally made visits, famously appearing in Cordova, Spain in the sixteenth century. Later he appeared to the Saint John of God, who upon his inspiration founded the Hospitallers.
And so on this festival day I find myself thinking of what those mediators between heaven and earth might be for me.
I have found in my life that we live and breathe and take our being within the meeting of two worlds. The problem is the two are not actually two. Nor, are they precisely one. So, when we open our hearts to the realities we find our vision complicated, mysteries emerge, the divine erupts into the ordinary.
Raphael is considered a patron saint for travelers, medical workers of several sorts, and, I love, “happy meetings.”
I think about traveling, and healing, and, happy meetings. Definitely markers of a spiritual journey.
When we engage the intimate way, we do find moments when those two worlds come together. Moments when the angels, the devas do indeed travel between heaven and earth.
Happy meetings, indeed.
Here every act, every step, every word becomes a mystery, a communion, a sacred dance.
Within our silent hearts we can witness the whole mystery.
It is always waiting. All we have to do is enter the silence and witness.
A song of the archangels.
Worth a pause, and a noticing…