Reclaiming a Feast for Raphael

Reclaiming a Feast for Raphael October 24, 2022




The 24th of October!

I try to notice this day as it rolls around in our calendar.

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 the three together are celebrated on the 29th of September. There are references, depending on your source to four or perhaps seven archangels. But these three are the only ones we get with names.

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. Raphael is much on my mind these days as he both visited Mary and Mohammed.

Some tidbits I remind people of in these revisits of angels, is that an archangel is a chief or principal angel. Angels are supernatural beings who often serve as mediators between the heavenly and earthly realms.

For those of an historical turn 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.

As to Raphael.

The name Raphael means “God has healed.” He isn’t actually mentioned in the canonical scriptures, but features in important secondary 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, rather than Gabriel. Who as noted above seems to get most of the truly important gigs.

He has occasionally made visits to our veil of tears, famously appearing in Cordova, Spain in the sixteenth century. Later he appeared to Saint John of God, who upon the inspiration of Raphael founded the Hospitallers.

And so on this festival day that is no more I find myself thinking of what those mediators between heaven and earth might be for me.

This is sort of my thesis. Or one of them. I keep revisiting, expanding and contracting. Here’s the current version.

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. On one hand the worlds are identical. On another different. And there is another hand, or maybe it is a world, where they meet. It’s this place of meeting where strange and wonderful things happen. Not least of which is the visitation of angels. (And demons, but that’s for a different reflection.)

In practice when we open our hearts to the realities we call the seen and unseen, we find our vision complicated, mysteries emerge, the divine erupts into the ordinary. Again. Angels. And demons.

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.

Perhaps yours?

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…

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