September marks yet another new beginning. It’s a time when our young people move up a year in school and also marks that defining moment of starting school for the first time, of going to secondary school or beginning college or university. Many of our ‘children’ will leave home and move into student accommodation as their adult life shifts up a gear and things like budgeting and food shopping have to be thought of.
Autumn term is a term of adjustment and learning new things, new routines. The days begin to get shorter, the leaves on the trees turn yellow, red and that beautiful russet colour before falling onto the ground. The hedgerows yield fruit and nuts for collecting and the apples in the orchard grow red and sweet. We begin to think of Harvest Festivals and then the countdown to Christmas begins.
The same term at university is called ‘Michaelmas Term’ and it too is a term of adjustment. Academic study is not just harder and more demanding but that all important student social life has to be squeezed in as well. The freedom of being away from home at some point catches up and a type of loneliness creeps in and perhaps phone calls home a made a little more often.
Not having been to university before I was amazed when I went to train at Westcott House, Cambridge how tiring those first few weeks of Michaelmas Term are. All the introductions to various colleges, subjects and tutors, settling in to my room and missing Julie and the kids who were back at home in St Michaels, of all places. It was hard to adjust from family life to student life and it wasn’t long before I caught the train home and surprised them by walking into the kitchen one evening. There were tears all round although I’m not sure they were all tears of joy! Michaelmas Term is so called because the feast of Michael and All Angels falls on the 29th September.
Michael, Gabriel. Raphael and Uriel are the four named angels in the bible and are depicted as the beloved messengers of God. Michael, which means ‘who is like God?’ is the protector of Israel. As the leader of God’s armies he is best known for his victory over the dragon told in Revelation 12. 7-8;
‘7And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, 8but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.’
Michael is subsequently regarded as the protector of Christians from the devil.
Gabriel, which means ‘the strength of God’ was sent by God to Mary to tell her that she will give birth to his son Jesus.
Raphael means ‘the healing of God’ is the angel who restored sight to Tobit;
‘Raphael said to Tobias, before he had approached his father, ‘I know that his (Tobit’s) eyes will be opened.’ Tobit 11. 7
Uriel, meaning ‘the light of God’, appeared in a vision to Ezra;
‘Then the angel that had been sent to me, whose name was Uriel, answered…’ 2 Esdras 4. 1
Both the books of Tobit and Esdras can be found in a section of the bible called ‘The Apocrypha’.
It was when reading Matthew 18. 1-5 and 10-14 for a baptism that I noticed this verse;
‘Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.’
It is hard not to worry about our loved ones, whatever age they may be, but as we begin Michaelmas Term let us give thanks for our angels in heaven who continually see the face of God.
May God bless you and keep you.
Reverend Chris Hodgkins. (Assistant Curate of G7 Benefice)
The Collect for Michael and All Angels;
you have ordained and constituted the ministries of angels and mortals in a wonderful order;
grant that as your holy angels always serve you in heaven,
so, at your command,
they may help and defend us on earth;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.