|St. Michael the Archangel (from Hilda van Stockum,|
The Angels' Alphabet, Viking). © 1948 The Estate
of Hilda van Stockum, used by permission.
This day explains the word "Michaelmas" as a description of the fall term of the Oxford and Cambridge University calendars and those of at least ten other British and Irish universities as well as dozens of schools.
Because St. Michael's Day (currently combined with "All Angels" in the Roman Catholic calendar) falls near the Autumnal Equinox (usually on Sept. 23, occasionally Sept. 22), it is used as a seasonal marker.
The Autumnal Equinox is the day the earth's southern and northern hemispheres are equally illuminated. It happens again on or around March 20 with the Vernal Equinox.
On Michaelmas Day, the daylight hours start getting shorter in the northern hemisphere. In the British and New England latitudes, harvest times and fishing seasons come to an end, and the hunting/culling season starts.
The old English proverb goes: "If you eat goose on Michaelmas Day, you will never want money all the year round." So traditionally families in England have eaten goose today.
The religious basis for venerating Michael is in the Book of Revelation 12:7. (One other New Testament reference is cited and two others in the Old Testament.) Michael is described as leading the angels against "the dragon", aka Satan, the name given to St. Michael's younger brother Lucifer after he was driven out of the sight of God. He had been attempting to rally angels against God when Archangel Michael put an end to his plan.
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels. (King James translation.)
|Hebrew for Mee-cha-ail, with a guttural|
ch as in Lechaim. It means "Who is like God?"
St. Michael is one of seven archangels and in the Eastern Orthodox Church is the preeminent one, the Commander in Chief of the angels; he is Prince of the Seraphim, the choir of angels that is closest to God.
He is the "Angel of the Lord" who was sent to Moses, Jacob and Abraham and is said to have communicated with Joan of Arc. The other two archangels with identifiable missions to earth are Gabriel, who announced the coming birth of Jesus to Mary, and Raphael, who spoke to Tobias.
Michael is the patron saint of paratroopers, police officers, sick people, grocers, and mariners.