Sacred Sunday Essay: The Seven Archangels

"Synaxis of the Archangel Michael" ("Собор Архистратига Михаила"). An Eastern Orthodox Church icon of the "Seven Archangels". From left to right: Jegudiel, Gabriel, Selaphiel, Michael, Uriel, Raphael, Barachiel. Beneath the mandorla of Christ Emmanuel are representations of Cherubim (in blue) and Seraphim (in red).

“Synaxis of the Archangel Michael” (“Собор Архистратига Михаила”). An Eastern Orthodox Church icon of the “Seven Archangels”. From left to right: Jegudiel, Gabriel, Selaphiel, Michael, Uriel, Raphael, Barachiel. Beneath the mandorla of Christ Emmanuel are representations of Cherubim (in blue) and Seraphim (in red).

The earliest reference to a system of seven archangels as a group appears to be in Enoch I (the Book of Enoch) which is not part of the Jewish Canon but is prevalent in the Judaic tradition, where they are named as: Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Uriel, Raguel, Remiel and Saraqael.

While this book today is non-canonical in most Christian Churches, it was explicitly quoted in the New Testament (Letter of Jude 1:14-15) and by many of the early Church Fathers. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church to this day regards it to be canonical.

In the late 5th to early 6th century, Pseudo-Dionysius gives them as: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Chamuel, Jophiel, and Raguel.

The earliest Christian mention is by Pope Saint Gregory I who lists them as Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Uriel (or Anael), Simiel, Oriphiel and Raguel. A later reference to seven archangels would appear in an 8th or 9th century talisman attributed to Auriolus, a “servant of God” in north-western Spain. He issues a prayer to “all you patriarchs Michael, Gabriel, Cecitiel, Oriel, Raphael, Ananiel, Marmoniel (“who hold the clouds in your hands”).

The Catholic Church in the Roman Rite only explicitly names 3 archangels: Gabriel, Michael and Raphael. Gabriel and Michael are the only two named in the New Testament of the Bible. However, the same passages that name Raphael in the book of Tobit also states that he is “one of the seven who stand before God.” The other names can be derived from traditional Jewish teaching. The Catholic Church suppressed the names of the other Archangels during the First Council of Nicaea. However, in the Byzantine Rite and other eastern rites of the Catholic Church, there is a popular devotion to the seven archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Jegudiel, Raguel, and Selaphiel.

The Eastern Orthodox tradition venerates  Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Uriel, Selaphiel, Jegudiel, and Raguel.

Another variation lists them corresponding to the days of the week as:

Michael (Sunday)

Gabriel (Monday)

Raphael (Tuesday)

Uriel (Wednesday)

Selaphiel (Thursday)

Raguel or Jegudiel (Friday), and Barachiel (Saturday).

In the Coptic Orthodox tradition the seven archangels are named as: Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Suriel, Zadakiel, Raguel and Aniel.

In Anglican and Episcopal tradition, there are three or four archangels in its calendar for September 29 feast for St. Michael and All Angels (also called Michaelmas: namely Gabriel, Michael and Raphael), and often, Uriel.

In the more modern angelology, different sources disagree on the names and identities of the seven archangels. In the Book of Enoch, Remiel is also described as one of the leaders of the 200 Grigori, the fallen angels. Various occult systems associate each archangel with one of the traditional seven “luminaries” (the seven naked-eye-visible objects in the heavens, that move counter to that of the other star objects): the Moon, Mercury,Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn; but there is disagreement as to which archangel corresponds to which body.

According to Rudolf Steiner, four important archangels also display periodic spiritual activity over the seasons: Spring is Raphael, Summer is Uriel,Autumn is Michael, and Winter is Gabriel. Following this line of reasoning, Aries (astrologically ruled by Mars) represents Spring, Cancer (ruled by Moon) represents Summer, Libra (ruled by Venus) represents Autumn, and Capricorn (ruled by Saturn) represents Winter. Therefore by association, Raphael is Mars, Uriel is Moon, Michael is Venus, and Gabriel is Saturn.

However it should be noted that Rudolf Steiner’s Northern Hemisphere indications regarding the seasons and their placement in the Zodiac will be the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere… making Michael the Autumn archangel – with Mars in Ares; Raphael the Spring Archangel – with Venus in Libra; and in mid-winter Gabriel in Cancer; Uriel presides in Capricorn during mid summer in the south.

The seven archangels figure in some systems of ritual magic, each archangel bearing a specific seal. There may be an etymological relationship between the three “disputed” Archangel names, and they may in fact be equivalent.

It could also be argued that each one of the seven archangels represents one of the heavenly virtues, in the same way that each of the seven princes of hell represents one of the deadly sins.

Angelic Hierarchy

The Assumption of the Virgin by Francesco Botticini at the National Gallery London, shows three hierarchies and nine orders of angels, each with different characteristics.

The Assumption of the Virgin by Francesco Botticini at the National Gallery London, shows three hierarchies and nine orders of angels, each with different characteristics.

The Hierarchy of Angels is a belief or tradition found in the angelology of different religions, which holds that there are different levels or ranks of angels. Higher ranks may be asserted to have greater power or authority over lower ranks, and with different ranks having differences in appearance, such as varying numbers of wings or faces.

The Jewish angelic hierarchy is established in the Hebrew Bible, Talmud, Rabbinic literature, and traditional Jewish liturgy. They are categorized in different hierarchies proposed by various theologians. For example, Maimonides, in his Mishneh Torah or Yad ha-Chazakah: Yesodei ha-Torah, counts ten ranks of angels.

The most influential Christian angelic hierarchy was that put forward by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in the 4th or 5th century in his book De Coelesti Hierarchia (On the Celestial Hierarchy). During the Middle Ages, many schemes were proposed, some drawing on and expanding on Pseudo-Dionysius, others suggesting completely different classifications. According to medieval Christian theologians, the angels are organized into several orders, or “Angelic Choirs”.

Orthodox icon of nine orders of angels, (Greece, 18th century) depicted with an illuminated triangle, a symbol of the Trinity.

Orthodox icon of nine orders of angels, (Greece, 18th century) depicted with an illuminated triangle, a symbol of the Trinity.

Pseudo-Dionysius (On the Celestial Hierarchy) and Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica) drew on passages from the New Testament, specifically Ephesians 1:21 and Colossians 1:16, to develop a schema of three Hierarchies, Spheres or Triads of angels, with each Hierarchy containing three Orders or Choirs.

There is no standard hierarchical organization in Islam that parallels the Christian division into different “choirs” or spheres, and the topic is not directly addressed in the Quran. However, it is clear that there is a set order or hierarchy that exists between angels, defined by the assigned jobs and various tasks to which angels are commanded by God. Some scholars suggest that Islamic angels can be grouped into fourteen categories, with some of the higher orders being considered archangels.

There is also an informal Zoroastrian angelic hierarchy, with specific angelic beings called yazatas having key positions in the day-name dedications on the Zoroastrian calendar.

Crash

Notes and references

  1. Julia M.H. Smith, Europe After Rome: A New Cultural History 500-1000. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Page 77
  2. Oremus.org website. Retrieved September 15, 2008.
  3. Saint Uriel Church website patron Saint web page. Retrieved September 15, 2008.
  4. Lesser Feasts and Fasts, p. 380.
  5. Anglican.org website Michaelmas page. Retrieved September 15, 2008.
  6. St. George’s Lennoxville website, What Are Anglicans, Anyway? page. Retrieved September 15, 2008.
  7. Christ Church Eureka website, September Feasts page. Retrieved September 15, 2008.
  8. Morals and Dogma (of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry) by Albert Pike (1871, 1948, L. H. Jenkins)
  9. Jump up^ The encyclopedia of angels, p.45, by Rosemary Guiley, Infobase Publishing, 2004.
  10. Godwin, Malcolm. Angels: An Endangered Species, New York: Simon & Schuster 1990/ London: Boxtree 1993.
  11. Benor, Daniel J. Healing Research, Volume III — Personal Spirituality: Science, Spirit and the Eternal Soul, Bellmawr, NJ: Wholistic Healing Publications 2006
  12. Chase, Steven (2002). Angelic spirituality. p. 264. ISBN 978-0-8091-3948-
  13. McInerny, Ralph M. (1998). Selected writings of Thomas Aquinas. p. 841. ISBN 978-0-14-043632-7.
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5 thoughts on “Sacred Sunday Essay: The Seven Archangels

    • My pleasure! A conversation over a cup of coffee with several Vatican Cardinals in Italy this week was the inspiration to this post. Glad you enjoyed the read!

      • Funny that if I had the chance to pick such interest minds as that, I would have gone entirely on the opposite direction and be inspired to learn all about their fallen counterparts. I’ve always wondered of there are records of hierarchies to separate fallen archangels, if there are any, and other demons. Never taken the time to research that properly. lol

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