SYNAXIS OF THE ARCHANGELS
An article by Heba Hrimat
Several years before the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, and during the early years of the fourth century, the local Laodicean Council established for the first time what we know and celebrate today as the Synaxis of the Supreme Commanders Michael and Gabriel, along with Raphael, and of the other bodiless and heavenly orders of the Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Powers, Authorities, Principalities, Archangels and Angels.
Synaxis, which means the gathering of believers to celebrate a feast or to make a remembrance of a saint, holds a special meaning during this feast as it is the gathering of both the humans and the angels, as they stand in fear in front of the Creator.
It was due to the heretical worship of angels as gods and rulers of the world, which became a popular belief during the early ages of Christianity, the 35th Canon of the Council of Laodicea was quick to condemn and denounce these beliefs, influencing instead a more proper Orthodox veneration of the Angels to be affirmed.
How November 8th was chosen:
In accordance with the nine ranks of Angels, a feast day was established in November, the ninth month from March (with which the year began in ancient times). The eighth day of the month was decreed for the intended assemblage of all the heavenly powers; in conjunction with the day of the dread or the last judgement of God, which the holy fathers called the “eighth day”. After this age, in which the seven days of creation have elapsed, will come the eighth day and then “shalt come the son of man in His glory and all the holy Angels together with Him,” (Mt 25:31).
The three hierarchies of angels according to Church tradition:
What many do not know is that these nine ranks of Angels represent three hierarchies. In the highest hierarchy stand the flaming and fiery six-winged Seraphim, the many-eyed outpouring of wisdom and enlightenment Cherubim, and the servitors of the uprightness of God’s justice Thrones.
In the middle angelic hierarchy stand the Dominions over the successive ranks of Angels, the Powers fulfilling the will of God, and the Authorities who quell the power of the devil.
The Lowest Hierarchy include the Principalities who have command over the lower angels, the Archangels who announce about the great and most holy, and finally the Angels, who are closest of all to people as they proclaim the intent of God, guiding people to virtuous and holy life.
The leader over all the previously mentioned nine ranks is the holy and faithful servitor of God, Michael. His name in Hebrew means “who is like unto God”, wherein he hurled down from Heaven the arrogant Lucifer together with the other fallen spirits.
According to Church tradition, Michael participated in many Old Testament events and defended Israel in all its misfortunes. Most prominently, during the time of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, he went before them in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Through him the power of the Lord was made manifest, annihilating the Egyptians and Pharaoh who were in pursuit of the Israelites. The Archangel Michael also prevented the devil from displaying the body of the holy Prophet Moses to the Jews for idolization (Jude 1:9).
Therefore, our Patriarchate dedicates each 21 November / 8 November to celebrate the feast of Archangel Michael and the Other Heavenly Bodiless Powers in the small church assigned for them in the Old City of Jerusalem, as well as in the church of Archangel Michael and Gabriel by the sea in Jaffa, which is normally led by His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III.