This is one in a series from Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries. The previous post is here. More information on the Bossuet Project is here.
“There was a great war in heaven, Michael and his angels against the dragon and his angels: the dragon and his angels fought, and their strength failed them,” and they fell from the sky, “and their place there was no more.” (Revelation 12, 7-8) What is this fight? What are the weapons of spiritual powers? “We have no fight against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness in the heavens and in the dark air which surrounds us.” (Ephesians 6:12, 22)
It is not necessary to visualize oneself in this fight, neither the arm of flesh, nor the material weapons or bloodshed as we do: it is a conflict of thoughts and feelings. The angel of pride which is called the dragon, raised the angels and said: We will be happy in ourselves and we will do our will as God. Michael said the opposite: “Who is like God?” Who is his equal? From where does the name of Michael come, that is to say who is like God? But who is in doubt in this fight, as the name of God prevails? What can you, weak spirits, weak, I say, because of your pride, what can you do against the humble army of the Lord, that rallies to that word: “Who is like God?” You fall from heaven like a flash, and your place which was so large remains empty. O what havoc your desertion has been! What vast spaces remain vacant! They will not always be that way, and God will create man to fill those places that your desertion has left vacant. Flee, unhappy troupe: “Who is like God? “Flee before Michael and his angels.
Now there is purified air: the haughty spirits are banished forever: there will be no revolt, there will be no pride or dissension: this is Jerusalem, a city of peace where the “holy angels” united with God and each other “forever see the face of the Father.” (Matthew 18:10) And their happiness assured, they wait submissively for their orders that will send them to the earth.
Holy and blessed spirits, who gave you strength against this prideful spirit who was one of your first princes, and perhaps the first of all? Who does not see that it is God’s name that you put in your head saying with St. Michael “Who is like God?” But who inspired you with this victorious love for God’s name? We are not allowed to think that God inspired you, as he did to holy men, with this invincible and victorious love which makes you persevere in good; and sing in thanksgiving for your victory, that God told one of his saints, “It is to you that they owe their being: it is to you that they owe their lives: it is to you that they are to live happy. ” They have not made themselves better and more excellent than you have; this degree of good they have acquired in persevering, comes to them from you. And another of your saints has said: “The same grace that has raised fallen man, operated in the holy angels the happiness of not falling: it has not abandoned man in his fall, but did not allow allow that the blessed angels fell.” (St. Bernard, 22 Sermons in Canticles, 6)
I love the mercy that made them happy by perseverance; and called by the testimony of your Apostle of the “elect angels” (1 Timothy 5:21) as in us I see in them your only election in which they glory. Because if I said that they glorify themselves, as long as they did it in themselves, I fear, Lord, and forgive me if I dare say it, I fear, in placing them with the deserters, that it gives them credit.
But so what? Did he miss something in the evil angels from God’s side? Far be the thought from us! They fell by their free will and when one asks, “Why did Satan rebel against God?,” the answer is ready: it’s because he wanted to. Because he did not fight as we do the bad lust that traps as evil by strength. His will was perfectly free, and desertion is the pure work of his free will. And the holy angels, how did they persevere in the good? By their free will, no doubt, and because they wanted to. Not having the disease of lust, nor the impulsive inclination to evil that bullies us, they had no need to prevent this impulsive attraction, which inclines us towards good, and which is in men inclined to do evil, the medicinal relief of the Savior. In contrast, in a perfect balance, the will of the holy angels gave only, so to speak, the blow of the election; their choice and that grace helped but did not determine, that choice came out of himself by his own sole determination. It is so, my God; and it seems to me that you make me see that liberty in the idea that you give me free will when he was perfectly healthy.
It was such in all the angels; however, this good use of their free will, which is a great good, and attracts a greater one, which is eternal happiness, can not it come from God? I can not believe it; and I think, if I may say so, to please the holy angels, in recognizing that one who gave them to be like us, life as we have, the first grace as to us, freedom like us, by a particular action of his power and goodness, gave them like us, by action of its special goodness, proper use of good. That is to say, the good use of their free will, which was good but ambiguous, with which one could do right and wrong, God still gave them. How much more he gave them the good which can not be used badly, since this property is nothing other than its proper use? Everything comes from God; and the angel, no more than man, “does not need to glorify itself” by the place it’s at, “but all glory is in God.” (1 Corinthians 1:29, 31) He gave her the initial justice, and more so persevering justice that is more perfect as it is happier, since it has as its reward this changeless strengthening of the will in the good, which is the eternal happiness of the righteous.
Yes, holy angels, I join you to tell God that you owe him everything, and want to perform any duty to him, and that is why you have triumphed over your unfortunate companions, because you wanted to do your duty to whom you owe being, life and justice, while the proud, forgetting what they owed him, wanted to owe themselves their own perfection, glory, and bliss.
Be happy, holy angels. Come to our aid; the countless armies of our enemies perish in a night by the hand of one of you. In like fashion, all the firstborn of Egypt perished in one high, an Egypt which persecuted God’s people. Holy angel, whoever you are, whom God has committed to my keeping, push away these great tempters which continue their fight against God. They argued with the man who is their conquest, and you want them removed. O Saint Michael, o holy angel, powerful protector of the holy people, “of which you offer to God the prayers like sweet incense!” With you I can say without end, “Who is like God?” O holy Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, you who announced to Mary the actual coming of Christ, and had foretold to Daniel coming events, inspire us with holy thought to profit from your predictions. O Saint Raphael, whose name means medicine of God, as with the holy man Tobit, heal my soul from a most dangerous blindness; bind the demon of fornication, which attacks the children of Adam even in the sanctity of marriage. Bind him, for you are more powerful than him, and God himself is your strength. Holy angels, such as you are, “who see the face of God,” and to whom “he commanded to keep us in all our ways,” develop on top of our weakness help of all kinds that God has put in your hand for the salvation of his elect,”for which he has ordered to establish yourself as administrator spirits.”
O God, send us your holy angels. Those who served Jesus Christ after his youth; those “who guarded his tomb and announced his resurrection; one who strengthened him in his agony, because Jesus Christ did not need his help for himself, but only because he was clothed in our weakness, and they are infirm members that this consoling angel came to strengthen in the person of their leader.