Our Accuser is Cast Out: The Feast of the Holy Archangels
“Jesus did not come to condemn us, to accuse us of meanness and smallness. He came to save us, pardon us, excuse us, bring us peace and joy.”
ST. JOSEMARIA ESCRIVA
Christ is Passing By, no. 165
“For the accuser of our brethren has been cast out, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb” (cf. Rev 12:10-11).
Satan is said to “accuse” those redeemed by Christ. What does he accuse us of? Accusations are made over one thing: guilt. You are at fault, and another brings it forward to prove something about you. You need to apologize and/or be penalized for your sin. Or, depending on the judge, you could be pardoned, excused, even saved.
These verses from Revelation give us to understand an ongoing kind of accusation—and thus our need for an ongoing deliverance. The devil is constantly trying to drag us down, in more ways than one: spiritually, morally, and emotionally. He contrives to set in motion a downward spiral of losses: first to go is joy, without which we cannot serve God cheerfully, then confidence in Him, then hope. Finally we give up the fight altogether.
Job was targeted in much the same way. Before God, Satan accuses Job of hypocrisy: Job only serves God because He has blessed and prospered him, “But put forth thy hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse thee to thy face” (Job 1:11).
Satan adopts a similar tack with us. He shows people their sins as a pile of incontrovertible evidence and accuses them: Here is what you really want. You don’t really believe in God. You don’t really trust God. You don’t really love God. If your favorite things are taken away from you, if you have to suffer, if you get pushed too far, you will see for yourself. “But put forth thy hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse thee to thy face.” There seems to be enough truth in what he says to make us pause. He harps on the indisputable “facts” to make us believe that we don’t really believe what in fact we do believe with all our heart.
And what do we believe? That both we and our confidence have been paid for
not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. Through him you have confidence in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Pet 1:18-19, 21)
The fallen angels want us to forget all about the price that Jesus paid to make us His friends, brethren, and members of His mystical spouse, the Church. We are the ones called to the wedding supper of the Lamb, not as spectators, but as members of the Bride herself. His blood, the blood of God, justifies our every hope, underwrites our every aspiration for conversion and holiness. Satan would have us count cheap the price of our freedom, joy, and peace—the Blood of the Lamb, whose value St Paul insists we never disregard: “You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:19-20).
Remembrance of our price is the antidote against despair, which dogs the steps of fallen people as they strive to follow the way of the Lord Jesus. In more than one sense are we “deviled”: personal defects inevitably punctuate our daily efforts while demons stand ready to exploit the mounting evidence. They very reasonably suggest that our failures betray us: Either we’re mistaken about what it means to be a Christian, or naïve, or downright hypocritical. These are not accusations shouted in a tumultuous courtroom by a horned monster brandishing a rap sheet, but the unbiased observations of a “concerned friend,” whispered in the ear.
Their aim is not so much a dramatic about-face in our spiritual life as the more subtle surrender of a defeated soul. Having grown weary of struggle and failure, and convinced that progress is unrealistic, a practical discouragement sets in—the fault most inimical to the childlike spirit. The resilience that leaves a fall behind and runs along is replaced by a disheartened “Why bother?”
Yet for the humble, the Gospel promises the power to become children of God, to be reborn and renewed by grace continually (cf. Jn 1:12-16). Thus the children of God are invincible even in failure. We are unbeatable not because we are without sin, nor because we have nothing to be accused of, but because the Blood of Jesus is the endless source of our hope, as Revelation asserts. We are, as T.S. Eliot put it, “only undefeated/Because we have gone on trying.” We can repent; we can change; we can become saints.
The fallen angels know exactly what they have lost and what we have gained, and have still to gain. And they know a lot about us which makes us easy targets for temptation and confusion. Because of this the companionship and intercession of Saints Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel are essential for us to reach the end of our journey. The holy Archangels have this mission in our lives: to shield us from the envy of the fallen angels and guide us to the fulfillment of our vocation in Christ to be the children of God.
Scripture often classes angels as ‘sons of God.’ The fact that we too are children of God in Christ reminds the fallen angles of their forfeited inheritance. They have lost their place in the household of God, their seat at the family table. And because they hate the privilege we have over them, they work against us to make us behave as much unlike God’s children as possible. If the demons can more or less accomplish that, then they can make us lose our purpose in life. They do whatever it takes so that we never get down to the business of behaving like beloved children. Instead, they have us wrestling against phantoms of the future, or sins of the past, so that we never arrive at trust in the present.
Our constant need for St Michael’s defense and protection confirms that we’re facing a contest that our strength cannot overcome, an adversary who knows the full tale of our vulnerability and whose detailed list of our failures can only be refuted by the eloquence of Christ’s Blood. St Raphael, patron of wayfarers, shows us that the Lord has a chosen path on which we must walk, and when we are injured on it, God’s healing remedy is there to renew us. St Gabriel, whose name means “the strength of God,” reminds us that only heavenly power can see us through to the end of our journey.
The Archangels’ mission is to intervene often in our lives to keep us mindful of who we are in Christ: children, purchased and redeemed. And His Blood spends itself not on unredeemable rubbish, as the devils insinuate, but on a fruit most precious and worthy of the best love: children, reborn in Jesus to live with Him in the Father’s house forever.
(Originally published in 2015)
Father John Henry Hanson, O. Praem., is a Norbertine priest of St Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California. He entered the community in 1995, earned his STB and Masters in Theology at the Pontifical University of St Thomas (Angelicum) in Rome, and was ordained to the priesthood in 2006. Currently, he teaches English at St Michael’s Preparatory School, the boarding school operated by the Norbertine Fathers. He also preaches retreats, is chaplain to the cloistered Norbertine Nuns in Tehachapi, California, and serves Armenian rite Catholics at the Cathedral of St Gregory the Illuminator in Glendale, California (Our Lady of Nareg Eparchy). He and his community are cooperators of Opus Dei.