Who is Like God?
A Path Through the Michaelmas Readings
September 29 is the festival of the Archangel Michael. On this day and in the four weeks that follow we hear in the seasonal prayer or epistle of the Act of Consecration of Man about the workings of the Archangel throughout the ages. The image of the battle between Michael and the Dragon in the heavens is brought before our souls as a mighty revelation, and we are invited to follow the Archangel in gaining a new understanding of Christ’s death and resurrection. Michael’s mission is so intimately connected to that of the Christ being that he appears as the countenance of Christ and guards the mystery of transubstantiation as he guards the mystery of Christ’s resurrection.
At the core of these mysteries lies the permeation of earthly substance by heavenly being, the complete blending of human being and God. How can we understand this relationship between the divine and the truly human? What does this have to do with us who are incarnated today? And how do we actually relate to God: as something outside of us, inside of us, or both? It may not be mere coincidence that the guiding Archangel of our time bears the name Michael, which can be translated as the question Who Is Like God? It is a question whose answer is no longer a given, but which may accompany us throughout our lifetime together with a growing understanding or inkling of what it may mean.
As a path to a possible understanding of this question about the relationship between God and human being we can follow the Gospel readings that are read in the Michaelmas season. Like the epistle they are full of images. In Matthew 22, Jesus uses the image of the preparations for a wedding feast as a way to describe the Kingdom of God. The opening words of this parable, “The Kingdom of God is like a human being, a king,” show the intimate connection between the divine world and the world of human beings. It hints at the possibility of manifesting the divine within us, and points out a particular quality that most resembles the divine: the quality of kingliness. Instead of going into an exploration of all that this quality of kingliness may include, it may suffice at this point to say that the movement from human being to king assumes the possibility of and indeed need for an ongoing development of the soul forces of the human being.
To take hold of this development in the right way, we need to gain some understanding of the spiritual forces that work in the world to undermine this development. In Revelation 12 we hear again about the battle between Michael and the Dragon, and how the Dragon was cast down to the earthly realm where it now rages. The Dragon in its two manifestations of devil and satan tries to ensnare the human soul through spirit-denying materialism and earth-denying spiritualism respectively. It hinders the right relationship of the human soul to the realm of spirit and the realm of earth, and of the soul forces of thinking, feeling, and willing to each other.
An understanding of the workings of the adversary in our soul life and in world events can help us move from fruitless reactivity to a place that allows us to overcome and transform the powers of evil through the help of Christ. Christ appears in Revelation 19 as the White Rider, the Word of God who works in the world as the One who puts everything in right relationship. This process has often been envisioned as a great Judgment, but may well be understood as a balancing, healing process.
Finally, in Ephesians 6 we learn what it looks like when we allow ourselves to be permeated by the Christ being, and how we can strengthen our soul forces against the power of the adversary. The armor of God manifests itself as truthfulness, communion with the divine, peacefulness, and trust in the workings of God and in the healing that comes from Christ.
As we follow this path of the Gospel readings through the Michaelmas season, we can experience a growing hope and trust in the presence of the Divine in our lives as we are consciously working to balance out our soul forces and move from reactivity to steadfastness. It can become indeed a path of inner development, a preparation of our souls for the nearing of the Christ being during the season of Advent.
By Florian Burfeind, member of the Chicago congregation and former student at the seminary in Stuttgart, Germany. Reprinted from the North American Newsletter of the Christian Community, vol.25, no.2, 2017.
To read more about the Michaelmas festival season in the Christian Community, visit our festivals page. You can also find a Michaelmas children’s story here.