Nov. 8: Orthodox Christians honor St. Archangel Michael, the “guardian of souls and a warrior against evil”

СнимкаIn the Orthodox Christian calendar, November 8 has been written down as the Council of St. Archangel Michael (Arhangelovden). On this day the Orthodox Church honors the saint angels and in the first place St. Archangel Michael – the leader of the heavenly powers in their struggle against the spirits of darkness and evil.

The angels are God’s messengers – envoys and executors of His will. They are immaculate, immortal, intelligent, clean and bright spirits, and therefore in iconography they are depicted in snow-white robes and wings - a symbol of the speed with which they execute God's commandments. Angels are countless, but the names of the seven leading angels are known to the church. They take an active part in the salvation of humans. At Baptism, every Christian receives a guardian angel who guides and protects from misfortune the human soul entrusted to him.

According to the Holy Scriptures, Archangel Michael is the chief of the heavenly powers and a fighter against the spirits of darkness. In Orthodox icons St. Archangel Michael is depicted with a spear in his hand, treading the devil with his feet. He is considered the protector of warriors fighting for a just cause, as well as a defender of all Christians from the visible and invisible enemies, a helper in grief and protector of sleep.

In traditional Bulgarian folk beliefs Archangel Michael is a "soul-extractor". He is the angel who descends to the dying man and with a knife or sword pulls out his soul. Then the Archangel takes the human soul to the Hereafter, where, along with its companion St. Peter, it is taken to the Garden of Eden or to the boiling cauldron of hell, depending on whether the soul has been righteous or sinful. Bulgarians believed that if the dying man smiled, Archangel Michael had handed him a golden apple.

On the feast of St. Archangel Michael, votive offering to honor the saint is a must in many regions of Bulgaria. Women make and hand out special ritual loaves of bread. This bread is called Rangel’s Bread or God’s Bread. The oldest person in the household is then asked to break the loaf cross-like. Wine is poured over the bread and a blessing is recited: „St. Archangel, St. Nicholas and all saints, help us! We honor you, break a loaf and hope that rye will grow up to the ceiling!”

A solemn service in the church is held on Arhangelovden, after which visits of name day parties begin. In Bulgaria, Nov. 8 is a name day of everybody called Angel, Angelina, Angela, Archangel, Gabriel, Gavril, Emil, Emilia, Lina, Mila, Milan, Plamen, Plamena, Rada, Radi, Radka, Rangel, Rafael, Raya, Rusi, Seraphim and their derivatives.

Compiled by Elena Karkalanova

English Daniela Konstantinova

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