John of Kronstadt
One Cannot Count the Stars in the Heavens, So Can One Not Count
the Holy Angels." (Sermon on the Synaxis of Archangel Michael)
From the Editors: This year marks the 40th anniversary of the glorification
by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia of St John of Kronstadt,
the pastor and miracle-worker of Kronstadt, conducted with great
spiritual elevation during the Council ob Bishops in 1964; the same
Council elected Bishop Philaret of Brisbaine as the successor of
the elder Metropolitan Anastassy of blessed memory, First Hierarch
of the ROCOR, who had retired. In memory of this event, we offer
our readers a sermon by St John, whose glorification doubtless strengthened
the Russian diaspora in difficult years.
maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire" (Ps.
104:4). These are the words of the King and Prophet David. With
these words, he said that God created the wisest minds, the fleshless
spirits, servants loyal to Him, who burn with eternal love for God,
fulfill God's will and abide in the unapproachable light of the
Throne of Glory. The Lord created the angels as wise, powerful,
eternally holy, purity and within Divine truth. Ponder this, dear
brothers and sisters, delve into this with your minds. The Lord
divided all the angels into nine orders, or ranks: the thrones,
the dominions, principalities, powers, authorities and others; they
all obey each other—the lower orders obey the higher orders. In
the likeness of the heavenly hierarchy, the Lord established three
ranks in the Church Militant: the bishops, priests and deacons,
who also obey each other.
God created an innumerable multitude of angels. When you came to
liturgy this morning, maybe someone among you looked into the sky
and saw how many stars fill the heavens. There are so many stars
that it seems that the sky is filled with poppy seeds. No mortal
can count them all. As one cannot count the stars in the heavens,
so can one not count the number of holy angels. One star shines
brighter, another less so, but each of them is greater than our
world, larger than the Earth, this is known and has been proven.
The countless multitude of angels abide in the heavens, in the presence
of God, fulfill God's will and eternally glorify God. Some of them
are appointed by God to humans, these are our guardian angels who
protect people throughout their lives, from baptism until death,
keep evil away from them and direct them to all truth and goodness.
If a person lives righteously, lives well, he will feel this himself.
Think, dear brothers and sisters, how close angels are to us!
Today we celebrate the Synaxis of Archangel Michael and the Bodiless
Powers. You probably know or have heard of the miracle performed
by Archangel Michael. A few impious people had decided to kill Saint
Archippus and the destroy the church he built; they channeled a
great river towards the church, but Archangel Michael appeared to
Archippus, consoled him, split a cliff asunder, and directed the
river towards the rocky chasm, so that the water did not flood the
church, and the church and Archippus were saved.
Angels are not prone to sin, they cannot even think sinful thoughts—their
notions and desires are pure. They are imparted with all perfection,
they are always wise, always strong, always good. They firmly established
themselves in love for God, in holiness and truth and do not fall
into sin, only some of them, a third overall, saddened the Lord
with their disobedience and could no longer be citizens of the heavens;
they were cast down by God. And you, my friends, should emulate
the angels loyal to God, and after being citizens of the earthly
fatherland, you will become co-citizens with them of the heavenly
fatherland. Emulate the angles, especially since you are created
in the image of God; this gift is common to angels and men. Honor
the angels, my friends, imitate their holiness, their love and devotion
to God, and you will be worthy of the blessed live in heaven together
with them. Amen.