It is said that St. Michael presides over the worship of adoration rendered to the Most High and offers to God the prayers of the faithful symbolized by incense whose smoke rises towards Heaven. In fact, the liturgy presents St. Michael to us as the incense-bearer, standing beside the altar as our intercessor and the bearer of the Church’s prayers before the throne of God. “An angel of the Lord stood near the altar of the temple, having a golden censer in his hand, and there was given to him much incense, and the smoke of the perfumes ascended before God.” (Offertory, Mass of St. Michael.)
At the beginning of Holy Mass, his name is mentioned in the confession of faults made by the priest at the foot of the altar, and by the faithful in turn. At the offertory, in Solemn High Mass, the priest implores the blessing of the Almighty upon the oblation through the intercession of St. Michael. And during the Canon of the Mass, after the Consecration, the priest prays God to command that the oblation be borne by the hands of His holy angel to His altar on high.
The angel here referred to is doubtless the Archangel Michael. With loving solicitude he watches over the Precious Blood, that no accident may occur, and also over all the tiny particles which may fall from the consecrated Hosts at the time of Holy Communion, that they may not be lost or desecrated. But St. Michael is not alone present at the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar. Christian tradition assures us that innumerable angels also assist at Mass.
St. John Chrysostom, among others, states that “When Mass is being celebrated, the Sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the Divine Victim immolated on the altar.”
Besides the guardian angels of the faithful who are present, thousands of heavenly spirits assist at Mass, reverently worshipping their Lord and God. With what sentiments of profound veneration do they not adore the Precious Blood being shed anew upon the altar! It is the self-same Blood that was shed on Calvary, but with this difference, that then It fell upon the ground and stones, whereas in Holy Mass, It is applied to the souls of those present.
The efficacy of the Mass is so wonderful, God’s mercy and generosity are then so unlimited that there is no moment so propitious to ask for favors as when Jesus is born on the altar. The angels know this full well and come in throngs to adore their Divine Master and make their petitions at this hour of mercy.
What an example for us! Whenever we attend Holy Mass, therefore, let us unite with St. Michael and the holy angels, “and place our offerings and petitions in their pure hands, to be presented to the Most High, that He may receive them graciously and pardon our indevotion for the sake of the devotion of the celestial spirits with whom we associate ourselves. It was revealed to St. Mechtilde that three thousand angels from the choir of Thrones are ever in devout attendance around every Tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. Doubt less a much greater number are present at Holy Mass, which is not merely a Sacrament but also a sacrifice.”
And we read in the revelations of St. Bridget: “One day when I was assisting at the Holy Sacrifice, I saw an immense number of Holy Angels descend and gather around the altar, contemplating the priest. They sang heavenly canticles that ravished my heart, Heaven itself seemed to be contemplating the great Sacrifice. And yet we poor mortals, blind and miserable creatures, assist at Mass with so little love, relish and respect!”
Do Catholics ever think of this amazing truth, namely: that at Mass they are praying in the midst of thousands of God’s angels? Let us beg St. Michael and his angels to impart to us a greater realization of the infinite value of the Mass, “where Christ spiritually sprinkles the souls of the faithful with His Blood. St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi says of this spiritual sprinkling: ‘This Blood when applied to the soul, imparts to it as much dignity as if it were decked in a costly robe. It imparts such brilliance and splendor that couldst thou behold the effulgence of thy soul when sprinkled with that Blood, thou wouldst fall down to adore it.’ Happy the soul adorned with such beauty! Let us go to Holy Mass often, that we may be sprinkled with this adorable Blood and our soul arrayed in rich apparel which will render us glorious forever in the sight of the angels and the saints. The Catholic Church owns no greater, no more costly treasure than the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ; for a single drop of this Blood, which is united to the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, outweighs in value all the riches of Heaven and earth.”
This article is taken from a chapter in St. Michael and the Angels: A Month with St. Michael and the Holy Angels, which is available from TAN Books.