The diabolical way of seeing things is to see absolutely everything in terms of you. The devils can only think of the world as something for them. They are constantly attempting to control and contain the world, to stuff it into their own egos. They have no imagination, the devils. (That, I’m afraid, is why they’re going to lose in the long run.)
Angels see things in terms of their relationship with God. They’re full of imagination. When they look at the world, when they look at you and me, they see the extraordinary potential buried in us because they see us in our relationship with God. The Angel Gabriel comes to Mary and says, ‘You may be a teenager in a village nobody has heard of, on the edge of the Roman Empire in an occupied country, without any education, without a vote, without even a change of clothes, and you are going to be where God happens.’ (The Angel Gabriel is strong on imagination.)
“They’re full of imagination” – with these words +Rowan brings us to see the importance of angels to the Church’s proclamation. They open our imagination to the Beautiful and the Real, to the One who is present, who has created and redeemed us, the physical and material, for communion in light and glory.
So by thy appointment they may succour and defend us on earth (BCP collect for St Michael and All Angels).
They succour and defend us by drawing us into their imagination, bringing us to behold what they behold.
Heaven and earth are full of thy glory.
Full. The angelic song in which the Church joins in the Eucharist is the heart of the angelic imagination. ‘Full of thy glory.’ All things touched by, caught up in, drenched in glory. Full.
Whereas the demons offer us, in the words of T.S. Eliot, “the cold friction of expiring sense/Without enchantment”, the angels invite us to share their imagination, to behold glory, to rejoice and adore.
Michaelmas is an invitation to a transfigured imagination – an imagination open to the Real. It is an invitation to know with Jacob, by the presence and ministry of angels, that the times and places our journeys, and those who accompany us, are shot through with a glory that “the cold friction of expiring sense” cannot discern.
Today’s feast is a call to see, and participate in, a “wonderful order”, that we may say of seemingly ordinary times and places and persons:
This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.