Thought for the Day by Tony Whatmough
And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.Revelation 12:7-12
The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels carries with it a particularly violent image. St. Michael is grappling with the devil, piercing it with his spear. We can imagine him dusting his hands and walking off with an air of triumph.
But I wonder who the dragon really is? Is it some mythological beast which must be defeated in order that humans might live, and having been slain by Michael, is it dead and gone for ever?
I prefer to think of the dragon as something within myself. I know I have dragons that must be defeated, selfishness, ambition, greed, anger and all the rest of them, and I also know that they are not defeated once and for all. The fight against the devil and all his works that are within me is something that I must combat day by day. The devil I know is not done and dusted as easily as it is described in our reading.
We have seen a lot of dragons surfacing recently, particularly in the Black Lives Matter movement, and every time we open our papers we see evidence of greed and discrimination.
But also during Lockdown, we have seen good things come to the surface. Neighbourliness, kindness, thoughtfulness. One of the phenomena I’ve observed is the growth of WhatsApp groups. When we moved to Moor Grange Rise, we were invited to join the WhatsApp group which had been set up at the beginning of the pandemic, which offered shopping to the vulnerable and various offers of advice and help. Indeed, soon after we arrived, out TV was misbehaving, and via the Group, someone was able to come and fix it for us. Not world shatteringly important, but good neighbourliness.
The poet, Malcolm Guite seems to sum it up, as he so often does:
Michaelmas gales assail the waning year,
And Michael’s scale is true, his blade is bright.
He strips dead leaves; and leaves the living clear
To flourish in the touch and reach of light.
Archangel bring your balance, help me turn
Upon this turning world with you and dance
In the Great Dance. Draw near, help me discern,
And trace the hidden grace in change and chance.
Angel of fire, Love’s fierce radiance,
Drive through the deep until the steep waves part,
Undo the dragon’s sinuous influence
And pierce the clotted darkness in my heart.
Unchain the child you find there, break the spell
And overthrow the tyrannies of Hell.