ARCHANGEL MICHAEL THE GUARDIAN

Archangel Michael is portrayed full length, in military attire. In his left hand he holds an orb with Christ's initial and in his right an uplifted sword. The orb, a symbol of power, is a basic element of the iconography of archangels in a host of Byzantine representations, but normally in such examples it is not accompanied by military dress. This type however, was depicted in the murals in the church of St. Athanasios of Mouzakis, Kastoria (1384-1385) and subsequently became widespread in icons and workshops in the broader area of north-western Greece.

St. Michael, prince of the heavenly host of angels, is one of only three angels mentioned by name in the Bible. Michael's name means "who is like unto God", which is the question posed to us all. Renowned in the Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions, he forms between us a common bond. Michael, similar to God in Spirit, yet different in the way he was created, was called on to the lead the heavenly faithful during the Great War of Heaven, when Lucifer moved to assert himself as superior to the Father. Lucifer, often depicted as a dragon, was defeated and cast from heaven. Traditionally, Michael is called upon to rescue the souls of the faithful in their constant battle with the forces of evil, during life and at the moment of death; to be a champion of God's people; and to lead souls to heaven, ushering in the reign of Christ's abiding peace. St. Michael is revered in countries around the world. Devotion to him is evident in many churches, with missions named in his honor. In this icon, Michael exudes two aspects: the handsome youth, whose zealous love for God is overpowering; and the Noble Warrior Prince, terror of the rebellious company of angels and all that is evil. His military attire expresses the life-giving quality he offers as a messenger and protector of us on earth; the red outer garb, indicates a heavenly radiance, as does the gold in his halo. The ribbons in his hair are evidence of his haste, having just arrived from his heavenly flight out of the cosmos to us with a question: "Are we' like unto God'?" He is the patron of grocers, mariners, paratroopers and all who are ill.

The icon by the hand of Janusz Charczuk. Egg tempera on wood, priming on textile, background 23 K gold leaf. 40.0 x 28.5 cm (15.75 x 11.25 in) Based on 16TH century Macedonian icon.