By Jackie Morfesis
There is a reason that two archangels, St. Michael and St. Gabriel are included on the doors of the iconostasis inside Eastern Orthodox churches. Have you also noticed how Archangel Michael is dressed? He is wearing full armor.
We like to romanticize the image of angels in contemporary culture. They are even appropriated to be cherubic messengers of budding romance, shooting arrows into the hearts of unsuspecting young lovers. Perfectly suited for the cover of a Valentine’s Day greeting card.
Yet, God’s army of angels are so much more. Scripture tells us that we are each assigned a guardian angel to watch over us. Angels not only interceded throughout scripture they intercede throughout our own lives. Look back, and you may discern when God’s angels made their presence and protection known in your lives.
I certainly have had more than one angelic encounter. When my mother was nearing her passing and living in my home, there was a day when I proverbially “hit the wall.” Similar I suppose to running a marathon and hitting the wall and not knowing if you would have the strength to continue the race. I had reached complete emotional, spiritual, and physical exhaustion caring for her with advanced brain cancer.
I went into my bedroom, fell upon the bed, and cried out to the Lord. Just then a holy silence came over my home – it was tangible, and awesome to behold. My little Yorkie dog, Coco, perked her ears up and stood at attention, and we both sensed that someone, something, had entered our home. I was not afraid, but alert, waiting in reverent anticipation.
I did not see a vision, but I experienced a presence, an auditory visitation. As loud as day, I heard a bellowing deep voice: “Jackie, be not afraid, everything will be okay.” Firstly – the language, “Be not afraid”, right out of scripture. The peace that came with the words was indescribable – “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
From that moment on, I had the strength to continue to caregive to my mother, until the Lord took her home. I was not only given a second wind, but I was also given supernatural strength and courage to finish the race. This would not have been possible if it were not for divine intervention. I also remember that day because my aunt phoned from Philadelphia, who was married to my father’s brother. She asked how we were doing and I said: “I am at peace, I was visited by an angel.” I am sure she did not believe me, she has never understood nor been supportive of my faith walk, but we know that we will not be believed and we also know we will be persecuted for following the Lord.
This is not the only time I have experienced miraculous intervention. When I was a counselor at Ionian Village in Greece, for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, I was playing catcher for the softball game. I stood behind a camper and as he swung the heavy wooden bat, he pulled it back and it smacked me full force into my bottom right jaw. The whole field heard the crack of my jaw. I not only heard it, but I felt my jaw break.
And then something miraculous happened, like a movie that is on rewind, I literally felt the pain and full force of the hit being sucked out of my jaw and the whole incident becoming undone. I was still rushed to the on-site clinic. Nurse Dee was the first to see me. I told her what happened. I was wearing my guardian angel necklace. I made a comment about my guardian angel. She looked at me and said: “Do you really think that God was going to allow you to have your jaw broken while serving His children at our camp?” Dr. Costa (I only remember his first name at this point) was also in the room, having heard about my accident. I was told that my jaw did not even show evidence of being hit. It was not bruised, nor red, nor swollen.
What happened? We all know what happened. God happened. He was protecting me. So was my guardian angel. These are true stories. In fact, I have more, many more. My whole life is a testimony to the providence and protection of God. He is with us. He is behind us, with us and in front of us. “The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
Often, we hear, “We cannot change the past, but we can change the future.” Actually, we serve a God who can change the past. He can heal illness and pain that has ravaged our bodies. He can deliver us from traumatic memories that haunt our waking hours and our dreams. He can make us new. He is the God of change, the God that changes hearts, minds, and spirits. If we do not believe in transformation, then we do not understand the greater mystery and deeper meaning of why our Lord came, and why He went to Calvary on our behalf.
As we look at the beautiful iconostasis inside our Orthodox churches, let us truly experience the meaning and glory held within our holy Orthodox iconography. They are speaking to us. The archangels are speaking to us. They are God’s army right here on earth and in the heavenly realms.
Spiritual warfare is real. Take heed of St. Paul’s advice, indeed mandate in Ephesians. Every single one of us needs to take on the full armor of God. This should be a daily routine, a daily ritual if you will. Armor up. Armor up for yourselves and armor up for the battle that we face as a disciple in Christ’s kingdom.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” Ephesians (6:10-17).
My yiayia, (grandmother), Virginia Manos, a woman of bold faith, demonstrated this faith when in her fifties, she had advanced colon cancer. Her surgeon at the hospital in Charleston, South Carolina, said: “Mrs. Manos, you do not have long to live. Your condition is terminal.” Her answer? Without skipping a beat: “No sir, you do not have the authority to give me a death sentence, I will be going to your funeral.”
I realize this was bold. I realize these words may even sound harsh. But in that moment, my yiayia, was not standing on the surgeon’s laws of nature, but on God’s supernatural law. In that moment, she rebuked the darkness and whatever the enemy was trying to take from her and instead put her faith in God to give her life and for her to have “it more abundantly.” What happened? My grandmother was miraculously cured of colon cancer, she lived till 93 years old, and yes, her doctor who gave her the death sentence predeceased her. By the way, my yiayia told my mother that I was her favorite grandchild because “Jackie is feisty like me.”
Recently, I was in a position to pray for someone who suddenly fell into horrible pain during a gathering. We were all taken by surprise by this crisis. I immediately put my right hand upon him and raised my left hand in the air. And I prayed. I prayed against the adverse powers attacking him and I prayed for the Holy Spirit to come. I prayed for his pain to be removed in Jesus’ holy name. What happened? I felt the electrical current of the Holy Spirit move through my whole body from my feet to my head down my arm and into this man, a supernatural rising of God’s power. Then he said the most beautiful words that could be said in that very moment: “I receive. I receive.” He felt God’s healing and received God’s healing. He then said: “Thank you, the pain is gone.”
It was not my healing. It is not my glory. It was God’s healing and His glory. We are not spectators going to see and hear stories of God’s angels, his holy martyrs and saints, and the life of our Lord on Sunday. We are going to church because He is alive, right now, right here in our hearts, our souls, and our bodies. If we do not receive the blessings, the miracles, the power, the beauty, and the glory of God’s message and its relevance to our lives, then we are not in relationship with God, we are in spectators in a state of spiritual separation.
We belong to God. He created us and He equips us to fulfill His calling on our lives. We are His army of angels on earth. We are to armor up and be His hands and feet in the world. Until we do, we are not receiving the fullness of our calling as Orthodox Christians nor His purpose in His kingdom. Be brave. Be bold. Believe in God’s promises. He believes in us.