Updated: Oct 2, 2021
September 29, Michaelmas
Text: Gracia Grindal Tune: James E. Clemens. or Scottish Psalter
The twilight, like a cloud has spread;
O Lord, I need your light.
It’s time for me to go to bed,
And say my prayers tonight.
Lord, let your angel hover near
To watch with me tonight,
Dispel my worries and my fear,
And be my guiding light.
Forgive the things I’ve left undone,
The hurts I may have caused;
I number them, regret each one,
I count them, every loss.
Wash them away, and let me rest
Beneath your angel’s wings,
At peace, asleep, and deeply blest
With all the love you bring.
Then waken me to light again
With strength to serve you well,
Refreshed and ready for the day
To work to do your will.
Copyright © 2015 Wayne Leupold Editions, Inc.
“The Michaelmas Daisies, among dede weeds, Bloom for St Michael’s valorous deeds. And seems the last of flowers that stood, Till the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude.”
Michaelmas is an old marker of the year, as this old nursery rhyme has it,
which is still observed in Europe, and unknowingly in America and around the world with small things, such as the end of the quarter—September 30—when financial markets give their reports and summations for the past three months. In a way it serves as something of a Christian version of the fall equinox, falling as it does so close to the beginning of autumn in nature.
There are times for summing things up and reflecting on how things have gone and what they portend for the future. While such things perhaps are not so vital as they used to be when everyone lived much closer to the farm, we still depend on the harvest around the world and the farmers for our sustenance and in our own ways when we can or freeze the bounties of nature in our own kitchens. The rhythms of life cannot be overcome. And are best lived with in thanksgiving for the way God continues to provide. The marking of Michaelmas shows us the holiness of life as we live it in our daily rounds, always looking to be good stewards of what God has given.
But there is more to the day. In European medieval times, when the darkness signaled an increased time for the devil to roam among us bringing chaos and dissolution (his favorite sport since he can do nothing positive) the people knew they needed the protections of St. Michael and all angels even more than they had in the bright summer.
We still know evils in our midst, in fact, it feels maybe like evil and the wicked one are more active than ever. Martin Luther knew this and contended with the devil on a daily and personal basis. Luther, the opera by Kari Tikka, which you can see on DVD and Youtube, used a singer playing the devil in disguise for Luther’s enemies, Erasmus, and many others, (see the clip below.) A remarkably high tenor, he appeared slinking around Luther through the entire opera.
Tikka reminded us in his drama that this is the way the devil works. Not just openly where we can see him, but in many disguises lurking around us to do us damage, either through sly intents, or even naively, trying to do good, but actually unloosing evil around us.
For this we need St. Michael and all angels to hover over us and keep us safe. No wonder Luther’s morning and evening prayer ask for the Holy Angel to watch over us and keep us from the enemy. A good reminder morning and evening to pray for protection against the evil one whom Luther also tells us in his great Reformation hymn, one little word will fell. Praise be to Jesus!
This hymn I wrote for my series of hymns on the saints and festivals of the church year. St. Michael appears several times in Scripture and I have loved those appearances for my whole life. This one uses much of the imagery of Luther’s morning and evening prayers which Lutheran hymn writers from Paul Gerhardt on have used. James Clemens tune is a lovely way to sing it.
The hymn can be sung to many tunes because it is in Common Meter (CM) I will link to several possibilities below. Enjoy the text to My God How Wonderful in the anthem arranged by Oscar Overby and Rene Clausen, two beloved versions of the hymn.
Rene Clausen’s arrangement for choir
Concordia Chapel Choir
Another tune by the Boston Choral Ensemble
for a thrill, listen to this, the Grace Song from Tikka's opera Luther, Erasmus as the devil
EVENING PRAYER TO ST. MICHAEL
Michael, Angel of the light
Guardian angel through the night,
Come into my darkened room,
Take away my fear and gloom,
Slay the dragon in the dark
Bring your light and let it arc
Through my fears and make me brave.
Keep me strong, secure and safe,
Watch above my bed and keep
Guarding me while I’m asleep.
Cast my scary nightmares out,
Keep the one who roams about
Far away so I can sleep
Safely in your light and keep
All the children safe tonight
Wake them rested in the light
Ready for the brand new day.
Guard us as we go our way.
Copyright © 2015 Gracia Grindal