On the hierarchy of angels
We celebrate this day in honor of Archangel Michael and all the heavenly host. Who is this Michael and why is he also called the “Archistrategus” (i.e. chief commander)? The Heavenly King has many more hosts than all earthly kings put together. In the Scriptures the Lord is called Sabaoth, because thousands of thousands serve Him, and hosts of hosts stand before Him. When Christ was born, a great multitude of celestial warriors appeared before the shepherds of Bethlehem. Archangel Michael had been placed as the supreme commander over all these bodiless hosts, which is rendered by the Greek word “Archistrategus.”
In the beginning all the bodiless spirits were good. But when some of them were overcome by pride, fell away from the Almighty Lord, and became evil, Archangel Michael said to the remaining spirits, who were incidentally much greater in number: “Let us attend! Let us stand well before our Creator, and let us not have any thoughts against God.” All the good angels obeyed Archangel Michael and hymned: holy, holy, holy, the Lord Sabaoth, and now they are eternally rapturous, remaining loyal to their Creator, so that now they cannot fall and become evil, not because of their essence, but by the grace of God, just as all the holy saints, sojourning in heaven after their repose, will remain holy for ages and can no longer sin.
All the angels whom Archangel Michael commands are of unequal rank, some receiving instructions from others and being sent into service to help us, sinners, and intercede on our behalf. When a certain Angel was leaving the Prophet Zacharias after conversing with him, another Angel appeared before the first one and commanded him to return to the prophet, in order to announce to him the future fate of Jerusalem. St. Gregory the Dialogist comments on this: “There is no doubt here that one Angel is sending out another; the ones who are being sent are obviously lower in rank than the ones who are sending them.” In like manner a certain Angel ordered another one to explain to the Prophet Daniel the vision which the prophet had seen, but could not understand.
From these sacred testimonies we clearly see that the angels have their own hierarchy, that some of them command, while others obey, that some instruct, while others take orders. If such order exists among the angels who cannot sin, is it not even more necessary for people, who stumble at every step? Our very nature demands that those who are more capable, more informed, and more experienced take up the burden of command, while all the others remain subordinate.
Finally, scriptural accounts of angels assure us that they are our true helpers. We are often engaged in many difficult labors and are threatened by danger, especially because the evil spirits attempt to hinder all our good deeds. But whoever has a pure conscience has no need to fear. For a good Christian there are more helpers in heaven than enemies in the realm of darkness. Whoever refrains from sin is close to his heavenly intercessor. The Angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear the Lord, and delivereth them (Psalm 34:7). O holy Archangel of God Michael with all the heavenly host, we pray thee, deliver us from our enemies! Amen.