“Angel of Mercy”: The Coptic Reception of the Image of Archangel Michael

Frangulyan Lilia R.

This article is devoted to the study of the ideas about Archangel Michael in the heritage of the Egyptian Christians on the basis of Coptic apocryphal, homiletical, hagiographic and magical texts. According to the tradition of the Coptic Church, the main feast in honor of the archangel is celebrated on November 21 and is associated with Michael being placed at the head of the heavenly forces after the fall of Satan. Special sacred attributes like the crown of joy, the mantle of light, the staff of truth emphasize the high status of this archangel. The analysis allows to identify different areas of activity in which the archistrategos is involved. Many of them are attested in different traditions, others are authentic for some of them. A comparison of the Coptic and Greek traditions makes it possible to define more clearly the peculiarities of the Egyptian tradition. According to Coptic texts, Michael heals martyrs during torture, supports bishops in exile, mitigates punishment for sinners in hell, helps ordinary Christians. From the flock, mercy toward the needy is expected. The wide veneration of the archangel by the Copts results from his special patronage over every Christian, as well as over Egypt in general. For three days and nights he specifically prays to God about the flood of the Nile. However, the veneration of Michael shows immoderation opposed by some Coptic writers.

Keywords: Archangel Michael, Coptic tradition, the Middle Ages, Greek tradition, investiture of Michael, flood of the Nile, veil in the Kingdom of Heaven, Michael’s force

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