The Fallen Angels

In the beginning God created all angels as benevolent celestial beings. They were created with a free will and to choose to follow God's will or like Adam decide to follow their own will and oppose what God wanted. Lucifer was one of those angels that rebelled and misused the freedom that God had given him.

Saint John of Damascus tells us the following:

"Lucifer was not made wicked in nature but was good, and made for good ends, and received from his Creator no trace whatever of evil in himself. But he did not sustain the brightness and the honor which the Creator had bestowed on him. Of his free choice, he was changed from what was in harmony to what was at variance with his nature, and became roused against God; thus, he was the first to depart from good and become evil. For evil is nothing else that absence of goodness, just as darkness also is the absence of light. For goodness is the light of the mind, and, similarly, evil is the darkness of the mind....Now along with him an innumerable host of angels, subject to him, were torn away, followed him, and shared in his fall. therefore, being of the same nature as the angels, they became wicked, turning away at their own free choice from good to evil."

Lucifer was filled with pride and boasted that he would establish his throne on the clouds of heaven and become equal to God. Esaias writes, "How has Lucifer, that rose in the morning, fall from heaven! He that sent orders to all the nations is crushed to the earth. But thou saidst in thy heart, 'I will go up to heaven, I will set my throne above the stars of heaven; I will sit on a lofty mount, on the lofty mountains toward the north.' But no thou shalt go down to Hades, even to the foundations of the earth (Is 14:12-15)." Lucifer fell from glory as the Lord reminds us in the Gospel, "I was beholding Satan as lightning having fallen out of the heaven (Lk 10:18)." All the angels that were subject to him also rebelled against God and followed their leader Lucifer. They then assumed a black and dismal appearance instead of their previous radiance and became demons.

This is described in the book of Revelation with the following details: "There occurred a war in the heavens. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought against them. However they did not prevail, and there was no room for them in heaven. The great dragon was cast down, that ancient snake, known as devil and satan … and his angels were also cast down with him" (Revelation 12:7-9). Peter writes that the final judgment is still due these fallen angels. "Those angels who kept not their first place, but deserted their own habitation, He hath kept in everlasting bodes under darkness until the judgment of the great day (Jude 1:6)"

Saint Dionysus the Areopgite says, "If they are called evil, it is not in respect of their being, since they own their origin to the Good and were the recipients of a good being, but rather because being is lacking to them by virtue of the inability, as Scripture puts it, 'to keep their first place.' For I ask you, in what way are the demons evil except in the fact that they have put an end to the habit and the activity of divine good things? Their evil consists in the lack of angelic virtues!...If they are declared evil, the reason lies in them, their move away from what befits them....What has happened to them is that they have fallen away from the complete goodness granted to them....The are called evil because of the deprivation, the abandonment, the rejection of the virtues which are appropriate to them."

Archangel Michael seeing the downfall, knew the reason. With obedience and loyalty of a dutiful servant to God, he protected his own glory as well as the glory of the other angelic powers. He was appointed by God as chief among the angelic powers. He summoned the angelic powers uniting them proclaiming, "Let us attend! Let us stand well! Let us stand with fear!". He praised and exalted God, the King of the universe, and chanted along with the other angelic power the divine hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabaoth, heaven and earth are full of Thy glory." These words he issued as a rallying cry for those who had not rebelled against God are words we hear in every Divine Liturgy. 

We celebrate this day called the Synaxis of the Angels on November 8th.

John of Damascus tells us, "Of the future both the angels of God and the demons are alike ignorant; yet they make predictions. God reveals the future to angels and commands them to prophesy, and so what they say comes to pass. But the demons also make predictions, sometimes because they see what is happening at a distance,and sometimes merely making guesses. Hence much of what they say is false, and they should not be believed, even although they do often, in the way we have said, tell what is true; besides, they know the Scriptures.

"All wickedness, then, and all impure passions are the work of their mind. But while the liberty to attack man has been granted to them, they have not the strength to overmaster anyone; for we have it in our power to receive or not to receive the attack. thus, there has been prepared for the devil and his demons, and those who follow him, fire unquenchable and everlasting punishment.

"Not further, than what in the case of man is death, is a fall in the case of angels. For after the fall there is no possibility of repentance for them, just as after death there is for men no repentance."

The battle between good and evil began even before the creation of the world and will continue until the day of the final Judgment. Actually the battle in heaven is finished, with the complete defeat of evil. Now the site of the battle has been transferred into the world, more precisely into our minds and hearts. As we shall see, the good angels, and in particular our Guardian Angels, actively help us in our battle against evil.

Adapted from The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church - November, Trans from Greek by Holy Apostles Convent, Buena Vista, Co.

An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book II,Chapter IV, by Saint John of Damascus

Also see Missionary Leaflet 14E, Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission