Theologians are of the opinion that St Michael surpasses in glory and power all other angels in Heaven and possesses in the highest and most perfect degree the zeal and the love peculiar to the highest Seraphim.
The title “Archangel” does not, in accord with the words of St Peter and St Jude Thaddeus, signify that St Michael belongs to the choir of angels designated by that name, but that he is an angel of superior rank. The Church also invokes him as the prince of the angels, who has supreme command over all the heavenly hierarchies.
St Michael has supreme command over all the heavenly hierarchies
This position of honour was merited by St Michael in the battle which he waged against Lucifer and the rebellious angels before the creation of the world. When God created the angels as magnificent spirits of light and love, which in countless hosts surround His heavenly throne, He bestowed upon them most eminent gifts of nature and grace.
But before admitting them to the unveiled vision of His glory in Heaven, He placed them under probation, just as later He subjected mankind to a trial of obedience in the persons of Adam and Eve.
The nature of the trial is not known with certainty. Learned and saintly theologians hold that the Heavenly Father revealed to the angels the future Incarnation of His Divine Son, whom they were to adore in His Sacred Humanity. At the same time He revealed to them the surpassing dignity and glory of Mary, whom, as the Mother of God, they were to venerate as their Queen.
The angels were subjected to a trial
Lucifer, one of the most glorious and exalted princes of the heavenly court, dazzled by the splendour of his own gifts, rebelled at the thought that human nature should be preferred to his own angelic nature. He would not acknowledge that a woman, inferior to him in nature, should at some future time be made his Queen, and that the seed of that woman should be preferred to himself for the honour of the hypostatic union. Desiring for himself the prerogatives of the God-Man, he raised his great battle-cry of rebellion: “I will be like the Most High!” (Is 14:14).
Who is like unto God?
Some have held that, in their pride, a third of the angels took up Lucifer’s rebellious cry. At the same instant another great Archangel, equal in beauty and grace to the proud Lucifer, prostrated himself before the throne of God. With an act of profound adoration, he opposed the cry of the rebellious angels with his own battle-cry of love and loyalty: “Mi-cha-el” – “Who is like unto God?”
The fearlessness and fidelity of this mighty champion roused the faithful angels, who rallied to his standard, repeating with one accord: “Who is like unto God?”
The tremendous battle
Then followed that tremendous battle between the good and the bad angels which St John describes in the Apocalypse:
And there was a great battle in Heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels: And they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world (Apoc. 12:7:9).
Thus, St Michael and his faithful followers won a glorious victory. With the swiftness of lightning, Lucifer and his companions were transformed into hideous demons and cast into the abyss of eternal torment and darkness, which God created for them.
The angels most willingly recognise St Michael’s supremacy
In reward for his zeal and fidelity, the holy Archangel Michael was made prince and commander-in-chief of all the heavenly legions. The angels most willingly and gratefully recognise his supremacy, for after God, they owe to him their perseverance in grace and their eternal happiness.
With loving submission they receive from him their various offices. They are attentive to his slightest wish, seeing in his commands and regulations the will of God, the sovereign Lord and King of all. Thus St Michael receives highest honour among the angels in the heavenly court.
St Michael was the first to announce the Saviour to the angelic choirs
On our part, also, he deserves highest honour among the angels. Since he was the first to recognise and adore the Word-made-flesh, and the first to be illumined by His grace, he is the “first Christian”. He is also the “first Apostle,” because he was the first to announce the Saviour to the angelic choirs. He is the “first lieutenant” of Jesus Christ, for he was the first to lead the faithful servants of God to victory against the enemy.
– From: ‘Neath St Michael’s Shield, Fifth Edition, 1962