Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The War in Heaven

So the Archangel Lucifer revealed his true nature openly at last (for the course of events leading up to this, click here). The loyal angel Abdiel tore through the night to the vault of Heaven, bearing the gravest of news, that one third of the angelic host had declared open rebellion against God’s mastery of the cosmos. Reaching the most high, Abdiel found that word of his grim tidings had already found the ears of God, as his eyes fell upon the angelic host arming itself as though for war. There was acclamation and shouts of joy at his return, as the loyal host had feared the worst. The angels led him forth with applause to the high, and from a golden cloud was heard a voice, the voice of God. God honours Abdiel for his loyalty in the face of the revolted multitude, before commanding his two remaining Archangels who remain loyal:

                                “ Go Michael of celestial armies prince,
                                  And thou in military prowess next,
                                  Gabriel, lead forth to battle these my sons
                                  Invincible, lead forth my armed saints
                                  By thousands and by millions ranged for fight... ”
                                             - GOD  GIVES HIS COMMAND

The sovereign voice of Heaven spoke, and condemned the traitorous legions to be cast into the fiery chaos of Hell. The clouds began to darken, and smoke rose in Heaven and the ethereal trumpets sounded in the sky, as the loyal host drew forth its battle line. Then, on the northern horizon, the fallen angels appeared, bent on winning the Mount of God, and setting the Morning Star upon his immortal throne. Spears bristled, helmets thronged and proud shields bore witness to the coming field of war. Eclipsing all, the Apostate himself rode forth “High in the midst exalted as a god... Idol of majesty divine”. Beholding the Fallen one resplendent in his vast chariot of fire, clad in adamant and gold, Abdiel could bare to stand idle no longer. Stepping forth from the loyal lines, the angel marched alone against Satan, meeting him before each host. Trying once more to dissuade him from his ways, Abdiel rebukes Satan “Fool, not to think how vain against th’ Omnipotent to rise in arms”. Satan strikes back in anger, disgusted that none before him will join him “I see that most through sloth had rather serve, Minist’ring Spirits, trained up in feast and song”. Despairing, Abdiel declares Satan a traitor to God, and condemns him to reign in Hell. Raising his blade, Abdiel lands the first blow. The Fallen Archangel raises his shield of gold, but is forced on to one knee. Shock spreads through the rebel ranks, though soon replaced with impious rage at the exultation in the angelic host. The Archangel Michael sounds his battle horn, blasting through the vastness of Heaven:

Battle is joined in Heaven
Engraving by Gustave Doré

“ Now storming fury rose,
  And clamour such as heard in Heav’n
  Was never; arms on armour clashing bray
  Horrible discord, and the madding wheels
  Of brazen chariots raged dire was the noise
  Of conflict... ”
           - THE WAR BEGINS

St. Michael the Archangel wounds Satan
Painting by Luca Giordano 
All Heaven rang and shook to the sound of the very first war. Millions marched on millions, each alone able to wield the power of the elements. The battle hung in the balance, and Satan “who that day prodigious power had shown, and met in arms no equal”, smote battalion after battalion of fighting Seraphim, finding at last the Archangel Michael within his grasp. Michael denounces Satan for disturbing the blessed peace of Heaven, and giving birth to misery. Satan swears to conquer the field of Heaven, Heaven which under the tyranny of God would only become true Hell. Words failing them both now, they circle each other and duel, their blazing shields as though suns in the sky. But the fiery sword of Michael was blessed by God, that no force may resist its edge. Michael breaks Satan’s blade, driving the point into the Traitor’s flesh, and Satan first knew pain. Nectarous humour spat forth from the wound, staining his armour, as Satan gnashed in pain and anger to find himself not matchless. Fallen angels rush to his side and bear him on their shields to his chariot to recover. Meanwhile, Moloch, Adramelech and Asmodai, all powerful among the rebel host, are conquered by the Archangels Uriel, Gabriel and Raphael, and the fallen armies fall back in rout.
Falling back to their encampment for the night, the rebel angels hold council. Nisroch, a former prince of Heaven, laments the sensation of pain, one never felt before that day, deplored as the worst of evils. Satan urges more violent battle, and in his malice, conceives a terrible new weapon – gunpowder. All looked on in admiration at the Traitor’s craft, and their hope revives. Satan curses mankind to one day discover his dread contraption:

                                        “ In future days, if malice should abound,
                                          Someone intent on mischief, or inspired
                                          With dev’lish machination might devise
                                          Like instrument to plague the sons of men... ”
                                                          - SATAN CURSES MANKIND

The next day, the Heavenly host watches as the rebel host advances, in slow but firm order. Zophiel warns his loyalist comrades to hold firm in face of Satan’s devilry, as an ominous feeling grips his side. At last, suddenly revealed, Satan was heard commanding aloud his fallen brethren to stand proud and visible, opening fire. Fire and smoke engulf the plain, and the ground trembles at the unholy barrage. Devastation abounds in the heavenly ranks, as they too discover the feeling of pain. Satan beheld their plight, delighting at his work, as Belial too joins his master in scoffing at this army of God. Hearing the taunts, the loyal Seraphim cast aside their weapons, and tear up the mountains themselves and hurl them upon the Fallen ones. Some are trapped, other cry out in pain, though they cannot die, yet Satan’s infernal machines are destroyed. Enraged, the betrayers imitate, and launch the very stuff of Heaven in defiance.

The Messiah casts the Fallen angels from Heaven
Engraving by Gustave Doré
Thus would Heaven have been ruined utterly, had God himself not decided to intervene, resigned to forgo His pledge of free will. Turning to his Son, he transfers upon him all his power and bids him know mastery of Heaven and Hell, and drive out the accursed angels from incorruptible Heaven. As the banner of the Messiah rises in the angelic ranks, the Son of God rides forth, bestriding His brilliant chariot, framed with the glory of Heaven, as thunder breaks the sky around, Victory seated eagle winged at His right hand. Ten thousand thousand saints follow in his wake, and bear down upon the Satanic forces. Their spirit restored and fired anew, the host of Heaven bore down upon the Traitor’s legions, “God’s indignation on these Godless poured”. Full of wrath bent on His enemies, the Messiah crashed into the impious ranks, all but the throne of God itself shaking. Grasping ten thousand bolts of flaming thunder, He blasts the rebel angels through the crystal walls of Heaven, hurling them and their dread commander headlong into a fall to the fiery pit of Hell:

The rebel host falls into the Pit of Hell
Engraving by Gustave Doré

“ Nine days they fell; fell Chaos roared,
  And felt tenfold confusion in their fall
  Through his wide anarchy, so huge a rout
  Encumbered him with ruin: Hell at last
  Yawning received them whole,
  And on them closed... ”

So the order of the world, and birth of good and of evil, was born. The blissful paradise and peace of Heaven lay tattered and broken, reeling in shock at the audacious revolution of the Morning Star. Once the greatest of all the Archangels of Heaven now lay in the Pit of Fire with his impious kin, defeated and broken. Or so it seemed. Though condemned to eternal damnation, however broken down they might be, they were immortal and could not die. Where steel and sword had failed, other designs now emerged in Satan's dark thoughts. Heaven was too strong to be sieged again, for now. The rule of God must be weakened first, he thought. A dark smile broke the Morning Star's face as he realised God's propensity for boundless compassion was both his greatest strength and his greatest weakness. Scheming anew, the fallen angels began to plan a new war to drive the Most High from the Heavenly Mount, though this time, Satan's target was no angel nor heavenly deity, but a new creation - Man.

Paradise Lost, a true classic of the English language, deserves to be read and its story told. Perhaps you too will be inspired by Milton's words, and pick up a copy. You will not regret it. Copies are easily found for a mere couple of pounds at Amazon:

United Kingdom

Penguin Classics:
Paradise Lost (Penguin Classics)
(Paradise Lost is written in English, so text choice is personal preference)

Oxford World's Classics:
Paradise Lost (Oxford World's Classics)
(Paradise Lost is written in English, so text choice is personal preference)

United States

Penguin Classics:
Paradise Lost (Penguin Classics)
(Paradise Lost is written in English, so text choice is personal preference)

Oxford World's Classics:
Paradise Lost (Oxford World's Classics)
(Paradise Lost is written in English, so text choice is personal preference)

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