When the wedding celebration was ended, Tobit called his son Tobias and said to him: “I will now declare the whole truth to you and will conceal nothing from you. Already I have declared it to you when I said, ‘It is good to conceal the secret of a king, but to reveal with due honor the works of God.’ So now when you and Sarah prayed, it was I who brought and read[f] the record of your prayer before the glory of the Lord, and likewise whenever you would bury the dead. And that time when you did not hesitate to get up and leave your dinner to go and bury the dead, I was sent to you to test you. And at the same time God sent me to heal you and Sarah your daughter-in-law. I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand ready and enter before the glory of the Lord.”
The two of them were shaken; they fell face down, for they were afraid. But he said to them, “Do not be afraid; peace be with you. Bless God forevermore. As for me, when I was with you, I was not acting on my own will, but by the will of God. Bless him each and every day; sing his praises. Although you were watching me, I really did not eat or drink anything—but what you saw was a vision. So now get up from the ground,[g] and acknowledge God. See, I am ascending to him who sent me. Write down all these things that have happened to you.” And he ascended. Then they stood up, and could see him no more. They kept blessing God and singing his praises, and they acknowledged God for these marvelous deeds of his, when an angel of God had appeared to them.Tobias 12:11-22
On the Feast of Archangels, next to Saint Michael and Gabriel, we also remember the Saint Raphael. The only biblical book that teaches us about him is a charming and sublime tale from the third or second century BC – the Book of Tobit in Old Testament.
It contains a story about an Israeli family of the Naphtali tribe, in captivity in Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. Tobit, the head of the family, was a wealthy, respected and pious man. During the persecution of the Jews, he buried the abandoned corpses of the murdered, with which he fell into disfavour with the Assyrian king. Moreover, the tragedy came into his life. He lost not only his property but also his sight. His wife, burdened with concern for supporting the family, treated him with reluctance. The sick Tobit sent his son, young Tobit, to Rages, to his friend Gabael, to bring the money deposited with him.
The second plot leads to Ekbatana, to the home of Raquel, whose daughter Sara lost seven husbands in turn as a result of the sinister action of the demon Asmodeus. Both figures: Tobias the father and Sarah, in their despair asked God to die (see Tb 3: 6. 13-15). In response to their prayer, Rafael is sent to heal both.
At the beginning of his mission he appears in human form, taking the common name of Azariah. He offers himself to young Tobit as the guide and companion for the road from Nineveh to Reya in Media. On the river Tigris Rafael saves him from a big fish and, after breaking it, instructs him to take bile, heart and liver out of it. Upon arriving in Ekbatana, he advises him to marry Sarah, Rauel’s daughter, whom he frees from the evil spirit. We find here a beautiful scene in which Tobit asks his future wife to pray together, asking God for deliverance and blessing.
After marriage, Tobit asks Rafael to go to Gabael to collect the debt. The Archangel advises young Tobit to go home, and upon his return, to smear his father’s eyes with the bile of the fish, so that he can regain his sight.
When, finally, the overjoyed father and son want generously reward St. Raphael the Archangel (known to them as Azariah) and show him sincere gratitude, the guest introduces himself to them as follows: I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand ready and enter before the glory of the Lord (Tb 12:15).
This is how the charming story of Saint Rafal and the happy family of Tobit ends. It can be included among the great didactic literature of the Middle East. That was where the cult of St. Raphael the Archangel developed and from there later came to the West. Quite vague beginnings of this western devotion date back to the time of Pope Sergius (687–701). In the fifteenth century, Rafael’s patronage over travelers is clearly visible. This cult developed in the following centuries. From 1969 he is remembered together with the Archangels Michael and Gabriel on September 29.
Let good God our Father always send us Saint Raphael – the patron of traveling and sick, that he may protect us from all adversities and lead us to the place where the Lord has appointed us.
Fr. Rafał Kamiński CSMA