In the Book of Revelation, Michael leads a victorious angelic
army against the angelic forces led by Satan. The Catholic
church regards Michael as an archangel. In one of two prayers
read at the close of Mass in Joyce's time, it invoked him as a
defense against evil.
Chapter 12 of Revelation describes how a "great red dragon"
drew away "the third part of the stars of heaven" (3-4), i.e.
one third of the angelic host. "And there was a war in heaven:
Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the
dragon fought and his angels, / And prevailed not; neither was
their place found any more in heaven. / And the great dragon
was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan,
which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the
earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (7-9).
In Telemachus Stephen imagines "the vigilant angel
of the church" disarming and menacing heresiarchs. Later
in the same paragraph he indicates which angel he has in mind:
"a menace, a disarming and a worsting from those embattled
angels of the church, Michael's host, who defend
her ever in the hour of conflict with their lances and their
He is probably thinking of a prayer uttered after the Mass.
Thornton observes that Pope Leo XIII directed that celebrants
should conclude low mass with two prayers recited in the
vernacular of each country. Leo's papal directives of 1884 and
1886, Gifford notes, were affirmed in 1903 by Pope Pius X. The
first of Leo's prayers looks up to God, while the second
entreats Michael to defend humanity from the evil that has
been cast down to Hell.
In Lotus Eaters Bloom listens as a priest in St.
Andrew's (or "All Hallows") church reads "off a card" the
words, "O God, our refuge and our strength..." This is
the beginning of the first prayer, whose full text runs as
follows: "O God, our refuge and our strength, look down
in mercy on Thy people who cry to Thee; and the intercession
of the glorious and immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of
God, of Saint Joseph her spouse, of Thy blessed
apostles Peter and Paul, and of all the saints, in
mercy and goodness hear our prayers, and for the liberty and
exaltation of our holy mother the Church: through the same
Christ our Lord. Amen."
Bloom leans forward "to catch the words" and thinks, "I
remember slightly." In the internal monologue that follows, he
either remembers parts of the prayer, or ponders some of the
words that the priest goes on to recite, or both: "Glorious
and immaculate virgin. Joseph, her spouse. Peter and Paul."
His thoughts then detour into irreverent but appreciative speculations on the "Wonderful organization" of the Catholic mind-control enterprise, but soon the narrative once again focuses attention on his auditory experience of the service. The priest's second prayer, represented in its entirety in Lotus Eaters, entreats Michael to defend humanity from Satan: "Blessed Michael, archangel, defend us in the hour of conflict. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil (may God restrain him, we humbly pray!): and do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God thrust Satan down to hell and with him those other wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls."
The first prayer comes in for some mockery at the end of Oxen
of the Sun. One of the libidinous young men who have
spilled out of the maternity hospital (most likely it is
Stephen, since he is contemplating a trip to the red-light
district and is adept at perverting the doctrines of the
church) parodies the first phrase of the prayer: "O lust
our refuge and our strength."