Ever wonder what an angel’s appearance might be like? Ever been curious how they come down to earth? What, I wonder is the sound of their voice? Angels are strange to describe, and all sorts of interpretations have been crafted in word and paint and wood and stone and clay. None is accurate, nor inaccurate, prove or disprove an angels existence, yet they do exist and make themselves known from time to time. They are present more than people ever admit. They are the most highs messenger and message. Heavenly.
Mary likely described the appearance of the Angel Gabriel to the Apostles (the apperance at the Annunciation) as they would have not yet been on the scene. I wonder what their reaction might have been. (?) I also wonder at which point in their journey with Mary the story was told to them. Was it during Christ’s ministry ,or was it after the Resurrection ,or after the Ascension, or after Pentecost? I wonder what questions they might have asked.
The Apostles world was much more in tune with angels than mine. They knew them and understood them intuitively, they didn’t try to rationalize or dissect them. They were part of life. The age of science had yet to descend upon them. Their dialogue was different.
The Angel Gabriel tells young Mary that the news she is to receive is a blessing. Hail Mary, a salute. The LORD is with you, a blessing. When Mary told the story, she must have told the Apostles the angel’s name, and those Apostles knew the meaning. Gabriel means “the LORD is with you.” Joseph was told the same. They knew what they have received was from God, and that it was good. They would have heard that message before. It is the message of creation. God creates, and saw that it was good. Certainly they must have heard the story of Genesis, did they recognize that the story was being repeated again?
I wonder how many times that angel has reappeared over the centuries. I wonder if anyone would recognize the message. I have no doubt that Mary was receptive to the voices of a variety of angels. Through prayer she learned to be receptive to them, and she kept an open ear to listen for their voices. She must have called out and listened for a response. Her eyes must have been open to discover their path. She was open to angels and their messages, she didn’t shut them out. She heard of them appearing to others both in scripture and as she journeyed throughout life. They were part of her world. She didn’t try to rationalize them or create or disprove them. She understood angels and accepted them, I wonder what would happen if we did the same?
(today mention an angel and people smirk, say you’re a witch and they will play your game)… . .
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will see heaven opened
and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Angels are important. They are the messengers of God. Without the angel Gabriel, would Mary have received the message that “the Lord is with you.” It is the angel Gabriel that tells Mary ” Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God” and it is the angel Gabriel who told Mary “and behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus” The Angel Gabriel said to Mary; The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”
Angels are important, and the messages they deliver are important. Angel Gabriel is the message of Gods strength. How often it was that Mary must have prayed for Gods strength, and how vigilant she must have been to receive Gods message and messenger. Through the messenger Gabriel Mary listens about of a child conceived by God, and that listening to Angels is important; if you don’t listen to the angel of God, then chances are you will fall prey to the messages of his opponent. Mary prayed to God and listened for Gods messenger, she awaited an Angel.
Gabriel is the angel “the strength of God”, an answer to prayers to Gods strength. Michael is the angel “who is like God”: Quis ut Deus! Michael battles Satin, the angel Michael is that of a warrior in search of an opponent, a protector and guardian. Prayers to Saint Michael the Archangel are for protection. Gabriel’s symbol is the horn delivering Gods message to Gods people, Michael’s is the sword for the defense of those people from the devil Satin.
The Angel Raphael is the message of Gods healing, or the prayer “God, please heal” and the message “God has healed.” From John, Chapter 5: “And an angel of the Lord descended at certain times into the pond and the water was moved. And he that went down first into the pond after the motion of the water was made whole of whatsoever infirmity he lay under.” The angel is Raphael. As simply human, people make mistakes. As people in battle with a devil enemy, people fall in battle and are wounded. We are subject to human frailties, disobedient, sinful, and easily deceived; we are victims of our human nature. It is the angel Raphael who delivers the message of Gods healing.
Angels are important; they are the messengers of Gods strength, protection, and healing. Throughout the bible, both old and new testament, are encounters with Angels. In the ancient world they were attentive to the works of angels. Over time though the image of angels has shifted through art and legend, cultural influences, and folklore that the theology of Angels can easily be obscured. That is sad because if the role of an angel becomes lost, there is always the danger that the message they are to deliver also might be lost; and the messages delivered by these messengers, Angels, are supremely important.
Today the Christmas celebration continues with the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph; and it is fitting that the Church celebrates this family. Christ of course is the focus of the Christmas celebration, but should not Mary’s and Joseph’s part not also be acknowledged? It was Mary that was obedient to the angel of God, and Joseph too listened to that angel. It was Joseph who led the Holy Family to Bethlehem, it was he who fled from Herod’s treachery. It was Mary who carried the Child, gave birth to the Savior, who nurtured and fed him. It was those parents that nurtured and guided the Christ Child in his infancy and youth. His family, like all families play a crucial role in life, and the Church does right by celebrating them. Families are the most basic structural element of society, with all members playing an important part. This feast day celebrates, not only the Holy Family, but all families.
Today though, there also should be that emphasis on this one particular Family, if only to examine it in more detail. What are some of the unique characteristics of this family, what can be learned from them? To start with Mary, she is that Mother of God that is always obedient to God. That is evident in the Annunciation when she receives the message from an angel. Angels too are an important part of the Holy Family, they are constantly listening to angels. What makes this family Holy is that relationship with their God. This family can be described particular by its attentiveness to angels. That attentiveness is not only limited to Mary and Joseph, but extends to their relatives Elizabeth and Zechariah.
Another part of this family is their relationship to their Son. From His conception, Jesus family recognize Him as special. They recognize that special and important role Jesus will play in salvation. Interesting is that this role is not only recognized by Mary and Joseph, but extends throughout their family. It is Elizabeth that says “Blessed art though, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” Elizabeth recognizes Jesus as her salvation even before he was born. Her child John the Baptist also recognizes Jesus as Lord; he leaps in Elizabeth womb. Think too about those shepherds that listen to the angels again and go to pay homage to the newborn savior.Might they too be considered members of a now extended family? Then of course are those at the temple Simeon and Anna. Simeon proclaims:
Now, Master, You can dismiss your servant in peace;
You have fulfilled Your word.
For my eyes have witnessed Your saving deed displayed for all the peoples to see:
A revealing light to the Gentiles The glory of Your people Israel. [Lk. 2:29-32]
Both he and Anna, like Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zechariah, and those shepherds recognize the Christ Child as Gods salvation. That holy family grows as many do, that Holy Family is after all the nucleus of Christianity; and that is something worth celebrating!
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.