The Archangel Gabriel

The name Gabriel seems to be composed of the Hebrew words, gebher: man, and \’el: God. It means, therefore, Man of God, or, Strength of God.

Practically all the missions and manifestations of this Archangel are closely connected with the coming of the Messiah. [Dan. 8: 16; 9:21] The most accurate prophecy regarding the time of the coming of Christ was made by Saint Gabriel through the prophet Daniel.

Immediately before the coming of Christ we meet the Archangel Gabriel in the temple of Jerusalem, announcing to Zachary the birth of a son, John the Baptist, the precursor of Christ: \”I am Gabriel, who stand before God, and am sent to speak to thee, and to bring thee these good tidings.\” [Luke 1:19 ]
The greatest and by far the most joyful message ever committed to an Angel from the beginning of time, was the one brought by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, announcing to her the Incarnation of the Word of God and the birth of Christ, the Savior of mankind.

The simplicity and Heavenly grandeur of this message, as related to us by her who was the only witness to Gabriel\’s good tidings, should be read in full in order to understand the sublime and delicate mission of Gabriel in the work of human redemption.

It is the first time that a prince of the court of Heaven greets an earthly child of God, a young woman, with a deference and respect a prince would show to his Queen. That Angel\’s flight to the earth marked the dawn of a new day, the beginning of a new covenant, the fulfillment of God\’s promises to His people: \”The Angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man, whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin\’s name was Mary.\”

Heavenly wisdom, tact, adroitness are evident in Gabriel\’s conversation with the Virgin Mary: \”The Angel being come in said unto her: Hail, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee.\”

The Vulgate adds: \”Blessed art thou among women,\” but this part of the greeting was probably added later, taking it from the words of St. Elizabeth, [Luke 1: 42] Gabriel must overcome Mary\’s reaction of surprise at both his appearance and especially at his \”manner of salutation.\” He has to prepare and dispose her pure virginal mind to the idea of maternity, and obtain her consent to become the mother of the Son of God. Gabriel nobly fulfills this task:

\”Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.\” He calls her by her own name in order to inspire confidence and to show affection and solicitude in her perturbation.

The great message is presented to her as a decree of the Most High God, a thing ordained in the eternal decree of the Incarnation, predicted centuries before by the prophets, and announced now to her as an event of imminent occurrence depending on her consent: \”Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever.

And of his kingdom there shall be no end. From these words of the Angel, it became very evident to Mary that her son was to be the promised Messiah, the Son of David. But she did not know how to reconcile her vow of virginity with the promised motherhood, hence her question: \”How shall this be done, because I know not man.\” Gabriel\’s reply shows that God wanted to respect Mary\’s vow of virginity and thus make her a mother without a human father, in a unique and miraculous way: \”The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee.\”

As a last word of encouragement and, at the same time, a most gratifying information, the Archangel reveals to Mary that her elderly and barren cousin Elizabeth is now an expectant mother in her sixth month of pregnancy. This final argument was offered in order \”to prove that nothing can be impossible with God.\”

Mary, unshaken in her profound humility, replied: \”Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.\” This reply was Mary\’s consent, a consent awaited by heaven and earth. The Archangel Gabriel departed from Mary to bring to all the Angels the glorious tidings of the Incarnation of the Word.

It seems very probable that Gabriel, the Archangel of the Annunciation, was given special charge of the Holy Family of Nazareth. He was probably the Angel who brought \”good tidings of great joy\” to the shepherds \”keeping night watches over their flock,\” the night that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem.

Gabriel\’s duties towards the Messiah did not come to an end with his birth, Gabriel was probably the Angel who \”appeared in sleep to Joseph,\” first in Bethlehem when he warned him saying: \”Arise, and take the child and his mother, and flee in. to Egypt, and be there until I shall tell you. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy him,\” [Matt. 2: 13] After the death of Herod the Angel appeared to Joseph again in Egypt to tell him to bring the child and his mother back into the land of Israel, Gabriel who is \”the strength of God\” must have been the Angel mentioned by Saint Luke, in his narrative of Christ\’s agony in the garden: \”And there appeared to him an Angel from Heaven, strengthening him.\” [Luke 22: 43]

It was fitting that the Angel who had witnessed the Savior\’s agony, and who had announced His\’ coming to both the Old and New Testament, should also be the first to announce to the world the Savior\’s Resurrection, His triumph over sin and death on Passover morning: \”An Angel of the Lord descended from Heaven, and coming rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. And his countenance was as lightning, and his raiment as snow,\” [Matt. 28: 2]

It is very probable that the Archangel Gabriel is meant when Saint Paul speaks of the second coming of Christ at the end of the world, when Saint Michael\’s struggle with Satan shall be over, and when all the physical and spiritual remedies of Saint Raphael are needed no more, It would seem that of the three Archangels known to us, Saint Gabriel is the one who with a mighty voice will call the dead to life and to judgment: \”The Lord Himself shall come down from Heaven with commandment, and with the voice of an Archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead who are in Christ shall rise first.\” [1 Thess. 4: 15]

The voice of the Archangel and the trumpet of God seem to be the same thing, having the purpose to convey the Divine command to the dead to rise again by the power of the Almighty God. The resurrection of \”the dead who are in Christ\” is the harvest, the gathering of the fruits of Redemption.

Gabriel, who helped along during the long day of man\’s life on earth, in preparing man for the work of Redemption by the Messiah, would seem to be the first among the Angels who are sent out to gather the elect from the four corners of the earth.

⚜️Gabriel, Archangel, the Divine herald. Christian tradition makes Gabriel the Archangel trumpeter of the Last Judgment (1 Thes. 4.16). In Islam, Gabriel revealed the Qur\’an to Muhammad, becoming the Angel of truth. In art and literature Gabriel is mainly treated as the Angel of the Annunciation. In the Annunciation he often carries a lily, properly the symbol of the Virgin. He is often represented on churches with trumpet raised and facing east, ready to proclaim the second coming of Christ.

\”Fortitudo Dei\”, one of the three archangels mentioned in the Bible

Only four appearances of Gabriel are recorded: In Daniel 8, he explains the vision of the horned ram as portending the destruction of the Persian Empire by the Macedonian Alexander the Great, after whose death the kingdom will be divided up among his generals, from one of whom will spring Antiochus Epiphanes. In chapter 9, after Daniel had prayed for Israel, we read that \”the man Gabriel . . . . flying swiftly touched me\” and he communicated to him the mysterious prophecy of the \”seventy weeks\” of years which should elapse before the coming of Christ. In chapter 10, it is not clear whether the angel is Gabriel or not, but at any rate we may apply to him the marvellous description in verses 5 and 6. In the New Testament he foretells to Zachary the birth of the Precursor, and to Mary that of the Saviour.

Thus he is throughout the angel of the Incarnation and of Consolation, and so in Christian tradition Gabriel is ever the angel of mercy while Michael is rather the angel of judgment. At the same time, even in the Bible, Gabriel is, in accordance with his name, the angel of the Power of God, and it is worth while noting the frequency with which such words as \”great\”, \”might\”, \”power\”, and \”strength\” occur in the passages referred to above. The Jews indeed seem to have dwelt particularly upon this feature in Gabriel\’s character, and he is regarded by them as the angel of judgment, while Michael is called the angel of mercy. Thus they attribute to Gabriel the destruction of Sodom and of the host of Sennacherib, though they also regard him as the angel who buried Moses, and as the man deputed to mark the figure Tau on the foreheads of the elect (Ezekiel 9:4). In later Jewish literature the names of angels were considered to have a peculiar efficacy, and the British Museum possesses some magic bowls inscribed with Hebrew, Aramaic, and Syriac incantations in which the names of Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel occur. These bowls were found at Hillah, the site of Babylon, and constitute an interesting relic of the Jewish captivity. In apocryphal Christian literature the same names occur, cf. Enoch, ix, and the Apocalypse of the Blessed Virgin.

As remarked above, Gabriel is mentioned only twice in the New Testament, but it is not unreasonable to suppose with Christian tradition that it is he who appeared to St. Joseph and to the shepherds, and also that it was he who \”strengthened\” Our Lord in the garden (cf. the Hymn for Lauds on 24 March). Gabriel is generally termed only an archangel, but the expression used by St. Raphael, \”I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord\” (Tobit 12:15) and St. Gabriel\’s own words, \”I am Gabriel, who stand before God\” (Luke 1:19), have led some to think that these angels must belong to the highest rank; but this is generally explained as referring to their rank as the highest of God\’s messengers, and not as placing them among the Seraphim and Cherubim (cf. St. Thomas, I.112.3; III.30.2 ad 4um).

The fleur-de-lis, also spelled fleur-de-lys (plural fleurs-de-lis or fleurs-de-lys),is a lily (in French, fleur and lis mean \'flower\' and \'lily\' respectively
For History regarding this symbol: See Fleur de lis post coming soon

Additional reading: St. Gabriel the Archangel. In The Catholic Encyclopedia