ANGELS AND THEIR NAMES
The Name eLOHIM
The Name "Sons of God" [BeNEY eLOHIM]
The Name "Messenger" [MALeAKH]
The Name "Mediators" [MELlS]
The Names "Ministers" [MeSARETH], and "Servants" ['EBHEdH]
The Name "Watcher" ['IR]
The Name "Host" or "Army" [SABHA]
The Name "Holy" or "Holy Ones" [QADHOS]
The Three Archangels
The Archangel Michael
The Archangel Gabriel
The Archangel Raphael
The Common Names
WHETHER or not every Angel has a proper name whereby he is distinguished from other Heavenly spirits of the same Order or Choir we do not know. Each name that Scripture and Tradition have given to individual Angels and Angelic Choirs, reflects some of the particular duties assigned to them, either in the Court of Heaven or on their missions to men here on earth. Such names are indicative of Angelic activity rather than of Angelic nature, but because operation is always in proportion to nature some aspect of the Angelic nature is revealed by such names, in a manner comprehensible to man. If they actually have proper names that fully express their nature, such names must be too wonderful for mortal man to understand. This is probably the reason why the Angel who appeared to Samson's mother, very carefully evaded her curious questioning in this regard . . . A man of God came to me, having the countenance of an Angel, very awful. And when I asked him who he was, and whence he came, and by what name he was called, he would not tell me." [Judg. 13: 6] When the same Angel appeared to Samson's father, he too pressed the Heavenly spirit for his name: "What is thy name, that, if thy word shall come to pass, we may honor thee. And he answered him: Why askest thou my name, which is wonderful ?" [Ibid. 17 f.]
The patriarch Jacob had no more success with the Angel who wrestled with him: "Jacob asked him: Tell me by what name art thou called? He answered: Why dost thou ask my name? And he blessed him in the same place." [Gen. 32: 29] In both these instances the Angel does not deny the fact that he has a name, by which other Angels call him in Heaven, but that name is too wonderful for man to hear. The name of a purely spiritual nature must be expressed by such exalted concepts as to be entirely ineffable in human terms. We believe that the danger of idolatry, which was very close in those days, was an added reason for the Angel not to give any name. The Holy Angels were always very careful in preventing man from offering sacrifices and Divine worship to them. Manue, Samson's father, was about to make a sort of sacrificial offering to the Angel who had just spoken to him, when the Angel stopped him, saying: "If thou press me, I will not eat of thy bread, but if thou wilt offer a holocaust, offer it to the Lord." [Judg. 13: 16] Saint John the Evangelist was prevented from adoring an Angel: "And I, John, who have heard and seen these things. And, after I had heard and seen, I fell down to adore before the feet of the Angel who showed me these things, and he said to me: See thou do it not, for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them that keep the words of the prophecy of this book. Adore God." [Apoc. 22: 8f.] It is a very consoling thought to know that we are fellow servants of the Angels, if we serve God faithfully, like the prophets and the Apostles.
The Name eLOHIM
Because of the superior attributes of splendor, beauty, wisdom, and power manifested by the Angels on their various apparitions to man, it was natural that at the very beginning of revelation, man would regard the Angels as Divine beings. As a matter of fact, one of their names, in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, is Elohim, the very same name which was given to God, to Godlike beings, and to false gods. This name, in the sense of Heavenly spirits, is found in several passages in the book of Psalms: "Let them be all confounded that adore graven things, and that glory in their idols. Adore Him, all you is Angels" [Ps. 96: 7] [elohim-----the gods]. Again, "I will sing praise to thee in the sight of the Angels" [Ps. 137: 1] [elohim-----the gods]. In these and similar passages the probable translation is, God, or gods, but from the context it appears that, more probably, Angels are meant here by elohim. This is exactly how the Vulgate and other ancient versions, like the Septuagint, understood it. When the Angels are called gods, the word must be taken in a sense similar to that whereby Saints and prophets are called gods: "I have said: You are gods, and all of you the sons of the most High." [Ps. 81: 6] Our Divine Savior fully approves this expression, in the sense of a just man and a Saint being a partaker of the Divine nature, adding that "the scripture cannot be broken," [John 10: 34f.] The parallelism of the second part: "and all of you the sons of the most High," dearly explains the meaning of the term "gods," in the first part, namely, gods as adoptive sons of God; gods not by nature but by grace and adoption.
The Name "Sons of God" [BeNEY eLOHIM]
This name, like the preceding one, is applied to both Angels and just men. Because or the sanctifying grace which is in them, they are deified and children of God by adoption. This supernatural, Divine element of sanctifying grace joins together Angels and just men into one family, God's family, making them all children of the same Father. The fellowship of grace and glory makes Angels and Saints Sons of God, and, therefore, brethren according to grace, if not according to nature.
The Name "Messenger" [MALeAKH]
This is the most
name given to all the Heavenly spirits. The title is obviously taken
the most frequent and best known duty of the Angels, that of acting as
God's messengers and legates to men. As explained before, this title is
used both as a generic and a specific appellative; first, it refers to
all the Heavenly spirits of any rank or Choir, secondly, it is the
name of the spirits of the last Choir in the last
The Name "Mediators" [MELlS]
This and the following titles, common to all the Angels, are descriptive rather than nominal, and they are found only in the Scripture of the Old Testament. An example of this title is found in the book of Job: "If there shall be an Angel [a mediator] speaking for him, one among thousands, to declare man's uprightness." [ Job 33: 23]
The good Angels,
our guardian Angels, are our mediators, those who speak for us before
Divine throne of God. The Archangel Raphael was such a mediator for old
Tobias, as it appears from his own words: "When thou didst pray with
and didst bury the dead, and didst leave thy dinner, and hide the dead
by day in thy house, and bury them at night, I offered thy prayer to
Lord." [Tob. 12: 12] This offering of man's prayers and good deeds to
Lord is an act of mediation. Before the Savior's Ascension, before the
gates of Heaven were opened to redeemed mankind, the Holy Angels were
only mediators and intercessors in Heaven, Their mediation did not
after our Redemption by Christ, when the Queen of Heaven and all the
became our intercessors in union with Christ our Divine Mediator. On
contrary, the Angelic mediation became more incessant and efficacious
of the example of the Son of God.
In the sacred liturgy of the Mass, the Church expresses this idea of Angelic mediation in the following beautiful prayer:
"We humbly beseech Thee, Almighty God, bid these our offerings to be brought by the hands of Thy holy Angel unto Thy altar above, before the face of Thy Divine majesty." [Roman Missal: Canon: Supplices te rogamus . . .]
All this is in
with Saint John's apocalyptic vision: "Another Angel came, and stood
the altar, having a golden censer, and there was given to him much
that he should offer of the prayers of all the Saints upon the golden
which is before the throne of God. And the smoke of the incense of the
prayers of the Saints ascended up before God from the hand of the
[Apoc. 8: 3 f.] These Angels prove themselves to be man's most interested and sincere friends.
The Names "Ministers" [MeSARETH], and "Servants" ['EBHEdH]
Doing always the will of God and ministering to Him is the main duty of the Angels, hence one would expect that the Scripture occasionally call them Ministers and Servants of the Lord. This is the case especially in poetic books, as for example:
"Bless the Lord, all ye His hosts: you ministers of His that do His will." [Ps. 102: 21] "Behold in His servants He puts no trust, and in His Angels he finds folly." [Job 4: 18] According to the law of poetical parallelism, here the terms hosts and ministers, servants and Angels are synonyms. Under the aspect of ministers and servants the Angels offer a luminous example to man, and particularly to priests as ministers of the Church and dispensers of the mysteries of God. The priest, according to Saint Paul, is "a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord hath pitched, and not man." [Heb. 8: 2]
The Name "Watcher" ['IR]
It is only in the book of Daniel that we meet this appellative for the Angels. The watcher is always called a holy one in these passages. "I saw in the vision of my head upon my bed: and behold a watcher and a holy one came down from Heaven." [Dan. 4: 10] "And whereas the king saw a watcher and a holy one come down from Heaven, and say: Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth."
[Ibid. 20] The name "watcher," is very appropriate, for the Heavenly spirits never sleep or rest but are ever vigilant and ready to carry out God's commands while beholding the life-giving splendor of His glory.
The Name "Host" or "Army" [SABHA]
The term Host, as
to Angels, is usually found in its plural form SeBHA'OTH, and in
with the word Heaven, as in the following passage: "I saw the Lord
on His throne, and all the army [host] of Heaven standing by Him on the
right hand, and on the left." [II Par. 18: 18] A direct parallelism
Angels and Hosts is manifest in the following verse: "Praise ye Him,
His Angels: praise ye Him, all His hosts."
[Ps. 148: 2] In these and similar passages the terms Hosts, Army, do not necessarily give the idea of a warlike preparation for military strife, they rather imply a well-ordered and well-organized multitude of Heavenly spirits, most powerful and ever ready to obey God, the King of Heaven, the Lord of Hosts.
The Name "Holy" or "Holy Ones" [QADHOS]
The qualification of
sanctity expressed by the name Holy is based upon the supernatural and
blessed life of the Angels in Heaven. Sanctified by the infusion of
grace from the beginning of their creation, perfected in it by their
cooperation and their perseverance during the period of their
the Holy Angels are now confirmed in grace and they enjoy the
Beatific Vision of God. They are truly Saints, sons of God, ministers
the Court of Heaven, members of God's household. They are the assembly
of the Saints whereof the inspired Psalmist sings: "The heavens shall
thy wonders, O Lord, and thy truth in the assembly of the Saints . . .
God Who is glorified in the assembly of the Saints, great and terrible
above all them that are about Him." [Ps. 88: 6, 8] "The Lord my God
come, and all the Saints with Him."
[Zach. 14: 5] The prophet Daniel refers to Angels when in his vision he hears Saints talking to one another: "And I heard one of the Saints speaking, and one Saint said to another, I know not to whom that was speaking." [Dan. 8: 13. Another name, common to all the Angels, is the word "spirit" (RUACH), especially in its plural form (Apoc. 1: 4 and 4: 5). But because the word applies more commonly to evil and unclean spirits and to any breath of life and to winds, we do not regard it.]
of God is revealed to His Angels in the glory of Heaven; they almost
it, and they reflect it in themselves according to their capacity. That
sanctity is reflected in all their apparitions to men here on earth.
The Three Archangels
THE Sacred Scriptures have revealed the proper names of only three Angels, all of whom belong to the Choir of the Archangels. The names are well known to all, namely: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael. Ancient apocryphal literature of the Old Testament contains several other names of Archangels in addition to the three just mentioned. Like the sources themselves, these other names are spurious. Names like Uriel, Raguel, Sariel, and Jeremiel are not found in the canonical books of Sacred Scripture, but in the apocryphal book of Enoch, fourth book of Esdras, and in rabbinical literature. The Church does not permit proper names of Angels that are not found in the canonical books of the Bible. All such names that were taken from apocryphal writings were rejected under Pope Zachary, in 745. There must have been danger of serious abuses in this regard during that century, because a similar step was taken in a synod held at Aix-Ia-Chapelle in 789.
The Archangel Michael
Michael from the Hebrew Mikha'el, meaning: Who is as God? His name is a battle cry; both shield and weapon in the struggle, and an eternal trophy of victory. The popularity of this name in the Old Testament appears from the fact that no less than ten persons bearing the name of Michael are mentioned in the sacred books, like: "Sthur the son of Michael." [Num. 13: 14] A similar name is found also in the Accadian language with a meaning identical to that of Michael; the Accadian equivalent is Mannu-ki-ili.
As the proper name of one of the great Archangels, the word Michael appears for the first time in the book of the prophet Daniel, where he is called: "Michael, one of the chief princes," [Dan. 10: 13] and again: "At that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people." [Dan. 12: 1]
The name "Archangel" is given only to Saint Michael, even though sacred tradition and the liturgy of the Church attribute the same title to Saint Gabriel and Saint Raphael: "When Michael, the Archangel, disputing with the devil, contended about the body of Moses, he durst not bring against him the judgment of railing speech, but said: The Lord command thee." [Jude 1: 9] In spite of such an explicit testimony of the Scripture, a few writers have maintained that Saint Michael, because of his exalted position among the Angels, must belong to a much higher order, perhaps to that of the Seraphim, rather than to the order of Archangels. We do not believe that this opinion can be defended. The exalted position occupied by Saint Michael can be explained by the fact that, even though he belongs to a relatively low order by nature, his outstanding zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of his fellow Angels, at the time of Satan's rebellion, merited him such glory and power as to equal and even to excel through grace such celestial spirits that belong to a much higher Choir by nature. If we remember, the Angels lived through a period of probation during which they could merit each according to his works. The great variety of merit explains, in addition to other natural elements, the great difference in their glory and in their power.
Father Joseph Husslein points out that the Church calls Saint Michael "Prince of the Heavenly hosts"-----Princeps militiae caelestis, adding further: "The fact that the three Angels I have just mentioned are spoken of as Archangels need not imply more than that they were entrusted with extraordinary missions. Michael is the only one to whom the Scriptures apply this title, but there is good reason for the opinion that he may be the very highest of all the Angels." [The Spirit World About Us, p. 117.] Saint Michael is indeed a prince of the Heavenly hosts, but this is sufficiently explained by the power granted him by God and not necessarily by superiority of nature. We believe that a power of that sort would not be conferred upon Seraphim and Cherubim who are the living throne of God, but rather upon those who belong to the order of ministering spirits, namely Principalities, Archangels, and Angels, who "are sent to minister for them, who shall receive the inheritance of salvation." [Hebr. 1: 14]
According to Gustav F. Oehler, "this name: Michael-----Who is as God?-----of the prince of the Angels does not imply merely a humble acknowledgment on the part of the Angel, but it is rather an actual assertion concerning the Angel himself. The name thus expresses the irresistibility of him to whom God gives the power to execute His behests." [Theology of the Old Testament, p. 446.]
Saint Michael has always been the warrior Angel, fighting first Satan and his demons from the beginning, then, in the course of time, all the enemies of God's own people. He is "the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people." As of old, so today, Saint Michael is the great defender of the Church of Christ on earth.
The now famous problem, "The Angel of the Lord," Malakh Yahweh, that has engaged the attention of Scripture scholars for decades, may perhaps be solved by admitting that this mysterious Angel of the Lord [who in various books of the Old Testament is represented as acting in the name of God Himself, and is often received and honored as God would], is none other than the Archangel Saint Michael, God's own legate to His people. The words of the prophet Daniel seem to insinuate this: "None is my helper in all these things, but Michael your prince." [Dan. 10: 21] At that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people." [Dan. 12: 1] A legate can speak and act in the name and by the authority of the supreme ruler who sent him and whom he represents. This seems to have been Saint Michael's position with the children of Israel; he was both the Heavenly prince representing the King of Heaven and the Heavenly protector of God's own people against both human and diabolical enemies.
Saint Michael who had defended and protected God's children in the spirit world, was to extend the same protection to the human children of God here on earth. Surrounded and threatened as they were by hostile pagan nations, over which Satan had established his tyrannical rule, Saint Michael could not remain, indifferent to this new form of seduction and rebellion introduced by his archenemy among the children of men. As long as Satan persists in his attacks, the Heavenly champion, the prince of the Heavenly hosts will continue to shatter his plans with the war cry of old: "Who is as God?" In the Old Testament, therefore, Saint Michael is the Angel par excellence, the Angel of the Lord, the national Guardian Angel of the Israelites.
At times, especially
in the book of Exodus, this "Angel of the Lord" is called simply, the
as for example in this passage, "And the Lord went before them to show
the way by day in a pillar of a cloud, and by night in a pillar of
that he might be the guide of their journey at both times." ." [Exod.
21] He who is called "the Lord" in this passage, is mentioned
in the same capacity as the "Angel of God" in the following passage:
the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, leaving the
stood behind, between the Egyptian camp and the camp of Israel, and it
was a dark cloud, and enlightening the night
[Exod. 14: 19 f.] This very clever military maneuver clearly shows the strategy of the Prince of heavenly hosts.
As the national Guardian Angel of the Israelites, and God's special legate to His people, Saint Michael is introduced with words which reveal the great Divine love and solicitude of the Lord, together with man's duties towards Guardian Angels in general: "Behold I will send My Angel who shall go before thee, and keep thee in thy journey, and bring thee into the place that I have prepared. Take notice of him, and hear his voice, and do not think him one to be contemned, for he will not forgive when thou hast sinned, and My name is in him. But if thou wilt hear his voice, and do all that I speak, I will be an enemy to thine enemies, and will afflict them that afflict thee." [Exod. 23: 20-22]
The other opinion which holds that the expression the "Angel of the Lord" is not really an Angel, or Saint Michael, but the Word of God [the Logos] God Himself, is now regarded as a mere conjecture and a rather obsolete opinion. [W. G. Heidt, Angelology of the Old Testament, p. 96 f.]
Several apparitions of the Archangel Michael have been reported during the Christian centuries. One of the most outstanding of all such apparitions is the one which is commemorated in the universal Church on May 8. The Archangel Saint Michael appeared on Mount Gargano in Apulia, South Italy, in the days of Pope Gelasius [492-496]. A shrine was erected in the cave of the apparition and it became the goal of devout pilgrimages in subsequent centuries. Another feast in honor of Saint Michael the Archangel, on September 29, formerly known as Michaelmas, is the anniversary of the Dedication of the former basilica of Saint Michael and all the Angels on the Salarian Way in Rome. An apparition, similar to that of Mount Gargano, was honored in the great shrine called Michaelion, near Constantinople, according to the historian Sozomenus, who wrote about the middle of the fifth century, a century of great devotion to the Holy Angels in general and to Saint Michael in particular. [Ecclesiastical History, Book II, Ch. III]
In the liturgy of the Mass Saint Michael is regarded as the Angel who leads the souls of the faithful departed to Heaven: "Deliver them from the lion's mouth, that Hell engulf them not, that they fall not into darkness; but let Michael, the holy standard-bearer, bring them into the holy light." [The Mass for the Dead, Offertory]
Saint Michael is invoked in a particular manner in the prayers recited at the foot of the altar after Mass: "Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, etc." This particular prayer is a condensed form of the general exorcism against Satan and all the evil spirits, published by Pope Leo XIII.
As long as God's children are exposed to the attacks of Satan in this world, Saint Michael's battle cry: "Who is like God?" will continue to scare and shatter all the forces of evil, and his powerful intervention in the struggle in behalf of the children of God will never cease.
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 Messias. [Dan. 8: 16 ff; 9:21 ff.] The most accurate prophecy regarding the time of the coming of Christ was made by Saint Gabriel through the prophet Daniel. [Ibid. 26]
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 f.]
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." [Ibid. 26 f.]
tact, adroitness are evident in Gabriel's conversation with the Virgin
Mary: "The Angel being come in said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the
Lord is with thee." [Ibid. 28. The Vulgate adds: "Blessed art
among women," but this part of the greeting was probably added later,
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
"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
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." [Ibid. 31-33.] From these words of the Angel, it became very evident to Mary that her son was to be the promised Messias, 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." [Ibid. 35]
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." [Ibid. 36] Mary, unshaken in her profound humility, replied: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word." [Ibid. 38] 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. We notice, on this occasion, the same procedure of first assuaging fear and surprise, as had been the case at Mary's Annunciation by Gabriel: "Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy . . . This day is born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David." Who else could be the messenger of such good tidings, but he who had promised them through the prophet Daniel, and announced them to Mary, Gabriel the Archangel?
Having delivered the joyful message, the Archangel is joined suddenly by a vast multitude of the Heavenly hosts, singing for the first time in this valley of tears the canticle of the celestial Sion, It was fitting that the Archangel of Redemption should in. tone the canticle of human redemption: "Suddenly there was with the Angel a multitude of the Heavenly army, praising God, and saying: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will." [Ibid. 2: 12 ff.]
Gabriel's duties towards the Messias 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 Easter 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 Messias, would seem to be the first among the Angels who are sent out to gather the elect from the four corners of the earth.
The Archangel Raphael
Raphael, from the Hebrew rapha': to heal, and 'el: God, means "God heals," or the "Divine healer."
The history of Tobias, father and son, contains the grandest angelophany of the whole Bible, and it all revolves around the manifestation of the Archangel Raphael under the assumed name and form of a beautiful young man named Azarias. At the very end of his long mission the Archangel revealed his own identity and his real name, together with the actual purpose of his mission: "And now the Lord hath sent me to heal thee, and to deliver Sara thy son's wife from the devil. For I am the Angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord." [Tob. 12: 14 f. All scriptural quotations concerning the two Tobias' reported in the following presentation are from the book of Tobias.] In this angelophany, Saint Raphael reveals himself as a Divine healer not only of physical infirmities, the blindness of old Tobias, but also of spiritual afflictions and diabolical vexations, as in the case of Sara, young Tobias' wife. Had not the Archangel resorted to an assumed human form and personality, it might not have been possible for him to consort in such a familiar way with men, for several consecutive weeks, because of the instinctive fear that man experiences in the presence of celestial beings. Had either father or son, or both, known the real identity of the stranger, from the beginning, the Angelic mission could not have been accomplished in the charming human way in which it was actually carried out. However, the assumed form, and especially the assumed name and paternity-----"Azarias the son of the great Ananias"-----has been regarded by some as a sort of deception and a lie. However, the perfect sanctity of the Angels is opposed to even the appearance of sin and deception, even to what we call a white lie. God commanded him to do this and God never commands anyone to sin, so we have to look for the explanation in this light: In order to carry out his mission, it was necessary for the Angel to assume a form perceptible to man, a human form and a human name. In this case he assumed the appearance of an Israelite, a young relative of Tobias himself. By Divine command the Archangel was to act as proxy for that young Israelite, Azarias, whose name he took; hence there was no lie on his part when he gave the name of the person he was representing in his human form. His true identity was revealed at the close of his mission, and whatever misconception had been created in the minds of the various persons he had met, was completely removed, and these were then grateful to the Archangel not only for his many benefits but also for his consideration in dealing with them like a human being. Besides, the Archangel was not hiding a human name and personality and giving another instead; in taking the place of Azarias he could in all truth call himself Azarias.
The story of the
Raphael and the two Tobias' is too beautiful and too instructive for us
to dismiss it with a simple reference: it reveals how Angels act when
human form; their Angelic nature, their power, wisdom, holiness are
manifest in the various incidents of this charming narrative. The
is God's legate, he carries out God's plan acting as an instrument of
Providence, and Divine Goodness.
The old, charitable, and pious man Tobias is blind and feels that his days are numbered. He gives his young son Tobias some godly admonitions and tells him of some money he had lent to Gabelus ot the city of Rages in Media, many years back, for which he had a regular note with Gabelus' signature. He wants his son to go and collect that money, but he first wants him to find a man to accompany him on the long journey: "Go now and seek thee out some faithful man, to go with thee for his hire, that thou may receive it, while I yet live."
While this was going on in Tobias' home, Heaven was listening in and preparing the companion, the "faithful man" young Tobias was looking for. The Lord gave the Archangel Raphael the command to appear as a young man named Azarias, to accompany young Tobias to the land of the Medes, and to bring peace and happiness to two God-fearing but very unhappy families. As the young man stepped out of his house in search of a companion, one morning, the Archangel Raphael was there as if waiting for him, in the disguise of "a beautiful young man." "And not knowing that he was an Angel of God, he saluted him, and said: From whence art thou, good young man? But he answered: Of the children of Israel." In a very short time the Archangel informed young Tobias that he knew the road to Gabelus, and knew Gabelus himself, having spent some time there; he knew all that country very well. Tobias could hardly believe in such a happy coincidence. Immediately he took his new friend and companion and returned to his blind father. The Angel who well knew the purpose of his mission, implicitly announced it in his words of greeting directed to the blind old man, when he said: "Joy be to thee always!"
Not knowing who was he who wished him joy, old Tobias replied: "What manner of joy shall be to me, who sit in darkness, and see not the light of Heaven." Here the Archangel Raphael became more explicit, making both a promise and a prophecy: "Be of good courage, thy cure from God [God heals, was Raphael's own name] is at hand." He could not say more without engendering suspicion and betraying his own identity. Old Tobias regarded those kind words as an expression of good will and paid no particular attention to them; he had heard such expressions so often in the past. His interest is now in the voyage of his son, and he wants to know in whose hands he is committing the life of his only child and part of his own fortune. Upon hearing that the young guide is no less than Azarias, the son of the great Ananias, he remarks: "Thou art of a great family." Old Tobias, like his kinsman Gabelus, later on in this story, expresses his belief in the protection and guidance of guardian Angels. Not knowing that an Archangel is actually accompanying his son, he says: "May you have a good journey, and God be with you on your way, and his Angel accompany you." Had this circumstance been known to him, both he and his wife would have been spared all the worry and the sleepless nights during the long absence of their son. One thought, however, sustained the mind of old Tobias during his waiting: "Our son is safe: that man with whom we sent him is very trustworthy."
How carefree, and how joyful must have been that journey for young Tobias. To travel in the happy company of an Angel! He knew the road so well. He was never in doubt about anybody or anything they met on the road; always cheerful, never tired or sleepy; so sweet and kind in his conversation, yet al. ways full of respect and attention. He was deeply spiritual and profoundly devout in his prayers, pure in all his words and actions. How true and inspired were the words of old Tobias when, comforting his weeping wife, he said to her: "I believe that the good Angel of God doth accompany him, and doth order all things well that are about him, so that he shall return to us with joy."
The sacred text remarks that when young Tobias started on his journey with his Angel companion, his pet dog followed him all the way to the East. Tobias was one of the thousands of Israelites living in the Babylonian captivity. Some of them had settled down in neighboring provinces, such as Mesopotamia, Assyria, and Media. It was exactly in this last province of Media that Tobias' kinsman Raguel lived with his family. This was not really the goal of his trip to the East, but it was here that God and His Angel wanted him to go; whereas his father had sent him to collect his money from Gabelus in the city of Rages in the mountains of Ecbatana, in Media. The Angel by diverting his trip accomplished more fully his mission, bringing unexpected joy and happiness to three families.
Having left his home town, the great city of Ninive, that morning, Tobias and his guide reached the river Tigris just before dark. They decided to spend that night by the bank of the Tigris. Here the Archangel Raphael began to reveal medical knowledge and experience. At the same time he provided food for that evening and for the rest of the journey. Weary of walking all day, young Tobias went to wash his feet in the cool water of the river before retiring. Here the sight of a monstrous fish that seemed to be coming up to devour him, frightened him exceedingly and made him cry for help: "Sir, he cometh upon me!" The Angelic guide, without coming to his rescue, instructed him on what to do, both giving him directions and inspiring him with confidence. At the end of the first day young Tobias had not yet acquired familiarity with his guide, so he calls him, Sir. Later he will call him brother. When the monstrous fish had been successfully drawn out of the river, it was cut open, roasted, and salted. "Take out the entrails of this fish," ordered the Angel, "and lay up his heart, and his gall, and his liver for thee, for these are necessary for useful medicines." These, no doubt, may have seemed strange medicines to young Tobias and he wanted to know when and how to use them. Here he begins to show more confidence and affection for the heavenly guide: "I beseech thee, brother Azarias, tell me what remedies are these things good for, which thou hast bid me keep of the fish." The Angel explains the medical virtue of those parts of the fish. More practical details are imparted as the proper time for their use approaches. The liver of the fish was needed as a material ingredient for an exorcism in order to free Tobias' future wife Sara from the evil influence of the devil; the gall was to be used for the cure of the blindness of old Tobias.
The Archangel Raphael had been sent by God to cure and comfort two afflicted souls, old Tobias and Raguel's young daughter Sara, the widow of seven husbands, all of whom had died on the first night following their wedding to her.
As night was falling, at the end of another day of their long journey, young Tobias turning to his guide asked him the customary question: "Where wilt thou that we lodge?" Here begins the first part of Raphael's mission. He must induce young Tobias to marry Sara, Raguel's daughter, and at the same time deliver her from all diabolical influence and vexation. This was a very delicate matter, for sinister rumors about this young dame, as being the cause of death to seven husbands, had reached Ninive and young Tobias himself knew all about her and was deathly afraid of associating with her. At the question of where to lodge for the night, Raphael had proposed to put up at Raguel's and for Tobias to propose to Sara, his own cousin. "I hear," answered Tobias, "that she hath been given to seven husbands, and they all died; moreover I have heard, that a devil killed them." Imagine this young man, now, going to ask for the hand of such a dame! The Archangel Raphael obtained just that, and what is more, their marriage was a very happy one, blessed with good health and long life, so that they both saw their children's children to the fifth generation. The instructions on marital union given by the Archangel Raphael to young Tobias on this occasion remain an ideal of moral perfection for married couples for all time. Prayer, continence, and pure intention dispose the soul for God's blessings and thwart all influence of the evil spirit. Young Tobias listened intently to his Heavenly guide and later carried out his instructions most faithfully, first repeating them to his bride: "We are the children of the Saints, and we must not be joined together like heathens that know not God."
Amid the charming and intimate family reunion in Raguel's home, described in chapter seven of the book of Tobias, an unseen struggle goes on in the spirit world. Young Azarias [the Archangel Raphael] absents himself for a very short while from the gathering of the family and friends in order to attend to a very important business of his own. During those few minutes, Raphael, in the name and with the power of God, "took the devil, and bound him in the desert of upper Egypt." This devil Asmodeus, who had caused so much sorrow to Sara and her family, was Satan himself. With the exile of the spirit of evil, joy, peace and all blessings came to Raguel's home. Having attended to his business, young Azarias returned and took his place at the wedding feast, while actually contemplating the face of the Father Who is in Heaven. The following morning, leaving Tobias there with his happy bride, he continues on the journey, accompanied by four servants and two camels. He finally found Gabelus and collected the money for old Tobias and, on his return, he took Gabelus to the wedding feast of his kinsman young Tobias.
The last part of the mission entrusted to Raphael the Archangel was now to follow. Having brought joy and happiness to Sara and all her family, it was time to bring a similar and even greater joy to old Tobias and his wife. The slow pace of the caravan that accompanied the bride to Ninive did not suit the Archangel who well knew the pain and the worries of Tobias' old parents: "Brother Tobias," said the Archangel, thou knowest how thou didst leave thy father. If it please thee, let us go before, and let the family follow softly after us, together with thy wife and with the beasts." Tobias agreed and taking with himself the gall of the fish, he and the Angel began to advance with much greater speed, the dog following them. It was time now to give the final instruction as to the use of the gall: "As soon as thou shalt come into the house, forthwith adore the Lord thy God, and giving thanks to Him, go to thy father and kiss him, and immediately anoint his eyes with this gall of the fish . . .Thy father shall see the light of Heaven, and shall rejoice in the sight of thee."
In the meantime Tobias' old mother was waiting for her son, sitting daily on top of a hill, scanning the horizon for a sign of her son and his guide. Finally one day Tobias' pet dog, running ahead brought the joyful news to the afflicted parents by his fawning and wagging his tail. All these human and earthly elements blend beautifully with the Heavenly in this charming story of Angels and men.
Everything happened as promised by the Angel. Old Tobias regained his sight. At this point the heart of young Tobias was filled with gratitude, love, and admiration for his wonderful guide; so many and so great were the benefits received through him. Having witnessed the miraculous cure of his father he could find no words to express his feelings: "We are filled with all good things through him," he kept telling his father. Old Tobias understood that it was God Who was actually working all these marvels through young Azarias, and thus, full of reverence, he calls the young guide a holy man: "What can we give to this holy man, that is come with thee?"
The Lord never permits man to remain in error because of the disguise assumed by His ministering spirits in any of their apparitions. Sooner or later the truth about them will be made manifest. For several weeks in succession, the Archangel Raphael had been acting under assumed human form and human name. Now that his mission has been happily completed, he begins to prepare his two friends, father and son, for a great surprise, the revelation of his real self. At the moment that they both humbly approach him offering one half of everything that had been brought home as payment for his service, young Azarias" answers with a wonderful explanation of why God has so blessed them. He recalls to the mind of old Tobias all the good he did in his days, his charity, his mercy, his patience, his alms, and his tearful prayers. Thus he begins to reveal himself gradually in order not to frighten them with a sudden disclosure. The enumeration of all the good deeds and of secrets of conscience known only to God are the first step in this revelation; the second is the statement:
"Now the Lord hath sent me to heal thee, and to deliver Sara thy son's wife from the devil." The third and final step was liable to trouble and frighten them, hence he begins with comforting and reassuring words: "Peace be to you; fear not." As he said this, both father and son fell upon the ground on their faces, for suddenly the human form of Azarias was transfigured into that of an Archangel of light and beauty, and the final revelation came: "I am the Angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord . . . when I was with you I was there by the will of God: bless ye Him, and sing praises to Him." This is the only reward that he will accept, but none of the material things, money and cattle and clothes offered him generously by his good friends. Yet, these could still entertain some doubts, because they had seen him eat and drink like any other human being, and Angels do not eat and drink as men do. To this secret doubt he answers with saying: "I seemed indeed to eat and to drink with you, but I use an invisible meat and drink, which cannot be seen by men." Now that his work has been done, and that they know that God has sent His Angel to fill them with blessings, it is time for him to return to Heaven: "It is time therefore that I return to him that sent me; but bless ye God, and publish all his wonderful works." Here the Archangel returned to his invisible form, and from the company of men returned to that of the Angels.
Raphael, the Divine healer, seems to have been at work at Jerusalem, in the days of Christ our Lord, in the pool called Bethsaida by the Sheepgate. In the five porticoes surrounding that pool there was a multitude of sick people, waiting for the action of the Angel upon the water of the pool, an action which cured immediately any person who first descended into the pool: "An Angel of the Lord used to come down at certain times into the pool and the water was moved. And he that went down first into the pool after the motion of the water, was cured of whatever infirmity he had." [John 5: 4]
of Saint Raphael may still be seen in the miraculous cures that have
place up to our own times in many of the sacred Shrines throughout the