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SS Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels

  • International
  • September 29, 2012
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If the angels are God’s messengers and forms of his presence on earth, then the three archangels are the ways in which God protects, guides and accompanies us.

The origins of the three archangels are complex. They come into the Jewish scriptures and folklore from other cultures. Nevertheless as specific names – Michael, Gabriel and Raphael – they stand for certain events in Israel’s history, and describe God’s saving presence in those events. Let’s say a word about each.

Michael – the Hebrew word means ‘one like God’ is the angel who accompanied the Israelis back into Palestine after their captivity in Iran. Michael also ensured the victory of the Maccabees, the Jewish royal line which fought against the Greek invaders two hundred years before Christ. Michael is always depicted in iconography as a warrior angel, taking the side of God’s people. In the very first battle of the angels in heaven, as the Jewish legends describe it, Michael sided with God against Satan and his cohorts.

Gabriel means ‘God’s power’ in Hebrew. Not the power of the warrior, like Michael, but of the word, the messenger, the proclaimer. In the book of Daniel, Gabriel explains the vision of the ram and foretells the doom of the Persian Empire. In the Gospels, it is Gabriel who announces the birth of Jesus, the messiah, and of John, his herald. By extension, it is Gabriel who proclaims the ‘good tidings’ to the shepherds at Bethlehem, and who ‘strengthens’ the Lord in his agony in the garden of Gethsemane.

Muslims believe that it was the angel Gabriel who gave the Prophet Muhammed his revelations of the Koran. Pope Pius XII proclaimed him patron of all the communications arts, particularly television.

Raphael – the name means ‘God heals’ – figures largely in the book of Tobit, as the one who accompanies young Tobit on his travels, and who heals the older man from blindness. He is the patron of doctors and travelers.
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