24th March: St Gabriel, Archangel

Bless the Lord, all ye His angels: you that are mighty  in strength, and execute His word, hearkening to the voice of His orders. Ps. Bless the Lord, O my soul: and let all that is within me bless His  holy name. (Psalm 102: 20, from the Introit of Mass)

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico, (1437-46).

Dom Prosper Gueranger speaks of St Gabriel:

“Gabriel is one of the first of the angelic kingdom. He tells Zachary that he stands before the face of God (St Luke i.19). He is the angel of the incarnation, because it is in this mystery, which apparently is so humble, that the power of God is principally manifested: and Gabriel signifies the strength of God. We find the Archangel preparing for this sublime office, even in the Old Testament. First of all, he appeared to Daniel, after this prophet had had the vision of the Persian and Greek Empires: and such was the majesty of his person that Daniel fell on his face trembling. Shortly afterwards he appeared again to the same prophet, telling him the exact time of the coming of the Messias: ‘Know thou and take notice: that from the going forth of the word to build up Jerusalem again, unto Christ the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty two weeks, that is, sixty-nine weeks of years.

‘When the fullness of time had come, and heaven was about to send the last of the prophets, who after preaching to men the approach of the Messias, is to show Him to the people, saying: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,’ Gabriel descends from heaven to the Temple of Jerusalem, and prophesies to Zachary the birth of John the Baptist, which was to be followed by that of Jesus Himself.

Six months later on, the holy Archangel again appears on the earth; and this time it is Nazareth that he visits. He brings the great message from heaven. Angel as he is, he reveres the humble maid, whose name is Mary; he has been sent to her by the most high God, to offer her the immense honour of becoming the Mother of the eternal Word. It is Gabriel that receives the great Fiat, the consent of Mary; and when he quits this earth, he leaves it is possession of Him, for whom it had so long prayed in the words of Isaias: ‘Drop down dew, O ye heavens!’

The hour at length came, when the Mother of the Emmanuel was to bring forth the blessed Fruit of her virginal womb. Jesus was born amid poverty; but heaven willed that his crib should be surrounded by fervent adorers. An angel appeared to some shepherds, inviting them to go to the stable near Bethlehem. He is accompanied by a multitude of the heavenly army, sweetly singing their hymn: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will!’ Who is this angel that speaks to the shepherds and seems as the chief of the other blessed spirits that are with him? …

Lastly, when Jesus is suffering His agony in the Garden of Gesthemani, an angel appears to Him, not merely as a witness of His sufferings, but that he might strengthen Him under the fear that His human nature felt at the thought of the chalice of the Passion He was about to drink. Who is this angel? It is Gabriel…

These are the claims of the great Archangel to our veneration and love; these are the proofs he gives of his deserving and beautiful name, the Strength of God. God has employed him in each stage of the great work, in which he has chiefly manifested his power; for Jesus, even on His Cross, is the Power of God, as the apostle tells us. Gabriel prepares the way for Jesus. He foretells the precise time of His coming; he announces the birth of His precursor; He is present at the solemn moment when the Word is made Flesh; he invites the shepherds of Bethlehem to come to the crib, and adore the divine Babe; and when Jesus, in His agony, is to receive strength from one of His own creatures, Gabriel is found ready in the garden of Gesthemani, as he had been at Nazareth and Bethlehem.

Let us then honour the angel of the Incarnation.

Dom Prosper Gueranger, “The Liturgical Year, Lent Volume V”, Loreto Publications, Fitzwilliam New Hampshire, AD 2013, at pp. 447-448.

*****

The Angelus – the Feast Day of St Gabriel (24th March) precedes the Annunciation – the Incarnation of Our Lord.

[source: Venite Prandete]

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