XX – St. Gabriel – Judgement
I got a bit confused about archangels being Saints with this card. Strange, but it was never something I questioned with St. Michael. The Penguin Dictionary of Saints explains it this way:
From the beginning of Christian history, veneration of Michael took place, and the Jews also venerated him. He does a lot in the bible and so his commanding strength was appreciated in tradition for intercession. There have been numerous legends of visions and sightings of him. There are differences about Saints in general and certainly the archangels, in local churches and also in the Eastern Orthodox and Western Churches. In the traditions of the East, Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael were always honoured liturgically, but Gabriel and Raphael only started to gain popularity in the West in the 20th century.
Okay, that makes more sense to me now, since I already know of several Saints from the Eastern Church that people don’t hear of in the West. As far as these three archangels being Saints, it seems to be a matter of their great power and historic communication with people, and people wanting to commemorate and symbolize that. There are very close to God, they sit beside him, so our veneration of them brings us closer to God by association.
Gabriel is the angel that appeared to Mary during the Annunciation, he is also associated with blowing the trumpet at the Last Judgement as depicted in this picture from the deck. He tended the infant Abraham and spoke to Daniel, foretold the birth of Samson, announced the birth of John the Baptist, and I didn’t realize this, but in Islamic tradition, he dictated the Koran to Muhammed. I like Place’s notation that because Gabriel was involved in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, he demonstrates that they are all branches of the same trunk.
That fits in well with the idea of Gabriel calling us to a higher state of being. Not only resurrected from death on Judgement Day, but for me this concept of having the same religious roots. Triumph over death, and triumph over our peculiar need to fight each other to the death over supposedly disparate religious beliefs.
I remember the line from Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol during the episode of Christmas Yet To Come. Scrooge had died and the charwoman says something about him gasping his last, all alone with no one to look after him. Scrooge’s housekeeper Mrs. Dilbur says “It’s a judgment on him.” Gabriel can remind us of the way we are supposed to care for each other too.
I like the idea of this archangel being the chief messenger of God. He was involved in many more events than I remember. Gabriel did announce his name on several occasions, but there are examples of unnamed angels where Gabriel is given credit, including holding the trumpet for Judgement as described in Thessalonians 4:16. In that it is described “…with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet call of God…” (NIV Bible) Gabriel being God’s messenger archangel, it seems natural to associate this event with him as the herald with the trumpet.
Michael is the warrior archangel, Gabriel the messenger in Christian tradition, and as such Gabriel seems to have a gentler presence, perhaps mindful of frightening people, and mindful of remaining calm to get the message across. Another facet of a meditation on Gabriel that can benefit us: sometimes a lower key works better.
Gabriel is often depicted with a spear or sceptre as well as a trumpet, and a shield with a lily on it or a lily in some other configuration. The lily is associated with the purity of Mary and the Annunciation, and is often in Annunciation images, so became part of Gabriel’s symbolism as well. I have seen shields with Gabriel that have suns on them or other objects, but the shield itself along with the spear or sceptre symbolizes the power of God. Archangels are often depicted with armour in any case, armour being something understandable in earlier times as a connotation of power, although not favoured today in angelic imagery.
I have a favourite picture of the Annunciation which can be seen in this discussion of the Four of Cups from this deck. Click on the image to enlarge it.