By Sarah Levesque (Rated G)
Today (March 25th) is exactly nine months before Christmas Day, so today we celebrate the Annunciation. Since we’ve already covered the Blessed Virgin Mary this year, today we’re going to look at the other person in that room – the angel Gabriel.
Gabriel is considered one of the archangels (the other known archangels being Michael and Raphael, though some sources mention another named Uriel). The first time Gabriel is mentioned in the Bible is in the book of the prophet Daniel. In Chapter 8, after Daniel is given a vision, he sees “one having the appearance of a man,” who is directed by the words “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision” (Daniel 8:15-16). Gabriel returned to Daniel some days later to explain further (see Daniel 9). So it seems that while some angels are obviously unearthly (see Ezekiel 1 & 10 and Revelation 4), archangels can take the appearance of men. This is confirmed by the book of Tobit (a book of the Septugent and thus in the Catholic Bible), where the archangel Raphael spends the majority of the time in the form of a man.
The next time we see Gabriel is when he appears to Zechariah, the soon-to-be father of John the Baptist. Gabriel tells him that he will indeed father a child, to be named John, a great prophet (Luke 1). This is prefaced by the phrase “Do not be afraid”, which was also said to Mary roughly six months later. Why Daniel didn’t hear it is unclear; he recorded “I was frightened and fell on my face” (Daniel 8:17). Zechariah takes some convincing that the forthcoming miracle will take place, and Gabriel prevents him from speaking until John has been named (Luke 1:20).
When Gabriel appeared to Mary, no such measures were needed. She, too, questioned the angel, but her question was not one of disbelief, but a question of means. Once this was clarified, she agreed to God’s plan, and Gabriel went on his way (see Luke 2). This is the last we hear of him in the Bible.
May we, like Gabriel, always be ready to bring the words of God to others.