St. Gabriel, Archangel
That bright spirit, whom the Almighty charged with the saving message of the Incarnation of the Son of God, is called the Archangel Gabriel. His first embassy was to the prophet, Daniel. Whilst this Saint was communing with God in prayer the Archangel Gabriel appeared to him, and announced to him the epoch in which the long-expected Messiah would come into the world. These are the words of the Heavenly Spirit: “From the beginning of thy prayers, the word came forth: and I am come to show it to thee, because thou art a man of desires: therefore do thou mark the word, and understand the vision. Seventy weeks are shortened upon thy people, and upon thy holy city, that transgressions may be finished, and sins may have an end, and iniquity may be abolished, and everlasting justice may be brought, and vision and prophecy may be fulfilled, and the Saint of saints may be anointed. Know thou, therefore, 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; and the street shall be built again, and the walls in straitness of times. And after sixty-two weeks, Christ shall be slain ; and the people, that shall deny him, shall not be His. And a people with their leader that shall come, shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be waste, and after the end of the war the appointed desolation. And he shall confirm the covenant with many, in one week; and in the half of the week the victim and the sacrifice shall fail: and there shall be in the temple the abomination of desolation; and the desolation shall continue even to the consummation of the end ” (Dan. ix.). These are the words of the Archangel; recorded by the prophet. In this vision, Gabriel not only predicted the time of the advent of the Messiah, but also prophesied the circumstances attending His coming, and the fate of the temple and of the Jewish people.
The second message entrusted to the Angel Gabriel, was to the priest Zachary, father of St. John the Baptist. While he was offering up the evening sacrifice in the temple, the angel of the Lord stood on the right of the altar, and said to him: “Fear not, Zachary, for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John: and thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice in his nativity. For he shall be great before the Lord: and shall drink no wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother’s womb. And he shall convert many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias; that he may turn the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the incredulous to the wisdom of the just, and prepare unto the Lord a perfect people” (Luke i.). Such was the second message of the Archangel, in which he clearly points out the precursor of the Messiah.
The third message, the grandest and most consoling with which the angel was charged, led him to Nazareth to the most Blessed Virgin Mary. He saluted her with these words; “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: Blessed art thou among women” (Luke i.). But observing that the Virgin was troubled at his words, he said to her: “Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. 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 forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke i.). Gabriel announced to the Immaculate Virgin that the Holy Ghost would descend upon her, and overshadow her, and he referred to the Omnipotence of God to whom everything is possible. When the Virgin gave her consent with these well known and solemn words: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word,” the angel departed to stand again before the throne of the Most Holy Trinity.
From the fact that the Archangel Gabriel was chosen for so sublime a mission, the Holy Fathers infer that he was one of the highest and greatest of the heavenly spirits. For, as earthly sovereigns do not entrust the settlement of important affairs to inferior servants, but the more weighty the matters, the more distinguished are the personages chosen to conduct them; so the Doctors of the Church do not hesitate to affirm, that the Almighty also selected one of the most exalted of the heavenly spirits to announce this greatest of all mysteries! St. Bernard remarks, that the name Gabriel, which signifies in Hebrew, “Strength of God,” “Divine strength,” coincides well with the mission of the angel. He announces Christ, the Son of God, the true Messiah, who is the strength of God, who so wonderfully unites His Divine strength with human weakness. Now, the whole world having had reason to rejoice in the message of the Archangel, it is only meet for us to return thanks to this welcome messenger, and beseech him to obtain for us of the Lord, who entrusted him with this noble and consoling embassy, the grace of fully participating in the fruits of this mystery.
The Angel Gabriel is sent by the Almighty to Babylon, Jerusalem, and Nazareth, and he is most docile in his obedience. If you desire to be in the eternal company of this Archangel and the other heavenly Spirits, apply yourself earnestly to obey the Lord in everything. The Archangel appears to Daniel whilst occupied with prayer, to Zachary, whilst engaged in the Divine service: he comes to the Blessed Virgin, whilst she is praying, and contemplating the Divine mysteries. If you are anxious that the angels should visit you, be fervent in prayers and in the service of God. The Archangel Gabriel addresses our Blessed Lady with these words: “Hail full of grace.” Often repeat this salutation. Many have it on their lips every hour of the day; others repeat it daily in reciting the beads or in passing by a statue of the Immaculate Virgin. Undoubtedly you do not neglect this pious practice. But pay attention that you salute Mary with a pure heart and with reverence. The Archangel says to the holy Virgin: “Fear not, for thou hast found grace with God.” Learn from this, that if you are in the state of grace, you need fear nothing; for the Almighty is your friend. But if you lose sanctifying grace by a mortal sin, you have everything to fear; for you are in the enmity of God. If, therefore, you have reason to suppose yourself in the favor of God, strive to retain it; but if you have lost this infinite treasure, immediately exert every effort for its recovery by true penance. The Blessed Mother can be of immense service in this, if you only invoke her. St. Bernard exhorts us with these words: “Let us seek grace, but let it be through Mary; for what she seeks, she finds; she can always find grace, and it is grace alone that we need.” The mother of God he addresses thus: “Thou hast no aversion for the sinner, however guilty he may be; when he sighs to thee, and invokes thy assistance with a contrite heart.” St. Bonaventure likewise writes: “If you wish to obtain grace from God, turn with confidence to Mary, for, being the Mother of Mercy, she cannot refuse your request.”