Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism


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even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D


Feast of St. Gabriel the Archangel





There are seven archangels in all, but only the three named in Sacred Scripture are celebrated liturgically. First comes today's Feast, the Feast of St. Gabriel, on March 25, the day before the Annunciation. Then comes the Feast of St. Michael, on September 29, which is followed by the Feast of St. Raphael on October 25. In between is the Feast of the Guardian Angels, on October 2.

Gabriel, whose name means "Strength of God," acts as God's messenger angel  We first hear of him by name in the Book of Daniel, when Daniel had a vision he didn't understand, and St. Gabriel interpreted it for him:

Daniel 8:15-19
And it came to pass when I Daniel saw the vision, and sought the meaning, that behold there stood before me as it were the appearance of a man. And I heard the voice of a man between Ulai: and he called, and said: Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision. And he came and stood near where I stood: and when he was come, I fell on my face trembling, and he said to me: Understand, O son of man, for in the time of the end the vision shall be fulfilled. And when he spoke to me I fell flat on the ground: and he touched me, and set me upright, And he said to me: I will shew thee what things are to come to pass in the end of the malediction: for the time hath its end.

After praying for Israel and pondering the prophecies of Jeremias, Gabriel explains the prophecy to him:

Daniel 9:2-3; 21-23
The first year of his reign, I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, concerning which the word of the Lord came to Jeremias the prophet, that seventy years should be accomplished of the desolation of Jerusalem. And I set my face to the Lord my God, to pray and make supplication with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes...

...As I was yet speaking in prayer, behold the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, flying swiftly touched me at the time of the evening sacrifice. And he instructed me, and spoke to me, and said: O Daniel, I am now come forth to teach thee, and that thou mightest understand. From the beginning of thy prayers the word came forth: and I am come to shew it to thee, because thou art a man of desires: therefore do thou mark the word, and understand the vision.

Then we don't hear of Gabriel again by name until he appears to the aged Zachary to tell him that his theretofore barren wife will give birth to a boy they'll name John (the great John the Baptist):

Luke 1:11-20
And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zachary seeing him, was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel 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, to prepare unto the Lord a perfect people.

And Zachary said to the angel: Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.

And the angel answering, said to him: I am Gabriel, who stand before God: and am sent to speak to thee, and to bring thee these good tidings. And behold, thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be able to speak until the day wherein these things shall come to pass, because thou hast not believed my words, which shall be fulfilled in their time.


Then, within months, he goes to Mary -- an event we celebrate tomorrow -- and tells her that she will give birth to a Son she'll name Jesus, and that 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 for ever. And of His kingdom there shall be no end."

Luke 1:26-28:
And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

Dante describes the scene of the Annunciation so beautifully in Canto XXIII of his Paradiso, referring to Gabriel as "Angelic Love":

Athwart the heavens a little torch descended
    Formed in a circle like a coronal,
    And cinctured it, and whirled itself about it.

Whatever melody most sweetly soundeth
    On earth, and to itself most draws the soul,
    Would seem a cloud that, rent asunder, thunders,

Compared unto the sounding of that lyre
    Wherewith was crowned the sapphire beautiful,
    Which gives the clearest heaven its sapphire hue.

“I am Angelic Love, that circle round
    The joy sublime which breathes from out the womb
    That was the hostelry of our Desire;

And I shall circle, Lady of Heaven, while
    Thou followest thy Son, and mak’st diviner
    The sphere supreme, because thou enterest there.”





It's believed that St. Gabriel is also the angel who appeared to St. Joseph (Matthew 1:20) and to the shepherds on Christmas (Luke 2:8-20). Tradition also holds that it was he who tended to Christ as He spent the night in the Garden of Gethsemani before His Passion (Luke 22:39-44),

It's also believed that he will be the angel to announce the End of Time (Matthew 24:31). I Thessalonians 4:15 reads, my emphasis:

For the Lord himself shall come down from heaven with commandment, and with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead who are in Christ, shall rise first.

I Corinthians 15:51-52 also gives hints about this Mystery:

Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall all indeed rise again: but we shall not all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again incorruptible: and we shall be changed.



St. Gabriel is the patron of those who work in communications (e.g., postal workers, messengers, etc.). He can be recognized in art by his holding a lily (including the fleur-de-lis, a stylized lily) or a trumpet, or, as is most usual, by the context of his addressing the Virgin. He's also seen in art signalling the End Times with his trumpet (as you'll see by the music below).



Customs

Some may prepare for this feast by praying the Novena to St. Gabriel the Archangel beginning on March 15 and ending on March 23, the eve of St. Gabriel's feast. As for prayer for the feast itself, there is the Litany of St. Gabriel the Archangel (for private use only), and the following:

The Collect from today's Mass

O God, Who didst choose from among all blessed spirits the Archangel Gabriel to announce the mystery of Thine Incarnation, grant, in Thy mercy that, celebrating his feast on earth, we may reap the benefit of his help in Heaven, Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, forever and ever. Amen.


Prayer to St. Gabriel for the Benefit of the Incarnation

O blessed Archangel Gabriel, we beseech Thee, do thou intercede for us at the throne of divine mercy in our present necessities, that, as thou didst announce to holy St. Mary the mystery of the Incarnation, so, through thy prayers and patronage in Heaven, we may attain the benefits of the Redemption for which Christ came unto us, and sing the praises of God forever in the land of the living. Amen.


Prayer to St. Gabriel for Protection for Those Whom we Love

O loving messenger of the Incarnation, do thou descend upon all those for whom I wish peace and happiness. Spread thy wings over the cradles of newborn babes, O thou who didst announce the coming of the Infant Jesus. Give to the young a lily petal from the virginal sceptre in thy hand. Cause the Ave Maria to echo through all hearts, that they may find grace and joy through Mary. Finally, deign to recall those sublime words which were uttered on the day of the Annunciation, “Nothing shall be impossible with God”, and repeat them in hours of trial to all those whom I love, that their confidence in our Lord may be rekindled when all other help fails. Amen

I don't know of any food traditions related to the day (but for angel-themed food, see the Feast of the Guardian Angels). There are, though, a number of songs related to the day. The ones below aren't fit for Mass (obviously), but they're fun, and you might enjoy them.

The first is an old spiritual called "Gabriel Blows His Horn," here sung by The Golden Gate Quartet:



There'll be weepin'
There'll be moanin'
And there'll be grievin'
And there'll be groanin'
There'll be shouting halleluia
Halleluia in the mornin'
When brother Gabriel up and blows his horn.

Oh, sisters and brothers,
I want you to hear me
Hear the word of the Lord
I want you to bear with me,
You better seek your soul's salvation
Or be lost to degradation
When Gabriel up and blows his horn.
Oh, sisters and brothers,
I want you to hear me,
Hear the word of the Lord
I want you to bear with me,
You better seek some good religion
And stop your lyin' and hypocritin'
Before Gabriel blows his horn.

There'll be weepin'
There'll be moanin'
And there'll be grievin'
And there'll be groanin'
There'll be shouting hallelu- hallelu-
Halleluia in the mornin'
When brother Gabriel up and blows his horn.

This next is also an old spiritual, this time sung by The Statesmen Quartet. It's called "Blow Your Trumpet, Gabriel":



Blow your trumpet
Blow, come Gabriel
Blow your horn
Let the whole world know;
it's time for judgment morn.
Run, run, they're goin' run; to find a hiding place
Run, but not a one; can ever hide his face.

This ole' world's a-rockin'
Reeling and a-rockin'
How it keeps on standing
I don't know
Lift up your voice and shout, Gabriel
Take up your horn and blow

Blow your trumpet
Blow, come Gabriel
Blow your horn
Let the whole world know;
it's time for judgment morn.
Run, run, they're goin' run; to find a hiding place
Run, but not a one; can ever hide his face.

Blow your trumpet loud,
Blow your trumpet high
The whole world's goin' shake
From motion depths up to the sky

The day's not far away
He's comin' soon I know
Stand upon the land
Take up your horn and blow.


And this last -- well, hold on to your hat; it's a real barn burner. Written by Cole Porter, and sung by Ethel Merman, it's called "Blow, Gabriel, Blow":



Do you hear that playin'?
Yes, we hear that playin'!
Do you know who's playin'?
No, who is that playin'?
Why it's Gabriel!
Gabriel's playin'!
Gabriel, Gabriel's playin'!
Will you be ready to go
when I blow my horn?

Blow Gabriel blow!
Go on and blow, Gabriel, blow!
I was a sinner, I was a scamp,
But now I'm willin' to trim my lamp
So blow, Gabriel, blow!

I was low, Gabriel, low!
Mighty low, Gabriel, low!
But now, since I have seen the light,
I'm good by day and I'm good by night!
So blow, Gabriel, blow!

Once I was headed for hell,
Oh I was headed for hell,
But when I got to Satan's door,
I heard you blowin' on your horn once more,
So I said, "Satan, farewell!".
And now I'm all ready to fly,
Yes, to fly higher and higher and higher!
'Cause I've gone through that brimstone
and I've gone through fire;
And I've purged my soul and my heart too,
So climb up to the mountain top


And start to blow, Gabriel, blow!
Go on and blow, Gabriel, blow!
I want to join your happy band
And play all day in the promised land,
So blow, Gabriel, blow!

Come on, you sinners,
Get up, you sinners,
You're all too full of expensive dinners!
Stand up on your lazy feet and sing
Hallelujah!

Come on and blow, Gabriel, blow!
Go on and blow, Gabriel, blow!
I want to join your happy band
And play all day in the promised land,
So blow, Gabriel, blow!


Finally, I can't resist adding an mp3 to this old radio show -- an episode of "Quiet Please" called "Portrait of a Character." It's silly, and not for children, but I heard it years ago and it stuck with me, so I figured I'd include it; it's so weird. It was first broadcast on Janary 9, 1949:




For basic background information on the angels, see The Praeternatural World pages of this site

.

Readings

Saint Gabriel, the Archangel
By Dom Prosper Gueranger

So far in the Church's Calendar, we have not met with any Feast in honour of the Holy Angels. Amidst the ineffable joys of Christmas Night, we mingled our timid but glad voices with the Hymns of these heavenly Spirits, who sang around the Crib of our Emmanuel. The very recollection brings joy to our hearts, saddened as they now are by penitential feelings and by the near approach of the mournful anniversary of our Jesus' Death. Let us, for a moment, interrupt our sadness, and keep the Feast of the Archangel Gabriel. Later on, we shall have Michael, Raphael, and the countless host of the Angel Guardians; but today, it is just that we should honor Gabriel. Yes, a day hence, and we shall see this heavenly Ambassador of the Blessed Trinity coming down to the Virgin of Nazareth; let us, therefore, recommend ourselves to him, and beseech him to teach us how to celebrate, in a becoming manner, the grand Mystery of which he was the Messenger.

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 his sublime office, even in the Old Testament. First of all, he appears to Daniel, after this Prophet had had the vision of the Persian and Grecian Empires; and such was the majesty of his person that Daniel fell on his face trembling (Dan. vii.17). Shortly afterwards, he appears 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 (Ibid. ix. 25), that is, sixty-nine weeks of years.

When the fulness of time had come, and Heaven was about to send the last of the Prophets, he, who after preaching to men the approach of the Messias, is to show him to the people, saying: Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh 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 (St. Luke, i. 13), 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 in possession of Him, for whom it had so long prayed in those words of Isaias: Drop down Dew, O ye Heavens (Is. xlv. 8.)!

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 amidst 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? In the opinion of several learned writers, it is the Archangel Gabriel, who is keeping up his ministry as Messenger of the Good Tidings (St. Luke, ii. 10).

Lastly, when Jesus is suffering His Agony in the Garden of Gethsemani, an Angel appears to Him, not merely as a witness of His suffering, but that He might strengthen Him under the fear his Human Nature felt at the thought of the Chalice of the Passion He was about to drink (Ibid. xxii. 42, 43.). Who is this Angel? It is Gabriel, as we learn not only from the writings of several holy and learned authors, but also from a Hymn which the Holy See has permitted to be used in the Liturgy, and which we give below.

These are the claims of the great Archangel to our veneration and love; these are the proofs he gives of his deserving his 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 (1 Cor. i. 21.), 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 Gethsemani, as he had been at Nazareth and Bethlehem...

... The  whole human race is indebted to thee, O Gabriel! and, on this day, we would fain pay thee the honour and gratitude we owe thee. Thou wast moved to holy compassion on seeing the miseries of the world; for all flesh had corrupted its way, and the forgetfulness of God increased with each new generation of men. Then did the Most High com- mission thee to bring to the world the good tidings of its salvation. How beautiful thy steps, O prince of the heavenly court, as thou earnest down to this our humble sphere! How tender and fraternal is thy love of man, whose nature, though so inferior to thine own, was to be raised, by the mystery of the Incarnation, to union with God Himself ! With what respectful awe didst thou approach the Virgin, who surpassed all the angels in holiness!

Blessed messenger of our redemption, whom God selects as His minister when He would show His power, we beseech thee, offer the homage of our gratitude to Him that thus sent thee. Help us to pay the immense debt we owe to the Father, who so loved the world, as to give it His only-begotten Son; to the Son, who emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant; and to the Holy Ghost, who rested on the Flower that sprang up out of the root of Jesse.

'Tis thou, O Gabriel! that taughtest us the salutation wherewith we should greet Mary full of grace. Thou wast the first to pronounce these sublime words, which thou broughtest from heaven. The children of the Church are now, day and night, repeating these words of thine; pray for us that we may say them in such a manner, as that our blessed Mother may find them worthy of her acceptance.

Angel of strength, friend of mankind! relent not in thy ministry of aiding us. We are surrounded by terrible enemies; our weakness makes them bold; come to our assistance, get us courage. Pray for us during these days of conversion and penance. Obtain for us the knowledge of all we owe to God in consequence of that ineffable mystery of the Incarnation, of which thou wast the first witness. We have forgotten our duties to the Man-God, and we have offended Him: enlighten us, that so, henceforth, we may be faithful to His teachings and examples. Raise up our thoughts to the happy abode where thou dwellest; assist us to merit the places left vacant by the fallen angels, for God has reserved them for His elect among men.

Pray, O Gabriel, for the Church militant, and defend her against the attacks of hell. The times are evil; the spirits of malice are let loose, nor can we make stand against them, unless with God's help. It is by His holy angels that He gives victory to His bride. Be thou, O strength of God ! foremost in the ranks. Drive heresy back, keep schism down, foil the false wisdom of men, frustrate the policy of the world, arouse the well-minded from apathy ; that thus the Christ whom thou didst announce may reign over the earth He has redeemed, and that we may sing together with thee and the whole angelic choir: 'Glory be to God, peace to men!'



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