“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters” (Gn 1:1-2). The most prodigious intelligence would be unable to grasp with what wisdom, magnificence and perfection the Lord began to bring His wondrous works into being.
It would be inadmissible to think that He distributed His creatures haphazardly throughout the universe, like someone taking objects out of a trunk… Divine Providence arranged everything in a harmonious hierarchy, taking as Archetype and Cornerstone of this construction His most perfect work: Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a logical, but not chronological order, since for God everything is present. “In Him all things were created, in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him” (Col 1:16).
We can only imagine, then, with what extreme care and attention the Divine Artist provided for every detail of the Incarnation of His Only Begotten! For the birth of His Son, the Eternal Father chose the best of all mothers; and to protect Him, the holiest of all fathers. In order that He might redeem the world, He chose the fullness of time; and to announce to the Blessed Virgin and, through Her, to all of history, the most august news of this birth, He sent, without the shadow of a doubt, the most sublime messenger: the Archangel St. Gabriel.
Rewarded for their love and submission
Theology tells us that the heavenly spirits received from God a mysterious revelation concerning the plan of creation, whose acceptance or rejection divided them and provoked a great battle in Heaven, in which the rebellious angels were cast into Hell (cf. Rv 12:7-9).
Some authors affirm that in this trial of the Angels, “God gave them a foreknowledge of the Incarnation, and asked them to worship the God-Man. However, the Divine Word would have been presented to them, not in all His glory and power, but wrapped in the human veils of poverty, suffering and humiliation. Another theological current, supported by numerous Saints and Doctors, affirms that this was not the only trial. They add to the adoration of Christ the acceptance of Mary Most Holy as Mother of God, and Queen of Angels and of the whole universe.”1 With each act of submission to the designs of the Most High, the faithful spirits contemplated a new aspect of their missions, until, from light to light, they reached the height of the splendour for which they had been created.
In the great heavenly combat, St. Gabriel must have shone like no other for his enthusiastic and unconditional love for the revelation about the Blessed Virgin, for he received as a reward a role of incomparable importance in relation to Her: he was to represent God Himself before the Queen of the universe – therefore also his Sovereign – and to beseech her consent to be the Mother of the Messiah. “To reveal Mary to Mary, to render Her, therefore, this eminent service, is an act of supreme nobility, which established an altogether special bond between the Archangel and Our Lady. He became a kind of prophet, who indicated to the Blessed Virgin how her whole life and mission was to be.”2
Intimate relationship with the Queen of Angels
While all the Angels were asking themselves “Quæ est ista?” (Cant 6:10), St. Gabriel knew God’s plan for Our Lady and had a burning desire to communicate with Her, in order to convey to Her in some way that divine love which hovered over Her and which he had contemplated at the very beginning of Creation.
Moreover, the Archangel’s mission required him to closely accompany Mary from the very first moments of her existence. It was necessary for him to analyse her attitudes, her way of thinking, her inner movements, so that when the great hour came for him to represent the Divine Holy Spirit before His Spouse, he could present the message in a beautiful and amenable manner, with holy diplomacy, so as to move Mary’s heart, in its most perfect humility, to say “yes”. A relationship must have been established between the two, similar to that between a Guardian Angel and his ward.3
We can imagine him at the birth of Our Lady, taking Her in his arms, covering Her with his wings and showing Her the care of a true father. He must have exercised this attentiveness especially in the period when She was in the Temple without the presence of her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne. At times, too, when the Virgin, being a most sublime creature, found herself rejected by those around Her, or when She felt mystified by her very self because She did not comprehend her own grandeur, St. Gabriel must have come to Her, enlightening and comforting Her.
In short, the Archangel was for Our Lady the very presence of God and of His infinite love for Her.
On the other hand, while he had a protective affection for Mary owing to his superior nature, he also had a filial love for Her, for it was through the Mother and Mediatrix of Divine Grace that he had received, ante previsa merita, the gift of being faithful in his trials. For this reason, in addition to being his Queen, the Blessed Virgin was also the Mother who had granted him a share in the divine life.
Receptacle of the “fiat” that changed history…
When the august moment of the Annunciation arrived, after several years of intimate and sublime conviviality, St. Gabriel had already discerned the difficulty that Mary would present to the divine invitation: her vow of virginity. “How shall this be done, because I know not man?” (Lk 1:34), was her reply. To reassure the Virgin of virgins at this crucial moment, the heavenly ambassador had to be the virginal and chaste Archangel par excellence! Only in this way would his words deeply touch the soul of his interlocutor.
St. Gabriel cleared away her doubts about the great panorama which was about to unfold; he dealt in depth with the Redemption of mankind, and he spoke about the millennia of preparation for that great day and about the excellent fruits which would result from it in the future. And, of course, he did not fail to warn Her of the terrible sufferings that awaited her Divine Son, which called not only for her consent, but also her participation.
While Our Lady reflected, filled with wonder at the wisdom of God revealed by the heavenly Archangel, Heaven and history awaited her assent. “The destiny of all humanity depended on the answer of a maiden. The Saviour was, so to speak, knocking at the doors.”4 At last Mary consented: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to Me according to thy word” (Lk 1:38). How deeply St. Gabriel must have reverenced this declaration! Then he withdrew and went to present himself, like a crystalline receptacle of the Blessed Virgin’s fiat, before the throne of the Trinity.
…and of the sorrows that co-redeemed humanity
The Annunciation was probably the climax of St. Gabriel’s mission, but not his last involvement with Our Lady. As we know, it is the Angels who present our prayers to God, and it is they who guard us on our way to eternity. Therefore, even after the Incarnation, St. Gabriel “must have continued his Marian ministry, acting as an intermediary between God and the Blessed Virgin.”5
We can imagine him contemplating Mary and the little Jesus, filled with awe and veneration. He who in imitation of his Lady analysed all these things and kept them in his heart (cf. Lk 2:19), carefully collected every act of love, devotion and respect that he had the privilege of witnessing.
In his tireless dedication, what was St. Gabriel’s mode of action during the most dreaded and decisive moment of his charge’s life, the Passion? It seems fair to think that in those hours of unspeakable suffering, he sought more than ever to support, comfort and protect Her.
Indeed, were it not for a special angelic protection, it would be difficult to understand how, in the midst of the violent and satanic chaos that surrounded the tragedy of the Crucifixion, no one attacked Our Lady’s physical integrity. Unwilling to allow His most loving Mother to be so much as touched by the infernal powers, Jesus wanted this powerful Archangel to be constantly at her side as an invincible defender.
Nevertheless, “because of the insight into Mary’s immaculate soul that the Blessed Trinity had given him, the Archangel knew that although he guarded Her from external attacks, he would not be able to ward off the interior sufferings that came from her direct relationship with God.”6 He was, therefore, the receptacle not only of her fiat, but also of her incomparable inner sufferings, of her tears and of her sighs, to present them to the Father as a sacrifice of pleasing fragrance, and to the most afflicted Heart of Jesus as a sweet consolation.
We do not know how painful it must have been for St. Gabriel, in those august hours, to see his beloved Queen suffer so much. Everything indicates that “if an Angel were to weep, there would be no ocean capable of containing his tears…”7 Paradoxically, however, he drew his strength from the very determination, composure and seriousness that emanated from Our Lady.
Champion of devotion to Mary
Throughout the Blessed Virgin’s earthly life, St. Gabriel was at her side, brimming with enthusiasm, love and veneration. And if it is true that love makes the lover similar to the beloved, the conformity of spirit and mentality that this sublime Archangel acquired with Her was certainly unique in all history.
However, his immense Marian vocation did not end with Our Lady’s entry into heavenly glory: his mission continues with every faithful Christian! He ardently desires to lead us to Mary and to shower upon us special graces obtained by her Immaculate Heart.
If we wish to have a true devotion to the Blessed Virgin, let us ask for the help and intercession of St. Gabriel. He will not delay, with affectionate solicitude, to raise us up and unite us to Her, making us truly Marian souls.
Let us be filled with admiration for the love of this exalted heavenly spirit and be enveloped by his most pure presence. Under his protective wings, we shall not stray from the path of perfection, which for us Catholics is called: Mary! ◊
Taken from the Heralds of the Gospel magazine, #179.
1 MORAZZANI ARRÁIZ, EP, Pedro Rafael (Org.). A criação e os Anjos [Creation and the Angels]. São Paulo: Lumen Sapientiæ, 2015, p.147.
2 CORRÊA DE OLIVEIRA, Plinio. Conference. São Paulo, 24/3/1972.
3 Cf. MORAZZANI ARRÁIZ, op. cit., p.184.
4 CORRÊA DE OLIVEIRA, op. cit.
5 MORAZZANI ARRÁIZ, op. cit., p.184.
6 CLÁ DIAS, EP, João Scognamiglio. Maria Santíssima! O Paraíso de Deus revelado aos homens [Mary Most Holy! God’s Paradise Revealed to Men]. São Paulo: Arautos do Evangelho, 2020, v.II, p.460-461.
7 Idem, p.461.