My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 26th of March, the Holy Orthodox Church Commemorates
the Synaxis of the Archangel GABRIEL.
"Gabriel, that Godlike and sublime spiritual intellect, brilliant
and heavenly, with the Host of Hierarchies on high, seeing and
perceiving the Tri-solar Light of God was sent to the pure
Virgin; and he announced the awesome and Divine Holy
Mystery of the plan of God. And he prays now, interceding
for our souls.
O Gabriel, you are ever full of the Light of God, the Ruler over
all, and you do His will, obeying His commands. Marvelous
Archangel, Chief of the Angelic Hosts, protect us who with
longing now honor you, and every pray to Christ, interceding
that surpassing peace and great mercy be upon our souls
bestowed. [From Vespers]
Archangel Gabriel, the Most Holy and Divine Archangel, is commemorated on March 26th. He was chosen by God to announce the gladsome tidings to the Virgin [Luke 1:26). Thus, we glorify the Mother of God and Venerate the Lord's Messenger who contributed to the Mystery of Salvation. Today's Synaxis ("Assembly") celebrated the day after the Annunciation of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, is not the only day we honor the Archangel Gabriel. He is also commemorated on the 8th of November at the Synaxis of the Archangels and the rest of the bodiless and heavenly ranks. His memory is also celebrated at his other Synaxis on the 13th of July, as well as when he chanted "IT IS TRULY MEET" or Axion Estin on Mount Athos, on the 11th of June.
The Archangel is one of the bodiless hosts or the incorporeals. In the strict sense of the word, the term "INCORPOREAL" is applied only to God. Saint John of Damascus discusses the Angelic Host, writing, "God brought the Angels out of nothing into being and created them after His Own Image, an incorporeal race, a sort of spirit or IMMATERIAL FIRE. In the words of the divine David, we read: 'He maketh His Angels spirits, and His liturgists a flame of fire' [cf. Psalm 103:5]. Saint Gregory the Theologian has described their lightness and ardor, heat, and keenness, and sharpness with which they hunger for God and serve Him, and how they are borne to the regions above and are quite delivered from all material thought. An Angel, then, is an intelligent essence, in perpetual motion, with A FREE WILL, INCORPOREAL, MINISTERING TO GOD, HAVING OBTAINED BY GRACE AN IMMORTAL NATURE. The Creator alone knows the form and limitation of Angelic essence.
The Angels are secondary intelligent lights derived from that first Light which is WITHOUT BEGINNING, for they have THE POWER OF ILLUMINATION; THEY HAVE NO NEED OF TONGUE OR HEARING, BUT WITHOUT UTTERING WORDS THEY COMMUNICATE TO EACH OTHER THEIR OWN THOUGHTS AND COUNSELS. Through the Logos/Word, therefore, ALL THE ANGELS ARE CREATED, AND THROUGH THE SANCTIFICATION BY THE HOLY SPIRIT WERE THEY BROUGHT TO PERFECTION, SHARING EACH IN PROPORTION TO HIS WORTH AND RANK IN BRIGHTNESS AND GRACE. They are circumscribed: for when they are in the heavens, they are not on the earth; and when they are sent by God down to the earth, they do not remain in the heavens. They are not hemmed in by walls and doors, and bars and seals, for THEY, ARE QUITE UNLIMITED. By the word "UNLIMITED," again, I explain; for it is not as they really are that they reveal themselves to the worthy men to whom God wishes them to appear, but IN A CHANGED FORM WHICH THE BEHOLDERS ARE CAPABLE OF SEEING. FOR THAT ALONE IS NATURALLY AND STRICTLY UNLIMITED WHICH IS UNCREATED. FOR EVERY CREAT THING IS LIMITED BY GOD Who created it.
"Further, apart from their essence, THEY RECEIVE THE SANCTIFICATION FROM THE SPIRIT. Through the Divine grace, THEY PROPHESY. They HAVE NO NEED OF MARRIAGE FOR THEY ARE IMMORTAL. Seeing that they are minds, they are in mental places and are not circumscribed after the fashion of a body. For they have not a bodily form by nature, nor are they tended in three dimensions. But to whatever post they may be assigned, there they are present after the manner of a mind and energize in various places at the same time. Whether they are equals in essence or differ from one another we know not. God, their Creator, Who knows all things, alone knows. But they differ from each other IN BRIGHTNESS OR THEIR BRIGHTNESS ON THEIR POSITION. Furthermore, THEY IMPART BRIGHTNESS TO ONE ANOTHER, BECAUSE THEY EXCEL ONE ANOTHER IN RANK AND NATURE. AND CLEARLY, THE HIGHER SHARE THEIR BRIGHTNESS AND KNOWLEDGE WITH THE LOWER.
"They are mighty and prompt to fulfill the will of the Deity, and their nature is endowed with such celerity that wherever the Divine glance bids them, there they are straightway found. They are THE GUARDIANS OF THE DIVISIONS OF THE EARTH. THEY ARE SET OVER NATIONS AND REGIONS, ALLOTTED TO THEM by their Creator. They govern all other affairs and bring us succor. And the reason, surely, is because they are set over us by the Divine will and command, and they are ever in the vicinity of God.
"With difficulty, they are moved to evil, yet they are not absolutely immovable. But now they are altogether immovable, not by nature but by grace and by their nearness to the only God. They behold God according to their capacity, and this is their food. They are above us for they are incorporeal, and ARE FREE FROM ALL BODILY PASSION, YET ARE NOT PASSIONLESS, FOR THE Deity alone is passionless. They take different forms at the bidding of their Master, God, and thus reveal themselves to men and unveil the Divine Mysteries to them. They have heaven for their dwelling place, and have one duty, TO SING GOD’S PRAISE AND CARRY OUT HIS DIVINE WILL.
Moreover, as that most holy, and sacred, and gifted theologian, Saint Dionysios the Areopagite, writes, these essences are DIVIDED INTO THREE GROUPS, EACH CONTAINING THREE ORDERS. And the FIRST GROUP, he says, consists of those who are in God’s presence and are said to be directly and immediately one with Him, namely, THE SERAPHIM with their SIX WINGS, THE MANY-EYED CHERUBIM, AND THOSE THAT SIT IN THE HOLIEST THRONES. The SECOND GROUP is that of the DOMINIONS, AND THE AUTHORITIES, AND THE POWERS, and the THIRD, AND LAST, IS THAT OF THE PRINCIPALITIES, AND ARCHANGELS, AND ANGELS…
"Since the Archangels receive the commands from the Most High, we see in holy icons THAT THERE ARE BANDS OR RIBBONS WINDING OR COILING FROM THEIR EARS. This is more than an adornment and hair restraint. It is also A SIGN THAT THEY ARE UNDER AUTHORITY. Saint Gregory Palamas notes that "WHILE THE ANGELS ARE APPOINTED TO SERVE THE CREATOR AND HAVE AS THEIR ONLY MISSION TO BE UNDER AUTHORITY…MAN IS FOREORDAINED NOT ONLY TO BE RULED BUT TO RULE OVER ALL THAT WHICH IS ON EARTH." The clothing of the Archangels is similar to what military officers and high-ranking functionaries at the Byzantine court would wear, such as the CHITON (TUNIC), LACERNA (SHORT TUNIC), AND CHLAMYDE (MILITARY CLOAK OR SHORT MANTLE). (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George