Patron Saint of
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Gabriel the Archangel is held in high esteem in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim tradition. Called “Fortitudo Dei” in Latin; in Hebrew, the name Gabriel means “God’s Strength”or “Hero of God” or “God Has Shown Himself Mightily.”
A heavenly messenger, he is one of the seven great angels who stand before the throne of God. He interprets dreams and visions, and translates languages. Gabriel explained to Daniel the meaning of his vision of a ram and a goat, foretelling Alexander the Great’s conquest of Persia, as well as a prophecy foretelling the freeing of the Israelites. He taught Joseph the 70 languages spoken at Babel. It has also been suggested that Gabriel is the angel who wrestled with Jacob in the form of a man and that he was involved in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
He announced to Zachariah that his elderly wife, Elizabeth, was pregnant with the infant who would become John the Baptist (then struck him mute as punishment for his disbelief). And, perhaps most famously, he gave the Virgin Mary the news that she was soon to be the mother of Jesus Christ.. Given his role as Herald, it is not unreasonable to suppose that he is the angel who appeared to St. Joseph, as well as the shepherds in the field, announcing the birth of Christ.
In Milton’s Paradise Lost, Gabriel stands guard at the eastern gates of Paradise and in Jewish tradition he is the angel of judgment. (though in Christian
tradition, Michael holds that position).
Among Muslims, Gabriel (Gibril in Islamic) is believed to have revealed the sacred writings of the Koran to the Mohammed. He presides over fire and the spirit, thunder and the ripening of fruits.
Since ancient times, Gabriel has been a favorite subject of artists, in all media — from frescoes to icons to mosaics to quilts. He is often represented carrying lilies, a staff, or a trumpet. Quite a few present-day artists have given the archangel either a female, and/or an androgynous persona.
One folktale credits Gabriel with selecting which souls will become humans, and from conception to birth tells the new person what he or she will need to know on Earth, then silences the baby just before birth by pressing his finger onto the child’s lips, thus producing the cleft below the nose.
*The feast of St. Gabriel was celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church on March 24th until 1921 when it was combined with the other archangels Michael and Raphael. Orthodox Christians hold his feast on November 8, when all those named Gabriel celebrate their name day.