March 26 Saints of the Day – Archangel Gabriel and Maddalena Caterina Morano

On this date in 1917, the Seattle Metropolitans beat the Montreal Canadiens to become the first U.S. team to win the Stanley Cup. Sadly for Orthodox Christians, aside from brief visits (and micro-cars) there have been no Metropolitans in Seattle since 1924.

Archangel GabrielThe Archangel Gabriel (birthdate unknown), is most famous as the archangel who brought the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary. The name “Gabriel” means either “God is my strength” or “man of God” or “mighty one,” for reasons which I remember from Hebrew class, but won’t bore you with. The name in Greek (Γαβριήλ) appears just twice in the New Testament, both in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke. The Hebrew/Aramaic original (גַּבְרִיאֵל) occurs twice in the book of Daniel, and Church tradition (more about which anon) affirms it’s the same guy.

The two appearances in Luke are the Annunciation (as noted), and the appearance to Zachariah, father of John the Baptist. Unlike the Theotokos, Zachariah doubted the angel, and as a result he (Zachariah, not Gabriel) was mute until John was born. In that episode Gabriel lets fall a little information about himself. (I use “him” but who knows what gender to assign to angels? All we can go on is the grammatical gender in the Greek, but we all know what that’s worth.) (For those who don’t know what that’s worth: not a lot. Now you do.) He says, “I stand in the presence of God.” Sadly my sources don’t explain exactly what that means. Is he just saying he spends the majority of his days in God’s presence? Or that he’s not allowed to sit down? Or something else? I can’t say.

Tradition fleshes out the picture a little (if you can use that metaphor of one of the bodiless hosts). The church teaches that Gabriel inspired Moses to write the Pentateuch, appeared to Daniel (as mentioned), appeared to St. Anna to herald the birth of the Theotokos, and appeared to Joseph the Betrothed of Mary to explain the pregnancy thing and then again to warn about Herod’s murderous rampage. Tradition further states that it was Gabriel who strengthened our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane after his prayerful struggle. And finally (at least in my source), Gabriel was the angel sitting upon the stone who told the myrrh-bearing women at the break of dawn that Jesus was not there, but had risen.

But what about the horn? I hear you cry. Well, ever having your best interests at heart, I will tell you. As anybody who loves Handel’s Messiah can tell you, when our Lord returns, the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible. As far back as 1455, the bugler of the parousia has been identified as Gabriel. This idea is echoed in Milton, and gets a good deal of mileage in African-American spirituals, and songs that stand in that tradition. In mathematics, “Gabriel’s Horn” refers to a specific (trumpet-shaped) geometric figure with finite volume but infinite surface area. At which point we are so far afield from our subject that we might as well go on to the next saint.

Maddalena Caterina MoranoWhen the blessed (i.e. not a full-fledged saint yet) Maddalena Caterina Morano (1847 – 1908) was eight, her father and older sister died, so she went to work to support her family, while continuing her schooling (Cue: “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”). At nineteen she graduated and became an elementary school teacher. She worked for twelve more years, at which point her siblings were out of the house and her mother was able to live without her assistance. She then joined the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians, a (then) new order. Within three years the founder (John Bosco) sent her to head an institute in Sicily. There she set up new houses, instituted after-school activities and sewing classes, trained teachers, and taught catechism classes. And that was with her left hand. She was also a local and regional superior, and coordinator and trainer of catechesis teachers for 18 parishes. (Feeling like an underachiever yet?) She was beatified in 1994 by Pope John Paul II.

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

This Day in History for 26th March
Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel (OCA) – Main source
Archangel Gabriel (Orthodox Wiki)
Gabriel (Wikipedia)
Gabriel’s Horn (Wikipedia)
Blessed Maddalena Caterina Morano (St. Patrick’s, DC) – Main source
Blessed Maddalena Caterina Morano (SQPN)
Salesians of Don Bosco (Wikipedia)