Showing posts with label iconography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label iconography. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Angels All Around Me

In the name of Adonai, God of Israel, to my right is Michael, and to my left is Gabriel; before me is Uriel and behind me is Raphael; and above my head is the Shekhinah, God's presence.


Yasmina, when we were speaking last week you mentioned angels and I haven't been able to stop thinking about them!  In discussing the need to praise God very day, you said, "When a person is absorbed with her daily routines, an angel comes to remind her to remember God.” And I had this image of an angel tapping me on the shoulder! I love that Muslims understand the sudden occurrence of a thought into one’s head or heart as an encounter with an angel.  Often, Jews resist discussing the presence of angels in the world, claiming that angels are Christian, when in fact Jewish literature and liturgy is filled with mentions of angels.  I sing “The Angel Song” (arranged by the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach) every night to my son before he goes to sleep. Each of the angels mentioned in the song plays a specific role in protecting humans in the world. It comforts me to think that God sends us angels to help us in our times of need and to remind us that God is present in our daily lives.  

Similar to the nightly song of angels that you sing to your son, Tziporah, is the bedtime blessing in my family: “May all God’s holy angels watch over you as you sleep.” While the Christian gospels recount significant appearances by angels as God’s messengers or as heralds of good news, the concept of a Guardian Angel from Catholic Christianity is not universally shared among non-Catholics. Even so, the motif of supernatural angel with wings and halo is pervasive in Christian art, iconography and verse.  While these images abound in art and artifact, deeply ingrained in Christian teaching is this verse from Hebrews: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Heb 13:2) Thus, angels may also be viewed as spiritual beings who take embodied form. I wonder if it is this teaching that gives rise to a popular exclamation expressed toward someone who has demonstrated a deep kindness, “You are an angel!”

Yes, the thought of angels protecting, helping and recording our deeds is inherent to Islamic teachings and gives me ample room for contemplation about the unseen world. Coincidentally, reciting the verse known as the “Verse of the Throne”[1] grants a Muslim a peaceful night-watch from an angel. One of my favorite Hadiths about angels that relates to the remembrance of God is: “When any group of men remembers God, angels surround them and mercy covers them, tranquility descends upon them, and God mentions them to those who are with Him.”[2] What a humbling and wondrous thing it is to be the subject of God’s mention! To me, this is a magnificently gentle and loving sign of generosity from my Lord.

[1] Ayatul Qursi 2:255
[2] from Fiqh-us-Sunnah by Sayyid Saabiq, Vol. 4, p.102