22. Angels’ Names
For most of us, knowledge of a person that does not include knowledge of his name is hardly more than half knowledge. There may be little in a name, especially as name are usually given without reference to personal qualities and endowments, and merely as labels, so to say, to distinguish one person from another. Yet, even so, a name has often associations of a hallowed or patriotic, a literary or historical nature, and when the name is recalled, all these are conjured up so that the name serves as an epitome of the person’s life and character. That is why some names possess such magic power, electrifying vast assemblies and stirring men’s souls to the highest pitch of enthusiasm, or nerving them to deeds of bravery and heroism.
And it is not we alone who set such store by names. For God himself would seem to attach great importance to them. He is was who, in the beginning, gave their names to the see and to the lang, and who brought all the beasts of the earth and all the fowl of the air to Adam to see what he would call them. He again it was who changed the name of Abram to Abraham, and of Jacob to Israel; who dictated the name of the Precursor of Our Lord, and bestowed on the Redeemer of mankind the thrice holy Name of Jesus. He has been pleased, too, to reveal to us His own incommunicable Name. For to Moses, who asked of Him His name, He replied, “I am who am.” And when Moses declared his mission to the people of Israel, he was to say to the, “He that is hath sent me to you.”
Who then will find fault with us if we crave to know the names of the holy angels? Who will take from our joy in the few that we know by telling us that they are not really the names of those glorious spirits at all, being in truth a mere description of their character or special attributes? As if it were not a common thing originally for a name to be given to a person by reason of some similar appropriateness! Rather, such are the best sort of names.
But alas, it has not seemed good to the Lord of all things to reveal to us more than three names among all those which are borne by the countless myriads of the angelic host. To greet each angel by his anme, and to enjoy that familiarity with the blessed spirits which this implies, is a happiness reserved for us in our heavenly home.
Meanwhile, we must be content to have been taught the names of Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, and gratefully invoke them again and again. Others we meet with in fiction and in poetry, and that of Uriel we find the apocryphal third book of Esdras, which, however, lacks the divine authority of the inspired writings. So the name of Victor is assigned as that of the angel who was wont to visit and instruct Saint Patrick, and still others might be culled from the lives of the saints, but not none of them could we have the certainty which is afforded by divine revelation.
On the contrary, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael are names which are found in Holy Scripture, and which have ever been held in veneration in the Church of God. They are invoked in the Litany of the Saints after the name of the Queen of Angels, and before all the rest of the blessed. Saint Michael is exceptionally honoured by a two-fold feast, one in May, the other in September; while Saint Gabriel and Saint Raphael whose festivals have hitherto been kept only in particular localities and by special privilege, are henceforth to be glorified by having their Mass and Office extended to the Universal Church.