Four archangels are named in Jewish and Christian tradition. First is Michael, whose name is a challenge: Mee-ka-el translates "Who is like God?" Uriel is next, meaning "God is light" — not a little candle flame but a great blinding light, like that of lightning, of thunder, of the heavens ripped wide open. Then Gabriel, "strong man of God," wrestles with the likes of Jacob in the field and with father-to-be Zechariah in the valley of his soul. Last is Raphael, "God heals."
They aren't gentle, these biblical angels. They aren't sugar-sweet and dimpled. Not whimsical, not pastel, not soft. One of these winged creatures still guards the entrance to the Garden of Eden. He stands there not simply sternly but with a sword, flashing and brilliant with a burning flame so none of us mere mortals can enter and make our way toward the tree of life.
Several angels appeared to the prophet Isaiah in the temple times of the Old Testament. They, too, were flaming creatures and fearsome, with six wings apiece. They weren't singing but shouting so that Isaiah cried out and the temple shook and was filled with their smoke.
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