We’ve all seen Christmas trees with the angel set upon the peak, right in the middle, and she – it’s always a she – has flowing robes and a gentle face, as she extends her slender arms to bless. I don’t know when and where the popular tradition of seeing angels as sweetly feminine or gentle first arose. “He’s an angel,” we might say of a baby asleep in his crib, in his mysterious beauty and innocence.
When I was a boy, I often looked up to the ceiling of our church, which was covered over with paintings I didn’t understand, and nobody explained them to me, but I did know that the angel with the strong and muscled forearm, grasping the hilt of a sword, was Michael – whose name I took at Confirmation; and I was aware that he was thrusting the devil back into hell, although that wicked personage was only suggested by the scope of the scene, being just beyond the bounds of the painting. If I looked to another of the works, I saw four angels flying about the Lamb, and because they …
Listen to this episode with a 7-day free trial