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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Lichfield Angel

I've always been a little afraid of angels (The Prophecy!), so when I saw an article on the 1,200-year-old carved figure of the Angel Gabriel discovered in 2003 at Lichfield Cathedral ... Don’t be afraid of the winged messengers ... I was interested. Pete Wilcox, the Canon Chancellor at the Cathedral, wrote ...

In the summer of 2003, an archaeological excavation in the cathedral unearthed a fragmented Anglo-Saxon sculptured panel. It depicts half an Annunciation scene: Gabriel, his right hand raised in blessing. The panel is probably part of the original shrine of St Chad erected by Hedda in the early 8th century and described by Bede in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People .....

Books on angels abound. Most offer either a saccharine mixture of positive thinking and pseudoscientific spirituality .... What a contrast with the angelic figures who populate the pages of the Bible. They usually have to announce themselves with the words “Don’t be afraid”, because the poor humans to whom they have appeared are scared witless.

The angels at the empty tomb in the gospel accounts of Easter are certainly of this kind. In Matthew’s Gospel, the soldiers are so afraid, they shake for fear of him and become “like dead men”, and the women, sure enough, are told: “Don’t be afraid.” In Mark, “the young man” says to the women: “Don’t be alarmed” — but the women leave in terror all the same. In Luke, the women are terrified at the sight of the two men in dazzling clothes who confront them, and “bow their faces to the ground” .....

The indications given by visitors to Lichfield Cathedral a year ago suggest they came not looking for a Pocket Angel, but for something more spiritually demanding. There wasn’t much bowing of the face to the ground — but who would want that in the presence of a limestone sculpture rather than the Thing Itself? There was, however, a great reverence, as encouraging as the spirituality bookshelves are disheartening ..... In the Christian tradition, angels are messengers. They speak for God. The hush that tended to characterise visitors in the presence of the Lichfield angel suggests a real desire to hear what its message might be.

You can read more about the Lichfield Angel here at the Cathedral website.


Blogger Matthew said...

The Prophecy is a strange, fun movie. Just my 2 cents.

2:48 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Matthew - yes, I really liked it, although it was kind of harrowing :-)

6:28 PM  

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