Stained Glass Window

Under the Watchful Care of St Gabriel

(Fr Gareth Byrne)

The magnificent stained-glass window created by Harry Clark Studios for St. Gabriel’s Church, Dollymount, offers us a powerful meditation on the Archangel Gabriel and on his constant message of God’s saving love for humankind. With Gabriel we see Mary, at the Annunciation of the Birth of Jesus (Luke 1: 26-38). To the left is the Old Testament prophet, Daniel, praying in the lions’ den (Daniel 6: 2-29). To the right Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, prays at the altar in the Temple (Luke 1:5-25). Here are the three great biblical interventions of Gabriel, whose name proclaims ‘God is my hero’. He speaks to us of the dignity of God’s chosen ones and of the saving power of God, who cares profoundly for his

Gabriel makes a number of appearances in the Book of Daniel. The prophet, whose name means ‘my judge is God’, describes his anguish before a vision of ‘a person like a man’ dressed in linen, with a girdle of pure gold round his waist, whose face shone like lightening, his eyes like fiery torches. The angel touches Daniel’s lips acknowledging his speechlessness. ‘Do not be afraid’ he says, ‘you are a man specially chosen; peace be with you’(Daniel 10). Among the extraordinary stories told of Daniel, is that of his being saved by God, having found himself thrown into the lions’ den. As hetells the king who repents of his murderous intentions: ‘My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ jaws; they did me no harm’ (Daniel 6). The placid lion portrayed in the window appears to guard rather than threaten Daniel.
God is a God who rescues his faithful ones. He is present even in times of
great difficulty.

Turning to Gabriel’s annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist, we find Zechariah, a priest of the Temple, in prayer, offering the evening incense in the Holy Place. This moment, a great privilege, would have been the highpoint of Zechariah’s priestly life. Like Daniel, Zechariah is frightened by Gabriel’s appearance and is told not to be afraid. His
seeking of a sign is not unusual in biblical tradition and therefore his punishment is somewhat surprising. He is struck dumb, as Daniel had found himself. The affliction, however, is only temporary and is tempered by the expectation, at last, of a child. Some have suggested that he experienced a sense of ecstatic joy, too overwhelming for words. His son would be called John, which means ‘Yahweh has shown favour’. God indeed is a God of wonders, generous beyond our imagining.

In Luke’s account of the annunciation of the birth of Jesus, Gabriel offers Mary (in Hebrew, Miryâm, meaning ‘exalted one’) a very impressive greeting: ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ ‘Do not be afraid’ Gabriel continues, offering the same counsel he gave Daniel and Zechariah. This time Gabriel’s revelation is to announce that Mary will have a son, to be named Jesus: ‘God saves’. He will be God present among his people, and will be called ‘Son of the Most High, ‘the Holy One’, ‘everlasting King of all the earth’. Luke suggests Mary’s complete trust in God’s gift to her,
freely responding: ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ She is seen standing on the serpent’s head, for the One she bears to us, will overcome darkness forever. God is the giver of gifts, who comes to dwell with us, to
save us and set us free.

So, do not be afraid. Let Gabriel reveal to you that you are loved by God and precious in God’s eyes. Say yes to God’s dream for you and by your love invite others to see God present, working wonders in the world. May peace
be with you. ‘For nothing’, Gabriel rejoices, ‘is impossible to God’ (Luke 1:37).
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