Sunday, December 22, 2013

Naming Angels, Big and Small

I like angels. One of my favorites is this little guy, who was made by my oldest son Grant when he was all of four years old. He's at the top of our tree every year, and he makes me smile.

Another is the one whose words were rendered into the poetry of the King James Bible (but you can go ahead and hear Linus' voice when you read it, because I do that too):

"And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not; for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be unto all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord.'"

Fear not. The angel must have been terrifying, because the Gospel of Luke also says they were "sore afraid." The Hebrew word, seraphim, literally means "the burning ones."

I've always liked that idea much better than our modern conception of angels. They are not our familiars, the spirits of people we love who have died. They've never been human. They are not feminine, pretty, insipid butterflies in white dresses.

My other favorite angel is Proginoskes, the many-winged, many-eyed cherubim from Madeleine L'Engle's book "A Wind in the Door." Progo, as he is called by the Murry children, is a Namer. L'Engle wrote much in this story about the power of naming, a form of love. Naming elevates both the diversity and the individuality of everything that is; and is a powerful weapon against nothingness and ignorance and the evils that hide in both.

I've probably mentioned a time or two that I'm a former Lutheran who turned in her casserole dish. I don't remember the last time I was at a church service, and the last meaningful discussion I had about faith was with a Buddhist nun. I enjoy reading about Catholic saints. I'm a denominational orphan of the highest order.

So while this is a holiday season for Christians, I don't exclude anyone from the gifts offered by this trio of angelic host. I wish everyone a moment or much, much more of innocent joy. I hope all have at least one moment now, or sometime in their lives, of spiritual awe. I hope you are all named and loved.

Merry Christmas, all.


  1. I love this post! Linus and L'Engle and and a child-made angel. Cannot top that in any way. And the power of naming! My children are Will and Grace, names with layers of familial and metaphorical meaning. Because the universe likes to mock my pretensions, the TV show of the same name debuted 6 months after they did. :-)

    Wishing you the best, now and every day in the coming year!

    1. Thank you so much! I wrestle with the concept of naming nearly every day recently it seems, because the labels we place on people carry so much import. I kept coming back to it, and somehow between it and the little paper angel, the post was born.

      The best to you as well, Rita, and all your loved ones!

  2. I'm late reading this, but from one denominational orphan to another, here's hoping that your Christmas was merry and that you have a great New Year!