Angels

When the Angels in the Gospel of Luke appear to the shepherds, what is described is perhaps more like a scene from a mosque than a European choral society.

And behold, an angel of the Lord appears, and the glory of the Lord shines around. See this angel.

It is a man dressed in loosely-fitting, white clothes. His shirt has buttons only at the neck, and the cloth hangs down to below his knees. His head is wrapped in a red and white cloth. His face is the sweet colour of honey. His beard is as black as the night. There are no shoes on his feet. One of his hands is folded into the other and they rest against his stomach as he stands before us. We look for a gun, but there is no gun. Still we are afraid.

He opens his mouth and speaks. His voice is clear and resonates with the harmonic intonations of a middle eastern poet. He recites from what has become the Qur’an..

In the name of God, most merciful, most compassionate…

God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him;

His name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary;

Held in honour in this world and the hereafter…[1]

 

Remember with gratitude God’s favour on you

For you were enemies and He joined your hearts in love

So that by His grace ye became brethren.

And ye were on the brink of the Pit of Fire

And He saved you from it.

Thus doth God make his signs clear to you

That ye may be guided.[2]

Pronouncing the greatness of God, the angel bows before us.

He stands again, and behind him, all arrayed in rows stands a multitude of angels.

Declaring the greatness of God, they prostrate themselves, and whisper in unison,

Glory to God in the highest

Glory to God in the highest

Glory to God in the highest

They begin to rise from their prostration, but, reminded of the greatness of God, again they prostrate themselves and whisper,

Glory to God in the highest

Glory to God in the highest

Glory to God in the highest

They lift themselves from their prostration but remain on their knees.

Transfixed by their worship, we wait while they pause.

Then they look to the northern horizon and the first angel declares,

Grace and peace be upon all of you

They cast their eyes across the entire earth to the southern horizon.

The leader again declares,

Grace and peace be upon all of you

Having declared peace, they hide their faces from us and are gone.

[1] Qur’an Surah iii, 45

[2] Qur’an Surah iii, 103

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