Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why the archangels have men's names

The Archangels: Jegudiel, Gabriel, Selaphiel, Michael, Uriel, Raphael, Barachiel
Beneath: The Cherubim (blue) and Seraphim (red)

The Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels
As today is the feast of three of the holy archangels and Saturday will be the feast of all the guardian angels, I would like to make a short series of posts on the angels.
Much of what I write in the posts over the next few days will be heavily rooted in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas – this seems particularly fitting, since he is called the Angelic Doctor. I would recommend that we all re-read his treatise on angles from the Summa Theologica I, qq.50-64, and also his discussion of the way in which the angels participate in the divine governance of the world which can be found in ST I, qq.106-114. The first of these sections discusses the angels more generally – their nature, their mode of knowing, their will, and their creation and fall. The second section deals with their relation to each other and to humanity.
ST I, qq.50-64 will answer the following questions and many more: How many angels are there? How many angels can stand on the head of a pin? Can an angel be in two places at the same time? Can an angel be in any place at all (since they are immaterial)? How do angels know things if they do not have sense experiences? Were the angels created good? How did some of the angels fall? Was Satan the greatest of the angels, before he fell?
ST I, qq.106-114 answers these and other questions: Do the angels speak to one another? Is there a hierarchy of angels? Do some angels command other angels? Do seraphim ever come to earth? Does each human being have a guardian angel? Did Christ have a guardian angel? Will the anti-Christ (presuming he is human) have a guardian angel?
I will attempt to answer some of these questions in future posts, but for now (to get the ball rolling) I would like to take a slightly lighter question: Why do the archangels have men’s names?

Michael is not a man, but he is pictured as a man
To understand the question, we must first admit that Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael are not men. They are not even male angels. Angels cannot be male or female. As pure spirits, they are each fully realized beings of their own proper nature – this means that each and every angel is a separate species from the rest. Because angels are not limited by matter (they are completely immaterial and have no bodies), they have no gender. Being either male or female would mean that an angel was only half of its perfect nature (just as humanity is not fully realized without both man and woman together). But each angel is perfect, and therefore no angel is either male or female.
Nevertheless, the name Michael is a masculine name, it is a man’s name. In Christian art, the archangels are always pictured as men. In the Scriptures the masculine third person pronoun is used, “he.” While it is true that both the Hebrew (mal’akh) and the Greek (angelos) for “angel” are masculine, I think that the masculine naming and male personification of angels is more than a matter of grammatical agreement.
Why angels appear as men
There are any number of reasons why an angel might appear as male, even though angels do not really have any gender. Some reasons have been offered a few years back by Jimmy Akin, I will offer some others and some of the same [I offer these in the order which seems most logical to my own mode of thought].
1) Though it is politically incorrect to say it these days – and more importantly, it is in fact inaccurate – it was the common assumption of many that reason is less vigorous in women than in men. Therefore, as the angels are far more intelligent than men and, as it was thought, men are more intelligent than women, it would be more fitting for an angel to appear as a man than as a woman.
2) While St. Thomas strongly emphasizes that man and woman are both the image of God, as both are rational, he also admits that, in a secondary sense, man is more the image of God than woman – for just as man comes from God and returns to God, so too woman comes from man (having been created from his side) and returns to man (through married life). This is not nearly so sexist as some might think; in fact, St. Thomas is appealing to Sacred Scripture (1 Cor 11:7-11, a passage which refers both to the relation between men and women and to the angels). Thus, as angels (being pure spirits) are more like unto God than are human beings, so too men (in a secondary sense) are more like God than women – Man is the image and the glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. Thus, angels are depicted as men instead of women.
3) Angels govern human beings out of love for them; and, in a well ordered society, the man is the head of his wife and loves her as Christ loved his Church (Eph 5:25). Thus, on account of their authority and love, angels are depicted as men rather than women.
4) Angels are very powerful. Men are usually stronger than women. Thus, angels are depicted as men. Connected to this, angels are warriors and soldiers – occupations more fitting for men than women.
5) Angels are the messengers of God. In the ancient Hebrew world, only men fulfilled this duty.
6) Finally, angels are connected with worship (offering incense, singing hymns, etc.). Worship is a priestly act. This act is expressed in a particular way by the ordained priesthood which, in both the Old and the New Law, is restricted to men. Therefore, angles are depicted as men rather than women.
In addition to these, I am sure there are many other reasons as well. Perhaps more can be added in the comment box!


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

As a secondary note:
"Michael" means "Who is like God?"
"Gabriel" means "The strength of God"
"Raphael" means "God heals"

"Uriel" - "Light of God"; "Selaphiel" - "Intercessor of God"; "Jegudiel" - "Glorifier of God"; "Barachiel" - "God's blessing"

Also, I should have mentioned that angels are not just depicted as men, but as youths, or as young men. The idea here seems to be an emphasis on the fact that they do not grow old or tire out...they will never die, so they are perpetually "young"!

His Prince Michael said...

Thank-you for the excellant article!

Jenny Campbell said...

While I understand that Genesis 2:21-24 tells of woman coming from man's rib, in Genesis 1:27 it tells of God creating male and female at the same time - and both in His image. While I agree with the remaining analysis, this point does not match all of scripture and may actually reinforce more sexist cultural positions throughout history. Both Aquinas and St. Paul were men of their times where the prevailing thought was more toward women being second class citizens, although Catholicism, in general, elevated women in theory, not always practice. It may also be because women have also been traditionally blamed for the "fall," thus giving men an air of superiority. Scott Hahn's analysis of this is quite good and gives Adam credit for his part in the act, but it is not a common analysis that I have seen elsewhere. While I am not a huge women's libber, I do think that some of this analysis needs to be a little more sensitive to women and the place they have in salvation history; the reasons for their second class citizen status throughout much of history and their on-going contributions to theology, culture and human rights. Mary, our Mother, is the greatest human being next to Jesus. She is the new Eve through whom the Savior came into the world and the co-redemtrix who still brings us to her Son. She epitomizes the idea that women are also the image and the glory of God!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

THANK YOU for emphasizing the great dignity and value of women. Indeed, women and men are EQUAL, and I certainly hope that my post has not been pastorally insensitive or hurtful to any.

Nevertheless, though EQUAL, they are not IDENTICAL...thus we need not be surprised if their are some aspects of being male which more closely approximate to angels.

After all, I don't here too many men complaining that the VIRTUES are drawn as women!

Nevertheless, point well taken with regard to the way in which women have been treated poorly over the centuries...priests and male theologians do need to be particularly sensitive when writing on such topics.

Anonymous said...

And 7) last but not least, they ARE men.


Chatto said...

I know that today's Feast is in honour of the 3 archangels mentioned in Scripture, so where do the names of the other 4 come from?

JARay said...

I pray every day to my Guardian Angel for his guidance and protection. I wondered about his name and decided that I would call him John. By so doing I felt closer to him and I look forward to joining him one day in the company of all the angels and saints.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@"Gabriel" (sept 29, 9:56pm),

MEN means male human beings...angels are not male human beings! They are a different sort of creature.
What you meant to say (I hope), is that angles are MALES...this is also false.

Angels have no gender...not only because they are not corporeal, but also because if they had gender they would not be the full realization of their own nature.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

They are the names which are written in Greek in the icon. They are apparently part of the tradition of the Eastern Orthodox.

St. Gregory the Great mentions:
Uriel (God's light), Phanuel (God's face), Zarachiel (God's command), and Simiel (God's proclaimer).

These angels are all mentioned in various apocryphal works.
Wikipedia actually has a decent little article on this..."Archangel"

Anonymous said...

I'm unclear about woman returning to man in marriage because doesn't Genesis 2:24 say, "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body," which Jesus also quotes to the Pharisees in Matthew 19:5?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Anonymous (12:48am),
Yes, you are correct that it does go both ways between man and woman...St. Paul adds in the same passage from 1 Cor 11, that the man is also from the woman and that both are from God...
However, I believe that St. Thomas here refers to the condition after the fall in which a woman's desire is to her husband and he shall rule over her (Gen 3,16).

Remember, Joseph took Mary into his house...there is a sense in which the man receives the woman and encompasses her...
...this is what makes Jer 31 so interesting: "the woman will encompass the man"; it is a complete role reversal!

I hope that this has made some sense and that my writing has been at least somewhat helpful in shedding light on the mystery.

Brother Joseph Freyaldenhoven said...

Saint Michael the Archangel defend us in the battle!
I have been to the cave of Saint Michael on the Gargano, the Shrine of St Michael at Mont St Michel and the Grotto of Saint Michael in Mexico and each of these places is filled with peace.
Thanks for the great article

Tap said...

I have been aware of my guardian angel since I was very small, when Sister Alma Mary in 1st grade, told us to name our guardian angel, I chose Linda, which means beautiful.
But I have seen angels in paintings looking more like women then men. I just figured God would give us angels to help us until our dying breath and she has always been with me. I never worried about the gender part. People whine about the strangest stuff! Amen?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Bob and Penny Lord,
I am glad that the post was interesting to you! Thank you for the work you do in bringing the holy places to our TV!

I certainly wouldn't want to get between you and your angel guardian! I only mean to refer to the masculine names given by Scripture. There are probably good reasons why a particular angel guardian might reveal himself (itself) under a feminine name -- like helping a woman/girl to feel closer and more united to her angel!
Peace to you!

Unknown said...

I'll take a stab at supporting the Blessed Mother, a woman, as the greatest of God's creations: All of the major public apparitions of the last 1,000 years or more, and the messages delivered during them, have been by Mary.

She obviously has been chosen to be her Son's messenger to the human race in the place of angels these days.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

There are three perfect creatures:
1) The Humanity of Christ Jesus
2) The Maternity of the Blessed Mother
3) The Beatitude of Heaven.

Certainly, Mary holds a very prominent place in the New Law...but this need not degrade the angels. She is Queen of the Angels, after all! Angels are always at work in the world, especially under the special and loving command of the Holy Virgin.

Unknown said...


I wasn't intending to degrade angels.

A few weeks ago I attended my 50th high school reunion and was flabbergasted when an old friend (female)found great fault with the Church because Mary was always portrayed as being weak and wimpy.

I'm not sure what she has been reading, but it's not good, She also spouted some disbelief in a major dogma.

Of course I believe that the "Humanity of Christ Jesus" would the most perfect of beings.

I will however have to do some research, thinking and praying on the concept of the "Beatitude of Heaven."

Thank you for you comment, and a wonderful blog. I'll be back.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I certainly did not mean to be really disagreeing with your comment! I agree that Mary is the special helper of the Lord in the New Dispensation, you are quite right on this point.

In regard to the three perfect creatures, I am not sure if the order is really an order of greatness...they are all perfect in what they are...the idea with beatitude of heaven is that, because the vision is of God, it cannot bring any more joy to the soul -- but it is still a created joy, not the uncreated joy of God himself (who is the Holy Spirit).

Anonymous said...

I wandered here by chance ... I'm an Orthodox Christian. When someone in our church asks why the angels are painted as beautiful young men with long curly hair tied back, the answer I've always heard is that they choose to look like our Lord. They rejoice to take on his likeness in heaven.

The argument that their gender presentation points to superior strength or whatnot doesn't stand up. It is well-known that the Near East considered the lion the symbol of strength, but both lions and lionesses were depicted equally (there was even some preference for the female). Why would the king and queen of beasts have equality but not man and woman? I believe sexism is a later Western idea.

Thank you.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Juliana, Thank you for your input...I do think that you make a good point about the angels choosing to look like our Lord.

With regard to the "strength" question...you will recall that the earlier reasons I give have to do with the intellect, rationality, being an image of God, authority, etc. It wouldn't do well for angels to regularly appear as wild beasts -- though lions are strong, they are not too smart. Thus, it makes sense that the archangels appeared as men: rational animals who are strong (at least stronger than the other rational animal: woman).

After 19 comments, I think you have provided the first additional reason!
So, here it is:

7) The Eternal Word became incarnate as a male human being; the angels, wishing to foreshadow and honor this mystery, also appear as men.

Bender said...

Why do archangels have men's names?

They don't.

Rather, certain men have the names of archangels. It is only by men being named after the angels that these names are male names.

As for angels appearing masculine in scripture, there is a commonsense, practical reason for that. We have to take into consideration that, in the course of Salvation History, God necessarily dealt with humanity as it existed at any given time in human history, such that revelation from Him was at a level that people would understand and accept.

Maybe today people would readily accept Monica and Tess as angels, but 3000 years ago, they could not conceive of such a thing. They expected male angels, so God had them appear in masculine form, even though angels are neither male nor female (or perhaps better described as being both).

Ian said...


The practical reason, as you describe it, is already covered under numbers five and six, at least, above. But while they were good, practical reasons, I doubt they were much relevant to God, seeing as He didn't seem concerned with whether people could conceive of what He was doing 2000 years ago. Further, if He had wanted woman-appearing angels, or to come to earth as a woman, and wished for it to be conceivable to the Jews, He could have ordered Jewish society so that that made sense to the Jews (it was a culture created by revelation, after all), but He didn't. He could have easily established a female priesthood, for example, but He didn't. He could have called Sarah to found a nation, but He didn't. So I think we can conclude that He had His own reasons beyond practicality.

Ian said...

In my haste (and I am still rushing to get to an appointment, so please forgive me if I am incoherent), I neglected to tie this also to the "man of his times" concept from above, which so often is used to justify all manner of innovation. Saint Paul was a man of his times, indeed, and the times were made that way by God. Certainly, the Jews and the Catholics after them were imperfect, and Paul was when he was a Jew and no less when he was Catholic, but when he wrote scripture, he was writing God's Word.

Also, perhaps our host can set me straight here, but I've never been able to understand the whole first and second "stories" of creation thing. It has always seemed to me to have come from the historical-critical obnoxiousness (and I never heard the term before that became the trend, but that may have bee) that tries to treat everything in the Bible as "myth" rather than as history. If you start with the assumption that creation could only have happened one way, the "second story" only appears to be a further elaboration of the narrative. Saying that he created them male and female without really going into detail of the creation doesn't seem to me to contradict the later passage that does go into detail about that particular day, and throws in a summary of the rest of creation. Nor indeed should we consider it possible for the Bible to contradict itself, I shouldn't think.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

On the "two" stories of creation...I have written a little article about how St. Thomas and St. Augustine answer this question...http://ntmjournal.blogspot.com/2010/04/metaphor-and-account-of-creation_25.html...
The basic answer is that the first creation account is a metaphor for the way in which the angels came to know the works of God - this is St. Augustine's answer, it is not some historical-critical reaction...

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Michael is a masculine name...its not simply that little boys have been named after Michael, it really is a man's name; it could not be given to a woman...a woman's name would Michelle or Michaela...
All the archangels have men's names...you don't need to know Hebrew to recognize that...

His Prince Michael said...

While, I'm extremely appreciative to witness all the thoughtful discourse among Believers, please:
Leave your "Political Correctness"
at the gate.

ALL, for The Greater Glory of GOD!

Dave said...

I love my guardian angel and have been close to "him" since I was a little boy. He has physically saved my life. I was lucky enough to be married on The Feast of the Guardian Angels (something I am sure that was organized by Heaven – when I was informed of the open date it made we laugh with joy).
I believe that our guardian angels are always talking to us. We simple need to listen and be aware. I also turn to Saint Padre Pio, who loved his guardian angel and instructed us on how to respect ours. We should learn to send our guardian angels to help and comfort other. We should ask them to teach us to pray. We should ask them to protect us. We should call upon them to push the evil ones away from us. We should ask them to guide us. We need to listen to them. These are supernatural beings that are from God and in the presents of God at all times. We are rubbing elbows with someone that is so close to The Creature. How lucky we are. What a loving God we have.
I am amazed at the fact that we are given a guide from the moment of our creation. Unfortunately, guardian angels are treated like user guides that come with a piece of equipment. People would be mad if they didn’t get one, but most people only turn to them when something is broken. Many others simple stick them somewhere for ‘save keeping’ but eventually forget all about them. Use your guide to be closer to God. Ask "him" for "his" help and guidance. Ask “him” to teach you to worship God. Ask “him” to teach you to love your neighbor. Thank God for your Best Friend and Companion.
P.S. Many at many Marian Apparitions are preceded by visits of angels to teach the visionaries and to proclaim the coming of Mary. The grace of God be on all of us.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that you are saying that it is the teaching of our faith that men are superior to women in all important respects, and that it is proper for women to be ruled by men. And that this is why we perceive angels to be masculine, because of their similarly pronounced superiority to human beings.

As a single woman who accepts all the teachings of the Church, and really has no quibble about women's liberation, I have to admit I find these teachings puzzling.

You say two things that seem contradictory (1) that male and female are equal; and (2) that women are properly subordinated to men. If two things are equal, how can it be that one is subordinate, as well as weaker, less rational, and in need of being led and ruled over? Clearly, the stronger, more rational and leader is superior to the other, and thus they are not equal.

I am a single woman, and I would be happy to be married and would not have a problem with the man taking the leadership role in my family.

But as a single woman who is not likely to be married, it seems to me that your analysis means that I am a weak, incomplete, ninny who lacks the essential leadership of a man. I suppose this is possible, but it does not square with my experience. Am I simply missing something, or am I a victim of overweening pride and in need of correction? I ask this quite sincerely.

Anonymous said...

Sorry - one more question.

In what sense is it proper to say that men are "more like God than women"? I know you say that this is true in a "secondary" sense, but I am not sure what that means.

Primarily - both are an image of God, but "secondarily" men are more like God because "woman is the glory of man?" Honestly, I don't understand what that means. In what sense am I as a woman glorifying men rather than God? It sounds almost idolatrous.

I suppose what all my questions amount is whether you are saying that at the level of being women are inferior to men, as all of these characteristics you discuss seem to suggest?

I had thought that the Church taught that men and women are complentary to each other, rather than men being superior to women in all important respects, but your discussion seems to suggest otherwise.

Unknown said...

"These are not Angles, they are Angels!"

spell check people...

jedesto said...

The French name girls "Michelle" and "Gabrielle" and the Italians have similar equivalent names [I'm not sure about "Raphielle"], so what's the big deal?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Anonymous Single Woman (6:36pm and 7:15pm),
Obviously something in my post or in the comments has struck a sensitive issue for you...I apologize if anything I have said has obscured this very important truth about men and women: They are equal! They are equally rational! They are equally the image of God!

However, they are also complementary...therefore, the woman is not the head of the man...but the man is head of the woman (this is in reference to married life)...for single women, their head is Christ through the Church.

Man is physically stronger than woman, it is a fact...yet this does not make him better.
Woman is more tender than man, it is a fact...yet this does not make her better.

St. Thomas, in fact, was a great defender of woman. He held that she is the image of God just as man is. Yet, he also admitted that relation between a husband and his wife also shows something about the relation between God and humanity...God governs and guides humanity, God loves humanity...so too, a husband is meant to govern and guide his wife, out of love for her. Yet there is an essential equality between man and woman, between husband and wife.

We need to submit ourselves to the teachings of Sacred Scripture, even if they sometimes make us uncomfortable. At the same time, we need to use our intellect and recognize what is really essential to the teaching.

Here is a little question: Why doesn't anyone complain about the fact that the Virtues are characterized as women? Why is this not considered offensive? Doesn't it seem to imply that only women are virtuous, or that they are at least more virtuous than men?
We need to break free from the cultural scourge of our times which constantly sets men and women against each other...

At the same time, I know that we need to be particularly sensitive when dealing with the relation between men and women...I do hope to write on the relationship between men and women, the question of headship, and the relation to the angels in an upcoming post.

Thank you for your honesty! I truly do hope that this blog will help to answer some of the very legitimate concerns you have...

Anonymous said...

No, you didn't really strike a nerve or offend me. I just find your answers puzzling -- meaning I don't understand them.

It seems to me your post clearly says that the reason the angels have masculine names is because they are superior to human beings in the same way men are superior to women. So my question was - how is that men are at the same time superior to women and yet also their equal?

I still don't know the answer to this question after reading your reply.

If you are saying that there are also ways in which women are superior to men, say in terms of tenderness, then why wouldn't it be proper to name angels with women's names in order to emphasize this aspect of their being? And yet we have no examples of angels with feminine names.

As to depicting the virtues as women, correct me if I am wrong, but this is not scriptural, and thus not a teaching of the faith.

Instead it is a cultural convention, and indeed, it seems to me that I have read several saints who assure us that men are more virtuous than women with regard to most of the virtues: Wisdom, prudence, fortitude, etc. and that this is why women need men to rule them. The fact that the virtues are depicted as feminine is not translated into the conclusion that women are more virtuous than men, at least in any Christian sources I have read.

And the fact that you assert that men and women are equal seems to be incompatible with your assertion that men must rule over women - such a role does not seem complementary to me. It seems dominating in an ontological sense, in that it is really truly the case that women are not as worthy or capable as men at making decisions.

I would think that the man is the head of the family just because it seems to work out better for everyone in the end, as a matter of tradition and convention so that there isn't continuing squabbles. But men have used this idea that they are inherently the dominant "true glory of God" to treat women very badly in many circumstances, and they use scripture to reinforce this notion.

As does the suggestion that men are more like God than women, even in a secondary semse. I assume that "secondary" is still a true sense? So in a true sense, men are more like God than I am? Really? How can that be a complementary role and not a superior role?

And finally, to say that man is the head of a woman in an ontological sense seems very incompatible with saying that men and women are equal and complementary. "The head" is obviously the commanding part of the body, the seat of reason and will - I apparently have no head of my own, but men do have a head not only for themselves, but also for women. Can you see how that seems to suggest that women are ontologically inferior to men?

Anyway, thank your for your reply, even though I still do not understand how these assertions are not contradictory. I think what you are really saying is that men really are ontologically superior to women, and that this is a matter of the faith. If that is so, what I need to do is simply be humble enough to accept it, which I will ask for the grace of doing.

But I guess it would be easier for me to seek that grace if the Church just came out and said - yes, women are inferior to men in that they need men to rule them, men must be their head, and because men are more like God than women, and this is how God made it.

Instead, it seems like it's trying to say -oh, no, men and women are really equal, but also men really are superior (in the ways that I have mentioned above). I just am having trouble reconciling the two assertions.

Jenny said...

@ Anonymous Single Woman

I too, have been wrestling with many of these seemingly contradictory statements for most of my 50+ years. However, I firmly believe that men and women are equal, but not the same, and I know this is what the Church and Scriptures teach. This in reality is the ideal that we are all to strive for, though throughout the centuries we all have fallen short. Therefore, because we are equal in dignity and God loves each of us, it is rational to infer that the physical and emotional/psychological differences between the sexes would cause us to be better suited to different types of roles. This, I think, is the basis for certain teachings for men that are different for women. It is not because one is "better" than the other, but gifted with different gifts that lend themselves to different tasks and states in life. We accept this when it comes to talents-giftedness with respect to professions, etc. I think the same is true in the male-female realm. I hope this helps:)

On another note, there are 9 choirs of angels, and they differ in attributes. I really like the comments about them wanting to look like Jesus and think that is a distinct possibility. I also think guardian angels are depicted as males because they are "protectors" which is a male characteristic. Perhaps some of the other types of angels would not be depicted that way, or would have more feminine characteristics to coincide with their specific duties.

I also read somewhere a long time ago that angels' names all end in "el" because that means "of God" or something like that. Therefore, when I was discerning what to name my guardian angel, the name Nathan kept coming to me - and I added the "el" to make it Nathaniel. I thank God for "him" everyday, for "he" has truly helped me through some difficult times!

Blessings - and thank you for your blog - I really enjoy it and the comments from your other readers!

Thomas More said...

What is the document citation for the Gregory the Great info and can it be found in a book or online?

Unknown said...

Reginaldus; your 9/30 4:55 a.m.

I began to understand it after I posted my reaction. I'd agree with you but I appreciate your clarification. It makes it a more powerful statement on the infinite God's creation.


Ray Marshall

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Anonymous Single Woman,
You are bringing up many good and important points which much be addressed. However, the comment box is not an good place for me to attempt an answer. In an earlier post, I had said that I would consider writing another article to answer these questions - your additional comments have confirmed me in that intention. Within 24 hours I will have another post about the relation between men and women, a commentary on the passage 1 Cor 11.

In the meantime, allow me just a very brief response:
1) The man is the head of the woman, yet they are equal...by an analogy (which means it does not fit perfectly, but does fit slightly), I would also say that parents rule over their children, yet both parent and child are equal, they are both fully human, they are both equally the image of God -- yet, the parent rules over the child.
2) Wisdom is portrayed as a woman in the Old Testament (especially in the book of wisdom), this does not mean that women are necessarily more wise than men...but there is something fitting to this portrayal...wisdom is like a mother, giving life to her children...wisdom brings great delight to the soul, as a woman brings joy to her husband...
Certainly men and women are equally capable of wisdom, but women (in a secondary, yet very real sense) are a better image for wisdom when considered in light of the complementary relationship between a woman and a man.
3) Angels are not characterized by tenderness, thus the tenderness of women (which is superior to that of men) is not a reason to name angels with a woman's name.
4)The key to this discussion is to understand that, taken individually, a woman is just as much the image of God as a man...however, in the complementary relationship between a woman and a man, the man is more perfectly the image of God (in the sacrament of marriage he is the image of Christ).

The difficulty, as you put it, is the insistence that men and women are equal while at the same time insisting that men rule over women...
...a king and a servant are equals (this is the long tradition of the Church), yet the king rules over the servant...both are equally rational, yet the servant must conform his will to the will of his king...in this relationship a servant and a king are complementary, not identical, yet truly equal...
These are all just analogies, I am not suggesting that the husband is the king of his wife (he is the head of his wife). This is just an analogy, but I think it may help to illustrate the point about complementary, different, subordinated, yet EQUAL.


Anonymous said...

Fair enough. Thank you for your comments.

Anonymous said...

On the topic of angelic names, I have a quick question that I was wondering if anyone could answer. The angel Anael/Haniel: what is his status in Catholic angelology? Does he serve as a guardian angel, or does he have some other function? Try as I might, whenever I attempt to look it up, I find myself redirected to satanic new-age sites!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Haniel seems to be connected with the Jewish mysticism known as Kabbalah. Although, he also seems to be named by some as one of the seven archangels.
His name means "Joy of God" or "Grace of God"...
...I don't know anything more than this. Sorry.

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