Grading the Archangels

As we head into the season, we as ourselves important questions: what gift should I ask of Santa? Should we have ham or duck for the Yuletide feast? And most importantly, what’s your favorite archangel? Fortunately, we have a guide for God’s frontline Heavenly Hosts against the forces of evil. Now there are literally thousands of archangels, and we can’t possibly cover them all. Instead, I’m limiting my list to the four recognized by the Catholics and some Protestants plus the additional three recognized by the Eastern Orthodox Church. Sorry, Raguel: your quest for divine justice must be discussed another day.

Gabriel is pretty much the archangel trendsetter. He is best known for being the supernatural OBGYN. This makes Gabe THE angel of Christmas. The one who gets a starring role is every nativity scene. He’s got the gentle touch that has become the standard for all modern angelic depictions, whether they be the Touched By version or the soulful Nic Cage version. Also he’s got a sweet trumpet. Blowing on the Horn to begin the Rapture os far more epic than plunking away on a tiny harp. Grade: A.

Michael is the default action archangel, often depicted leading the forces of Heaven against the legions of Hell. He is basically the archangel version of Superman. He’s the angel with all the powers of God but way more interested in destroying demons than, say, sifting through prayers. Slaying dragons with a flaming sword? That’s just a typical weekend for Michael. Everything about him screams 80’s hair metal front man. He is more or less THE archangel, to the point that you have to address him by his full title, “Michael the Archangel.” Grade: A.

Raphael is in that weird spot of “we know of him and respect him, but at the end of the the day he’s no Michael or Gabriel.” Basically, the game manager of angels. He gets a grab bag of abilities —- subjugating the demon Azazael, healing people of their blindness, freeing a woman from a curse where every man she marries dies, being cool but rude —- but nothing stands out as definitive characteristic. He’s the angel that would play several seasons for the Baltimore Ravens. Grade: B.

Raphael has nothing on Uriel, though. Uriel typically gets included in a list of four archangels typically for illustration purposes, such as when each archangel represents the four seasons, four directions, or the four elements. As a result, Uriel feels a bit like, “Well… we needed four archangels.” Uriel is also gets a metal moment by being the angel that prevents Adam & Eve from reentering the Garden of Eden by standing at the entrance with a flaming sword. That only reinforces the sense that he’s so down the ladder he only gets the garbage jobs. Props to the artist from James Powell and Sons who drew the image I picked up from Wikipedia for Uriel, though: he totally looks like one of Neil Gaiman’s Endless. Grade: B-.

As the angel in charge of prayers, Selaphiel comes across as a bit of a “desk job” kind of angel. While the other angels are battling demons or standing outside Paradise to keep two Never Nudes from entering, Selaphiel is perfectly happy sorting through prayers and deciding which are qualified enough to forward to the big guy. He may have made an appearance in Revelations, but probably needs a better agent because if it is him, he’s not mentioned by name. Selaphiel also carries around a thurible, which is too awesome a name for the Scentsy on a Chain. Grade: C-.

He’s fallen into obscurity, but Jegudiel was the angel that royalty and judges had to consult with, hence why he’s depicted as carrying a crown. Basically he’s God’s Chief of Staff. Jegudiel also sometimes carries a three-pronged whip, because seriously sometimes that’s the only language our current crop of world leaders understand. Grade: C.

The wiki for Barachiel includes the line “He is often confused with the angel Baraqiel who is regarded as the angel of lightning.” This is already off to a bad start, as being the Thor of Angels sounds more than qualified for the archangel position. Barachiel is the leader of all guardian angels, which is admittedly pretty sweet. He is also the angel of sweet blessings. That’s actually not a bad gig, though he’s clearly been slacking off in the year 2020. He also feels, like Uriel, a stretch to include in the ranks, but he gets slotted in for situations that need seven.

“Alright, Michael, we got a special job coming up in a millennia: opening the Seventh Seal.”

“A job like that is going to need seven archangels. Gabe and I are in, of course. Raph and Uriel are shoe-ins, and I think Jep is free that day. Got anyone in mind, Selaphiel?”

“I put in Barachiel to the big guy.”

“The angel of sweet blessings? That’s unusual. Not my choice personally for something as dire as the End Times…”

“Wait, I meant the other angel! The lightning guy! Aw, crap…. we’re stuck with the guy who picks flowers all day, aren’t we.” Grade: C-.