The Archangel Gabriel is the Chief Messenger of God. He appears in the Hebrew Bible [Judges 13] and the Koran as well as the New Testament. Gabriel appears at the beginning of Luke's Gospel as an awesome being who confronts the priest Zechariahs in the Temple telling him his prayers have been answered and his wife Elizabeth will conceive a son:|
"Then in the sixth month Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And the Angel came unto her, and said Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women."
Mary, a deeply pious young woman, is deeply troubled by these words. What kind of a greeting is this, She thinks. Gabriel explains...
"Thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David.." [Luke I, 26-32]
Mary is even more astonished by his explanation. How can this be when I know not a man?
Gabriel reminds her one thing above all: ...With God nothing is impossible.
The next words come from her lips as if she has been preparing to say them all her life: Behold the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be...
In earlier art, Gabriel is usually shown as a majestic figure, richly robed and holding a scepter. He is the principal figure while the Virgin is shown as receiving the Angel with the utmost submission and deep humility. After the 14th century, a change takes place in the importance of the Virgin and the Angel. The Virgin becomes the more prominent person and the superior being.
(Pictured above is The Annunciation by Fra Angelico, dating from about 1432.)