The Twenty-Sixth Day of Christmas Advent: The Angel of the Lord and the Mountain of God (Part II)

The burning bush is not the only instance where the Angel of the Lord appears and is declared as God. The same Angel appeared to and conversed with the patriarchs and prophets (e.g. Gen. 16; 32; Judg. 6; 13). In all of the passages, those who see this Angel of the Lord are amazed that they have seen God and lived:

“I saw God face to face, and my soul was saved.” (Gen. 32:30)

Gideon said, “O Lord, my Lord! For I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face.” Then the Lord said to him, “Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.” (Judg. 6:22-23)

When the Angel of the Lord appeared no more to Manoah and his wife, Manoah knew this to be the Angel of the Lord. And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God!” (Judg. 13:21-22)

In his famous Dialog with Trypho, St. Justin Martyr writes:

Moses states in Scripture that he who is termed God, and who appeared to the patriarchs, is also called Angel and Lord, in order that by these expressions you may recognize him as the minister of the Father of all things…. [He] appeared as a man to Abraham, and … wrestled in human form with Jacob [Gen. 32:22-30]. 1

Neither Abraham, nor Isaac, nor Jacob, nor any other man saw the Father and ineffable Lord of all creatures … but [they saw] him who, according to God’s will, is God the Son, and his angel because of serving the Father’s will; him who, by his will, became man through a virgin; who also became fire when he talked to Moses from the bush. 2

St. Justin is referring to the three men who appeared to Abraham at the Oak of Mamre (Gen. 18). Many consider the three men (commonly understood as angels) to be a type of the Trinity (a patristic exegesis that has been popularized by Andrei Rublev’s famous icon of the Trinity). However, in the earliest patristic commentaries and hymns of the Church, they are described as the Preincarnate Christ accompanied by two angels. This is clearly the exegesis of the first ode of the Canon of the Sunday before the Nativity: “Of old the sacred Abraham received One of the three persons of the Godhead.” This may be what our Lord was referring to when He said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56).

~Vassilios Papavassiliou, Meditations for Advent: Preparing for Christ’s Birth

1. Dial. 58:2, 10. Thomas B. Falls, trans., St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2003), pp. 89-91.

2. Dial. 127, 4. Op. cit., pp. 191- 192.