Mosaic of St. Uriel by James Powell and Sons, at St John’s Church, Boreham, Wiltshire.
|Venerated in||Rabbinic Judaism, Anglican Communion, Oriental Orthodoxy in Michaelmas, Serbian Orthodox Church|
|Feast||September 29 (Western), November 8 (Eastern)|
|Attributes||Archangel; Fire in palm; Carrying a scroll, a flaming sword and a disc of the sun.|
|Patronage||Sacrament of Confirmation, poetry|
Uriel (/ˈjʊəriəl/; Hebrew: אוּרִיאֵל “El/God is my light“, Standard Hebrew Uriʾel, Tiberian Hebrew Ûrîʾēl; Coptic: ⲟⲩⲣⲓⲏⲗ) is one of the archangels of post-exilic rabbinic tradition, and also of certain minor Christian traditions.
In Judaism and Christianity
Name and origins
The angels mentioned in the older books of the Hebrew Bible (aka the Tanakh) are without names. Rabbi Simeon ben Lakish of Tiberias (230–270) even asserted that all of the specific names for the angels were brought back by the Jews from Babylon, and some modern commentators would tend to agree.[who?] Of the seven archangels in the angelology of post-exilic Judaism, only two of them, the archangels Michael and Gabriel, are mentioned by name in the canonized Jewish scriptures, in the book of Daniel in particular, which is one of the youngest books in the Tanakh.
Raphael features prominently in the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit (initially accepted by both the Jewish and Christian canons, but removed from the Jewish canon in late antiquity and rejected by the Protestant reformers in the 16th century). The Book of Tobit is accepted as scriptural by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Oriental Orthodox Church.
Where a fourth archangel is added to the named three, to represent the four cardinal points, Uriel is generally the fourth. Uriel is listed as the fourth angel in Christian Gnostics (under the name Phanuel), by Gregory the Great, and in the angelology of Pseudo-Dionysius. However, the Book of Enoch clearly distinguishes the two angels. Uriel means “God is my Light”, whereas Phanuel means “Turn to God”. Uriel is the third angel listed in the Testament of Solomon, the fourth being Sabrael.
Uriel appears in the Second Book of Esdras found in the Biblical apocrypha (called Esdras IV in the Vulgate) in which the prophet Ezra asks God a series of questions and Uriel is sent by God to instruct him. According to the Revelation of Esdras, the angels that will rule at the end of the world are Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael, Gabuthelon, Beburos, Zebuleon, Aker, and Arphugitonos. The last five listed only appear in this book and nowhere else in apocryphal or apocalyptic works.
In Christian apocryphal gospels Uriel plays a role, differing between sources, in the rescue of Jesus‘ cousin John the Baptist from the Massacre of the Innocents ordered by King Herod. He carries John and his mother Saint Elizabeth to join the Holy Family after their Flight into Egypt. Their reunion is depicted in Leonardo da Vinci‘s Virgin of the Rocks.
Uriel is often identified as a cherub and the angel of repentance. He “stands at the Gate of Eden with a fiery sword”, or as the angel who “watches over thunder and terror”. In the Apocalypse of Peter he appears as the angel of repentance, who is graphically represented as being as pitiless as any demon. In the Life of Adam and Eve, Uriel is regarded as the spirit (i.e., one of the cherubs) of the third chapter of Genesis. He is also identified as one of the angels who helped bury Adam and Abel in Eden.
Stemming from medieval Jewish mystical traditions, Uriel has also become the angel of Sunday (Jewish Encyclopedia), the angel of poetry, and one of the holy sephiroth. Uriel is depicted as the destroyer of the hosts of Sennacherib.
In modern angelology, Uriel is identified variously as a seraph, cherub, regent of the sun, flame of God, angel of the divine presence, presider over Tartarus (hell), archangel of salvation, and, in later scriptures, identified with Phanuel “face of God”. He is often depicted carrying a book or a papyrus scroll representing wisdom. Uriel is a patron of the arts.
In the Byzantine Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, Uriel is commemorated together with the other archangels and angels with a feast day of the “Synaxis of the Archangel Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers” on November 8 of the liturgical calendar (for those churches which follow the Julian Calendar, November 8 falls on November 21 of the modern Gregorian Calendar). In addition, every Monday throughout the year is dedicated to the angels. The Anglicans and Coptic christians of Ethiopia and Eritrea venerate archangel Uriel. According to the latter, 11th July is his feast day.
In Thomas Heywood‘s Hierarchy of Blessed Angels (1635), Uriel is described as an angel of the earth. Heywood’s list is actually of the angels of the four winds: Uriel (south), Michael (east), Raphael (west) (serving also a governor of the south, with Uriel), and Gabriel (north). He is also listed as an angel of the four winds in the medieval Jewish Book of the Angel Raziel which lists him as Usiel (Uzziel); according to it, this book was inscribed on a sapphire stone and handed down from Seraph to Metatron and then to Adam.
At the Council of Rome of 745, Pope St. Zachary, intending to clarify the Church’s teaching on the subject of angels and curb a tendency toward angel worship, condemned obsession with angelic intervention and angelolatry, but reaffirmed the approval of the practice of the reverence of angels. This synod struck many angels’ names from the list of those eligible for veneration in the Church of Rome, including Uriel. Only the reverence of the archangels mentioned in the recognized Catholic canon of scriptures, namely Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, remained licit. In the 16th century, archangel Uriel appeared before the Sicilian friar Antonio Lo Duca and told him to build a church in the Termini area. Lo Duca told pope Pius IV about the apparition, the pope then asked Michelangelo to design the church. It is the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, located at the Esedra Plaza.
In the first half of the 11th century, Bulgarian followers of the dualist heresy called Bogomilism, who lived in the dukedom of Ahtum in present-day Banat, invoked Uriel in rituals. This is witnessed by Gerard of Csanád, the Catholic bishop of the area after 1028. Uriel was also named in a small exorcism in the 15th century, reported by Robert Ambelain in Arabic Astrology on page 18, without indication of date, place of origin etc.: “Conjuro te diabolo per sanctum Michaelem, sanctum Gabrielem, sanctum Raphaelem, sanctum Urielem”.
In Henry Wadsworth Longfellow‘s translation of The Golden Legend, Uriel is one of the angels of the seven planets. Uriel is the angel of Mars. He is also listed as such in Benjamin Camfield‘s A Theological Discourse of Angels (1678).
Possibly Uriel’s highest position is that of an angel of presence, prince of presence, angel of the face, angel of sanctification, and angel of glory. A prince of the presence is an angel who is allowed to enter the presence of God. Uriel, along with Suriel, Jehoel, Zagagel, Akatriel, Metatron, Yefefiah, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Nathanel (Zathael) holds this position. The “angel of his presence” title is often taken to mean Shekinah, but it and the other terms mentioned are also often used as alternate names for the angel Metatron. R. H. Charles comments in his translation of The Book of Enoch that in later Judaism “we find Uriel instead of Phanuel” as one of the four angels of the presence.
A scriptural reference to an angel of presence is found in Isaiah 63:9:
In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.
The Book of Enoch, which presents itself as written by Enoch, mentions Uriel in many of the component books. In chapter IX, which is part of “The Book of the Watchers” (2nd century BCE), only four angels are mentioned by name. Those angels are Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel (though some versions have a fifth angel: Suryal or Suriel). However, the later chapter XX lists the name and function of seven angels. Those angels are “Uriel, one of the holy angels, who is over the world and over Tartarus“, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Saraqâêl, Gabriel, and Remiel.
The Book of the Watchers as a whole tells us that Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel were present before God to testify on behalf of humankind. They wish to ask for divine intervention during the reign of the fallen gregori (fallen watchers). These fallen take human wives and produced half-angel, half-human offspring called the nephilim. Uriel is responsible for warning Noah about the upcoming great flood.
Then said the Most High, the Holy and Great One spoke, and sent Uriel to the son of Lamech, and said to him: “<Go to Noah> and tell him in my name ‘Hide thyself!’ and reveal to him the end that is approaching: that the whole earth will be destroyed, and a deluge is about to come upon the whole earth, and will destroy all that is on it.”
And Uriel said to me: “Here shall stand the angels who have connected themselves with women, and their spirits assuming many different forms are defiling mankind and shall lead them astray into sacrificing to demons ‘as gods’, (here shall they stand,) till ‘the day of’ the great judgment in which they shall be judged till they are made an end of. And the women also of the angels who went astray shall become sirens.’ And I, Enoch alone, saw the vision, the ends of all things; and no man shall see as I have seen.”
Uriel then acts as a guide for Enoch for the rest of the Book of Watchers. He fulfills this capacity in many of the other books that make up 1 Enoch.
In Anglican tradition
In the traditions and hagiography of the Episcopal and other Anglican churches, Uriel is mentioned as an archangel. He is also recognized as the Patron Saint of the Sacrament of Confirmation. He is celebrated in the Anglican liturgical calendars on the Feast of the Archangels.
The Anglican intercessional prayer to Saint Uriel the Archangel is as follows;
Oh holy Saint Uriel, intercede for us that our hearts may burn with the fire of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Assist us in co-operating with the graces of our confirmation that the gifts of the
Holy Spirit may bear much fruit in our souls.
Obtain for us the grace to use the sword of truth to pare away all that is not in conformity to the most adorable
Will of God in our lives, that we may fully participate in the army of the Church
The longstanding motto of the University of Oxford, Dominus illuminatio mea (“The Lord, my light” or, if est is appended to the original and interpolated in translation, “The Lord is my light”) is a translation into Latin of Uriel’s name.
In literature and popular culture
- In Milton‘s Paradise Lost Book III, Uriel, in charge of the Orb of the Sun, serves as the eyes of God, but unwittingly steers Satan towards the newly created earth. He also fills the role of fourth cardinal point (see above). Milton describes him as the “sharpest sighted spirit in all of Heaven.” He is also responsible along with Raphael for defeating Adrammelech.
- In Haydn‘s Creation, Uriel (tenor) is one of the three angelic narrators (with Gabriel (soprano) and Raphael (bass)).
- In Ralph Waldo Emerson‘s poem “Uriel“, regarded as a poetic summary of many strains of thought in Emerson’s early philosophy, Uriel is a young god in Paradise, who upsets the world of gods by proclaiming relativism and the eternal return.
- In George Eliot‘s Middlemarch, ch. XLI, to Uriel, “watching the progress of planetary history from the sun, the one result would be just as much of a coincidence as the other”.
- In Madeleine L’Engle‘s book, A Wrinkle In Time, Uriel is a fictional planet of the galaxy Messier 101 with mountains and beautiful flowers.
- In L’Engle’s novel Many Waters, Uriel is a character, one of the Seraphim.
- In Dean Koontz‘s book Hideaway, Uriel speaks and acts through Hatch, one of the book’s protagonists, to battle the demon Vassago, who “hitched a ride” with Jeremy Nyebern after he was reanimated.
- In Katherine Kurtz‘s Deryni novels, Uriel appears along with Gabriel, Raphael and Michael at major rituals in which they are invoked by name as representatives of the four quarters (Uriel’s position is the north, and his colour is green); in some instances the four archangels seem to be luminous energy beings that give their mortal viewers the fleeting impression of having wings. Uriel is the angel of death, escorting souls across the line of life to the afterlife. In Camber the Heretic, the ailing King Cinhil Haldane arranges for a ritual to bestow arcane powers on his three young sons to help ensure the Haldane succession; Cinhil dies once the ritual is complete and Uriel stays behind to conduct Cinhil’s soul to join those of his deceased wife and firstborn son.
- In Clive Barker‘s novel Weaveworld, the Scourge declares its eternal name as Uriel. The major character Shadwell recognizes learning “…of all the angels and archangels by heart: and amongst the mighty Uriel was of the mightiest. The archangel of salvation; called by some the flame of God.” and “Uriel had been the angel left to stand guard at the gates of Eden.”
- In the apocrypha of White Wolf Publishing‘s Vampire: The Masquerade series, Uriel is the last of the angels sent to Cain, after Cain rejects the offers of redemption from Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. Uriel tells Cain of Golconda, and that it is the last road of redemption open to Cain and his “children”.
- Uriel is a character in The Dresden Files book series by Jim Butcher. In Small Favor, Uriel is a subtle but powerful player in the war with the Black Council and the Fallen/Denarians. Called the “Watchman”, he only reveals himself to the book’s protagonist, Harry Dresden, as a janitor named “Jake”. In the novel, Harry receives the power of soulfire and believes that it came from Uriel. He is also referred to as Heaven’s “spook”. Uriel also appears at the end of Jim Butcher’s novella The Warrior, which was released as a part of the anthology, Mean Streets. Uriel appears again in Changes, when Harry Dresden asks him for help, after being paralyzed from the waist down. Uriel tells him that he cannot help him and that he is limited to what he has already done. He also tells Harry that Maggie is indeed his daughter, something that he hadn’t been entirely sure of. In Ghost Story, Uriel uses his influence to offer Harry the opportunity to come back to Earth as a spirit to find out the identity of his killer. This is not revealed until close to the end of the book, when Uriel also shows Harry that his friends and family will be okay in his absence. He also shows how Harry was unduly influenced to take up the mantle of the Winter Knight and redresses this imbalance by telling him that Mab, the Winter Queen cannot change who he is. At another point in the book, Uriel becomes enraged when Harry nicknames him “Uri” (omitting “el” (God) from the phrase making up Uriel’s name). Unlike his appearances in Small Favor and The Warrior, Uriel’s form in Changes and Ghost Story is that of a young man with blond hair, rather than an old janitor. During his appearance in Skin Game, his form is that of an olive-skinned young man with dark hair. He is not bound by linear time, and is responsible for protecting Free Will. The author has described the character as a VP of Creation.
- In Angelglass by David Barnett, Uriel meddles in Earth’s affairs and is cast down to see if he can “improve” the course of history by personal intervention.
- In William J. Clark‘s novel, Winning the Lottery, Uriel is the guardian angel of the narrator, and later of his wife and children. He and the other three archangels, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, play an active role in various plot elements, and become a common thread in an attempt to open a dialog between the Western and the Muslim worlds.
- In Richard Kadrey‘s Kill the Dead, Uriel is one of the original fallen angels and revealed to be the father of protagonist James “Sandman Slim” Stark.
- In Garth Nix‘s Abhorsen trilogy one of the “nine bright shiners” is named Yrael and appears as a being of living fire.
- In Angelfall by Susan Ee Uriel is shown to be one of the main antagonists of the series, one of the surviving Archangels vying for the role of Messenger.
- In Nalini Singh‘s romance novel Angels’ Blood, Uriel is the target of vampire hunter Elena, who is hired by the archangel Raphael.
- In the TV show Supernatural, Uriel (played by Robert Wisdom) appears in 4 episodes and is described as a “specialist” when he first appears to series protagonists Dean and Sam Winchester, prepared to wipe out a town in order to prevent an augur of the apocalypse. He is later revealed to be attempting to ensure Lucifer’s release while killing other angels, but is killed in a confrontation with the renegade angel Anna. A past version of Uriel appears in the episode “The Song Remains the Same” when Anna travels back in time to stop the Apocalypse by killing Dean and Sam’s parents before they can have children, as Michael and Lucifer can only wage their apocalyptic final battle if Dean and Sam will consent to act as their vessels on Earth. Anna tricks the younger Uriel into helping her attack the Winchesters, but Uriel is subsequently banished and his memories erased by Michael, who uses the Winchesters’ father John as a temporary vessel.
- In the TV show Lucifer, Uriel (appearing in 2 episodes, played by Michael Imperioli) is a minor antagonist of the main character with the power to understand innate patterns.