Continuing our Advent journey theme in the company of the Lough Derg angels, in this second week of Advent we can ponder some of the angels that are incorporated in the bronze work by Paddy McElroy in the sanctuary of St Patrick’s Basilica. Bronze is a very substantial medium: is it not something of a paradox to use bronze to make images of heavenly creatures?
By using the weighty material of bronze, the artist reminds us that angels, though they are not bodily creatures, are indeed very real.
Another thought: angels in their beauty and glory are far beyond our human imagination. So it is somehow more honest to represent them in a way that does not pretend to show us what they might look like. So these bronze angels are small in scale and very robust in their form; indeed there is something rather playful about their shape and their features.
Further, bronze is a material that reflects light. God’s angels reflect something of the light of God’s glory. Several of these angels in the Basilica reflect the light in specific ways: some on the front of the lectern, others make the bracket for the sanctuary lamp, and still others adorn the holders for the altar candles.
None of the angels are there to draw attention to themselves. Rather they serve the mystery of the presence among us in this holy place of the Holy One to whom alone all glory belongs. In this Advent time, these angels invite us to make our own of the attitude of John the Baptist: ‘He must increase; I must decrease.’