First Apparition of the Angel
In the spring of 1916 Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, had their first encounter with a heavenly messenger. Writing in her memoirs, composed under obedience to the Bishop, Lucia tells of that first meeting.
We went on that occasion to my parents' property, which is at the bottom of the Cabeco, facing east. It is called Chousa Velha.
About the middle of the morning it began to drizzle and we climbed up the hill, followed by our sheep, in search of a rock that would shelter us. And so it was that we entered for the first time into that blessed place. It is in the middle of an olive grove that belongs to my godfather, Anastacio. From there one can see the village where I was born, my father's house, and also Casa Velha and Eira da Pedra. The olive grove, which really belongs to several people, extends as far as these places.
We spent the day there, in spite of the fact that the rain had stopped and the sun was shining in a clear sky. We ate our lunch and began to say the Rosary. After that we began to play a game with pebbles. We had only been at it a few moments when a strong wind began to shake the trees and we looked up to see what was happening, since it was such a calm day. And then we began to see, in the distance, above the trees that stretched to the east, a light whiter than snow in the form of a young man, quite transparent, and as brilliant as crystal in the rays of the sun. As he came near we were able to see his features. We were astonished and absorbed and we said nothing to one another. And then he said:
Do not be afraid. I am the angel of peace. Pray with me.
He knelt, bending his forehead to the ground. With a supernatural impulse we did the same, repeating the words we heard him say:
My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You.
After repeating this prayer three times the angel rose and said to us:
Pray in this way. The hearts of Jesus and Mary are ready to listen to you.
And he disappeared. He left us in an atmosphere of the supernatural that was so intense we were for a long time unaware of our own existence. The presence of God was so powerful and intimate that even among ourselves we could not speak. On the next day, too, this same atmosphere held us bound, and it lessened and disappeared only gradually. None of us thought of talking about this apparition or any pledge of secrecy. We were locked in silence without having willed it.
The intense effect that the apparition of the Angel had on the children, quite different from the more serene experience of the Virgin the following year. Lucia states,
I don't know why, but the apparitions of our Lady produced in us effects quite different from the angel's visitations We felt in both instances the same intimate happiness, peace and joy, but instead of the physical prostration the angel imposed, our Lady brought a feeling of expansion and freedom; and instead of this annihilation in the divine presence, we wished only to exult in our joy. There was no difficulty of speech when our Lady appeared; there was rather on my part a desire to communicate.
This difference can perhaps be explained in this way. The angels of whatever choir share in common with God a spiritual nature, unmixed with matter. The goodness of their being, filled with the divine justice according to the degree of glory granted to each, radiates that holiness unmediated, though proportioned to the capacity of human beings to experience it. Not without reason Scripture shows how easily an angel appearing to men can be confused with God Himself (Rev 19:10, 22:9). When our Lady appears, however, although her glory is greater than that of the highest seraphim her human nature cloaks that glory in the familiar, just as did Our Lord's human nature, even after the Resurrection.
Although the angels, too, can appear in more mundane fashion, it must have suited the divine purposes to reveal to the children something of the holiness of God. Lucia tells us of the lingering effect it had on them.
His words sank so deeply into our minds that we never forgot them, and ever after we used to spend long periods on our knees repeating them, sometimes until we fell down exhausted.