I always enjoyed listening to religious stories while growing up. Maybe because they carried such an important role in the structuring of the world we live in. When I was introduced to Bethesda in Angels in America and listened to the stories in class I decided to learn more about her hoping it would aid us with wrapping up the text.
(Courtesy of www.flickriver.com)
Interestingly enough the majority of the sources that I found did not point to the biblical representation of the angle, but rather to the ironclad monument in New York. The very place where our play comes to an end. My search directed me to the official website of Central Park.
“The angel herself carries a lily in one hand while the other remains outstretched, poised in the action of delivering a blessing on the water pouring from around her feet and into the basin at the bottom of the fountain. This is to commemorate the 1842 opening of the Croton Aqueduct, which supplied New York City with fresh water.”
In the excerpt that was explaining the stance of the angel something caught my attention: The lily in her hand. When I looked into other sources describing the statue I kept being reintroduced to the lily figure which pushed my interest a bit further. Maybe lilies themselves have a biblical meaning?
I checked some biblical sources looking into the meaning of lily in the bible. What I found was Matthew 6:25-34:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
According to people who know a lot more on of the subject than I do, this passage talks about the worries of the people and how worrying is futile and something condemned by god.
With all these new found information I want to loop back to our discussing during the last minutes of the class. As I have said in class I believe that the play ends in an optimistic tone. Maybe in Angels in America Bethesda plays this role of radiating calmness. I believe this definitely can be seen in the characters that are present in the closing scene. They are ready to leave their worries behind and move to the millennium.