Two angels in Brazil

By Paulo Coelho

According to an old, well-know legend, whose origins are uncertain, a week before Christmas, Michael the Archangel asked his angels to visit Earth; he wanted to know whether everything was ready for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. He sent them out in pairs, always one older angel and one younger one, so that he might obtain a broader picture of what was going on in Christendom.

One of these pairs was allotted Brazil, where they arrived late at night. Since they had nowhere to sleep, the took shelter in one of the great mansions which are to be found in certain parts of Rio de Janeiro.

The owner of the house, a nobleman on the verge of bankruptcy (something which happens to many people in that city, by the way), was a devout Catholic, and quickly recognized the celestial envoys, with their golden halos above their heads. But he was very busy making preparations for a great feast to celebrate Christmas, and didn’t want to disturb the decorations, which were almost all in place, so he asked them to sleep in the cellar.

Although the cards celebrating Christmas always carry illustrations with falling snow, in Brazil the date falls in the middle of summer; so the place where the angels were sent was scorching hot, and the air – which was very humid – was practically unbreathable. They lay down on the hard ground, but before starting their prayers, the older angel noticed a crack in the wall. He stood up and fixed it using divine powers, and returned to his evening prayers. The heat was so great, it was as if they spent the night in hell itself.

They slept terribly, but had to fulfill the mission which had been entrusted to them by God. The following day, they walked about the great city – with its 12 million inhabitants, its beaches and mountains, its contrasts, its beautiful landscapes and miserable neighborhoods. They wrote their reports, and when night began to fall again, they journeyed into the countryside. Still confused by the time difference, they again found themselves with nowhere to sleep.

They knocked on the door of a humble house, and the door was opened by a couple. Since they had never had access to the medieval engravings portraying God’s messengers, they didn’t recognize the two pilgrims – but seeing that they needed shelter, the house was put at their entire disposal. The couple made dinner, introduced the angels to their newborn child, and offered them their own bedroom, apologizing that they were poor, that it was so hot but they hadn’t the money to buy an air conditioning unit.

When they awoke the following day, they found the couple in floods of tears. Their only possession, a cow which gave the family milk, cheese and sustenance, had been found dead in the field. They bid the pilgrims farewell, ashamed that they were unable to offer them breakfast.

As they wandered along the dirt track, the younger angel was filled with rage:

– I cannot understand such behavior! The first man had everything he needed, and nevertheless you helped him. But this poor couple who received us so well, you did nothing to relieve their suffering!

– Things are not what they seem – said the older angel. – When we were in that awful cellar, I noticed there was much gold hidden in the wall of the mansion, left there by a previous owner. The crack was exposing part of the treasure, and I resolved to hide it again, because the owner of the house did not know how to help those in need.

“Yesterday, as we slept in the bed the couple had provided for us, I noticed a third guest had arrived: the angel of death. He had been sent to take the child, but since I have known him for many years, I was able to convince him to take the life of the cow instead.”

“Remember the day which is about the be celebrated: since people value appearances so greatly, no one wanted to take Mary in. But the shepherds protected her, and because of this, they were rewarded and were the first to contemplate the smile of the Savior of the World.”

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  1. Arrived clueless, left worried. Thanks for that post. – Get the facts first. You can distort them later. – Mark Twain 1835 – 1910

  2. […] Two angels in Brazil By Paulo Coelho […]

  3. I think this is a great reminder that we cannot begin to know the powers at work “behind the scene”, and that sometimes when things happen that we may not like, it may actually be to protect us from something much worse.

    It has taken me a long time to realize that even “bad” things could actually have happened for my highest good, and that to learn how to trust divine wisdom is hardest but most valuable lessons one can learn. (And I'm still working on it)


  4. Ally says:

    My favourite Christmas story!

  5. Concepcion says:

    After reading this post, I have had the story on my mind a lot. I love how it is not only a story about fate and finding acceptance in the things we cannot control. It reminds me almost of the biblical story of The Prodigal Son. How? Where some people may ask, “Why did the son, who did so much wrong, receive such a warm welcoming and acceptance from his father?” In this fable, people may ask, “Why is it that giving couple should have their main source of survival die?”

    Both stories contain “lessons” or truths are not so simply put. It has always been my opinion that the story of the Prodigal Son was about forgiveness, and finding faith.

    This story about the two angels reminds us again, that the point of the story isn’t about the cow dying, it is about finding faith in the things that we cannot understand and trying to value what we have in life.

    Sure, the family will never know why they were given such hardships but merely because this fable ends here does not mean the family will never get their own piece of happiness either. It’s like the idea that just because a story ends with “Happily Ever After” doesn’t mean it’s entirely over.

    I believe in a balance, and life has a way of bringing happy surprises when we need it most. Sometimes it’s not finding the reason for why bad things happen as much as it is finding a reasons for us to move on in life.

    Well that’s my very two LARGE cents.

  6. mariangela says:

    Que história mais linda !
    Mari Raphael.

  7. Alexandra says:

    What a marvelous story!

  8. Nia Wind says:

    I knew this story…. :-)))

    thanks for your inspiration, too !!!!!

    Cause now, I think the two broken hearts can come together again, to life heaven on earth!

    Thanks Mr. Coelho :-)


  9. It is a very sweet and encouraging tale, well told. But there’s a bit of ‘wish-fulfillment’ in there too… ‘Everything is for a purpose, a greater good’ but it isn’t, is it? Not all the time anyway.

    I think it’s sad but also helpful to remember that life is sometimes truly hard for no good reason at all.

  10. Josephine in Brussels says:

    I believe my guardian angle is working pretty hard,
    and I have no idea what it is doing or when –
    only that it works as I’m still here…

  11. aditya says:

    “…to contemplate the smile of the Savior of the World” what beautiful words, no wonder u r where u r !

    as for appearances and reality, hmmmmm…… ain’t that the question we grapple with all our life, or till we finally decide to drop this question too and enjoy whatever comes our way, with faith in our heart, u know there is actually a test by which all of us can know if we are men or women of faith or not, the test is simple, if we find any complanint, even an iota of complaint towards our creator, to that extend we are not men of faith. a complaing heart is a sure sign of lack of faith !

    love u more for tolerating all these comments which appear to be on a tangent, but remember apperances are well decpetive !! have a nice time all of u(s).


  12. Heart says:

    I’m looking forward to X-mas already!

  13. wanbliska says:

    Dear Mandarawa,

    That’s story is indeed marvellous, and we couldn’t say how the miracle happens.
    Since, it is happiness to be into a miracle, and in the same time, strange to be capable of talking about, without noone could see, feel or admit… It’s very personnal sensation.
    It is between two dimensions.

    Miracle is a gift.

  14. I’ve always really enjoyed this story because it shows how we often do what we THINK is best, without actually knowing the entire truth of a situation.

    Only when we know the truth, can we act in a way that is holistically compassionate. Anything less than that, and we are only acting in a way that is based on our conditioned ideas.

  15. Anneliese Flores Clar says:

    Beautiful!!! You never know who you are giving charity to, so it’s better to give without discrimination, and one of my favorite phrases, Things are not what they seem!!!

  16. I think this is a great reminder that we cannot begin to know the powers at work “behind the scene”, and that sometimes when things happen that we may not like, it may actually be to protect us from something much worse.

    It has taken me a long time to realize that even “bad” things could actually have happened for my highest good, and that to learn how to trust divine wisdom is hardest but most valuable lessons one can learn. (And I’m still working on it)


  17. Elena Montiel says:

    I think that the meaning of this story is deeper that what we see. There is an expression that says: “Things happen”. (Anonimous), and Sometimes we do not comprenhend why. The answer that I have and apply to me is that God knows what is good for us and protects us in marvelous ways that we dont even understand. I rather have my cow die and not my son. I dont know why the cow died and I dont know that my cow died because angels conviced the devil to not kill my son. These things we wont ever know. They just happen. The couple were rewarded because they were good to the angels even though they didnt recognize them and were not creatures of god. Therefore, we just must accept thsi events because worst things can come our ways.
    On the other hand, the angels decided to cover the cracks because the rich guy didnt deserve more than what he had, simply because he was not good to others. All he cared about was to have a nice decoration on his house. The leason here is, We shall treat others with the same respect we want to be treated and rewards should come our way.

    Have a great day….

  18. nikamarie says:

    Happy Assumption of Mary Day!

  19. Mandarawa says:

    Because we have strong views about people and things, about how they should be, and we hold on to these views so strongly, we leave very little space in our mind and in result we don’t allow the universe to reveal its beauty for us. One of the first steps that needs to be taken on spiritual path is to open the mind. Without that miracles are not possible or they are very limited. (It is strange that we already have views on miracles – for us only some things can be miracle, not others!) What appears to our mind is not necessary what we think it is. It could be something completely different. And if I decide to regard it as miracle, and to others it won’t appear in this way – who will be at fault? Or maybe the question should be – who will be more happy?