Reposting the Series ~ The Lamb of God Theme: Second Model

Lamb of God

The Lamb of God

 

Abridged from a work by: Rev. Msgr. Donald C. Hamburger

Model Two: Noah’s Altar, Ark and Rainbow – Genesis 5:28-7:28 – Prehistory

The rainbow is a sign of the eternal covenant God made with mankind: that He would never again destroy the world’s creatures by flood as He did in the days of Noah.

A Sketch of Noah’s Life: God looked down from the heavenly heights and saw how evil the people had become. This predates Moses who includes the story in the first book of the Bible about 1200 years before Jesus was born.

In Genesis 5:28 we read how Lamech became the father of a son and called him, Noah. The people of the world had become so wicked that God repented of having created them, so He decided to drown them with a great flood. But God found Noah to be a just man, so He told Noah to build a large ark and to take his wife, his three sons, and their wives into the ark as well as pairs of all the living animals and seven pairs of the “clean animals.”

God promised that He would establish a covenant with Noah. So Noah did all that God commanded him. Rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights and all flesh on the earth died. The waters rose over the mountain tops but finally the rain subsided and the ark settled upon the earth.

Noah sent a raven out, then a dove. When the dove returned she had a green olive branch in her beak and the second time she was sent out, she did not return. So Noah, his family and all the animals went out of the ark.

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and offered sacrifices in thanksgiving; sacrifices of all the “clean” animals which he had taken into the ark. God then established His covenant with Noah, as mentioned earlier, using the Rainbow as an everlasting sign of His promise.

Pertaining to the Lamb of God theme, I perceive a development in two ways: 1) Noah built the first altar described in the Bible and 2) he specified that the sacrifice is offered in “thanksgiving.”

Hints: Since Noah used “every clean animal” for his sacrifice, he would have included the offspring of sheep and goats both of which were referred to as “lambs.”

After the waters of the flood subsided, Noah offered the sacrifice of “thanksgiving.” After experiencing the waters of baptism, a follower of the “second Adam” is able to offer the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist. It is noteworthy that the Greek word from which “Eucharist” is derived also gives us the word “thanksgiving.”

With Noah’s safe deliverance from the floodwaters, there is a certain renewal of the human race; a second beginning. God repeats, almost word for word, the blessing given to our first parents: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth . . .”

Noah as a Prototype of Jesus: Because the flood destroyed all mankind except Noah and his family, the human race received a new beginning from him. Through Noah’s ark the family is saved from the floodwaters just as by our baptism by water we enter into the barque of Peter and the hope of our salvation; for mankind was redeemed by Jesus, the second Adam who shed His Blood on the Cross. Thus we are washed by the blood of the Lamb, the “cleanest of all God’s creatures,” speaking only of His human nature.

The waters of baptism had just been poured over Jesus by John the Baptist when at the Jordan he announced, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

So today, Baptism by water precedes the worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist, the Lamb of God’s sacramental Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.

St. Peter alluded to Noah: “It was in the spirit also that (Jesus) went to the spirits in prison (hell, in the Apostle’s Creed). They had disobeyed as long ago as Noah’s day, while God patiently waited until the ark was built. At that time, a few persons, eight in all, escaped in the ark through the water. You are now saved through a baptismal bath which corresponds to this exactly . . .” (I Peter 3:18 ff.)

Because of God’s blessing to Noah and his family, they gave birth to a new generation of human beings. God repeated the blessing almost verbatim which He gave to Adam and Eve. Therefore, Noah is likened to a “new Adam.” So too, does Jesus, through the water of Baptism (spiritual rebirth), beget a new generation and Whom St. Paul calls a “new Adam.”

God cleansed the world of evil and sin by washing humanity in His great flood. This should remind us of the spiritual effects of our own Baptism. God accepted Noah’s sacrifice and used the rainbow as a sign of His new and everlasting covenant. Let the rainbow also remind us of God’s other covenants and especially the new and everlasting covenant which was made at the Last Supper; Holy Eucharist.

The CCC (71) says of God’s covenant with Noah:

“God made an everlasting covenant with Noah and with all living beings (Cf. Gen. 9:16). It will remain in force as long as the world lasts.”

Finally, it is interesting to discuss whether the story of the flood and Noah’s ark is concerning a universal flood over the whole earth or only covering that part of the world known by Noah and his contemporaries. Galileo later quoted by Pope John Paul II, gives us a good piece of advice: “The Bible tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.”

My Time Among the Evangelicals.

During my ventures blogging, I have come across a blog or two created by Evangelicals looking to inform others about the horrors of Catholicism. In fact, one in particular often tags his post as “Catholic” for those to stumble upon the dribble searching out Catholic posts. What is most absurd and peculiar about this particular gentleman is mind-numbing contradictions. For example, the gentleman will either misrepresent scripture to fit his motif of slander and if someone objects and provides refutation against his novice theology he simply censors their comments from the site, all while attempting to make known about Catholics Index of Forbidden Books. Ha!

Of course, as a cradle Catholic it would be assumed that I haven’t had much experience with Evangelicals, but in my particular case, I have spent some time in their company. It was during my time as a youth of about sixteen years of age. I was dating a Evangelical girl during those days–who sadly has fallen for secular world hook line and sinker since those days. The girl’s parents were very strict and any night that was considered a school night–which would include Sunday—we were not allowed to spend any time together. Of course, She determined a way to get around this because Sunday night is when her Church had youth group for her Church. She convinced me to go for at that time I thought, “Well, we believe in the same God, what could it hurt?” Oh how a fool I was at the time!

Every Sunday I would show up at the youth minister’s house, it was during a period of construction for their new gigantic Morton shed church, and it was nice to be able to talk about the Gospel in what appeared to be generally innocent conversations. However, after some time had passed and I developed a friendly relationship with the youth minister; here came his need to “convert” me from the evils of Catholicism. I didn’t notice it at first, it has been subtle, but he did have disdain for Catholicism, even so much so, that a girl—who was friends with a Catholic that I knew from school—asked him if disliked Catholics. The minister went on and on during a session at his house, unfortunately I don’t remember the particulars, how he didn’t dislike Catholics, it was a misunderstanding. All the while mostly looking at me when he spoke on the topic.

It wasn’t long after that time that a kid at my school committed suicide. Our community was a small community, so it had been a pretty shocking tragedy. Again, I found myself at the youth minister’s house as he discussed the event. The minister addressed the topic whether the teenager committing suicide was now in Hell. Although even upon looking back to realize that is analogy was a false equivalent, it also appears that the youth minister had a lack of understanding between mortal and venial sins. Nonetheless, he began to describe how if he was in the act of committing adultery and suddenly died, he would not be in Hell because there are no such sins that disconnect us from God. He spoke these words as he made eye contract with me, I said nothing being but a child.

One of the most shocking occurrence during my time amongst the Evangelicals was when I found myself again at the youth minister’s house, but this time, it was different. He told us that we needed to take a look at something at the almost complete Morton shed Church. When we arrived at the facility, we entered the building in complete darkness. The minister led us up to a top floor around a spiraling ramp of sorts. When the group arrived to the top of floor what set before us still disturbs me to this day. The room was filled with burning candles, maybe even some torches, I remember that it was dark and the only light was that of a warm glow of flame. I figure in a white hooded robe sat in front of us at a Judge’s bench with his face veiled. We were told to sit and await our turn. The youth minister then called each person’s name to sit on what more or less would have been the witness stand, and a figure who was portraying Satan read to us all of the sins that the youth minister thought or had heard each person committed. Personally, when it was my turn, my sins listed were not intimate but generic due to the youth minister not knowing me that well coming from the Catholic faith. However, some were so detailed that it left children in tears as this man dressed them down in front of all of our eyes. At the end of the mock trial, a figure who portrayed Jesus came in and said none of these sins matter, feel better. When the mock trial ended the Youth Minister told us how sorry he was for putting us through this ordeal, and gave us free pizza…

A couple years went by and at this time I must have been a senior in highschool because I do not remember the girlfriend being at these events. At the time the Morton shed church was complete and the Church started to have bonfires after football games. The community, again so small, of course all the kids went for the smores, pizza, and to hang out with their friends. Of course, this enticed us to come to other events at the church like lock-ins, but there’s always a catch. At this time the Youth Minister was finally going to make his play at me. He told me, “You need to be baptized.”

I replied, “I have already been baptized.”

The response he gave me was puzzling to me at the time, “Being baptized as an infant doesn’t count, you have to be submerged for it to count.”

Thankfully, during this period of time, my family had finally gotten a computer with the internet, so I began to research what this guy was telling me. I was finally older and more confident, so much to his surprise, I defended my faith when for so long I had been sitting quietly just there to spend time with the girlfriend. My research at the time led me to illustrate how the early Church Father’s practiced infant baptism, and that Christ in the Gospel of Matthew declared his followers to baptize in the name of the trinity: “19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”[1] Unfortunately, we kept going around in a circular debate on the topic.

In many ways, the Grace of God and the challenges of this minister led me to a deeper belief in other facets of my faith, for example, transubstantiation. As we continued to discuss theology I questioned his church’s position on the discourse of the Bread of Life found in the Gospel of John chapter Six. I explained that if he fundamentally believed that the Bible to be the infallible word of God, why didn’t he follow Christ’s commands:

54 Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. 55 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. 56 For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed.[2]

After successfully refuting his challenges to my own faith, it was most unfortunate but the Youth Minister ostracized me and withdrew his friendship. Eventually, I no longer attended these after school events at this Church. Some time after, I came home from college and stopped to help at an ecumenical summer Bible School within the community—my friend’s mom was the director—and my ole’ priest was giving a talk, but I noticed something. I asked my friend’s mom where some of the community’s kids were and she said very sad, “Oh, that particular church didn’t want to send their kids where there were Catholics.”

Remember when the Youth Minister insisted on not disliking Catholics? It appears the Church only liked ones they felt they could convert. I do value the time spent with Youth Minister, he made me a better Catholic.

[1] Mt. 28:19 RSV

[2] Jn. 6:54-56 DRA

Quiet Revolutions ~ boiling the frogs slowly

The ‘pooper-scooper’ [Scoop] has been trying to make some scatological sense out of the filth that we now live in. Heaven only knows that we are literally up to our eyeballs in specimens that more properly belong in a society that has a strange obsession with coprophilia. But what is trash [or waste] for some, has always been a treasure to others I suppose. Or, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

It seems a quiet revolution occurred during my lifetime which was punctuated every now and then by a few uprisings or notable tectonic societal shifts. These usually died down though the inevitable aftershocks reverberated within our societies for decades.

We all know how to desensitize a frog to boiling them alive [by raising the temperature degree by degree] so that they scarcely realize that they are not enjoying a nice warm bath . . . until it is too late of course. Or perhaps it is similar to those born into a life that is filled with filth and yet are not aware that life is not ‘normal.’ After all, it is normal for them . . . a new normal; like these children perhaps?

Something similar has happened in the political, ideological and religious arena that can only be viewed as a complete disaster and deconstruction of a positive, values-based society. I should say, the ‘new normal’ has values but not the positive ones that we began with. They have been remade and reconstituted according to a perceived higher ideological end.

Take, for instance, the moment when Barack Obama made his infamous statement that small town folks, “cling to guns or religion” which made it more than obvious that our new President didn’t think too highly of our rights to own guns or our penchant for a society based on Christian values. Then last year, Hillary who has a very good chance of becoming our next president said: “religious beliefs have to be changed.” Why? because religions are opposed to her unassailable belief in a woman’s right to an abortion. So Hillary claims preeminence over God in such things. And in the Catholic arena, Pope Francis has taken mercy to the point where his version is better than Christ’s or the teachings of the Church he is leading. For where Christ was clear regarding adultery, our Pope has now made illusory . . . hidden in a fog of mumbo jumbo.

What is to be made of this new one-world-order crowd or one-world-church crowd? We have compromised away our positive values for expediency. We have ‘grown’ in our acceptance of transgenders, homosexuality, abortions, adultery, illegal border crossings [a borderless world in the vision of Soros is now acceptable to most]. Pragmatism and utilitarianism has beat down our God-given constitutional rights and back-shelved our moral beliefs and even our common sense. We are only months away from our Pope celebrating the reformation and the life of Martin Luther . . . how does that speak to the heroes of our faith during those times?

My friend Steve recently asked me if I could ever be friends with a liberal. I did not even hesitate: the answer is no. They are my enemies and they wish to extinguish my rights, expunge my beliefs and take my money and redistribute it in the name of ‘fairness’ and ‘mercy’. How can you call someone who wishes you ill, your friend? It seems impossible to me.

I think it’s becoming a little warm in this pot of water that we are now sitting in. Perhaps we ought to think more about this whole societal remake before we are too weak to jump out of the pot.

I’m not sure what answer you would give Steve but I think there may be another post in the offing regarding his question.

Water and Wine: The Two Wills of Christ

Jan_Cossiers_-_The_wedding_at_Cana,_Jesus_blesses_the_water

Dear Charity of Christ,

I have been meaning to write this post for some time, only to lack sufficient time to put pen to paper, or rather, finger to keyboard. Of course, those words of choice fall short in the poetic prose of times gone past. Nonetheless, the topic of discussion here is the two wills that are manifested within the Incarnation our dear Lord and Savior.

I first came across a great explanation on the topic from Pope Benedict XVI in his Jesus of Nazareth series. It was in his second volume, Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, that Pope Benedict explored the role the two wills played in Christ during his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. Pope Benedict explored the events of Gethsemane and deciphered their meaning for his work with a concise explanation of the established Christological doctrine of Christ’s two wills. For our proposes here, as well as using Pope Benedict’s work to illustrate another event in the Life of Christ by the Venerable Fulton Sheen, we will explore Pope Benedict’s explanation of Christological development, the events of Gethsemane, and how the two wills of Christ were present at the wedding of Cana.

Pope Benedict explains, “The Council of Nicea (325) had clarified the Christian concept of God. The three persions—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—are one, in the one “substance” of God…The Council of Chalcedon (451)…the one person of the Son of God embraces and bears the two natures—human and divine—“without confusion and without separation.” [1] Pope Benedict explains that after these two councils had created a “formula” for explaining the nature of God it remained rather undeveloped. Pope Benedict writes, “many bishops after Chalcedon said that they would rather think like a fisherman than like Aristotle. The Formula remained obscure.”[2] The obscurity led to what Pope Benedict calls “the last of the great Christological heresies, known as ‘monotheletism’. There can be only one will within the unity of a person, its adherent maintained…Yet an objection comes to mind: What kind of a man has no will? Is a man without a will really a man?” [3]

Pope Benedict explains that fundamentally in the garden of Gethsemane is where in scripture one can see this theological explanation in action. “Thus the prayer ‘not my will, but yours (Lk 22:42) is truly the Son’s prayer to the Father through which the natural human will is completely subsumed into the “I” of the Son.”[4]

Of course, Pope Benedict’s explanation is greatly more detailed then my Catholic school days when the teacher explained to us that Jesus, being human, did no want to die out of fear and if he there was some other way he would take it. It’s a simple explanation that suffices for the minds of children, but yet, it is so simple it rings almost the most depth in truth on the topic. Christ is God who is fully human if Christ cannot feel fear in the same manner as us, would he be truly man? There answer as explained is No.

For many years after my Catholic school days, I must admit that I thought this event was the only one of its kind in the Gospels. The type of event that expressed a clear distinction from Christ’s human will and his divine will. However, recently through my readings of Life of Christ by the Venerable Fulton Sheen, I had come across another event that illustrates Christ’s human will during the wedding at Cana. Sheen explains that during the wedding at Cana when “His mother was asking for a miracle; He was implying that a miracle worked as a sign of His Divinity would be the beginning of His death. The moment He showed Himself before men as the Son of God, He would draw down upon Himself their hatred.”[5]

If one takes a look at the text prior the miracle at Cana, it illustrates a human hesitation from Christ because of his knowledge, as Sheen explains, that it will lead to his death.
“Woman, what is that to Me and to thee? My Hour is not yet come.”[6]

Sheen explains, “’What is that to Me and to thee?’ This is a Hebrew phrase which is difficult to translate into English. St. John rendered it very literally in Greek, and the Vulgate preserved it literalism…Know translates it freely, ‘Why dost thou trouble me with that?”[7]

An almost natural question from a Christian, or even someone who is aware of the nature of Christ, would ask, “Why would Christ respond in such a way?” As Sheen alludes to in his explanation of the events of Cana it’s because “He was telling His mother that she was virtually pronouncing a sentence of death over Him.”[8]

Christ knew the miracle of turning water into wine would lead him to the garden and later to the cross, however, just as he did at Gethsemane, He submitted to the divinely will of God within the Incarnation of his being for the purpose of redeeming the sin of mankind. The only sacrifice, a Godly one, that would suffice for man’s betrayal. He administered his first miracle knowing that it was the purpose of his Incarnation to be the lamb to atone for the sins of mankind.

Praise to you Lord, Jesus Christ.

[1] Pope Benedict, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011), 157-58.

[2] Ibid, 158.

[3] Ibid, 159-60.

[4] Ibid, 161.

[5] Fulton Sheen, Life of Christ (New York: Doubleday, 2008), 89.

[6] Jn. 2:4

[7] Sheen, 88.

[8] Ibid, 90.

Reposting the Series ~The Lamb of God Theme: Intro, Preface and First Model

Lamb of God

The Lamb of God

 

Abridged from a work by: Rev. Msgr. Donald C. Hamburger

Many years ago (17 years to be exact) I was privileged to help an old retired priest write a small booklet about something he had thought through for many years: the Lamb of God Theme in the Bible. I have searched high and low without having any luck looking for the original disks so that I might turn it into a PDF file for people to download. I know it would have made the now deceased Monsignor very happy; for he used his own money to print many thousands of copies which he handed out to anyone and everyone he met. It was printed during the 51st anniversary of his priesthood. With great love and admiration for this holy man of God, I will attempt to abridge his original work into a series of posts. God grant that I do this servant of God justice in my attempt.

Monsignor Hamburger took as his personal motto the following words from (John 10:10): “I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.”  And indeed he succeeded in giving a more abundant life to any who had the privilege to know him. This little booklet was just a small portion of that mission which he took so seriously.

Reverend Monsignor Donald C. Hamburger opened his little book with a letter to his friends that expressed how this theme developed in his mind. It began with his being involved in the enlarging of our church and specifically with his design of a huge stained glass window with a depiction of the Lamb of God and many of the early prototypes or types that were used in the Bible which were fulfilled in Christ. Next, he discussed this theme often with Rev. Walter Miller Crowe a good friend and pastor of the local Presbyterian Church. Together they decided to use this theme as a suitable topic for use as a joint adult study back in 1988. In 1992 he also used this theme to give talks in our parish as a Lenten Series. It was during the preparations for these talks, that he began to develop a strong desire to put in print this thematic reflection of the Bible for a wider consideration. May you rest in peace my dear friend and may your love of this theme lead others to love it as well and develop this theme even further; for you wrote it specifically for the enjoyment and spiritual insight that it might give to all of us. This theme brought you great joy. May it also bring others to your joy as well! So, we will begin:

The Preface:

He quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 53. The divine plan of Revelation is realized simultaneously “by words which are intrinsically bound up with each other” and shed light on each other. It involves a specific divine pedagogy: God communicates himself to man gradually. He prepares him to welcome by stages the supernatural Revelation that is to culminate in the person and mission of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.

The Contingent Plan: Monsignor asks us here to remember and to reread the first 3 chapters of Genesis and to remember the special gifts that were given to Adam and Eve.

Scripture scholars have distinguished these sets of gifts given to our first parents: 1) natural, 2) supernatural, and 3) preternatural. Suffice it to say that Adam and Eve are said to have lost the supernatural and preternatural gifts, and even the use of the natural gifts are impaired by their act of disobedience. We can see from this that the present earth in its entirety is not the original plan of the Creator but a contingent one following upon the Fall of Adam and Eve.

The first section of Bl. Pope John Paul II’s Splendor of Truth says: “As a result of that mysterious original sin, committed at the prompting of Satan, the one who is ‘a liar and the father of all lies’ (Jn. 8:44), man is constantly tempted to turn his gaze away from the living God in order to direct it toward idols (Cf. I Thes. 1:9), exchanging ‘the truth about God for a lie’ (Rom 1:25). Man’s capacity to know the truth is also darkened, and his will to submit to it is weakened.” (Section I)

Cardinal John J. O’Connor spoke of this from the pulpit in 1994 saying: “In this extraordinary mystery that we don’t pretend to understand we find that Adam and Eve transmitted this sin through human nature. We receive human nature and receive the corruption, the destruction, the devastation of Original Sin. When we are baptized, it becomes possible for us to get back into heaven because Christ came and suffered and died for us and gave us the Sacrament of Baptism to open the gates of heaven. Unfortunately, we’re still left with all of the other faults that accrued because of Original Sin. We’ve lost what are called the ‘preternatural’ gifts of God: freedom from death, from suffering, from temptation, and so on.”

Prelude A: The Promise – Genesis, Chapter 3 – Prehistory.

Here Monsignor enumerates the fall of the angels from grace; those we now call Satan and the other devils. He posits that they were lost due to pride and that some theologians have thought that they thought it beneath them to have to worship God as man, when God’s plan was revealed to them. Their pride then left them to be cast from heaven without any chance of future redemption.

However, unlike the pure spirits, Adam and Eve were spared from immediate damnation to hell. Instead, they were promised a redeemer and permitted a chance to work out their salvation so that they could re-enter heaven if they loved and served God. Ever since, Satan and the fallen angels have been jealous of humans and are one of the three great enemies that we humans have to struggle against: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Note: Almighty God delivered the sentences of punishment upon each in turn: the punishment given to the serpent was the first. It was also our Good News, namely, that eventually an offspring of woman will crush Satan’s power. God will accept this as restitution for Adam’s sin and reopen the gates of Heaven. What was not revealed at the time was what I mentioned above, namely, that the son of woman was also going to be the Son of the Triune God. No wonder the Liturgy of Holy Week refers to the original sin as: “O, Felix Culpa” (O, Happy Fault) that has merited so great and such a Redeemer! And now, we of the New Testament, “the Lamb of God people,” have learned that God did become man, in everything but sin; Emanuel, God with us.

The CCC sums it up as follows: 407. “The doctrine of Original Sin, connected with that of the redemption by Christ, illuminates the human condition and human activity in the world . . . Ignoring the fact that humanity has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals.”

We think we are going to create a perfect world but we forget about Original Sin. The final paragraph in this section says: “After the fall, man was not abandoned by God. On the contrary, God called him and in a mysterious way heralded his victory over evil and the recovery from his fall – the first announcement of the coming of the Messiah and Redeemer, that of a struggle between the serpent and the Woman, Mary, and of the final victory of the one descending from Her (Jesus). (Gen. 3:15)”

Prelude B: The Good News – Genesis 3:15 (Proto-evangelium) – Prehistory

What we call the Proto-evangelium or first gospel is the forerunner of all the reappearances of the Lamb of God in the Bible; the written word of Divine Revelation. The Proto-evangelium is God’s first intimation in the Bible of His grandiose plan to show His limitless love for mankind: He Himself will become the Lamb when blood-shedding will pay the price of redemption from the offense of Original Sin. It is the first telling of the Good News that will bring “Joy to the World” when the offspring of a woman will crush the power of mankind’s adversary, the serpent known as Satan.

Genesis 3:15 is but a sketch perhaps of God’s plan and draft of the model as seen by John in the book of Revelation: “I saw a Lamb standing as though slain . . . “ (cf Rev. 5,6)

But what a long time it took in years, as man counts them, between the first telling of the Good News and the actual accomplishment of the fact! How long it was from that Proto-evangelium in the Garden of Eden to the night when the Angels sang in the Shepherd’s Field outside of Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will.”

Many centuries would pass with the Great Designer filling in, line by line, the various types before the Great Fulfillment finally appears. We read of the first model in Genesis 4:1-16: the Acceptable Sacrifice of Abel.

Model One: Abel’s Acceptable Sacrifice – Genesis 4:1-24 – Prehistory

Introduction:  Somewhere in the murky mists of many millennia, before history came to be written, Adam and Eve had two sons named Cain and Abel. Each offered a sacrifice to their Maker. The sacrifice of the younger was acceptable to God while the other was not.

Their story was passed down for many centuries by word of mouth. It was used by Moses under Divine Inspiration when he composed the first five books of the Bible; i.e. the Pentateuch or as the Jews know it, the Torah.

As the Divine Liturgy came to be formed, Abel’s sacrifice received “pride of place” because of its invaluable characteristic: Purity of Intention. It is the first account in the Bible of the Lamb of God Sacrifice.

Jesus Himself referred to “Abel the just” (Cf. Mt. 23:35) as did several of the Apostles. In our own day the Council Fathers, too, mentioned Abel (Cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Ch. 1, 2). No wonder modern liturgists employed its reference in Eucharistic Prayer #1, called the Roman Canon:

“Look with favor on these offerings and accept them as once you accepted the gifts of your servant Abel . . .”

Then there follows a prayer which certainly refers to John’s Apocalypse or Revelation:

“Almighty God, we pray that your angel may take this sacrifice to your altar in heaven . . .”

As we read John’s Revelation (Ch. 5, 6), we can easily derive that God’s plan is including it not only in every Mass we now offer but also in the eternal plan of heaven’s activities. Therefore, it has an eschatological meaning.

Since Abel’s sacrifice entailed the shedding of an animal’s blood, it would be good for us to consider briefly the part that blood played for centuries whenever God made a covenant with the Chosen People before the time of Christ. This will help us understand the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross and the Sacrament of the Divine Liturgy. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a necessary part of the God-man’s development of this sign. In fact, it was spiritualized by transforming this sacrifice into a Sacrament, “the new and everlasting covenant” (I Cor. 11:23), at the Last Supper. And, again we see this sacrifice immortalized in St. John’s Apocalypse when in Heaven he “saw a Lamb standing as though slain” (Apoc. 5:6), as I mentioned earlier.

Indeed it was this need for “blood” that gave Jesus the motivation to use His divine power to change the wine of the Passover meal into His Precious Blood. This then, led to the institution of the priesthood of the Apostles.

Now we continue with the story: Paul refers to Jesus, in I Cor. 15:45-49, as the second Adam. We can see further analogy to His offspring as being like to the second attempt by God to raise up children pleasing to Him and of clean heart. The primitive example of this is the second son of Adam. The final example of this is those “born of the spirit” who followed Christ (Cf. John 1:13).

Although the elder brother Cain offered of his efforts to till the soil, it was the younger brother, Abel  and keeper of the flocks, whose sacrifice, though offered after Cain’s, was acceptable to God; it was offered with a clean heart.

God even gave Cain a second chance by suggesting that Cain be reconciled; for then his sacrifice would also be acceptable to God. Jesus laid down this same condition when He told His followers to leave their gifts at the altar and to first go reconcile themselves with their brothers; only then were they to come and offer gifts at the altar (Cf. Mat. 5:23 ff.). This is a good reason for our modern liturgists to move the “sign of peace” to the beginning of the Mass. The sign that God gave Cain served two purposes: 1) it would remain permanently as a sign of God’s special protection, reminding us of the spiritual character that is given by three of the sacraments instituted by Christ; Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders and  2) it assured Cain that God would save him from being slain by others.

Because Cain was forced to wander the face of the earth, he carried the message wherever he went; much like the future children of Abraham who carried the mark of their covenant with God in the flesh (circumcision). They also bore witness to the purity of God’s message into all the lands which they traveled.

So too, the early followers of Christ were driven out of the Holy Land by the Romans and the Jews after A.D. 70. It is interesting to note that only one Apostle died in Jerusalem; James, the brother of John. “The blood of a martyr becomes the seed of Christians!”

“Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.”  – The Beatitudes.