How Rediscovering the “Plot” of Sacred Scripture is Essential to Evangelization | Archdiocese of Washington

One of the most significant losses in the modern era has been the loss of the Biblical narrative in the hearts and minds of most people. Scripture is the story of the human family, told by God himself. In story form He tells us how we were made and why, what happened why that things are the way they are today. Why do we have infinite longing in a finite world? Why do we struggle with sin so much? How can we be rescued from sin and death and find our hearts true satisfaction? The Biblical narrative answers these sorts of questions and more.

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What is the Solution to our Stressful and Anxious Lives? Go to the Center. | Archdiocese of Washington

In yesterday’s Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent, the Lord described a kind of self-destructive cycle that assails us and then proposed a solution. In this post there is an attempt to focus in a bit more on the solution proposed by the Lord.

But to review the problem, the self destructive cycle recall this text from yesterday’s Gospel:

Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. (Luke 21:34-35)

To describe the cycle of the problem in more modern terms:

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The Lamb of God Theme: Seventh Model

Lamb of GodAbridged from a work by: Rev. Msgr. Donald C. Hamburger

Model Seven: Malachi the Prophet – Malachi 1:11, 4:5 – 400 B.C.

An Observation: As I was doing some research on Malachi’s prophecy, I was led back to the sacrifice of Melchisedech; that of bread and wine around 2000 B.C. Note that Melchisedech was the king of Salem (later Jerusalem) and a priest of God who offered bread and wine as an unbloody sacrifice in thanksgiving for Abraham’s victory over the four eastern kings (Gen. 4:18-20). Because he was a type of Christ (both kings and priests who offer bread and wine to God), an antiphon in the rite of Ordination for a priest reads: “Christ the Lord, a priest forever in the line of Melchisedech, offered bread and wine.” In the first Eucharistic prayer of the Mass, the priest prays that God will accept his offerings just as He once accepted “the bread and wine offered by your priest Melchisedech.” __ The Catholic Replies Book, C.R. Publications, Norwood, MA 02062

This King of Salem is a mysterious figure who saluted Abram before God magnified his name to Abraham. It is therefore a very ancient incident in God’s plan which has perdured most prominently in our Catholic Liturgy of the Lamb of God Sacrifice. It points to the real Lamb of God as “a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech.”

Malachi’s prophecy is not as popular a subject as it was in the first half of the 20th century, what I like to call the Golden Era of the Catholic Church in the USA and maybe the world. In those days, probably because of the stricter Eucharistic fast, daily Mass was usually scheduled quite early in the morning. Before receiving Holy Communion, the true Lamb of God, we had to abstain from all food and drink, even water, beginning at midnight. Because this encouraged having Mass as early as possible after daybreak, Malachi’s words were often quoted in our missals:

“. . . from the rising of the sun even to the going down, My name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to My name a clean oblation: for My name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts.” __ Mal. 1:11

Because this last of the Old Testament prophets described it as a clean oblation (to the Jews a ‘clean’ oblation was an ‘unbloody’ offering), artists illustrated our text books with the picture of a Catholic priest raising the chalice of the Mass up to the crucifix which, at that time, was immediately before him, hanging either from the ceiling above him or from the wall in front of him.

Malachi spoke these prophetic words: “Behold I will send you Elias (Elijah) the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. (Mal. 4:5)” They have great importance when compared to the words of the angel Gabriel to Zachary at the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist: “And he shall convert many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias; that he may turn the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the incredulous to the wisdom of the just, to prepare unto the Lord a perfect people.” __ Luke 1:16,17

Thus Melchisedech’s “bread and wine sacrifice” is the beginning of another theme used by God; for example, the bread and wine of the Passover Meal (Cf. Ex. 12). This theme and the Lamb of God Theme run together in Mal. 4:5 above. These two themes flow together in the valley of time to swell the fullness of our understanding of God’s Eternal Plan. For now in his passage in Malachi 4:5 we see that the “clean offering” (which we now know to be Christ under the form of bread and wine) is beginning to take shape. And in Luke 1:16 the stage is set for John the Baptist (in the spirit and power of Elias) clearing the way for our Redeemer: making straight the path of our Lord, especially with the baptisms performed on the people. The Preparatory work for Christ’s revelation and God’s greatest gift to mankind is almost complete.

My Notes on this Abridgement of Father Hamburger’s text on the Lamb of God Theme in the Bible:

Father had a very strong devotion to Our Lady and here at this point in his work he seemed to stray from the theme. Father and I had several debates about this because it did not fit with the theme on the Lamb of God. I could not get him to give it up and it is mostly useful to those who actually knew the father and not of a great deal of use to those who didn’t. I say that because his use of language, within these chapters, sounds just like him.

Therefore I will omit his inserted Chapter which he called: Mary’s M & M’s which referred to her Memories and Melodies. He wrote this in a fictitious novella style and included the character of Luke because his Gospel was the only one to record the “melodies” that father wanted to illuminate us with: The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), the Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2:29-32), and the Benedictus (Luke 1:68-75).

Although I would suggest that we all get to know these three beautiful verses that have been sung in the Church almost from the beginning, there is no Lamb of God significance per se. Therefore, to keep on theme, I have decided to omit his private meditations that produced this conversation between Our Lady, Luke and others.

Forgive me Father: but I did let you print it your way the first time. I hope you don’t mind that I take liberties with the work for this internet Bible study. God bless you and I am sure Our Lady has taken good care of you since you departed this life. May you now be singing with her and the angelic choirs in Heaven!

The Lamb of God Theme: Sixth Model

Lamb of GodAbridged from a work by: Rev. Msgr. Donald C. Hamburger

Model Six: Isaiah, Draftsman for the Master Engineer – Isaiah Ch. 1-66 – Circa 750-675 B.C.

Biography: He was born to the aristocracy of the tribe of Judah around the middle of the 8th century before Christ and is called the “Pearl of the Prophets.” His name means; “The Lord is salvation.”

Forward: In Isaiah’s writings we read of future events some of which were beyond the full understanding of the recipient of the vision itself. Sometimes they occurred in such a distant future that only God’s knowledge could have imparted them to Isaiah.

Place: Isaiah’s  imagery can be seen as actual word pictures pertaining to Him  who is to become the “Redeemer” promised by God in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:15) who will crush the serpent’s head as the Truth crushes half-truth!

Isaiah is used by God to enlighten the chosen people about the Lamb of God theme. After God’s last model, The Scapegoat, had been given to them with such precise rubrics, that it had developed into the great Jewish Feast of the Atonement; Yom Kippur. Centuries have passed but God’s time is not our time, He moves at His own pace. “This then shall be our everlasting ordinance for you: Once a year, atonement shall be made for all sins of the Israelites.” – (Leviticus 16:34)

It is Isaiah who first links the Lamb of God to the Man born of woman who will be God; thus exhibiting a love so great that only the Angels in Heaven could conceive of it. The prophet’s warning from God was lightly considered: “My word shall not return to me void . . . but shall prosper in the things for which I sent it.” – (Isaiah 55:11)

Specifications: The first startling fact that emerges from his writings is that God is giving Isaiah a set of specifications for a new version of the Lamb of God. Heretofore, the blood to be shed, was that of an animal as in the acceptable sacrifice of Abel (Cf. Gen. 4:1-5).

Through analogy, Isaiah sees that there will be a man whose blood will be shed; whose lamblike qualities will prove to be the embodiment of the types shown in our previous models, from that of Abel (Gen. 4) to that of the Scapegoat (Lev. 16).

God used Isaiah not only to introduce this new model of the Lamb of God theme but also to add a much greater development of the Messiah’s characteristics. He shows that not only will the fulfillment of the types of this theme be accomplished but also many types as well; such as “bread” seen in the Passover meal, the manna in the desert, to mention but one.

As with most prophecies, the details become clear only in their fulfillment and this part of Isaiah’s work will be dealt with in the fulfillment by our Lord.

For the theme of the Lamb of God I will dwell on Isaiah 53:7 only where he describes the “One who is to come” as a lamb. We will divide it up into three parts: The Judgment of Caiaphas, The Judgment of Pilate and the Messianic Prophecy of Isaiah 53 and 54.

Judgment of Caiaphas: Note the classic quotation from Isaiah as follows: “He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth. He shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and he shall not open his mouth.” – Is. 53:7

Matthew record’s the trial before Caiaphas in Chapter 26:57 ff.

As one author put it “the trial before Caiaphas was ‘rigged.’”

“Jesus came before the Sanhedrin twice: first at night, then in the morning. The trial before the ecclesiastical court was illegal for two reasons, the time element and procedure. No formal trial could be held at night, much less in the private home of the high priest. The high priest conducted the case instead of merely presiding as unbiased judge. False witnesses were deliberately admitted. There was no agreement in their testimony, which should have entailed dismissal of the case. The accusation of blasphemy was not proven: Christ in very truth was the Son of God.” – Footnote pg. 177, Chronological Harmony of the Gospels

Caiaphas pronounced the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: first, when he asked Jesus “dost thou make no answer . . .” but Jesus kept silence. (Mt. 26:57-68) “Then the high priest, standing up, said to him, ‘Dost though make no answer to the things that these men prefer against thee?’ But Jesus kept silence.”  As Isaiah had prophesied, “He shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter . . . and he shall not open his mouth.” Secondly, Caiaphas used the official formula, “I adjure thee by the living God” and put the real question that troubled them: “tell us whether thou art the Christ, the Son of God.” (Verse 63). Then, because Caiaphas couched his question in accord with divine law, Jesus, always obedient to His Father’s will, answered: “Thou hast said it.”

It is interesting to note that Caiaphas used the phrase “Son of God” above as Christ meant “Messiah” or the anointed one, the savior who was promised in Genesis 3:15. But “Son of God” was the claim that Jesus was making: namely, that He is divine . . . one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. And Jesus amplified his answer by saying “Thou hast said it. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming upon the clouds of heaven.” (Verse 64). Now this echoed the term son of man as used by the prophet Daniel in Chapter 7:13,14. “I beheld therefore in the vision of the night, and lo, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and he came even to the Ancient of days: and they presented him before him. And he gave him power, and glory, and a kingdom: and all peoples, tribes and tongues shall serve him: his power is an everlasting power that shall not be taken away: and his kingdom that shall not be destroyed.”

Caiaphas, the high priest, understood clearly that Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah and God, for he gave the biblical sign: “Then the high priest tore his garments, saying, ‘He has blasphemed, what further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?’ And they answered and said, ‘He is liable to death.’” (Verses 65-67).

Thus the high priest enlarged the Lamb of God significance by alluding to the scapegoat sacrifice; that of universal redemption (Cf. Lev. 16).

Judgment of Pontius Pilate: Even the “lamb” was silent. In the morning they took Jesus to Pontius Pilate. John the Evangelist describes it thus:

“They therefore led Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium.  Now it was early in the morning, and they themselves did not enter the praetorium, that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.” __ John 18:28

From the Chronological Harmony of the Gospels: “The Jews who scrupled about contradicting legal defilement did not hesitate to incur the guilt of deicide on the very eve of the Passover. On days of great festivity the Roman procurator, the tribune and soldiers were stationed in the Tower of Antonia, at the northwest angle of the temple, to supervise the ceremonies and to be on hand in case of disturbance. It was in the court of this fortress that the praetorium of Pilate was established on that occasion, and there consequently that Christ was tried and condemned to death. As a Gentile fortress it could not be entered by Jews without their contracting defilement.”

Pilate, the Roman, made an allusion to the relationship of this Man to the Paschal Lamb when he reminded the Jews that it was their great feast when they ate the Passover Lamb.

Pilate went “outside to the Jews again, and said to them, ‘I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover.’” __ John 18:38-40

Twice Pilate asked Jesus about His silence. Once, after He was asked about being King of the Jews, Matthew writes:

. . . He made no answer “so that the procurator wondered exceedingly.” __ Mt. 27:12-14

And what was the accusation? They told Pilate:

“We have a Law, and according to that Law he must die, because he has made himself Son of God.” Now when Pilate heard this statement, he feared the more . . . And he again went back into the praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where art thou from?” But Jesus gave him no answer __ John 19:7-10

John 19:10 relates the surprise of Pilate at the silence of his defense when Jesus stood before him at the praetorium: “Pilate therefore said to him, ‘Dost thou not speak to me? Dost thou not know that I have power to crucify thee, and that I have power to release thee?’ Jesus answered, ‘Thou wouldst have no power at all over me were it not given thee from above. Therefore, he who betrayed me to thee has the greater sin.’” __ John 19:10-11

A second time after being accused of claiming to be the son of God, Jesus “gave him no answer” according to John. Then Pilate handed him over to the Jews to be crucified. Thus Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: Note that the prophet writes as though it has already happened!

“He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth. He shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and shall not open his mouth.” __ Is. 53:7

The Messianic Prophecy of Isaiah (Is. 53 & 54): Isaiah is the first of God’s prophets to link man, the lamb and God in describing the Anointed One, the Messiah of Gen. 3:15.

Isaiah Chapter 53:1-8 states the following: “ Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? And he shall grow up as a tender plant before him, and as a root out of a thirsty ground: there is no beauty in him, nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him: Despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity: and his look was as it were hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, every one hath turned aside into his own way: and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth: he shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and he shall not open his mouth. He was taken away from distress, and from judgment: who shall declare his generation? because he is cut out of the land of the living: for the wickedness of my people have I struck him.”

And in Isaiah Chapter 54, Verse 5 we get this: “For he that made thee shall rule over thee, the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, shall be called the god of all the earth.”

Other Testimony: On the cross Jesus’ kingship is acknowledged by the good thief, Dismas, who asked for and received pardon of his sins when Jesus replied, “This day thou shalt be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Also, the centurion, having observed the extraordinary phenomena of nature, exclaimed as Jesus gave up his spirit: “Truly he was the Son of God.” (Matt. 27:54)

Thus we see the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah in a threefold way:

  1. Jesus is the Lamb, silently led to sacrifice
  2. Jesus is a Lamb who is the Redeemer of the human race, a scapegoat par excellence
  3. Jesus is a Lamb who is thus addressed by God at the baptism in the Jordan: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17)   And of whom John proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)

Comment: Caiaphas recognized Jesus’ claim though he called it blasphemy. Pilate called him King of the Jews and nailed a sign above Jesus’ head. It read Iesus Nazerenus Rex Iudaeorum or Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, I N R I. It was written in three languages, Hebrew, Greek and Latin.

Conclusion: We owe a debt of gratitude to the Jewish people for preserving Isaiah’s words in scripture for us and the rest of the world.

We should all read Isaiah 45:17-23: “Israel is saved in the Lord with an eternal salvation: you shall not be confounded, and you shall not be ashamed forever and ever. For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens, God himself that formed the earth, and made it, the very maker thereof: he did not create it in vain: he formed it to be inhabited. I am the Lord, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I have not said to the seed of Jacob: Seek me in vain. I am the Lord that speak justice, that declare right things. Assemble yourselves, and come, and draw near together, ye that are saved of the Gentiles: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven work, and pray to a god that cannot save. Tell ye, and come, and consult together: who hath declared this from the beginning, who hath foretold this from that time? Have not I the Lord, and there is no God else besides me? A just God and a saviour, there is none besides me. Be converted to me, and you shall be saved, all ye ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is no other.”

The Lamb of God Theme: Fifth Model

Lamb of God

The Lamb of God

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

Model Five: The Scapegoat Sacrifice – Leviticus 16:20-22 – During the 40 Years in the Desert (Exodus)

The Book of Leviticus: The name “Leviticus” was bestowed on the third book of the Pentateuch by the ancient Greek translators because a good part of this book consists of sacrificial and other ritual laws prescribed for the priests of the tribe of Levi.

Leviticus brings in the idea of the “scapegoat:” (Lev. 16:20) and shows that the Lamb of God was used for many, many purposes of purification in the Old Testament by the law and the statute of God. None were so bad who could not be purified and none were so good that did not need to be purified by the blood of the Lamb.

Vicarious Model: Leviticus brings us the “Expiatory Model.” Although Abraham used a substitute animal for a sacrifice, it was not until centuries later that we find a clear-cut account of Yahweh assigning the Scapegoat Sacrifice. In this He designed for the Israelites a vicarious sacrifice in which a designated animal is sacrificed as a substitute and bears away the sins of the people. “We heard with our own ears, O God, our fathers have told us the story of the things you did in their days, you yourself, in days long ago.” (Ps. 44)

Time and Setting: The story was handed down by word of mouth. It was to Moses that God spoke after He had disciplined two of Aaron’s sons. So apparently, it was in the 13th century B.C. as the Israelites were approaching the Promised Land.

Name: From these Jewish antiquities we gain a new word: “Scapegoat.” It came to mean “a person or thing bearing blame for others,” in addition to its religious connotation.

The Prescribed Sacrifice: In Lev. Ch. 16 we read that God decreed the following: The priest was to select two goats and to cast lots. One was then signified to be sacrificed in the usual way on the altar, but the other to be used as a “scapegoat.” Placing both hands on its head, the priest prayed that all the sinful faults and transgressions of the Israelites were to be visited upon the beast. An attendant would then lead the “scapegoat” out into the wilderness where it would be left to die at the teeth of wild beasts or by dashing off a cliff to its death. The death of the scapegoat would thus destroy the sins and transgressions which had been placed upon it.

The laying on of hands was a symbolic representation of the transferring of sin and guilt to the animal that was to be sacrificed; which vicariously had to suffer instead of the man. This day came to be called “The Day of Atonement” or Yom Kippur in the Hebrew.

“Expiate” is a word we do not use much today but it comes from two Latin words; ex – meaning ‘out’ and piare – seeking to appease. Therefore, it is to purify with a sacred rite. Hence: to make complete satisfaction for (atonement for) as to expiate sin. The adjective “expiatory” means “having power, or the intention to make expiation; an atoning of sin.”

Vicarious comes from the Latin, vicis, to change the place or office of one person as assumed by another; such as vice-president. Hence for our purpose: performed or suffered by one person with results accruing to the benefit or advantage of another; substituted for, as a vicarious sacrifice.

Thus the scapegoat was made a vicarious sacrifice by God’s decree in that the Israelites use it as an expiatory sacrifice to atone for their transgressions and sins.

The animal, of itself, was not equal in value to be a substitute for all of them or for even one of them. To help clarify this difference, consider a story from one of Hitler’s death camps. St. Maximillian Kolbe, while in one of these camps, stepped forward to ask the guards selecting their quota of victims for the day, to let him take the place of one of those who had been marked for death. The reason he gave was that the man had a wife and children whereas he had none. The sacrifice was accepted and Fr. Maximillian was sent to his death “in place of” the other prisoner. Maximillian, then, was a vicarious sacrifice because it was one man substituted for the other (one man for another man).

Our heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit attested to Jesus becoming our “Scapegoat.” This took place when John the Baptist baptized Him in the river Jordan. The Baptizer admitted he recognized these heavenly signs and so called Him the “Lamb of God!”

Note the similarities peculiar to God’s rubrics (directions) in Leviticus 16 and to the Lamb’s sacrifice at Calvary.

  1. Although the other sacrifices were to be offered by Aaron in the temple, this one was to be outside in the wilderness! So too was Jesus taken outside the walls of the city to Golgotha to be sacrificed! “Jesus died outside the gate, to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us go to him outside the camp, bearing the insult which he bore. For here we have no lasting city; we are seeking one which is to come. Through him let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which acknowledge his name.” (Heb. 13:12)
  2. As God chose which one of the goats was to be the Scapegoat, so Jesus was designated by God, the Father. “Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22)
  3. As the sins of all the Jewish people were laid upon the Scapegoat, so the sins of all mankind were placed on Jesus for our redemption. St. Peter wrote, “In His own body He brought your sins to the Cross, so that all of us, dead to sin, could live in accord with God’s will. By His wounds you were healed.” (1 Pet. 2:24)  During the liturgy when the priest calls upon the Holy Spirit to make our gifts Holy, he is to place his hands out (in the “scapegoat” sign) together with thumbs crossed, as if placing his hands on the head of a scapegoat. In this way he asks God to place on Him, who will soon be present during the consecration, the sins of the people who have gathered so that He might take their sins away.
  4. As this was to be an “everlasting ordinance” for the Jews, so Jesus at the Last Supper gave to the Apostles and to all of mankind a new and everlasting covenant which is to be offered in commemoration by the Apostles and their successors. This makes it possible for the ordinance of Leviticus to be carried out forever, though the Jewish sacrifices ended with the destruction of the Temple around A.D. 70.
  5. John the Evangelist was given a new Revelation of that commemoration appearing in the form of a Lamb standing before the throne of God in Heaven (Cf. Apoc. 5:6-9); standing as though slain, taking the scroll from ‘Him who sat upon the throne’ and all the living creatures in heaven and on earth were saying, “To him that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb, benediction, and honor, and glory, and power, forever and ever.” (Cf. Apoc. 5:13) Is it any wonder that the rubric of the Traditional (Tridentine) Mass called for the server to ring the bells after the epiclesis and immediately after the consecration?

Importance to the Jews: That the Israelites held Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) to be of the greatest importance can be judged from the following:

  • It was the only day of the year that the High Priest could enter into the Holy of Holies: otherwise, he was forbidden under penalty of death.
  • The High Priest must wear sacred vestments.
  • A ritual bath was required by the High Priest prior to his entering the Holy of Holies.
  • At the time of our Lord it was considered one of the major feasts, along with Passover and Pentecost.
  • To this day the Jewish people have preserved a celebration of Yom Kippur as one of their High Holy Days.

Yom Kippur is the annual cleansing of the faults of the Chosen People; John the Baptist’s “Lamb of God” continually offers Himself as atonement for the sins of all peoples who will but believe.

Importance to Catholic Christians: Because of the Incarnation, Jesus is seen as the Scapegoat Sacrifice par excellence. In One Divine Person He embodies the perfect vicarious victim offered in expiation of the sins of all mankind, even Original Sin. He is that Promised One of Genesis 3:15 even more than could have been imagined at the time it was written.

Mary in her perfection made her supreme act of faith by replying to Gabriel’s startling message: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38)  John the Evangelist sums it up in the Prologue of his Gospel: “ . . . the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God . . . and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:1-14)

One Divine Person Who shares His Divine Nature with the Father and the Holy Spirit, in love and in obedience to His Father’s will, assumed our nature through Mary. Thus His Precious human Blood was sacrificed in expiation of our sin; a sacrifice offered by a Divine Person, Jesus Christ, and of infinite merit; a victim designated and chosen by His Father for our redemption. “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” a victim pointed out by John the Baptizer: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world . . . this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29-34)

The Liturgical Application: After I learned of the “Scapegoat Sacrifice,” I more fully realized the copious meaning that a single, quiet, liturgical gesture could contain. When I was ordained in 1946 the offerings of the people were represented on the altar by the bread and the wine signified by the Latin word “Oblata.” Over them, the priest stretched his two open hands extended flatly with the thumbs crossed, right over left, as he prayed.

In this prayer he again referred to the “oblation” and then, made the sign of the cross five times with his right hand: once for each of the principle wounds in the Body of Christ on the Cross – the hands, feet and side.

This ceremony – the laying on of hands – is still indicated by the 1970 rubrics in all four Eucharistic prayers. The silent gesture expresses the sacrificial elements indicated by the “Scapegoat Model” and embodies a deeper mystical meaning.

Reverend Nicholas Gihr sums it up nicely:

“In the Mosaic worship the laying on of hands was a symbolic representation of the transferring of sin and guilt to the animal that was to be sacrificed, which vicariously had to suffer death instead of man. Here in the Holy Mass the laying on of hands has a similar object, and, therefore, in a visible and energetic way it deeply fixes the sacrificial character of the Eucharist, for it shows that Christ on the altar, in our place, for our sake, and on account of our sins offers Himself; — and, moreover, it indicates that we should unite ourselves with His Sacrifice, offering ourselves in it and along with it.” __ Pg. 626, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

The Lamb of God Theme: Fourth Model

Lamb of God

The Lamb of God

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

Model Four: Moses and the Passover – Exodus 12 – 1200 (?) B.C.

What a man Moses has proved to be! Moses, as the author of the Pentateuch, is the first man to hand down to us the revelations which God made to mankind. Hence Moses is the “Father of the Bible” in a sense. Moses gathered the incidents of the Lamb of God theme which we have looked at so far. Now Moses becomes the one chosen by God to be the principle actor in the Passover episode: First, he taught Pharaoh and the Israelites of the might and power of God and then led the Israelites out of bondage to the Promised Land. Moses led 600,000 men plus women, children and flocks for 40 years. Imagine the logistics of such a feat. Moses is another great prototype of the True Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.

Having seen the development of the Lamb of God theme from the sacrifice of Abel through the expanding of it in the sacrifice of Abraham and the substitute animal, we now consider in more detail that event in Jewish history which is the forerunner of our Paschal Lamb and the Easter Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Saturday Easter Vigil of the Resurrection.

Time-wise: Scholars agree that the “Passover” Sacrifice of the Lamb of God is the culmination of the 10th plague which caused the Egyptians not only to free their Hebrew slaves but to load them down with all kinds of gifts and practically drive them out of their country. Therefore, the word “Passover” has a much broader meaning when you include its effects; namely, their freedom from slavery, their receipt of gifts of great wealth, their passage through the Red Sea (a type of Baptism, according to Paul in I Cor. 10), their reception by Moses of the tablets of the Law on Mt. Sinai followed by the great Theophany of a new covenant, and finally their eventual arrival at the Promised Land (a Promised land that Moses was not permitted to enter – having failed God’s test at Meribah and Massah).

Growth and Development of the Israelites: Historians have assigned names to certain ages of time. Hence we can ask: When did Moses live? When did the Passover occur? The answer is sometime between the Bronze Age (3500 B.C. to 1200 B.C.) and the Iron Age (1200 B.C. to 537 B.C.) or roughly between 1300 and 1200 B.C. Likewise, we could ask how the Israelites came to be in Egypt.

The Israelites became exiled in Egypt when there was a famine in the Middle East and Egypt; the Egyptians having stored grained by the command of Joseph, the youngest son of Jacob and the brother that was sold into slavery by his brothers. Joseph had gained power and favor with the Pharaoh. So he saved his tribe from starvation and they remained in Egypt and multiplied.

Thus, by the time Moses was born, the Israelites were seen by the Egyptians as a growing threat and were therefore being shamefully harassed. Slavery imposed the heaviest labor upon them, restricted their movements and inhibited their education. Even genocide was imposed by Pharaoh who ordered the Hebrew mid-wives to watch: if a baby delivered to a Jewish mother was a boy, they were to kill him and if a girl, they could let her live.

God saved Moses by having Pharaoh’s daughter rescue him from the bull rushes where he had been hidden. She adopted him and with the help of a Jewish woman (actually Moses’ real mother), she saw to his upbringing. Thus Moses grew up in favor with both the Egyptians and Israelites.

When fleeing for his life after saving one of his own tribe, Moses was called by God from the burning bush and told to lead his people out of slavery of Egypt. In order to overcome Moses’ fear, God revealed His name to him saying, “I am.” “Tell Pharaoh: ‘I am who am’ orders that he let you go!”

When Pharaoh balked at losing the Israelites as slaves, he was warned of the plagues which would come upon his kingdom if he did not free them to go out and adore their God. It is with the tenth plague that our theme is concerned and came to be called “The Passover.”

The Tenth Plague: From reading the 12th chapter of Exodus you will learn that this was a terrible threat that struck at the heart of every Egyptian family. God used this severe means to accomplish His promise to Moses that He would free the Israelites. Certainly the death of the firstborn of every Egyptian family was a most painful blow, accompanied by the loss of the firstborn of their flocks. Like a whip, it drove them to obey the requests of the Israelites; going so far as heaping gifts of pots and pans, gold and jewelry on the Israelites so that they would leave. “if only these Jews would leave,” they thought, “our suffering would stop.”

By driving out the Israelites, the Egyptians deprived themselves of their slaves and freed Moses to lead his people across the Red Sea.

The Blood of the Lamb: God’s instructions to Moses were clear: each family was to take a year old male lamb, without blemish, from either the sheep or the goats and sprinkle its blood upon the lintel and doorposts of their homes. They were then to gather together enough people to eat the entire animal, bringing in neighbors if necessary.

The Effect of the Sprinkled Blood: In this obedience to God’s command, the Hebrews were not only spared the loss of their own “firstborn,” but were enriched beyond their wildest imagination:

  1. God’s loving care for their firstborn not only freed them from pain and sorrow but filled their hearts with joy and happiness and with great confidence in Moses.
  2. They found these slave drivers not only giving them treasure but even begging them to take more and to go; enriching them beyond measure.
  3. Their enslavement gave way to “enforced freedom” loaded down with riches heaped on the backs of their animals as the Hebrews followed Moses not only through the parted waters of the red Sea but all the way to the Promised Land.

How precious it was for them to recall these events in the annual celebration of the “The Passover,” which came to be linked with another Jewish Feast called that of the “Unleavened Bread.” (Cf. Ex. 12:34 & 39, Deut. 16:3 and Jos. 5:10-12)  Even in modern times the Jews gather for this celebration in what has come to be called “The Seder Meal.”

The Passover not only enabled the lineal descendants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to believe but also every person who seeks the truth. Truth is “the conformity of the mind with the reality outside of itself.” Look at these Mosaic events as overlays for the future picture of the Messiah, born of Mary. Jesus Christ claimed to be that Person, the promised Redeemer. (Cf. Jn. 4:26)

John, “the Elijah to come,” called Jesus by that name: “Behold the Lamb of God!” Let us apply the events of Moses’ day as a housewife would apply a dress pattern to a piece of cloth. Remember, God takes His time between revealed prophecy and the reality which fulfills it. This is how the good God prepared His Chosen People some 12 to 13 centuries before He actually came among them in Bethlehem, as Isaiah was to prophesy: “Emmanuel, God with us.: (Is. 76:14)

The Paschal Lamb Pattern Given   to Moses Jesus Christ: the fulfillment of   the Pattern
v5- Sacrificial animal was a male, lamb, without blemish God with an assumed human nature, male, firstborn of Mary and of the   Father, without sin
v6- 14th Day of Nissan – an evening sacrifice Jesus became a sacramental sacrifice at the Paschal Meal, the Last   Supper
v7- Blood sprinkled at each home on the door posts and lintels On Good Friday His Precious Blood poured down upon the earth from the   Cross
v3, 4- Everyone was to partake; sharing with each other Jesus came for Jew and Gentile alike: for “the many”
v8- The avenging angel “passed over” those who sprinkled blood on   their door posts and lintels John 6:55- “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath   everlasting life.”
The Israelites were to eat the flesh of the lamb for food John 6:54- “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his   blood, you shall not have life in you.”
They were to eat the meal with “unleavened bread” –the Feast of   Unleavened Bread became bound up with the new feast of the “Passover” Christ gives Himself to us as the “Lamb of God Sacrifice” given under   the appearance of “unleavened bread”
They were to eat bitter herbs to remember their time in captivity We should remember the bitterness of being held captive to sin
After nine failures, Moses’ request was realized with the 10th   plague Perseverance in prayer is necessary – Luke 11:5-13
Moses was to change the calendar to make the Passover month the first   month of the Jewish year Our calendar was changed to begin with the year of Jesus birth: A.D. –   Anno Domini: the year of our Lord


Summary: The Lamb of God theme, as developed from Abel through the “Passover,” consolidated the Chosen People and strengthened them in their confidence in Yahweh for the 40 year pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It gave a new dimension to both the idea of giving thanks (thanksgiving for God) and the idea of a familial sacrifice (the family of God). Not only did their fidelity to the Passover regulations anneal their spirits in the crucible of the Exodus, but it enabled them to preserve faithfully Moses’ Pentateuch and to hand on to our generation all the Sacred Books of the Jewish Bible, the Old Testament. The Passover for the Jewish people is the glue that has held these people together ever since that joining together of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover Meal. We too, find that the glue of our faith is bound up in the celebration of the unleavened bread, now offered after the priest’s consecration: the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, in the Eucharist of Thanksgiving (our “Lamb of God Sacrifice”), for our food and our eternal salvation.

The Lamb of God Theme: Third Model

Lamb of God

The Lamb of God

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

Model Three: Abraham and Isaac – Genesis 11:26 & 22:1-19 – Prehistory

The psalmist sang of Abraham who probably wandered this world about the middle of the 2nd millennium B.C. “The princes of the peoples are assembled with the people of Abraham’s God. The rulers of the earth belong to God, to God who reigns over all.” (Psalm 47).

The Messenger: As we read the story of Abraham and Isaac, we are  impressed by the similarities to the story of Jesus, the Son of God, the son of Mary, even before His birth! As Mary, the virgin wife of Joseph, received word from the archangel, Gabriel, so did Sara, the barren wife of Abraham, overhear the joyful news given by God’s messenger to Abraham: “I will surely return to you at this time next year and Sara your wife shall have a son.” (Gen 18:10)  And they called him Isaac.

Joy: The root of the name, Isaac, contains the idea of ‘laughter,’ ‘joy,’ ‘pleasure.’ In my later years, one of my favorite Christmas hymns has become, “Joy to the World!” Both these babies brought joy into their family circles and it was extended down though the centuries.

The Test: Surely, Abraham is one of the most severely tested of all God’s human creatures. At an age when both Abraham and his wife were beyond their child bearing years, God promised offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky. Then after Isaac was born and grew to adolescence, God asked Abraham to take him out to a mountain and sacrifice him. This surely seems to be a contradiction.  How can God ask this of him? Abraham tries to solve the puzzle by thinking Ishmael will be the son who will give him numerous progeny, but God corrected him. Then after God did keep his promise by letting Sara bear a son, Isaac, God asks Abraham to take him to the mountain and sacrifice him. What a test! How can this be?

Both the Blessed Virgin Mary and Abraham exemplify the ideal trust that God wants us to have in Him. They show what it is to be a “Servant of God.” In Isaiah we shall see reference made to the Redeemer as the “Suffering Servant of God,” Jesus, the perfect Exemplar. Read Psalm 21 in its entirety.

Indeed it was this very promise of numerous offspring that made the test that Abraham was given so great. I think it is next to that given Mary at the time of the annunciation. Mary countered Gabriel’s proposal with her promise to God: “How can this be since I know not man?” (Luke 1:34) Perhaps this was Mary’s way of testing the messenger; for if he were from God would he not know of this promise she had made? Her reply to Gabriel’s answer makes it seem plausible! “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee; and therefore the Holy One to be born shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:38) Mary’s reply as given in some translations is a nice play on words: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word.” John’s prologue in a way pays respect to Mary, the Seat of Wisdom: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. And we saw His glory – glory as of the only begotten of the Father – full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

The Resurrection: Mary’s Son, Jesus, arose from the dead according to the scriptures: The firstborn from the dead.

To further illustrate Abraham’s closeness to God, let me tell you that there are some scholars who see a precursory faith in the ‘resurrection’; for Abraham’s acquiescence to God’s request for the sacrifice of his only son Isaac  was miraculous then but even now, many years later, it may even be more so. These scholars believe that Abraham might have reasoned thus: ‘Could not the God who gave Isaac to us in such a marvelous way, also raise him from the dead if I obediently sacrifice him?’ Therefore, God could still carry out His promise of prodigious progeny – as numerous as the stars in the heavens! Abraham might have been given the gift of grace to see that the same God, who is the author of life, is also the one who can raise the dead to life. At any rate, I like to see in Abraham a man of faith second only to Mary; Spouse of the Holy Spirit and Mother in His humanity of the Only Begotten of the Father.

Consider the portent for my theme, “The Lamb of God,” in the similarities at the time of the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham and that of Jesus on the wood of the cross in His time!

Numerous Offspring: Abraham’s offspring, Isaac, was to carry out the promise given to his father through the blessing given to his mother, Sara: “I will bless her, and will also give you a so by her . . . and she shall be the mother of nations; kings of peoples shall descend from her.”

Mary’s Son, however, was destined to become the King of kings and Lord of all – whose followers became even more numerous, because they include all of Abraham’s offspring and all true believers. Paul later writes to the Galatians: “Therefore the man of faith shall be blessed with faithful Abraham.” (Gal. 3:9)  And in the same chapter he concludes: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are the offspring of Abraham, heirs according to promise.” (Gal. 3:29)

Preferred Animals:  In our consideration of the Lamb of God theme, we will come to see that the early followers of the True and Only God came to realize somehow that the “Lamb” was a preferred animal of sacrifice. Perhaps it was because the lamb was, to them, so lovable, as we see expressed by the prophet Nathan in the story to David (Cf. 2 Sam. 12:1-5). This would make the sacrifice more poignant. Or, maybe it was because the lamb was easily acquired from the sheep which these nomadic people kept for food, for clothing, and for tent making.

First offered by Abel centuries before, now it has become the expected sacrifice as shown by Isaac’s question, “But where is the lamb?” and Abraham’s answer, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the holocaust, my son.”

Substitute Animal: Now we are introduced to their discovery of a substitute animal. In this story of Abraham and Isaac, the “absence” of a bloody sacrifice (when God’s messenger stopped Abraham’s descending knife) was replaced by Abraham’s substitution of the ram caught in the bush!

Later, we will see that God Himself assigns a “scapegoat sacrifice” (Lev. 16:20-22) and today the Jews still celebrate a feast when it is used: their great feast of the atonement, Yom Kippur.

The sacredness in which the Hebrews held the blood of animals easily leads one to perceive the connection which the children of Abraham gave to substituting the blood sacrifice of an animal in place of a sinner – a vicarious victim.

This substitute animal is found in the rich analog of the sacrifice of Abraham. Although ready and willing to obey God’s command, Abraham was accepted in spirit and then given a substitute animal which was caught in the bushes. These two elements, the shedding of blood and the use of a substitute animal, are important to keep in mind as we continue with the unfolding revelation by God to man of His choice of the way He wanted us to do things.

Just as Abel’s sacrifice has received “pride of place” by being used for centuries in the Canon of the Mass, even now, as it has been incorporated into the text of Eucharistic Prayer #1, so too has both Abraham’s sacrifice and his faith been enshrined therein:

“Look with favor on these offerings and accept them as once you accepted the gifts of your servant Abel, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith . . .”

The new Catechism tells us (#72) that “God chose Abraham and made a covenant with him and his descendants.” Here there was not only the shedding of blood to ratify the covenant but it was human blood of the male children in circumcision.

First, consider that John the Baptist called Jesus the Lamb of God at the beginning of His public life. Second, when Jesus wished to give the Apostles at the Last Supper a “new covenant,” He provided His Precious Blood by using His Divine Power as the act we now know as “transubstantiation.” Third, Jesus in a bloody death was truly the Lamb furnished by God in the Sacrifice of Redemption, thus carrying out the promise made to Adam and Eve at the beginning (Gen. 3:15).

God advanced His revelation of the Lamb of God theme in this “model.” Now we move on to the time of Moses in the next “model.”

Epilogue: Thus Abraham is like to Abel “whose heart was right.” And fulfills Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians for worthy reception of the Lamb: “Let a man prove himself . . . for he who eats and drinks unworthily . . . eats and drinks judgment to himself.” (I Cor. 11:29)

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.”

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.