Friday, October 9, 2009

Genesis and the Eucharist

Alice C. Linsley

The Eucharist as life-giving sacrifice is prefigured in Genesis in the way that God slays the animal to clothe the naked Adam and Eve. Here God serves as Tahash, an order or caste of priests. The sacrifice of Christ is also prefigured in the offering up of Isaac. As the Church Fathers noted, Christ's sacrifice is prefigured throughout the Old Testament.

Genesis 3 presents God as offering the first sacrifice as a covering for shame when HE clothes Adam and Eve with skins of a sacrificed animal. Genesis 22 points the Cross. Here the father receives back the son "on the 3rd day" and a ram is caught by its extended horns in the thicket - another image of Christ on the Cross. As Patrick H. Reardon reminds us, "Since Melito of Sardis in the mid-second century, Isaac's carrying of the wood has always signified to Christians the willingness of God's own Son to take up the wood of the Cross and carry it to the place of sacrifice." (Creation and the Patriarchal Histories, p. 87.)

We also find Jesus' Passion in Joseph's story, who was betrayed by his brothers, cast into the pit and sold. He was unjustly accused, suffered and showed mercy to his oppressors. He was abased yet elevated to glory. He was believed dead yet found alive.

The pattern of Christ's passion is written across time and eternity so that "all are without excuse". From “before the foundation of the world,” the redeeming work of Christ has been known (1 Peter 1:18-20).

Ontologically the Eucharist is the single moment of sacrifice by which we repentent sinners are saved - and by which the world was made - a difficult concept to get our Western minds around since we tend to think of the Christ in chronological terms rather than metaphysically, as is more common in the East.

Yet when we look at Scripture and Holy Tradition we find the symbols of life - the Water and the Blood - consistently pointing to the Cross. And the Creed reminds us that all things were made through Him, both visible and invisible. The Cross is that moment when "it is finished"; that is, His sacrifice and the creation and redemption of the world are conterminous. In the Eucharist, we repentent sinners are admitted to this moment by God's grace. And grace is granted to the priest to stand in that moment with Christ, not simply in Persona Christi, but as one who himself is sacrificed (the oblation). Is this not catholic teaching?

Related reading: The Origins of Christianity; Who is Jesus?; Two Passovers and Two Drunken Fathers


Anonymous said...

Your post reminded me of Scott Hahn's Brilliant (although speculative) article on the "Fourth Cup."

Hunt for 4th Cup


Alice C. Linsley said...

Scott Hahn's article is very powerful and interesting. Thanks for calling it to my attention. Gives me something more to ponder.