January 19, 2009
The Sacred Oath
When God made a covenant with Abraham, promises were made by both sides. In fact, God made three covenants with Abraham, one of each of the three types. In the first type of covenant, all the obligations were on the inferior party, Abraham, and he swore an oath to keep them. If he didn’t keep the covenant, he would invoke some kind of curse on himself. Every blessing is paired with a curse, usually death. In the second type of covenant, each party takes on obligations, and each party swears an oath. But in the gift covenant, the one referred to here from Genesis 22, the superior party takes on all the obligations, swears–in this case by himself–an oath, and takes on the curse, even if the inferior party breaks the covenant.
We well know that mankind broke the covenant, was unfaithful to God. But God is ever faithful and always keeps his oaths. So even though the covenant was shattered by our disobedience, our infidelity, God kept his part of the deal. The penalty for breaking the covenant was death, so God, who spared Abraham’s son, sent His only begotten son to pay the price of the covenant curse.
I find it fascinating that there is universal agreement among the ancients that the hill on which Abraham tried to sacrifice Isaac, Mt. Moriah, is identified with the area in which the Temple of Jerusalem, and Calvary, were positioned. So in the very spot where God vowed to Abraham to bless him and even take on the curse of death, the Son of God went to his death and paid the price of our redemption. It is that sacrifice that we re-present here in this sacrament of salvation. And, remember, the word sacramentum, in Latin, means oath. That means that each Mass is a re-presentation of God taking on the covenant curse, and a re-presentation of the ultimate covenant blessing, God becoming human so that humans could become divine.