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Vol. II, Apr. 1996

 

Educator of the Priest

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

The Liturgy of these days leads all our attention to the love of God the Father, Who so loved "the world that He gave His only Son" (Jn 3,16). For this reason we shall continue our biblical meditations with chapter 22 of Genesis. There, as an impressive type of our redemption through the Son of God (cf. Heb 11,17-19), God called Abraham to offer Him his son, the son of the promise, through whom He should grant His graces:

"Abraham, take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Mori’ah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." (Gen 22,2)

It shall be precisely the place of the future temple of Solomon in Jerusalem (cf. 2 Chr 3,1) and so Abraham’s was the first pilgrimage to Jerusalem! Abraham’s response, "Adsum" ("Here I am") comes to life in his obedience, as he walked along with wood and fire, with the knife and his son, first with the ass and the two servants (cf. Palm Sunday), and then, on the third day, he ascended the mountain alone with his son. What an awesome procession that was: the father as the offering priest with the knife like the lance and the son as the victim, with the wood of the Cross on the shoulders of the son, and the fire of the candles. Even the two servants, oblivious to the greatness of the event taking place, are like altar boys!

At first sight it is a manifestation of the sovereignty of God Who says, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways" (Is 55,8; cf. Mt 20,15; Rom 6,31-38; 1 Cor 4,7; Mt 10,8). Abraham answers with silence in the presence of the omnipotent majesty of God. He has no one with whom to take counsel – different from the New Testament with the Incarnate WORD of the Father (cf. Heb 1,1 f); his answer is silent obedience without understanding, but with full trust in God’s wisdom and with surrender to the Lord over life and death. Silence is the vessel with which suffering can be handled and in which a sacrifice can burn (cf. Lam 3,27 f). Abraham gives no explanation to the mother nor to the son, for he has none for himself.

2. Twice it is said that the "Angel of the Lord" transmitted words of God to Abraham (Gen 22,11f and 15-18). (Does this justify the thought that the first message (22,2f) was also communicated through the Angel?) In the case of Hagar it was the Angel who brought her prayer to God and God’s answer back to man. Here in the name of God the Angel demands sacrifice! For the first time in Sacred Scripture the Angel mediates the sacrifice between creature and Creator (cf. Tob 12,12 f and the "Supplices" of the Roman Canon) and confirms its acceptance by God (Cf. Apoc 7).

The Angels mediates God’s request to offer Him the dearest, Abraham’s son. The Angel stands firm at the side of God: no ‘human’ compassion or pity misleads him from God’s will. We may presume that the Angel helps preserve man from rebellious thought, and also that he brings man, along with the command of God, the strength to comply therewith; still, he is not satisfied with a ‘good intention’ alone; for the saints this is not enough! This means: with an act of consecration or with a solemn promise alone the Angel is not content; he urges deeds, till the "Yes" comes from the existential depths in the renunciation of our desires and with the surrender of our self: "... now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son ... from Me."

First and foremost the Angel wants to see the holy fear of the Lord which keeps man from making empty promises before God, and secondly, he demands a generous heart, magnanimity of soul which withholds nothing from God (cf. 22,12). All that we have, we have received (Cf. Mt. 10,8), and so it is fitting in the eyes of the Angel that God should demand it all in return without allowing us to retain anything for ourselves. The Angels appears here as one who leads us to the fullness of sanctity, requiring our entire life for God! And the two guidelines by which he directs us are the fear of the Lord and total detachment: reverence with respect to God, and detachment with respect to all creatures, not only material things, but with respect to persons as well.

3. In this, the Angel is not so much an example for the priest; rather he is an educator. He calls the priest to the way of Christ: the way up to the sacrifice of ourselves upon the altar.

Let us consider in this part of Abraham’s life the stations of Christ’s way of the Cross. It may help us to identify our priestly life with Christ the High priest.

The Sacrifice of Abraham and that of the Lamb

  1. Condemned to Die. Behold, God’s demand to Abraham: offer Me him whom you love. Can God ask for everything from me?
  2. Embracing the Cross. Behold, Abraham’s personal detachment and readiness. What Cross can I accept?
  3. First fall. Abraham’s sorrow upon looking at his son. What cross could bring me to fall?
  4. Encounter with His Mother. Abraham’s departure from Sara. Am I detached from my family?
  5. The help of Simon and Veronica. The two servants with Abraham. Do I accept human help with humility?
  6. Second fall. Abraham’s interior battle during three days. How long does my spiritual constancy last?
  7. Refusal of false consolation. Abraham leaves the two servants behind. Can I also renounce human help?
  8. Third fall. Abraham’s loneliness before the totality of God’s request. Can I take loneliness before God?
  9. Stripping of Christ. Abraham binds his son. Can I induce others to submit willingly to the will and commandments of God and the Church?
  10. Nailing of Christ. Abraham lays Isaac on the altar, upon the wood. Can I renounce activities and accept powerlessness, not being able or allowed to help?
  11. Christ dies. Abraham puts forth his hand, and takes the knife to slay his son. Am I ready to give up all human hope, to trust totally in God alone, to die to my ideas, my will, myself?
  12. Our Lady receives her dead son. Abraham receives back his son through the Angel’s word, and then sees the ram. Do I trust in our Lady and in the invisible presence of the Angels?
  13. Burial. Abraham offers the ram instead of his son. God accepts Christ’s life in sacrifice for our redemption. How far does my love go for my neighbor?

 

4. As a holy Angel was present in this trial of Abraham, even so were many constantly present during the Passion of Christ (Cf. Mt 26,53; Lk 22,43; Jn 18,36). Similarly, there will always be one near us in the hour of our trial. This incredible story in the life of Abraham, our father in faith, should strengthen our faith and confidence in the presence and help of the heavenly spirits whom God sends to our aid.

With this faith and full gratitude let us try in these days of the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection:

  • to attend any request of sacrifice which our holy Angels transmit in our conscience.
  • to renew our priestly consecration by meditation of the holy Mass as the sacrifice of Christ and by uniting us consciously with Him.
  • to make the Stations of the Cross ourselves every Friday and during Holy Week.
  • to lead the Stations of the Cross for the faithful.

 

May the holy Angels lead us through these sacred mysteries
of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ.
May we find by the grace of these days the way to an ever deeper union
with Christ Crucified and Risen!
May the joy of His victory be our joy and strength!

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC