Thursday, September 06, 2012

Abraham: Father of the Faithful

Luca Giordano 1634 – 1705
Abraham heard the promises of the Lord
1695 - 1696
Oil on canvas
66 cm x 180 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Luca Giordano 1634 – 1705
The sacrifice of Isaac
1695 - 1696
Oil on canvas
95 cm x 196 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

On 9th October the Roman Martyrology (Martyrologium Romanum) commemorates Abraham:
Sancti Abrahae, patriarchae et omnium credentium patris
Holy Abraham the patriarch and father of all believers

It has been said that Abraham's name  occurs so often and in such a variety of connections as to give him, among Old Testament figures, a position of eminence in  Roman Catholic liturgy, perhaps only surpassed by David alone

The genealogy of Jesus Christ is traced back to Abraham by St. Matthew, and according to St. Luke, he is shown to be descended according to the flesh from Abraham 

Descent from Abraham ("Abraham`s seed") and compliance with the terms and conditions of the Covenant and Mosaic Law for some were sufficient to guarantee salvation in terms of God`s covenant with Abraham (Genesis Chapter 17)

But Christ taught otherwise (John 8)
"They answered and said to him, "Our father is Abraham."  
Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works of Abraham. "
Abraham is the "father of all who believe"

The Catechism sets out the position shortly and succinctly:
145 The Letter to the Hebrews, in its great eulogy of the faith of Israel's ancestors, lays special emphasis on Abraham's faith: 
 "By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go." 
By faith, he lived as a stranger and pilgrim in the promised land. By faith, Sarah was given to conceive the son of the promise. And by faith Abraham offered his only son in sacrifice.  
146 Abraham thus fulfills the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1:  
"Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen"
Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." Because he was "strong in his faith", Abraham became the "father of all who believe". 
147 The Old Testament is rich in witnesses to this faith. The Letter to the Hebrews proclaims its eulogy of the exemplary faith of the ancestors who "received divine approval". 
Yet "God had foreseen something better for us": the grace of believing in his Son Jesus, "the pioneer and perfecter of our faith"