human sacrifice (allusion to Abraham)

Mary Storm umadevi at SFO.COM
Thu Apr 23 21:44:27 UTC 1998

Lars Martin Fosse wrote:
> >J. Kingston Cowart wrote:
> >
> >With respect to Dr. Fosse's suggestion that Christianity was initiated
> >in an act of human sacrifice, one might argue that a) this, too, was a
> >singular event impossible of repetition, b) that it was not a ritual, and
> >c) that from an internal theological/Christological perspective, it was
> >an act of God's sacrificing himself.
> This is of course perfectly true. I also pointed out that human sacrifice is
> strictly forbidden in Christianity. As for God sacrificing himself, I
> thought that it was rather a case of God sacrificing his only *son* (who of
> course is part of the Trinity). The interesting thing here, in my opinion,
> is not the finer Christological point, but rather the point that Gods wants,
> or even accepts, a sacrifice of this kind. In a sense, the sacrifice is
> symbolically continued in the communion, where the believers eat the flesh
> of the lord and drink his blood. (This is at least my interpretation, but
> theologians may not concur). And the communion, as we know, is a ritual.

Jesus' sacrifice was a judicial execution reconfigured to meet the
theological demands of sacrifice.  Jesus' crucifixion was the "seal" of
sacrifice. The Crucifixion was interpreted by Christian theologians to
be the last and final religious sacrifice, never to be repeated. How
could any sacrifice offered by a human measure up to the sacrifice of
the self-oblation of the Crucifixion? The Crucifixion offered redemption
to sinners, not by way of the worshiper's sacrifice, but through the
medium of God’s sacrifice of his own son. Jesus replaced the Biblical
scapegoat, he was “the Lamb of God,” and absorbed the sins of his
followers. The real and sanguinary nature of Christ’s sacrifice was
nevertheless acknowledged. In 1063 Lanfranc, the Abbot of Bec wrote:
We believe that the earthly substance. . .  is, by the ineffable,
incomprehensible . . .  operation of heavenly power, converted into the
essence of the Lord’s body, while the appearance, and certain other
qualities, of the same realities remain behind, in order that men should
be spared the shock of perceiving raw and bloody things, and that
believers should receive the fuller rewards of faith. Yet at the same
time the same body of the Lord is in heaven. . .  inviolate, entire,
without contamination or injury.
The need for repetition lies at the heart of all ritual, and with the
Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 this controversial Doctrine of the
“Transubstantiation,” or the Doctrine of the Real Presence, imbued the
Eucharist with a reality which gave a doctrinal foundation for the
repetitive sacrifice in the Mass. The Doctrine of the Transubstantiation
asserts that in the Eucharistic elevation of the mass the bread of the
communion wafer is transformed into the very body and the wine into the
very blood of Christ. With this change the Mass is not just a
commemoration of the Last Supper, but a repetitive enactment of the
bloody sacrifice of the Crucifixion.
Mary Storm

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