Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Lamb's Supper By Scott Hahn

Eschatological Synopsis of The Book—“The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth” by Scott Hahn.

Dr. Scott Hahn dwells particularly on the Eschatological aspect of the Eucharist-- the celebration of the Mass being related to the “Parousia,” the coming of the Lord. He placed the setting of the Lamb’s Supper within the context of the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation relating the figures mentioned in Revelation being not only the signs of the end times but also, based on his findings in his research, a depiction of the Mass being a ‘the coming of the kingdom of heaven here on earth.’ He proposed that the key to understanding the Mass is the biblical Book of Revelation—and, further, he added that the Mass is the only way a Christian can truly make sense of the Book of Revelation.

The entire book, the Lamb’s Supper, consists of four parts. The first part, explains the Mass being a gift from God through our Lord Jesus Christ. The second part has, in a positive sense, connected the Book of Revelation to the Mass—particularly on the Eucharist where Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb. The third part has developed the idea of heavenly marriage and heavenly banquet in the setting of God’s family. The fourth book proposes some inspirations for us to prepare ourselves in Second Coming, the immanent “Parousia.” The entire book from beginning to end is eschatological—it is well presented starting from our history beginning from the cross towards the end which is to be with Jesus who is the person of the cross.

The first part, the Gift of the Mass, relates the first Mass experience of the Protestant Pastor Scott Hahn. This inspired him to be converted to Catholicism. He found that the Mass is soaked in scripture readings. He was astounded that when he carefully heard for the first time the responses, he recognized that these were all in the Holy Scripture. When the priest pronounced the words: “This is My body… This is the cup of My blood,” all of his doubts were all drained away as he saw the priest raise Holy Eucharist, he instantly recognized the scenario’ which was affirmed when followed by the ‘Lamb of God’ which he heard four times. From long years of studying the Bible, Hahn immediately knew where he was. He concluded that he was in the Book of Revelation where Jesus is called the “Lamb” no less than twenty-eight times in twenty-two chapters. Relating his first experiences with the Mass, according to him, “I was before the throne of heaven, where Jesus is hailed forever as the Lamb.”

Also in the first book, Scott Hahn, humbly admitted that the idea of the ‘Mass in heaven on earth’ was originally conceived by the early Fathers of the Church. He also admitted that he just rediscovered this relationship between the Mass and the Book of revelation.

He noted that the Lamb, who is Jesus, is central to both the Mass and the Book of Revelation. For the readers to have a background about he is saying on his book, he presented a good historical research with their corresponding Biblical texts. To ancient Israel, the lamb was identified with sacrifice, and sacrifice is one of the most primal forms of worship. As early as the second generation described in Genesis, we find, in the story of Cain and Abel, the first recorded example of a sacrificial offering, followed also by Noah, Abraham, Jacob and others. In Genesis, the patriarchs were forever building altars, and altars served primarily as places of sacrifice. In addition to burnt offerings, the ancients sometimes poured “libations,” or sacrificial offerings of wine.

Notably, Melchizedek appears as the first priest mentioned in the Bible. Melchizedek has been seen as a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ. Melchizedek was both priest and king, an odd combination in the Old Testament, but one that would later be applied to Jesus. Melchizedek’s sacrifice was extraordinary since it involved no animals, instead, he offered bread and wine, as Jesus would at the Last Supper, when He instituted the Eucharist. Melchizedek’s sacrifice ended with a blessing upon Abraham. Jesus Christ is a priest in the line of Melchizedek.

Further, Scott Hahn explained that Christians would later look upon the story of Abraham and Isaac as a profound allegory for the sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross. He observed similarities. First, Jesus, like Isaac, was a father’s only beloved son. Again like Isaac, Jesus carried uphill the wood for His own sacrifice, which would be consummated on a hill in Jerusalem. According to Hahn, Calvary, was one of the hillocks on Moriah’s range where Isaac was almost sacrificed by his faithful father, Abraham; but God provided a ‘lamb’ to be sacrificed instead.

In this point, Scott Hahn helped his readers to take note that man’s primal need to worship God has always expressed itself in sacrifice: worship that is simultaneously an act of praise, atonement, self-giving, covenant, and thanksgiving. Thanksgiving in Greek is “eucharistia.” With this term, Scott Hahn has related the “todah” of the ancient Israel being the most striking liturgical “ancestor” of the Mass. Hahn noted that the Hebrew word “todah”, like the Greek Eucharist, means “thank-offering” or “thanksgiving.” The word denotes a sacrificial meal shared with friends in order to celebrate one’s gratitude to God. “A “todah” begins by recalling some mortal threat and then celebrates man’s divine deliverance from that threat. It is a powerful expression of confidence in God’s sovereignty and mercy.” He observed that the “todah” and the Eucharist present their worship through word and meal. Moreover, the “todah,” like the Mass, includes an unbloody offering of unleavened bread and wine. Let me quote again from the book an important finding of Scott Hahn which is worth mentioning, “the ancient rabbis made a significant prediction regarding the “todah”. ‘In the coming [Messianic] age, all sacrifices will cease except the “todah” sacrifice. This will never cease in all eternity’ (Pesiqta, I, p. 159).” This is now happening in the Mass with the Bread and Wine being offered, taken, blessed, broken and shared. He speaks of the Church as “the place of sacrifice.”

The Second Part has touched the Book of Revelation as he relates this to the development and the condition of the Mass in the Church. According to him, as he began reading the Church Fathers, the Christian writers and teachers of the first eight centuries, and especially their commentaries on the Bible, he discovered that the ancient liturgy seemed to incorporate many of the small details of the Apocalypse—in a context in which they made sense.

Revelation is an unveiling; that’s the literal meaning of the Greek word “apokalypsis.” From the Fathers’ exegetical studies of the Apocalypse, he found that many of these men had made the explicit connection between the Mass and the Book of Revelation. He emphasized that for most of the early Christians the Book of Revelation was incomprehensible apart from the liturgy.

To summarize his conclusion in the Second Part based on the Book of Revelation, he noted: revelation’s altar (Rev 8:3), its robed clergymen (4:4), candles (1:12), incense (5:8), manna (2:17), chalices (ch. 16), Sunday worship (1:10), the prominence it gives to the Blessed Virgin Mary (12:1-6), the “Holy, Holy, Holy” (4:8), the Gloria (15:3-4), the Sign of the Cross (14:1), the Alleluia (19:1, 3, 6), the readings from Scripture (ch. 2-3), and the “Lamb of God” (many, many times mentioned)-- these are, for him, what consists the Apocalypse which is present in the Mass.

The title, the “Lamb” in the Book of Revelation is the favored title used for Jesus Christ. Other titles in the Book of Revelation include: Jesus is ruler (1:5); He who stands amid the Menorah robed as high priest (1:13); He is “the first and the last” (1:17), “the holy one” (3:7), “Lord of lords and King of kings” (17:14).

Scott Hahn also took a note on Revelation 12. This is John’s vision of the woman clothed with the sun which captures the essence of the Book of Revelation. With many layers of meaning, it shows a past event prefiguring an event far off in the future. It recaps the Old Testament as it completes the New. It reveals heaven, but in images of earth.

The vision of John begins with the opening of God’s temple in heaven, “and the ark of Hiscovenant was seen within the temple” (Rev 11:19). According to him, for five centuries, the Ark of the Covenant had not been seen. The prophet Jeremiah had hidden the ark in a place that at the time of the Babylonian captivity,“shall be unknown until God gathers His people together again” (2 Mac 2:7).

In connection with the Book of Revelation, that promise mentioned in 2 Mac 2:7 is fulfilled in John’s vision. The temple appeared, “and there were flashes of lightning, loud noises, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.” And then: “A great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child” (Rev 12:1–2).

Scott Hahn believes, with the Fathers of the Church, that when John describes the woman, he is describing the ark—of the New Covenant who gives birth to the male child-- who will rule the nations. Clearly for him, the child is Jesus; His mother is Mary.

To compare the old and the new covenant he stated the following: the old ark contained the word of God written in stone; Mary contained in her womb the Word of God Who became man and dwelt among us. The ark contained manna; Mary contained the living bread whocame down from heaven. The ark contained the rod of the high priest Aaron; Mary’s womb contained the eternal high priest, Jesus Christ. In the heavenly temple, the Word of God is Jesus, and the ark in whom he resides is Mary, His mother.

Scott Hahn made a survey of believers of this Apocalyptic interpretation about Mary being the woman in the Book of Revelation. According to him, along the history of Church, this interpretation was upheld also by the early Church Fathers such as St. Athanasius, St. Epiphanius, and many others. For them, the “woman” also stands for more being the “daughter Zion,” which brought forth Israel’s Messiah. She is also the Church, besieged by Satan, yet preserved in safety.

To make a balanced survey of opinions, Scott Hahn also presented those who opposed on this issue and mentioned their argument: some say that “the woman cannot be Mary, since, according to Catholic tradition, Mary suffered no labor pain.” With this, others believe that the pangs of the woman, however, need not have been physical pain. He cited St. Paul, to give example, who used birth pangs to describe his own agony until Christ be formed in his disciples (Gal 4:19). Thus, the suffering of the woman could describe the suffering of a soul—the suffering that Mary knew, at the foot of the cross, as she became the mother of all “beloved disciples” (Jn 19:25–27).

For Scott Hahn, it is clear to him that the woman is Mary who is the Mother of the Church. In the Book of Revelation, Mary is portrayed as the “New Eve,” the new mother of all the living. In the Garden of Eden, God promised to “put enmity” between Satan, the ancient serpent, and Eve —and between Satan’s “seed and her seed” (Gen 3:15). Now, in the Apocalypse, he saw the climax of this enmity. The seed of the new woman, Mary, is the male son, Jesus Christ, Who comes to defeat the serpent that is the devil.

Scott Hahn mentioned the angels, martyrs, virgins, and other folks who are in heaven. With this idea of the Mass being heaven on earth--the Mass becomes a holy venue where Christians joined forces with the angels and saints to worship God, as the Book of Revelation shows us. The Mass is where the Church received the “hidden manna” for sustenance in times of trial (see Rev 2:17). The Mass is where the prayers of the saints on earth rose like incense to join the prayers of angels in heaven—“and it is these prayers that altered the course of battles and the course of history.”

Being a Protestant Minister before, Scott Hahn is aware of futurist interpretation of the Book of Revelation. For him, the rich imagery in the Book of Revelation is not merely symbols. Regarding the reality of the Beasts, he believes that they are real spiritual beings, members of the satanic “lowerarchy,”demonic persons who have controlled and corrupted the political destiny of nations. John describes two ugly beasts, for Scott Hahn, they want to corrupt kingdom and the priesthood. The controversial 666 is interpreted by Hahn as a degradation of the number seven, which, in Israel’s tradition, the number seven represented perfection, holiness, and the covenant. The seventh day, for example according to him, was declared holy by God and set aside for rest and worship. Work was done in six days; itwas sanctified, however, in the sacrificial worship represented by the seventh day. The number “666,” then, represents a man stalled in the sixth day, serving the beast who concerns himself with buying and selling (see Rev 13:17) without rest for worship. Though work isholy, it becomes evil when man refuses to offer it to God on the seventh day which is a holy day for it is the Day of the Lord.

Through his exposition of the Book of Revelation, Scott Hahn mentioned the final battle, the Battle of Armageddon where“demonic spirits . . . go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle” (Rev 16:14). John describes a world war that is simultaneously an otherworldly war: “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon” (12:7). Angels pour out the chalices of God’s wrath, and strong armies retreat in fear. Casualty counts run high, and the tribulations extend even to God’s people. In this hopeless scenario, Revelation does offer encouragement to all Christians who undergo trials or persecution, to any degree.

From the very beginning, Revelation has an imminent tone: The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave him to show to his servants what must soon take place” (Rev 1:1). Jesus Himself indicated that He would return soon, even before a generation had passed since His resurrection. “There are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Mt 16:28). “This generation will not pass away till all these things take place (Mt 24:34).”

According to Scott Hahn, today, most of us associate the “soon” with the Second Coming of Jesus at the end of the world. And this is surely true since both John and Jesus were speaking about the end of history. He believes that they were also—and primarily—speaking about the end of a world: the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, and with it the end of the world of the Old Covenant, with its sacrifices and rituals, its barriers to gentiles, and its barriers between heaven and earth. Yet the “Parousia” or “coming” of Jesus was to be more than an ending; it was a beginning, a new Jerusalem, a New Covenant, a new heaven and earth.

In the Apocalypse, John depicts celestial scenes in graphic, earthly terms which he suspects that God revealed heavenly worship in earthly terms so that humans—who, for the first time, were invited to participate in heavenly worship—would know how to do it. The Apostles and their successors had been celebrating the liturgy since Pentecost, at least. Yet neither is Revelation merely an echo of a liturgy already established, a projection into heaven of what’s happening on earth.

The third part talks on the Heavenly Marriage. This is what was unveiled in the Book of Revelation: the union of heaven and earth, consummated in the Holy Eucharist. The term apokalypsis, usually translated as “revelation,” literally means “unveiling.” In John’s time, Jews commonly used apokalypsis to describe part of their week-long wedding festivities. The apokalypsis was the lifting of the veil of a virgin bride, which took place immediately before the marriage was consummated in sexual union. For Scott Hahn, this is John was getting at. So close is the unity of heaven and earth that it is like the fruitful and ecstatic union of a husband and wife in love. In Ephesians 5, St. Paul describes the Church as the bride of Christ and Revelation unveils that bride. For Scott Hahn, the possible climax of the Apocalypse, then, is the communion of the Church and Christ: the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:9). Now, as Revelation shows, both heaven and earth participate together in a single act of loving worship.

It is nice that Scott Hahn refers to the apocalypse, or unveiling, way back to the cross where Matthew reports that, when Jesus died, “the curtain or veil of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (27:51). Thus, “the sanctuary of God was “apocalypsed,” unveiled, His dwelling no longer reserved for the high priest alone.” Jesus’ redemption unveiled the Holy of Holies, opening God’s presence to everyone. Heaven and earth could now embrace in intimate love.

Towards the “Parousia,” Hahn expressed in his book that we are in Spiritual Battle. Seemingly thereare inequality and injustice since the unholy seems to have a far better life. Here, he gave hope for the affected faithful to remain holy, for he claimed that God is a merciful and compassionate God. All this holiness is in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ wherein its foretaste is made present in the Mass.

If Scott Hahn will be asked about his image of Jesus’ Second Coming, he would admit that it isEucharisti, and it is brought about as the Mass brings heaven to earth. Just as the earthly priest praying over the bread and wine and says “This is My body,” thus transforming the elements, so Christ thehigh priest stands over the cosmos, pronouncing the same words. We stand on the earth asthe elements stand on the altar. According to him, “we are here living on earth to be transformed: to die to self, live for others, and love like God. That is what’s happening on the altar of the earth, just as it happens on the altars of our churches. As the fire, who is the Holy Spirit, descended from heaven to consume the sacrifices on Solomon’s altar, so the fire descended to consume the disciples at the first Pentecost. The guiding fire is one and the same; it is the Holy Spirit, Who enables us to be offered up as living sacrifices upon the altar of the earth.

With the Holy Spirit being the Divine Fire, we see the daily life—with its struggles and glory-- not as a meaningless and unconnected experiences, but as a story, whose ending we already know. All things in history—in world history and in our personal history—work together for the good of those who love God (see Rom 8:28). For Christ is Lord of history, its beginning (Jn 1:1) and its end (1 Cor 4:5).Christ is firmly in charge, and He wants us to reign with Him as His bride.

The Fourth Book talks about heaven. He used the metaphor of a family reunion with all God’s children. To be in heaven, the challenge Scott Hahn is offering is that we must fight to gain our throne. We need to work hard here on earth for our rightful place beside God. Hahn look upon it in romantic terms where history is the story of Christ wooing His Church, gradually drawing us all to our marriage supper, the banquet of the Lamb. He looks upon us as Adam looking upon Eve and saying, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh (Gen 2:23).” The Church is at once His bride and His body, for in marriage the two become one flesh (Mt 19:5) where at the end Christ will welcome us telling to us, “This is My body.”

Our connection to God is prayer. The Mass is the highest form of prayer… ‘of thanks giving.’ We can advance only if we come to know ourselves—if we accept our weaknesses and be reconciled once again in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. John accurately sized up the situation when he met the “Lamb of God.” Just like John, we need to see the truth with the same clarity. There is a need to see these eschatological matters in the same divine light so that we can understand the real meaning of the Eucharist and appreciate its celebration as a foretaste of heaven.

Jesus told us that “I will be with you always.” This captures the powerful sense of Jesus’ imminent “Parousia”—His coming that takes place right now in the Mass. The Apocalypse shows us that He is here in fullness—in kingship, in judgment, in warfare, in priestly sacrifice, in Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity—whenever Christians celebrate the Eucharist.

To summarize the entire Apocalypse: it is about the communion of saints and angels, the feast, the judgment, and the blood of Christ. “The various forms of sacrifice have one common, positive meaning: life is surrendered in order to be transformed and shared.” Our supreme act of worship is a supreme act of sacrifice: the Lamb’s Supper, the Mass.

He noted Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who said, “Liturgy is anticipated “Parousia,” the “already’ entering our “not yet,’”. When Jesus comes again at the end of time, He will not have a single drop more glory than He has right now upon the altars and in the tabernacles of our churches. God dwells among mankind, right now, because the Mass is heaven on earth.

The Book of Revelation is a mystical book. Throughout this book, the author hoped that the reader would probably encounter the Mass in new ways—ways other than we used to attending. Though heaven touches down whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the Mass looks different from place to place and time to time.

The Author, Dr. Scott Hahn.

The foreword of the book by Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R., a priest for forty years,  mentioned the background of Dr. Hahn. Hahn who is a Catholic convert exploring  the mysterious reality of the Mass with all the zeal and enthusiasm which leads us to a new appreciation of the Mass… since relatively few Catholics realize the link between the celebration of the Eucharist and the end of the world.

Scott Hahn has been studying the Book of Revelation for more than twenty years. In 1985, he studied the Book of Revelation, the Apocalypse, as a Protestant minister. Upon studying, he found himself engaged, in turn, by most of the fashionable and unfashionable interpretive theories which failed to answer his queries and in time provedthemselves wrong.

He tried every key in interpreting the Book of Revelation, but none could possibly explain it to him during those time, but he remained hopeful. According to him, “Yet only when I began to contemplate the Mass did I feel the door begin to give way, a little bit at a time. Gradually, I found myself taken up by the great Christian tradition, and in 1986 I was received into full communion with the Catholic Church.” After his conversion, the study of the Book of Revelation became clearer. “After this I looked, and lo, in heaven an open door!” (Rev 4:1). He found the Revelation in the Mass. Every single Mass for him, just like the Fathers of the Church—is heaven on earth.

Den Mar

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