Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sacrifice of Isaac

Filippo Brunelleschi. Sacrifice of Isaac[detail]. 1401. Florence.

Now, in the Second Sunday of Lent, in the Tridentine rite, and all three years of the vernacular, the Gospel is the Transfiguration, the same as on 6 August. This is year B, the Gospel of Mark is used; in year B, the Sacrifice of Isaac is also read [in a shortened form]. Two foretellings of Jesus’ rôle are presented.

Brunelleschi’s gilded panel, was a test piece, for the commission, of the bronze doors, of the Baptistery of Florence’s cathedral. He lost to Lorenzo Ghiberti, whose work would use less bronze. Brunelleschi has Abraham’s left hand on Isaac’s neck, Abraham’s right hand holds a knife. The angel grabs Abraham’s right arm and ends Abraham’s test. It is Isaac, who prefigures Jesus, the perfect Sacrifice. The drama is within a triangle of heads and the grasping of three hands.
After these things, God tempted Abraham, and said to him: Abraham, Abraham. And he answered: Here I am. He said to him: Take thy only* begotten son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and go into the land of vision†: and there thou shalt offer him for a holocaust upon one of the mountains which I will shew thee. So Abraham rising up in the night, saddled his ass‡: and took with him two young men, and Isaac his son: and when he had cut wood for the holocaust he went his way to the place which God had commanded him. And on the third day, lifting up his eyes, he saw the place afar off. And he said to his young men: Stay you here with the ass: I and the boy will go with speed as far as yonder, and after we have worshipped, will return to you. And he took the wood for the holocaust, and laid it upon Isaac his son: and he himself carried in his hands fire and a sword. And as they two went on together, Isaac said to his father: My father. And he answered: What wilt thou, son? Behold, saith he, fire and wood: where is the victim for the holocaust? And Abraham said: God will provide himself a victim for an holocaust, my son. So they went on together. And they came to the place which God had shewn him, where he built an altar, and laid the wood in order upon it: and when he had bound Isaac his son, he laid him on the altar upon the pile of wood. And he put forth his hand and took the sword, to sacrifice his son. And behold an angel of the Lord from heaven called to him, saying: Abraham, Abraham. And he answered: Here I am. And he said to him: Lay not thy hand upon the boy, neither do thou any thing to him: now I know that thou fearest God, and hast not spared thy only begotten son for my sake. Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw behind his back a ram amongst the briers sticking fast by the horns, which he took and offered for a holocaust instead of his son. And he called the name of that place, The Lord seeth. Whereupon even to this day it is said: In the mountain the Lord will see. And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, saying: By my own self have I sworn, saith the Lord: because thou hast done this thing, and hast not spared thy only begotten son for my sake: I will bless thee, and I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is by the sea shore: thy seed shall possess the gates of their enemies. And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice. ― Genesis xxii.1-18. DRC
Now, of all the Bible stories, this one children do not like. This makes all children nervous. Some stories make, particular, children nervous, e.g. when people call out for the death of Jeremias. A child with that name, or a derivative thereof, is not at ease.

But, here as elsewhere, we see the Lord call out to a man, and the response, ‘Here I am.’ That is the response, that one, who hears and does the Lord’s will, gives.
*there was also Ismaël by Agar earlier, both who were cast off, and later:
And Abraham married another wife, named Cetura: Who bore him Zamran, and Jecsan, and Madan, and Madian, and Jesboc, and Sue. Genesis xxv.1-2. DRC
Moriah, in some versions
‡yes, that is the correct word, donkey is a bowdlerisation

No comments: