The Roman Canon: Abel, Abraham, and Melchizedek

Hey, y’all!  It’s been a while, but we’re back from our little hiatus.  And before you ask, no, it wasn’t because I was to busy watching soccer to write.  Anyway, one of the most important things in our understanding of Sacred Scripture is typology, the theory that the people, places, and events of the Old Testament are prefigurements of the New.  It’s not that God can’t think of anything so he reuses old ideas, like I do with my homilies, but he uses things that we’re familiar with to help us better understand the things he reveals to us.

Eucharistic Prayer I uses three big examples of this with the Old Testament figures of Abel, Abraham, and Melchizedek.  Abel was the son of Adam and Eve and a shepherd, and he is known for offering the firstborn and best of his flock as a sacrifice to God, which was pleasing to God.  His brother Cain, however, was a farmer, and offered a part of his crops as a sacrifice, but because it wasn’t anything truly sacrificial, God wasn’t pleased with his sacrifice, and the jealous Cain murdered his brother Abel.

We all know Abraham’s story.  It had taken Abraham and Sarah a long time to conceive their own son Isaac, but it was then that God asked Abraham to sacrifice his first and beloved son as a sacrifice.  Abraham was saddened, but willing to offer anything to God, which was all that God wanted to see.

Melchizedek is the strange one here.  He’s a mysterious figure that only appears in Genesis 14 for three verses.  All we know is that he was a priest of God the Most High before Abram had done much of anything – even become “Abraham.”  Melchizedek approached Abram and his army and offered bread and wine, a gift usually offered alongside the first fruits of the earth in thanksgiving to God.

So what’s the point of all this?  All three of these figures are associated with sacrifice, and not just any old sacrifice, like giving up soda during Lent, but the first fruits, the best of the best.  All three are types of Jesus Christ, the ultimate sacrifice, and the first fruits of God himself.  That’s what we’re offering at Mass – the first fruits, the Body and Blood of Jesus himself.  It’s the same sacrifice that God used to save us from our sins – what greater gift can there be?

I think the invitation for us is to offer our own first fruits, the best we have.  Of course we offer that by supporting the mission of the Church through tithing and offering our gifts and talents, but at Mass, usually the biggest sacrifice we can offer is an hour of our time.  The question that arises from this part of EPI is, “How does God play into our priorities?  Do we make Mass a priority?  Is that time really our first fruits?”

It’s very clear to me that some people have trouble making Mass, or getting there on time, or that have to leave early for one reason or another.  Obviously, I’m not sitting up in the sanctuary, judging people – that’s definitely not my intention.  But I think it’s easy for all of us – myself included – to grow lukewarm in our practice, so it’s worth asking the question whether we can honestly say that the time we’re offering for Mass is our first fruits.  Whether it feels like it or not, that hour we spend at Mass receiving the Body and Blood of Christ is the best and most important hour of our day!  So let’s hang in there, and do our best to thank God for all he’s given us by offering him back the best that we have.