Illuminating the Mission: Day Two • Page Two

Abraham and Sarah Illumination

Credit: Abraham and Sarah, Donald Jackson, 2003, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota. Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Reflection on Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 15:1-7, 17:1-22)

Rev. Michael Patella, OSB

The Menorah, the ancient symbol of Judaism, repeats across the double folio, dominating the illumination. This is the moment in salvation history where the Lord seals the covenant with Abraham, a moment so important that it is recounted twice, once at Genesis 15:1-21 and again at Genesis 17:1-19.

While Abraham also has a son, Ishmael, through Sarah’s maidservant, Hagar, the Lord forms his covenant through Isaac, the son of Abraham and his wife, Sarah. Their descendants include Isaac and Rebekah’s son, Jacob, and his twelve sons along with the whole royal line of David, a lineage that ends with Jesus. For this reason, the Menorah also becomes the primary symbol in the Matthew frontispiece, which recites Jesus’ genealogy and confirms his connection with the Abrahamic Covenant.

Pope Francis reminds us in Evangelii Gaudium, that this covenant between God and the Jewish people has never been revoked (247). As Christians we must honor the sacred roots that our identity has in Judaism. We are enriched by the complementarity of our concern for justice and well-being of peoples, which we have inherited from the Jewish tradition (247-249).

In what ways do you hold the covenant sacred over time?


Rev. Michael Patella, OSB, SSD is professor of New Testament at the School of Theology and Seminary at Saint John’s University, Collegeville, MN where he also serves as seminary rector. He served as chair of the Committee on Illumination and Text for The Saint John’s Bible. He is author of Word and Image: The Hermeneutics of The Saint John’s Bible (Liturgical Press, 2013).

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