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Location: United States

2/21/2008

“Cease to hope, and you will cease to fear.”

If we turn to the Bible, then we will be surprised to discover that, in the primal history of humanity, death seems to evoke no strong emotional responses. ...

With Abraham comes the promise: land, prosperity, and the immortality of countless descendants. Here we find the first step toward Sinai and the covenant of life that Christians believe is fulfilled in Christ. Then Sarah dies, just as Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, died before, and just as her own son Isaac and his sons and the sons of his sons will die in their own time. And for the very first time in the Bible, we find a scene of mourning. Abraham enters her tent and weeps over his dead wife (Gen. 23:2).

Abraham’s mourning over Sarah tells us something about the psychological effect of what Hans Urs von Balthasar calls “the dramatic rhythm” of salvation history. The covenant promise cannot help but sharpen the outlines of human experience. The future that God promises throws death into a new light. When he calls Abraham, God begins to awaken sin-slumbering humanity. We are created for fellowship with him, not for the grave, and inevitably what had been accepted as a fact of life becomes a brutal, unnecessary blow. Thus the psychological paradox of faith: a belief in God’s promises heightens rather than softens the existential pain of death.

- The Tears of Abraham

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