Wednesday, August 2, 2017

What is Salvation History? (May the Faith Be With You)

For the longest period of time I heard the phrase “Salvation History” but I never really knew what it meant. Priest often mentioned it in their homily, there were references to it in Faith Formation classes, and occasionally I would come across the term in some of my readings. Recently I was preparing a bible study on Chapter 11 of Hebrews which is often called the “Faith Chapter”. The first sentence starts with “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” (New American Bible (NAB)) There is a lot of depth in that phrase. It tells us what faith is but also what hope is. Sometimes I like to read different translations to get a better understanding for what the author means. I found one that expresses it a little more clearly in The Message (MSG) which translated it this way, “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.” The rest of Chapter 11 of Hebrews talks about examples of faith from the formation of the universe through our redemption by Christ to and including our own salvation. If you want to know salvation history, just read Chapter 11 of Hebrews.

Marc Cardaronella has an excellent definition in his article, “What is Salvation History: A Catholic Definition.” In it he defines salvation history as the story of God and the story of man and how God enters into the story of man at critical points throughout history. It is how God has loved and cherished humanity since the beginning of time and how humanity has journeyed from Godly riches to rags and back again. It is how our Savior Jesus Christ came down from his throne to share his life and free us from captivity. Quite literally, salvation history is the story of how we are saved.

Salvation history comes primarily from the Bible which is a collection of stories that have different literary genres. The historical books tell a story that unfolds over thousands of years. Cardaronella says God writes the world like men write books. He orchestrated events so that what happened, from the dawn of time to the present and forever, is like his own book. Therefore, history is really “His-Story,” God’s story. All of salvation history is grounded in Christ and the Cross. Everything before leads to him. Everything after emanates from him. God created us to live in this union with him, hence, everything God “wrote” in history is for that purpose – the union of humanity to himself. So in a sense salvation history is past history, but it’s also present. The story of salvation isn’t over and the plan of God is that we are actively a part of it. Consequently, salvation history forms the foundation of the whole supernatural work and mission of the Church.

Chapter 11 of Hebrews talks about the faith of our ancestors, the faith of Abel, of Enoch, of Noah, of
Abraham, of Jacob, of Joseph, of Moses, and of the prophets and judges. As you can see, in one chapter it summarizes the history of the Old Testament and talks about how God was instrumental in the faith of our ancestors and how he entered into their lives. In other words, Salvation History. The chapter begins with “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.”  (NAB) It ends with “God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one complete whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.” (MSG) May the faith be with you.

Deacon Greg Beckel

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