Christian in the World lecture series explores all aspects of covenants in Scripture

COURTESY PHOTO: MOUNT ANGEL ABBEY - Abbot Peter EberleSome time ago, I had an insight that should have struck me a few days ago. I was asking myself why is it that seminarians seem to be if not uninformed, at least unenthusiastic about the Second Vatican Council.

Then the insight came.

The Council took place 50 years ago! Virtually all of today's seminarians were born long after it ended, and probably even most of their parents are too young to remember it. What a shock for an old duffer, whose faith life, like most priests of his generation, was shaped by that great Council! What dreams we dreamed and what hopes we had!

One of the words that I associate with the Council and that figured in my theological education is "covenant." In marriage law, for example, we were taught that Vatican II teaches that marriage is a "covenant" rather than a "contract."

This insight not only contributed to a renewed theology of marriage, but also to a deepened appreciation for sacred Scripture where the word and concept abound, making it a rich source for theological exploration and spiritual reflection.

Indeed, just how rich a theme it is, participants of Christian in the World will have an opportunity to discover because "Covenant in Scripture" is the theme for the fall 2017 lecture series.

Our one and only presenter for this upcoming series is Mr. Brad Becker, who is the Pastoral Associate at Saint Edward Church in Keizer. In addition, he is an instructor for the Archdiocese of Portland's Institute for Catholic Life and Leadership.

Originally from Colorado, he received his bachelor's degree in religious studies at Regis University in Denver, and a master's degree in theology at the Augustine Institute. He also studied Biblical Hebrew at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. Brad currently lives in Keizer with his wife Jaclyn and their newborn son Joshua.

The decision to dedicate the fall lectures to the theme of covenant was not made entirely out of the blue. The Winter/Spring 2017 series was dedicated to a study of the Old Testament.

The steering committee thought a series on such a vital scriptural concept as "covenant" would be a fitting follow up, and several members of the steering committee who belong to Saint Edward's Parish said Brad would be eminently qualified to make the presentation. So whether it was pure serendipity or the quiet prompting of the Holy Spirit (I prefer the latter), the fall 2017 Christian in the World Series came to be when Brad graciously acceded to our request.

Brad describes the goal of this series as follows:

"To explore one of the most central aspects of Sacred Scripture and our Christian faith: covenants.

"Many people tend to think of covenants as nothing more than contracts or agreements, but such a narrow view inevitably fails to recognize the grandeur of God's loving plan (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 52).

"Each session will explore a different covenant in the Bible. We will examine not only when and why God forms a particular covenant, but also how he ratifies each covenant and what that reveals to us. As we encounter covenants in the Old Testament, we will also spend time discussing their fulfillment in the New Testament."

Brad plans to divide his presentations in the following way.

Session 1: Saturday, Sept. 9

Happily Brad will begin in the beginning. He will spend the first hour or so introducing the notion of covenant in the context of the allied notion of covenant in the context of the allied notions of oaths and God's Hesed. (The latter gives the reality of covenant in the Scriptures its unique character.)

In the second hour he will discuss "Creation as Covenant."

Session 2: Saturday, Oct. 7

The October session will continue the discussion of covenant in the Old Testament, with a consideration of two significant covenants that God made with human beings.

The first is the covenant He made with Noah, which Brad describes as "Renewed by Water." (Already one gets an inkling of how the long reach of covenant stretches into the New Testament.)

In the second hour of this session, he will consider the Abrahamic covenant that God made with our Father in Faith.

Note: The October session will be held on the first Saturday of October, rather than the second.

Session 3: Saturday, Nov. 11

Brad will consider two further Old Testament covenants in the November session.

In the first hour he will consider what must surely be the great covenant of the Old Testament, the covenant God made with His chosen people on Mount Sinai.

In the second hour, he will turn to the Davidic Covenant, the covenant of the promised messiah, surely a fitting reflection in November as we approach the advent season of waiting for the Lord.

Session 4: Saturday, Dec. 9

The December session will bring this series-long consideration of covenant to both a turning point and a climax.

In the first session Brad will consider the prophets, those chosen instruments of God who so powerfully remembered the old, yet also expected the new. Thus they were the very ones who prepared for the great climactic moment of the covenant theme that runs throughout the Old Testament: the appearance on earth of Jesus Christ, the new and everlasting covenant.

This will be Brad's topic in the second half of the Dec. 9 presentation. And so the series will conclude on a note that corresponds perfectly with the advent season we will be celebrating then, as well as Christmas that will soon be upon us.

The schedule for all these talks will follow the usual format. Participants may gather in the foyer of Mount Angel Abbey Library around 8:45 a.m. to register and to enjoy a cup of coffee and a roll.

At 9 a.m. the session will begin with a short morning prayer.

The first presentation begins at approximately 9:15 a.m. and runs until 10:05 a.m. and is followed by a short break.

The second presentation begins around 10:20 a.m. and runs until 11:10 a.m.

After another short break, all are invited to engage in a dialogue, generally in a question-and-answer format, with the speaker. This session will conclude around noon.

We heartily invite you to join us in what should prove to be an illuminating series for both mind and spirit. Please bring your Bible.

The Mount Angel Abbey is located at 1 Abbey Drive.

Cost for the Christian in the World series is $50 for four sessions or $15 a session. Student cost is $20 for the series or $5 a session.

Presentations take place in the Mount Angel Abbey Library Auditorium.

Beverages and morning snacks are provided.

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