Swear to God, Hahn

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Title: Swear to God

Author: Hahn, Scott Walker

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Scott Hahn argues that every society—be it nation, neighborhood, family, or Church—is held together by the power of personal commitments. When we really want to change our lives, when we want to make love endure, we mark the transition by an oath. That's what people do on their wedding day, on the day they become citizens, on the day they enter the military, or on the day they assume public office. The words we say bind us to a course of action. But the most powerful oaths of all are those that mark the Christian Sacraments. In SWEAR TO GOD, Hahn restores the connection between sacred words and human action, promises and commitment.

As in his previous bestsellers, Hahn draws on the history of ancient Israel, the Gospels, the writings of the early Church, and the lives of the saints. He shows how God's covenant—the promises he made to Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses—became the driving force in history. When Jesus fulfilled all these oaths, he established a "new covenant," with its own sacrifices, but with greater power than ever before. In the Church's Sacraments—such as Baptism, Reconciliation, Holy Communion, Matrimony—each individual enters the covenant and swears the oath. In doing so, each individual calls down a blessing or a curse.

If Western society is eroding, perhaps it is because we, as a people, have not kept our covenants with God. SWEAR TO GOD helps us to break out of that cycle, forever!


Chapter 1 "A Bore" I Swore

  • God makes His covenant with Catholic Christians - as he dis with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David - using material signs: water and oil, bread and wine, a touch of the hands upon the shoulders, and an audible word of blessing.
  • ...at he heart of every biblical covenant there is a solemn and sacramental oath. ... These oaths contained real power to change lives and history.

Chapter 2 Signs and Mysteries

  • A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace ... the sacraments receive their power from God through the merits of Jesus Christ. Baltimore catechism
  • Sacraments are powers that come forth from the body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in Hos Body, the church. They are the masterworks of God. In the new and everlasting covenant. ( CCC 1116)
  • He made us, and so, He knows that we humans learn through sensible signs, sensory data.
  • He established the Church on earth so that He could extend His incarnation through time and space. Thus He commanded his priests to celebrate the sacraments with Him - through all time
  • Jesus Himself established the sacraments as the ordinary means of extending salvation to each and every person.
  • a sign is something used to represent something else. A visible symbol of something that is invisible at the moment
  • Ordinary signs convey an idea about something. Sacrament signs convey the sacred reality itself.
  • ex opere operato - literally "by the very fact of the action being performed (CCC 1128)
  • God does extraordinary things through ordinary means. He uses the natural to do the supernatural, the human to accomplish the divine. .

Chapter 3 Sacraments in the Scriptures

  • In Christ, and His sacraments, there is a marital bond between God and man, between the invisible and the visible. This what is "new" about the New Testament.
  • St. John Damascus added: "I do not worship matter; I worship the creator of matter Who became matter for my sake. Wo willed to take his abode in matter; who worked out my salvation through matter.
  • ...the ancient Passover meal served as the renewal of the Old Covenant. Isralites sacrificed te paschal lamb so that their firstborn children would be spared the plague of death
  • ... it was at a passover meal that Jesus established the new covenant in his blood (1 COR 11:25)
  • We have spoken of certain Old Testament events as "shadows" and "figures." In these, the sacraments of Jesus Christ are foreshadowed or prefigured. to study such biblical foreshadowings is called typology.

Chapter 4 As High as Seven

Chapter 5 What's the Big Idea? The Meaning of Covenant (and everything else)

  • There is no idea more important to scripture - and no idea more important to your life - than the idea of covenant.
  • ...ancient Israelites had a word for contract (hozeh) and a word for covenant (berith) and the two were in no sense interchangeable.
  • Contracts usually exchange property, goods, and services. But covenants exchange persons. Contracts set the terms for a business transaction. But covenants create a family bond. When people enter into a covenant, they say, "I am yours, and your are mine". Thus marriage is a covenant and adoption is a covenant.
  • ...God's covenant is an exchange of persons: "You shall be my people, and I will be your God" (EZek 36:28)
  • Testament comes from the Latin word testamentum, which Jerome used to translate the Greek and Hebrew words for covenant: ... we could say the bible is divided into the "old covenant and the new covenant.
  • There was no place for individualism in the ancient world. Indeed, when nations struck a treaty, they inevitably sealed it with a covenant expressed in the language of the family, as a marriage or an adoption.
  • ...covenants often shared certain common elements (1)solomnly swear a sacred oath, (2) offer a sacrafice, and (3) share a common meal.
  • A vow is more weighty than an ordinary promise, because it is a promice made directly to God. When we make a vow, we give God our word.
  • When people swear an oath, however, they place much more at stake. An oath is "the invocation of God's name as a witness to truth" (code of cannon Law, can 1199.1)
  • For our ancestors, every oath carried both blessings and curses - blessings upon the fulfillment of the oath, but curses if it were broken
  • The parties of a covenant usually ratified their pact with an oath and a blood sacrifice. But the sacrifice was not complete until the sacrificial victim was consumed.
  • Jesus established forever a meal in God's presence - His real presence for the Eucharist is the "Lord's supper" (1 Cor 11:20)
  • When we take the sacraments, we make a covenant.

Chapter 6 Do you Solemnly Swear?

Chapter 7 When Words are Deeds

  • ... if we have so little regard for oaths, is it any wonder that we have so little understanding of the sacraments?
  • Some performative utterances (J.L. Austin) have small stakes" "I bet you five dollars." Others cost many lives: "We declare war."

Chapter 8 The Engine of History

Chapter 9 Trust and Treachery

Chapter 10 To Tell the Truth

Chapter 11 Sunday Swearing

Chapter 12 Sex, Lies, and Sacraments

Chapter 13 The Sacred Realm of Risk

Chapter 14 Real Presences

Chapter 15 Stretching Toward Infinity

Other facts

  • Used for:
  • Purchased:October 2012

Bibliographic info

2003070006 LCCN permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2003070006 Type of material: Book (Print, Microform, Electronic, etc.) Personal name: Hahn, Scott. Main title: Swear to God : the promise and power of the Sacraments / Scott Hahn. Edition: 1st ed. Published/Created: New York : Doubleday : c2004. Description: 232 p. ; 22 cm. ISBN: 0385509316 Links: Contributor biographical information Sample text Publisher description CALL NUMBER: BX2200 H24 2004