Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/84

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ABRAHAM
ABRAHAM
56

ments, whereas Lazarus was carried by the angels into "the Bosom of Abraham", where the righteous dead shared in the repose and felicity of Abraham "the father of the faithful". But while commentators generally agree upon the meaning of the figurative expression "the Bosom of Abraham", as designating the blissful abode of the righteous souls after death, they are at variance with regard to the manner in which the phrase itself originated. Up to the time of Maldonatus (a.d. 1583), its origin was traced back to the universal custom of parents to take up into their arms, or place upon their knees, their children when they are fatigued, or return home, and to make them rest by their side during the night (cf. II Kings, xii, 2; III Kings, iii, 20; xvii, 19; Luke, xi, 7 sqq.), thus causing them to enjoy rest and security in the bosom of a loving parent. After the same manner was Abraham supposed to act towards his children after the fatigues and troubles of the present life, hence the metaphorical expression "to be in Abraham's Bosom" as meaning to be in repose and happiness with him. But according to Maldonatus (In Lucam, xvi, 22), whose theory has since been accepted by many scholars, the metaphor "to be in Abraham's Bosom" is derived from the custom of reclining on couches at table which prevailed among the Jews during and before the time of Christ. As at a feast each guest leaned on his left elbow so as to leave his right arm at liberty, and as two or more lay on the same couch, the head of one man was near the breast of the man who lay behind, and he was therefore said "to lie in the bosom" of the other. It was also considered by the Jews of old a mark of special honour and favour for one to be allowed to lie in the bosom of the master of the feast (cf. John, xiii, 23). And it is by this illustration that they pictured the next world. They conceived of the reward of the righteous dead as a sharing in a banquet given by Abraham, "the father of the faithful" (cf. Matt., viii, 11 sqq.), and of the highest form of that reward as lying in "Abraham's Bosom". Since the coming of Our Lord, "the Bosom of Abraham" gradually ceased to designate a place of imperfect happiness, and it has become synonymous with Heaven itself. In their writings the Fathers of the Church mean by that expression sometimes the abode of the righteous dead before they were admitted to the Beatific Vision after the death of the Saviour, sometimes Heaven, into which the just of the New Law are immediately introduced upon their demise. When in her liturgy the Church solemnly prays that the angels may carry the soul of one of her departed children to "Abraham's Bosom", she employs the expression to designate Heaven and its endless bliss in company with the faithful of both Testaments, and in particular with Abraham, the father of them all. This passage of the expression "the Bosom of Abraham" from an imperfect and limited sense to one higher and fuller is a most natural one, and is in full harmony with the general character of the New Testament dispensation as a complement and fulfilment of the Old Testament revelation.

Mangenot, in Dict. de la Bible, I. col. 83 sqq.; Maldonatus, In Lucam; Fillion, St. Luc; Goebel., The Parables of Jesus.

Abraham (in Christian Art). See Christian Art; Symbolism.

Abraham a Sancta Clara, a Discalced Augustinian friar, preacher, and author of popular books of devotion, b. at Messkirch, Baden, 1644; d. 1 December, 1709. The eighth of nine children born to Matthew Megerlin, or Megerle, a well-to-do serf who kept a tavern in Kreenheinstetten, he received in Baptism the name John Ulrich. At the age of six he attended the village school in his native place, and about three years later he began his Latin studies in Messkirch. During the years 1656–59, he passed successively through the three classes of the Jesuit untergymnasium in Ingolstadt. At his father's death, which occurred about this time, the boy was adopted by his uncle, Abraham von Megerlin, canon of Altötting, who removed him to the Benedictine school in Salzburg.

In the fall of 1662, at the age of 18, John joined the Discalced Augustinians at the age Vienna, choosing the name Abraham—doubtless out of respect to his uncle—with the addition a Sancta Clara. He made his novitiate and completed his theological studies at Mariabrunn, not far from Vienna. On his ordination in Vienna (1666) he was sent, after a brief preparation, as preacher to the shrine of Taxa, near Augsburg, but after about three years he was recalled to Vienna, a centre of greater activity. On 28 April, 1677, he was appointed imperial court preacher by Leopold I, and while holding this office experienced the terrors of the year of the plague, 1679. After a rest of five months as chaplain to the Land marshal of Lower Austria, he once more ascended the pulpit. For the year 1680 he is recorded as being prior of the convent at Vienna, while two years later we find him chaplain to the monastic church of his order in Gratz, where he remained three years as Sunday preacher, and later as prior. It was in this capacity that he went to Rome in 1687. In 1690 he is mentioned once more by the house chronicle of the Vienna monastery as court preacher, and the following year as having the rank of provincial. In this capacity he undertook his second journey to Rome (1692), where he took part in the general chapter of his order. Upon his return he took up his customary duties, besides filling the office of definitor. He eventually became the definitor provinciæ. These manifold sustained exertions, however, had gradually undermined his strength, still further impaired by years of suffering from gout, and finally resulted in his death. Abraham had at his command an amazingly large amount of information which, with an abundant wit in keeping with the taste of his time, made him an effective preacher. His peculiar talent lay in his faculty for presenting religious truths, even the most bitter, with such graphic charm that every listener, both high and low, found pleasure in his discourse, even though certain of his contemporaries expressed themselves with great virulence against "the buffoon, the newsmonger, and the harlequin of the pulpit." Even in his character of author, he stands as it were in the pulpit, and speaks to his readers by means of his pen. His works are numerous. His first occasion for literary work was furnished by the plague, on which he wrote three treatises. Merk's, Wien! or a detailed description of destructive death (Vienna, 1680), shows how death spares neither priests, nor women, nor learned men, nor married people, nor soldiers. The second tract, Lösch Wien (Vienna, 1680), which is less powerful, exhorts the survivors of the plague to extinguish with their good works the torments of Purgatory for those who