“A solemn agreement between human beings or between God and a human being involving mutual commitments or guarantees. The Bible refers to God’s covenants with Noah, Abraham, and Moses as leader of the chosen people, Israel. In the Old Testament or Covenant, God revealed his law through Moses and prepared his people for salvation through the prophets. In the New Testament or Covenant, Christ established a new and eternal covenant through his own sacrificial death and Resurrection. The Christian economy is the new and definitive Covenant which will never pass away, and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” — Catechism, page 873.
Father Hardon’s Definition
Father Hardon explains the Biblical Covenant: Catholic Dictionary: An Abridged and Updated Edition of Modern Catholic Dictionary (pp. 114-115).
In the Old Testament an agreement between God and Israel in which God promised protection to the Chosen People in return for exclusive loyalty . “If you obey my voice and hold fast to my covenant, you of all the nations will be my very own” (Exodus 19:5). Moses presented YHWH ’s offer to his people, who promptly “answered as one, ‘All that YHWH has said we will do.’ ” The compact was sealed (Exodus 19:8). Many years later Jeremiah prophesied that a new covenant would be offered. “Deep within them,” YHWH promised, “I will plant my law, writing it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31: 31–34). Ezekiel foresaw that God would “make a covenant of peace with them, an eternal covenant” (Ezekiel 37:26). Its universal character was foreshadowed by Isaiah, to whom it was revealed by YHWH “so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth ” (Isaiah 49:6). In the New Testament, when St. Paul was explaining to the Corinthians the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, he repeated Christ’s words: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me” (I Corinthians 11:25). This master idea of the New Testament is reinforced in the Letter to the Hebrews: “It follows that it is a greater covenant for which Jesus has become our guarantee” (Hebrews 7:22). Christ himself is the new covenant between God and his people. (Etym. Latin convenire, to agree, to come together.)
God’s Covenants With Man
God patiently prepared his children for the Mashiakh‘s worldwide covenant with us.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” Gen 3:15. “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return” Gen 3:17–19.
Noah (family, three sons)
“Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning; of every beast I will require it and of man; of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image. And you, be fruitful and multiply, bring forth abundantly on the earth and multiply in it” Gen 9:3–7. “I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth” Gen 9:11. “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth” Gen 9:12–13.
Abraham (tribe, Hebrews)
“And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. And I will give to you, and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” Gen 17:7–8. “And God said to Abraham, ‘As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your descendants after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He that is eight days old among you shall be circumcised; every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house, or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, both he that is born in your house and he that is bought with your money, shall be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant’” Gen 17:9–13.
Moses (nation, Israel)
“And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words” Ex 24:6–8.
David (kingdom, nations drawn to the God of Israel)
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this” Is 9:6–7.
Rabbi Yeshua (Church, worldwide)
“He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end” Lk 1:32–33. “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” Jn 6:54. “Christ has obtained a ministry which is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises” Heb 8:6.
Rabbi Yeshua told us, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them” Mt 5:17. Here we can see his fulfillment of all the preceding covenants in his New and Eternal Covenant. All the preceding covenants point in some way toward “We receive Rabbi Yeshua’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, whole and entire, all that he is and all that he has. And we give him our body and blood, soul and humanity, all that we are and all that we have.”
The New and Eternal Covenant overarches some particular covenants including Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony. Recall that a covenant is a solemn agreement between human beings or between God and a human being involving mutual commitments or guarantees. Holy Orders is a covenant between God and his priests. Priests are first and foremost sacrificers. God’s commitment is that, on a valid prayer of consecration at the altar, he will transubstantiate bread and wine into Rabbi Yeshua’s Body and Blood, and gently lead the priest toward the Church Triumphant. The priest’s commitment is that he will celebrate the Holy Mass for all of Rabbi Yeshua’s baptized family, even “the least of these” Mt 25:40. Holy Matrimony, also called the Marriage Covenant, is a commitment through Rabbi Yeshua between a husband and wife to take care of each other’s needs. Rabbi Yeshua binds the couple together in a lifelong marriage and gently leads them toward eternal life in heaven. But always the New and Eternal Covenant is primary and central, our journey to the promised land.
Some Observations From the Catechism
In the beginning God makes himself known
§ 54 “God, who creates and conserves all things by his Word, provides men with constant evidence of himself in created realities. and furthermore, wishing to open up the way to heavenly salvation – he manifested himself to our first parents from the very beginning.” He invited them to intimate communion with himself and clothed them with resplendent grace and justice.
§ 55 This revelation was not broken off by our first parents’ sin. After the fall, God buoyed them up with the hope of salvation, by promising redemption; and he has never ceased to show his solicitude for the human race. For he wishes to give eternal life to all those who seek salvation by patience in well-doing.
Even when he disobeyed you and lost your friendship you did not abandon him to the power of death. … Again and again you offered a covenant to man.
The covenant with Noah
§ 56 After the unity of the human race was shattered by sin God at once sought to save humanity part by part. the covenant with Noah after the flood gives expression to the principle of the divine economy toward the nations, in other words, towards men grouped in their lands, each with its own language, by their families, in their nations.
§ 57 This state of division into many nations, each entrusted by divine providence to the guardianship of angels, is at once cosmic, social and religious. It is intended to limit the pride of fallen humanity united only in its perverse ambition to forge its own unity as at Babel. But, because of sin, both polytheism and the idolatry of the nation and of its rulers constantly threaten this provisional economy with the perversion of paganism.
§ 58 The covenant with Noah remains in force during the times of the Gentiles, until the universal proclamation of the Gospel. The Bible venerates several great figures among the Gentiles: Abel the just, the king-priest Melchizedek – a figure of Christ – and the upright Noah, Daniel, and Job. Scripture thus expresses the heights of sanctity that can be reached by those who live according to the covenant of Noah, waiting for Christ to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
God chooses Abraham
§ 59 In order to gather together scattered humanity God calls Abram from his country, his kindred and his father’s house, and makes him Abraham, that is, the father of a multitude of nations. “In you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”
§ 60 The people descended from Abraham would be the trustee of the promise made to the patriarchs, the chosen people, called to prepare for that day when God would gather all his children into the unity of the Church. They would be the root on to which the Gentiles would be grafted, once they came to believe.
§ 61 The patriarchs, prophets and certain other Old Testament figures have been and always will be honored as saints in all the Church’s liturgical traditions.
God forms his people Israel
§ 62 After the patriarchs, God formed Israel as his people by freeing them from slavery in Egypt. He established with them the covenant of Mount Sinai and, through Moses, gave them his law so that they would recognize him and serve him as the one living and true God, the provident Father and just judge, and so that they would look for the promised Savior.
§ 63 Israel is the priestly people of God, called by the name of the LORD, and the first to hear the word of God, the people of elder brethren in the faith of Abraham.
§ 64 Through the prophets, God forms his people in the hope of salvation, in the expectation of a new and everlasting Covenant intended for all, to be written on their hearts. The prophets proclaim a radical redemption of the People of God, purification from all their infidelities, a salvation which will include all the nations. Above all, the poor and humble of the Lord will bear this hope. Such holy women as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Judith and Esther kept alive the hope of Israel’s salvation. The purest figure among them is Mary.
God has said everything in his Word
§ 65 In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son. Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father’s one, perfect and unsurpassable Word. In him he has said everything; there will be no other word than this one. St. John of the Cross, among others, commented strikingly on Heb 1:1–2:
“In giving us his Son, his only Word (for he possesses no other), he spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word – and he has no more to say … because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has now spoken all at once by giving us the All Who is His Son. Any person questioning God or desiring some vision or revelation would be guilty not only of foolish behavior but also of offending him, by not fixing his eyes entirely upon Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty.”
There will be no further Revelation
§ 66 The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.
§ 67 Throughout the ages, there have been so-called “private” revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.
Christian faith cannot accept “revelations” that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfilment, as is the case in certain nonChristian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such “revelations”.
The unity of the Old and New Testaments
§ 128 The Church, as early as apostolic times, and then constantly in her Tradition, has illuminated the unity of the divine plan in the two Testaments through typology, which discerns in God’s works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son.
The Sacraments of Christ
§ 1116 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 his Body, the Church. They are the masterworks of God in the new and everlasting covenant.