SYNOD OF BISHOPS
XII ORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY
THE WORD OF GOD
I. A comprehensible, well-received proclamation
II. The instrumentum laboris and its use
FORWARD: Historical Overview
A. God who speaks to us, the meaning of the word of god
B. At the centre, the mystery of christ and the church
A. The bible as the inspired word of god and its truth
B. Interpreting the Bible according to the faith of the Church
The Word of God gives life to the Church
The Mission of the Church
The Word of God: Gift to the Church
The Word of God par excellence is Jesus Christ, God and Man. The Son is the Eternal Word, ever-present in God, because he himself is God: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (Jn 1:1). The Word reveals the Mystery of the Triune God. Eternally spoken by God the Father through the love of the Holy Spirit, the Word carries on a dialogue which expresses communion and leads a person into the depths of the divine life of the Most Blessed Trinity. In Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word, God chose us before the creation of the world, destining us to be his adoptive children (cf. Eph 1: 4,5). While the Spirit hovered over the waters and darkness covered the abyss (cf. Gen 1:2), God the Father created heaven and earth through his Word, through which everything came to be (cf. Jn 1:3). Consequently, traces of the Word can be found in the created world: "The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork" (Ps 18:2). The human person, made to the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26-27) is the masterpiece of creation, capable of entering into dialogue with the Creator, perceiving in creation the seal of its Author, the Creator-Word, and, through the Spirit, living in communion with the one who is (cf. Ex 3:14), the Living and True God (cf. Jer 10:10).
This friendship was broken by the sin of our first parents (cf. Gen 3: 1-24), a sin which also hindered access to God through creation. But, the kind and merciful God (cf. 2 Cor 30:9), in his goodness, did not abandon humankind. He chose a people from the nations (cf. Gen 22:18) and continually spoke over the centuries through the patriarchs and prophets, men chosen beforehand to keep alive the hope which offered comfort, especially in the dramatic events of salvation history. The books of the Old Testament record their inspired words which kept alive the hope of the coming of the Messiah, the Son of David (cf. Mt 22:42), the shoot from the root of Jesse (cf. Is 11:1).
In the fullness of time (cf. Gal 4:4), God wished to reveal to humanity the mystery of his life, hidden for centuries and generations (cf. Col 1:26). To do this, the Only begotten Son of God became man; "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1:14). Like us in everything except sin (cf. Heb 2:17; 4:15), the Word of God had to express himself in a human way, through words and deeds, which are recorded in the New Testament, especially in the Gospels. The language employed is human in every way, except for error. With the eyes of faith, the believer discovers the splendour of divine glory in the fragility of the human nature of Jesus Christ, "as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14). In a similar way, every Christian is invited through the words of Sacred Scripture to discover the Word of God, the splendour of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the likeness of God (cf. 2 Cor 4:4). This takes place through a demanding, patient and ongoing process, involving historical-critical study (even diachronic), the application of every scientific and literary method available (intended for a synchronic understanding) and research from the vantage point of literature. Illuminated by the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Risen Christ, and guided by the Magisterium, the faithful attentively read the Scriptures and draw out their full meaning in encountering the Word of God, the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who has the words of eternal life (cf. Jn 6:68).
The topic of the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church can be understood in its christological sense, namely, Jesus Christ in the Life and Mission of the Church. This christological approach, linked by necessity to the pnuematological one, leads to the discovery of the Trinitarian dimension of revelation. Looking at the subject in this way ensures the unity of revelation. All the words and deeds, recorded in Sacred Scripture by the inspired authors and faithfully guarded in Tradition, come together in the Person of the Lord Jesus, the Word of God. This is seen in the New Testament, which narrates and proclaims the mystery of his death, resurrection and presence in the midst of the Church, the community of his disciples called to celebrate these sacred mysteries. Because of the grace which leads to the destruction of sin (cf. Rm 6:6), his followers seek to conform themselves to their Master so that each might live Christ (cf. Gal 2:20). Such is also the case in the Old Testament which, according to Jesus’ own words, refers to himself (cf. Jn 5:39; Lk 24:27). Reading the Scriptures from a christological and pneumatological perspective leads from the letter to the spirit and from the words to the Word of God. Indeed, the words often conceal their true meaning, especially when considered from the literary and cultural point of view of the inspired authors and their way of understanding the world and its laws. Doing so leads to rediscovering the unity the Word of God in the many words of Scripture. After this necessary and ardent process, the Word of God shines with a surprising splendour, more than making up for the labour expended.
This Instrumentum Laboris, presenting the agenda for the upcoming synodal assembly, employs this dual, complementary approach to the Word of God and represents the contents of the responses to the questions in the Lineamenta, coming from the synods of the Eastern Churches sui iuris, the episcopal conferences, the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the Union of Superiors General and others who wanted to offer their observations on such an important subject. The reflection process was guided by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, the Universal Pastor of the Church, who has often made reference to the topic of the synod in his discourses. In doing so, he, together with others, has voiced his desire that by rediscovering the Word of God, which is always timely and never out-of-date, the Church might rejuvenate herself and experience a new springtime. She will then be able to undertake with renewed vigour her mission of evangelization and human promotion in the today’s world, which thirsts for God and his words of faith, hope and charity.
In a positive sense, the Instrumentum Laboris recounts a generally-held consciousness of the importance of the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church. However, it also contains aspects on the subject which need to be addressed and improved, in particular, a greater access to Scripture and a better understanding of it in the Church. This will happen by necessity in the course of proclaiming the Good News with renewed apostolic and pastoral zeal to those near and far and breathing life into every aspect of human life, thereby contributing to the construction of a more just and peaceful world.
The XI Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, who drafted the Instrumentum Laboris with the assistance of experts, hopes that this document might truly assist synod discussion and serve as a guide for the synod fathers in their ascent and descent in rediscovering the Word of God, that is, Jesus Christ, God and Man. This process will take place in a particular way at the liturgical celebrations which have their summit in the Eucharist, where the word manifests its wondrous efficacy. Indeed, through the expressed wish of Jesus Christ, "Do this in memory of me" (Lk 22:19), the words pronounced by the priest in the person of Christ the Head—"Take; this is my body" (Mk 14:22), "this is my blood" (Mk 14:24)—transform, through the power of the Father’s gift of the Holy Spirit, bread into the Body of Christ and wine into his Blood. From this enduring font of grace and charity, the Church constantly draws the vital sap and strength for her mission in today’s world, whose inhabitants are called to discover the Word of God in the Person of Jesus Christ, who is "the way, the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6) for each person and for the whole of humanity.
Vatican City, The Solemnity of Pentecost, 11 May 2008
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life -- the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us -- that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete" (1 Jn 1:1-4).
I. A comprehensible, well-received proclamation
The Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod
1. The upcoming XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to take place from 5 to 26 October 2008, will treat The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. The choice of topic by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI on 6 October 2006 was widely accepted by the bishops and the People of God. Its preparation began with the drafting of the Lineamenta which called for a reflection, in light of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, on the various experiences and aspects of encountering the Word of God in the Church today, according to her various traditions and rites and from the vantage point of faith.
Responses to the questions in the Lineamenta came from the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, the episcopal conferences, the dicasteries of the Roman Curia and the Union of Superiors General. Observations were also made by individual bishops, priests, consecrated persons, theologians and members of the lay faithful. A serious, attentive effort took place in the particular Churches on every continent, manifesting the extensiveness of the Word of God throughout the world. The contents of these submissions were routinely summarized and are now presented in this Instrumentum Laboris.
II. The instrumentum laboris and its use
Points of Reference
2. The times again call for an obedient hearing of the Word of God in union with the Church’s Tradition, in light of the Second Vatican Council, specifically, taking up the contents of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum (DV), and other conciliar documents, notably the Dogmatic Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC), the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium (LG) and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et spes (GS) (1). The two Notes of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church and The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible are also directly related to the synod topic. In addition, The Catechism of the Catholic Church and its Compendium, as well as The General Directory for Catechesis also have an authoritative character in the subject.
The teachings of Pope Pius XII, Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI are part of the Magisterium on the Word of God, as well as the documents published by the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, over the past 40 years since the Second Vatican Council. The particular Churches and other Church bodies on the continental, regional and national levels have also produced documentation on the subject. This Synod, however, has two additional points of reference. The first comes from the preceding synod on the Eucharist, which, together with the Word of God, constitutes a single table of the Bread of Life (cf. DV 21). Another important, grace-filled event inspiring the work of the synod is the Pauline Year which celebrates the memory of the Apostle Paul, who bore witness to the Word of God, proclaimed it to an exemplary degree and remains forever in the Church its masterful teacher.
3. The submissions from the Pastors communally share the following expectations for the synod:
— the Word of God needs to be given greater priority in the life and mission of the Church; this will require courage and creativity in a pedagogy of communicating, adapted to the times (culture, real-life situations, communication);
— the faithful need to know that the Word of God is Jesus Christ, an awareness which lends a sense of mystery to the reading of every word in the Bible, particularly during liturgical celebrations, first and foremost at the Sunday Eucharist;
— the Word of God can only be fully understood through the action of the Holy Spirit, who gives it meaning and inspires the reading of the Bible in the Church, within the context of her living Tradition of proclamation and charity. In this way, hearing the Word of God and reading the Bible are seen to require participation in the community of the Church in a spirit of communion and service;
— the Bible needs to be seen as the Word of God who continues to reveal, despite the many difficulties in understanding certain passages, especially those in Old Testament;
— Christ’s faithful exhibit a great desire to hear the Word of God, which has resulted in many noteworthy pastoral initiatives. In this regard, however, urgent attention needs to be given to a sense of indifference, lack of knowledge and confusion about the truths of the faith concerning the Word of God, as well as to due preparation and necessary biblical supports;
— pastoral programs on the Bible need to be developed. Indeed, all pastoral activity, including the teaching of the truths of the faith, should be based on the Word of God and continually inspired by it;
— communion in the faith necessarily requires putting the Word of God into practice; each particular Church must commit itself to receiving the Word and applying it to every local situation;
— the different approaches to the Bible in the Latin and Eastern Traditions need to be known and their richness appreciated;
— the competency and responsibility of Pastors to proclaim the Word of God demands continual updating in the formation process;
— the laity urgently need to be aware that they are not passive subjects in relation to the Word of God; rather they are to become both hearers of the Word of God and, after due preparation and support from the community, proclaimers of it; and
— the faithful need to be convinced that God addresses his Word of salvation to every person without exception; consequently, he wants his Word to be a part of the Church’s mission, in what people come to know as the Good News of liberation, consolation and salvation. The Word seeks a dialogue within the Church, with Christian communities, with other religions, and even with culture, always mindful of the many seeds of the truth which God’s providence has placed in them.
The Synod’s Purpose
4. The Synod intends to treat the topic of the Word with which "the invisible God (cf. Col 1;15, 1 Tim 1:17), out of the abundance of his love, speaks to men as friends (cf. Ex. 33:11; Jn 15:14-15) and lives among them (cf. Bar 3:38), so that he may invite and take them into fellowship with himself" (DV 2). This task implies hearing and loving the Word of the Lord in such a way as to be applicable to the real-life situations of people today. The Word of God determines a call, creates communion and sends forth into mission, so that what is received might be given as a gift to others. The synod’s purpose is primary pastoral and missionary, namely to thoroughly examine the topic’s doctrinal teaching and, in the process, spread and strengthen the practice of encountering the Word of God as the source of life in various areas of experience, and thereby be able to hear God and speak with him in a real and proper manner.
a. Concretely, the Synod wishes to give greater clarity to the basic truths of Revelation, such as, the Word of God, faith, Tradition, the Bible and the Magisterium, all of which underlie and ensure a truly effective journey of faith. It also wants to bring about a deep love for Sacred Scripture, so that "the faithful, by having greater access" to the Bible (cf. DV 22), might come to know the unity between the bread of the Word and the Body of Christ so as to fully nourish the Christian life (2). Furthermore, the Synod is to consider the dynamic relation between the Word of God and the liturgy; to encourage a widespread practice of Lectio Divina which is duly adapted to various circumstances; and to address a message of comfort and hope to the poor. The Synod also aims to assist in the proper application of hermeneutics in Scripture, well geared towards the process of evangelization and inculturation and to promote an ecumenical dialogue which is closely bound to the hearing of the Word of God. Finally, the Synod wishes to promote Jewish-Christian dialogue and in a wider sense, inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue.
b. Many Pastors voiced a desire that the Synod be not only informative, but actually touch lives and lead people to greater participation in the Church’s life and mission. Communicated in a language which is simple and understandable to the people, the Word of God is seen as vital, effective and penetrating (cf. Heb 4:12). In this regard, we recall that "Bible", "Sacred Scripture" and "Holy Book" are equal terms. However, in a specific context, the expression "Word of God" can also mean "Sacred Scripture".
A Season of Plentiful Fruits
5. The Christian community has had some positive experiences as a result of the dynamic activity of the Word of God. Generally speaking, they can be stated as follows:
— A renewed appreciation of the Bible in the liturgy, catechesis, and more importantly in exegetical and theological studies;
— a growing, fruitful practice of Lectio Divina in its various forms;
— the extensive distribution of the Holy Bible through biblical apostolates and the endeavours of communities, groups and ecclesial movements;
— an ever-increasing number of new readers and ministers of the Word of God;
— a greater availability of ways and means of modern communication; and
— an interest in the Bible in the field of culture.
Uncertainties and Questions
6. Some aspects of the subject, however, are an open question and pose some problems. The following are indicated in almost every local Church:
— a lack of familiarity with Dei Verbum;
— many more people are reading the Bible; however, it is being done without sufficient knowledge of the entire deposit of faith to which the Bible belongs;
— some experience difficulty in taking up and understanding Old Testament passages with the risk of their being incorrectly used;
— the liturgical approach to the Word of God at Mass is oftentimes still to be put into effect;
— the relation of the Bible to science is strained and difficult in interpreting the world and human life;
— a certain detachment from the Bible exists among the faithful; the Bible is generally not taken up and read;
— consideration needs to be given to the close bond existing between the Church’s overall moral teaching and Sacred Scripture, particularly in the Ten Commandments, the precepts of love of God and neighbour, the Sermon on the Mount and the Pauline teaching on life in the Spirit; and
— finally, the need for not only material resources in propagating the Bible but also the means for communicating it, which oftentimes are inadequate.
Varied and Demanding Circumstances of Faith
7. In treating these lights and shadows, the responses of the Pastors notably point to three aspects in living the faith which merit reflection: personal, communal and social.
a. On the personal level, too many of the faithful are reluctant to open the Bible for various reasons, especially because they feel it might be too difficult to understand. Many Christians have an intense desire to hear the Word of God which is based more on emotion than conviction, because of a scarce knowledge of doctrine. This separation of the truths of the faith and everyday life is seen primarily in encountering the Word of God in the Liturgy. In addition, a similar separation sometimes exists between biblical scholars and the Pastors and everyday people of the Christian community. Secondly, the responses acknowledge that many people are in the initial stages of direct contact with Sacred Scripture. In this regard, credit needs to be given to the various movements and the compelling example of consecrated persons.
b. Since the Word of God has fervent listeners throughout the world, it is understandable that, on the communal level, significant differences exist within the Church. In younger local Churches or those in situations where Christians are in the minority, Bible usage among the faithful is more extensive than in other places. The forms of approach vary according to the context. Today, we can speak of different approaches to the Bible in Europe, Africa, Asia, America and Oceania. The differences in the use of the Word of God, however, are always complementary, whether it be in the Latin or Eastern Churches or in relation to other Churches and ecclesial communities.
c. On the social level, the rapidly increasing process of globalization also has effects on the Church. The responses generally referred to three factors which affect the encounter with Sacred Scripture:
— secularization is influencing people’s lives, leaving them easily exposed to consumerism, relativism and religious indifference. This is particularly the case among younger generations;
— religious and cultural pluralism is leading to a rise in gnostic and esoteric forms of interpreting Sacred Scripture and the proliferation within the Church of isolated religious groups. Furthermore, the use of the Bible is increasingly causing uneasy confrontations and painful conflicts, especially for Christian minorities in non-Christian settings; and
— some strongly wish to see the Word of God as a person’s source of liberation from degrading conditions and as a real consolation to the poor and suffering.
In the programme of the new evangelization, passing on the faith ought to go hand-in-hand with an in-depth discovery of the Word of God. The Word of God should be presented as the sustenance of the Church’s faith throughout the ages.
The Structure of the Instrumentum Laboris
8. This document has three parts: the first focuses on the meaning of the Word of God, according to the faith of the Church, the second considers the Word of God in the life of the Church; and the third offers a reflection on the Word of God in the mission of the Church.
For clarity and easy reading, each part is further subdivided into chapters. In general, the aim of the Synod is to meditate upon, present and render thanks for the great mystery of the Word of God as the supreme divine gift.
THE MYSTERY OF GOD WHO SPEAKS TO US
"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, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world" (Heb 1:1-2).
The Pastors made reference in their reports to some theological subjects which are very important in their pastoral activity: e.g., the meaning of the Word of God, the mystery of Christ and the Church, the centrality of the Word of God; the Bible as the inspired Word and its truth; the interpretation of the Bible according to the faith of the Church; and the proper disposition for hearing the Word of God.
A. God who speaks to us, the meaning of the word of god
Dei Verbum presents the theology of revelation as a dialogue, which entails the following three closely-entwined aspects: the broad meaning of the term "Word of God" in Divine Revelation; the mystery of Christ, the full and perfect expression of the Word of God; and the mystery of the Church and the Sacrament of the Word of God.
The Word of God as a Hymn with Many Voices
9. The Word of God is like a hymn with many voices, proclaimed by God in a variety of ways and forms (cf. Heb 1:1). The history of Revelation is long and has many heralds, yet it is always characterized by a hierarchy in meaning and function.
a. The Word of God abides in the Trinity, from which it comes, by which it is sustained and to which it returns. The Word of God is the enduring testament to the love of the Father, to the work of salvation of the Son Jesus Christ and to the fruitful activity of the Holy Spirit. In Revelation, the Word is the Eternal Word of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Son of the Father, the foundation of communication within and outside the Trinity: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made" (Jn 1: 1-3; cf. Col 1:16).
b. Consequently, all creation tells of the glory of God (cf. Ps 19:1). At the beginning of time, God created the cosmos with his Word (cf. Gn 1:1) and sealed creation with his wisdom for which everything is his voice (cf. Sir 46:17; Ps 68:34). In a special way, the human person, because created to the image and likeness of God (cf. Gn 1:26), remains for all time the sure sign and wise interpreter of his Word. Indeed, through the Word, humanity is made capable of entering into dialogue with God and creation. God thus made all creation and the human person in primis, "an enduring witness to himself" (DV 3). Given that "all things were created through him [Christ] and for him...and in him all things hold together" (Col 1:16-17), the "’seeds of the Word,’ (AG 11, 15) a ‘ray of that truth which enlightens all men’ (NA 2); these are found in individuals and in the religious traditions of mankind (3).
c. "The Word was made flesh" (Jn 1:14): the ultimate and definitive Word of God is Jesus Christ. His Person, mission and life on earth are intimately united, according to the Father’s plan, which culminates in Easter. But that plan will not reach fulfilment until the Lord Jesus consigns the Kingdom to the Father (cf. 1 Cor 15:24). He is God’s Good News to every human person (cf. Mk 1:1).
d. In view of the Word of God who is the Son-Incarnate, the Father spoke in times past through the prophets (cf. Heb 1:1). Through the power of the Spirit, the Apostles continue to proclaim Jesus and his Gospel. Thus, the Word of God is expressed in human words in the proclamation of the prophets and Apostles.
e. Sacred Scripture is the message of revelation written down under divine inspiration. As such, it can truly be said to be the Word of God (cf. DV 24) which is entirely focussed on Jesus, because "it is they [the Scriptures] that bear witness to me" (Jn 5:39). Through the charism of divine inspiration, the Books of Sacred Scripture have a direct, concrete power of appeal not possessed by other texts or human discourses.
f. But the Word of God is not locked away in writing. Even though Revelation ended with the death of the last apostle(cf. DV 4), the Word-Revealed continues to be proclaimed and heeded throughout Church history. The Church has the responsibility to proclaim the Word to the whole world as a response to its need of salvation. In this way, the Word continues its course through vibrant preaching and its many forms of evangelization, where proclamation, catechesis, liturgical celebrations and the service of charity hold a high place. Preaching, in this sense, under the power of the Holy Spirit, is the Word of the living God communicated to living persons.
g. Like fruit coming forth from its roots, the truths of the Church’s faith, in the fields of dogma and morality, fall within the sphere of the Word of God.
From this vantage point, when God’s Revelation is proclaimed in faith, it becomes a real moment of Revelation, which can truly be called the "Word of God" in the Church.
10. Many responses from the particular Churches refer to the following pastoral implications:
— The Word of God displays all the qualities of true communication between persons, which the Bible often calls a covenant dialogue, in which God and the person speak to each other as members of the same family.
— From this vantage point, the Christian religion cannot be defined as a "religion of the Book" in an absolute sense, in that the inspired book has a vital link to the entire body of Revelation (4).
— The created world manifests the Word of God, the seed of which is found in human life and history. Consequently, many reports raise relevant questions for today concerning the natural law, the origin of the world and ecology.
— The idea of the "history of salvation" (historia salutis), so dear to the Church Fathers, as "sacred history" merits treatment within the context of Tradition. The implications from the "religion of the Incarnate Word" need to be understood, namely that the Word of God is not encased in abstract or static formulas, but has a dynamic power in history which is made up of persons and events, words and actions, developments and tensions, as the Bible clearly illustrates. The historia salutis, having completed its constitutive phase, continues its effects through time in the Church.
— The fullness of the Word of God is seen by all its manifestations, according to the role of each person. Because of its nature, Sacred Scripture immediately comes to mind as a vital force for the Church. At the same time, every act in the ministry of the Word of God must interact in a mutually beneficial and harmonic fashion. Proclamation, catechesis, the liturgy and service in charity (diaconia) have an essential role in manifesting the Word of God.
— The Pastors have the responsibility to help the faithful in acquiring a true, complete and proper understanding of the harmonious workings of the ministry of the Word, enabling them to become attentive hearers of the Word wherever it is proclaimed and to appreciate even the simplest expressions in the Bible.
B. At the centre, the mystery of christ and the church
At the Heart of the Word of God,
11. Generally speaking, Christians know that the Person of Jesus Christ is at the centre of Divine Revelation. However, they do not always know the reason for this importance, nor do they understand in what sense Jesus is at the heart of the Word of God. As a result, they weary themselves in reading the Bible with Christ in mind. This problem, mentioned in practically all the responses of those consulted, was raised because of two main concerns: firstly, to avoid any misunderstanding from a shallow, spotty reading of Scripture, and, secondly, to indicate the sure way to enter the Kingdom of God and inherit eternal life. Truly, "this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent" (Jn 17:3). The essential relation in Revelation of the Word of God to the mystery of Christ is proclamation; then, in the course of the Church’s history, the understanding of that proclamation is deepened more and more.
The following are a few theological points on this relation, which are clearly applicable in pastoral activity.
— According to Dei Verbum, God realized his plan in an entirely gratuitous manner: "He sent His Son,...the Eternal Word, who enlightens all men, so that He might dwell among men and tell them of the innermost being of God (cf. Jn 1:1-18). Jesus Christ, therefore, the Word made flesh...’speaks the words of God’ (Jn 3:34), and completes the work of salvation which his Father gave him to do (cf. Jn 5:36; 17:4)" (DV 4). Jesus took up and completely fulfilled the purpose, meaning, history and plan of the Word of God in his earthly life and, presently, from his place in heaven, because, as St. Irenaeus states, Christ "has brought us everything new in bringing himself to us (5).
— God’s plan presumes that revelation has a history. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews states: "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" (Heb 1:1-2). It follows then that Jesus as the Word of God derives his meaning from his mission, namely, his purpose is bringing others to the Kingdom of God (cf. Mt 13:1-9); he manifests himself in his words and deeds; he expresses his power in miracles; his task is breathing life into the mission of his disciples, sustaining them in the love of God and neighbour and in the care of the poor; he reveals the fullness of his truth in the Paschal mystery, awaiting its total revelation at the end of history; until then, he guides the life of the Church in time.
— At the same time, the Word of Jesus must be understood, as he himself says, according to the Scriptures (cf. Lk 24: 44-49), namely, in the history of the People of God in the Old Testament, who awaited him as Messiah, and now, in the history of the Christian community, which proclaims him through preaching, meditates upon him in the Bible, experiences his friendship and lives under his guidance. According to St. Bernard: In the plan of the Incarnation of the Word, Christ is the centre of the Scriptures. The Word of God, already audible in the first covenant, has become visible in Christ (6).
— We must not forget that "all things were created through him and for him" (Col 1:16). Jesus is central to the cosmos, the King of the Universe and the one who gives ultimate meaning to all reality. If the Word of God is likened to a hymn with many voices, the key to interpretation, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is Christ in the universal character of his mystery. "The Word of God, who in the beginning was with God, is not, in his fullness, a multiplicity of words; it is not many words but a single Word that embraces a great number of ideas of which each is a part of the Word in its totality....and if Christ sends us to the ‘Scriptures’, as the written word which renders testimony to him, he considers the books of Scripture as one book only, because all that was written of him is recapitulated in a single whole (7).
In the Heart of the Word of God,
12. Since the Church is the mystery of the Body of Christ, the Word of God is the proclamation of who she is, the grace of her conversion, the mandate of her mission, the source of her prophecy and the reason for her hope. She is constituted through an intimate dialogue with the Spouse and is made the recipient and privileged witness of the loving, salvific Word of God. To belong more and more to this "mystery" which constitutes the Church rightly results from hearing the Word of God. In this way, the continuous encounter with the Word is the source of her renewal and the font of "a new spiritual Spring" (8).
A keen awareness of belonging to the Church, the Body of Christ, will be effective only to the extent that these different relations to the Word of God are coherently followed, that is, the Word proclaimed, the Word meditated upon and studied, the Word prayed and celebrated and the Word lived and propagated. Consequently, the Word of God in the Church is not an inert deposit but the supreme rule of faith and the power of life which goes forth with the assistance of the Holy Spirit. In virtue of the Spirit, it grows with the reflection and study of Christ’s faithful into a deeply personal experience in the spiritual life. Bishops (cf. DV 8), as men of God who live the Word, bear witness to this in a particular way (9). Clearly, the primary mission of the Church is transmitting the Divine Word to everyone. History attests that this has taken place over the centuries and continues today with much success and vitality, despite various obstacles.
The opening words of Dei Verbum merit continual reflection and must be faithfully put into practice: "Hearing the Word of God with reverence and proclaiming it with a firm faith" (DV 1). The dual aspects of hearing and proclaiming the Word of God sum up the Church’s essential character. Undoubtedly, the first place is given to the Word of God. Only through the Word of God are we able to understand the Church. The Church defines herself as a "Church that hears". Only to the extent that she hears, can she also be a Church that proclaims. According to the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI: "The Church does not live on herself but on the Gospel, and in the Gospel always and ever anew finds the directions for her journey (10)".
13. Drawing upon the Word of God, the Christian community is stirred and renewed through discovering the face of Christ. Consequently, St. Jerome’s words take on a clear, compelling character: "Ignoratio enim Scripturarum, ignoratio Christi est (11)" ("Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ"). In this regard, some pressing pastoral implications are mentioned in the responses to the Lineamenta:
— to work out a programme which considers Jesus’ own rapport with Sacred Scripture, how he read the Scriptures and how they assist in understanding him; — to present simple criteria for reading the Bible with Christ in mind, thereby resolving difficulties in the Old Testament;
— to help Christ’s faithful see the Church, under the guidance of her Magisterium, as the essential place for a vital and ongoing proclamation of the Word of God;
— to provide proper instruction to those Christians who say they don’t read the Bible, because they prefer a direct, personal relationship with Jesus;
— to consider the liturgy as the primary place of encounter with the Word of God, because the Risen Lord is really present in sacramental signs;
— to emphasize continually in teaching the reading of the Bible, the priority of the Gospels, which are to be read in conjunction with the other books of the Old and New Testaments and the documents of the Church’s Magisterium.
A. The bible as the inspired word of god and its truth
14. One of the most persistent difficulties, cited by the Pastors, in Sacred Scripture’s relation to the Word of question of the Bible’s inspiration and truth. This occurs on the following three levels:
— some questions concern the Bible itself: "What does inspiration mean?", "What is the canon of Scripture?", "What kind of truth is attributed to the Scriptures?" and "What is the Bible’s historic character?";
— other questions regard the relation of Sacred Scripture to Divine Tradition and the Church’s Magisterium;
— still others touch upon difficult parts of the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. In this case, the subject of the Word of God needs to be treated in catechesis.
Sacred Scripture, the Inspired Word of God
15. Many response to the Lineamenta raise questions on the proper way to explain to Christ’s faithful the charism of inspiration and the truth contained in the Scriptures. In this regard, the relation of the Bible to the Word of God needs first to be established, the action of the Holy Spirit clarified and certain points explained on just what the Bible is.
a. The Bible is singularly united to the Word of God. The Bible itself attests to the intentional identification of the Word of God with Scripture. The Word of God is a living, effective reality (cf. Heb 4: 12-13); it is eternal (cf. Is 40:8), "all-powerful" (Wis 18:15), a creative force (cf. Gn 1:3ff) and originator of history. In the New Testament, this Word is the very Son of God, the Word made flesh (cf. Jn 1:1ff; Heb 1:2). Scripture also attests to the relationship between God and humankind, casting light upon it and guiding it in a certain way. At the same time, the Word of God extends beyond the Book, reaching humanity through the living Tradition of the Church. This understanding of the Word of God works against a private interpretation of the Bible and one confined to Scripture only. Instead, the Bible is read in a wider, unending procession of the Word of God, as shown in the fact that the Word continues to nourish generation after generation in always new and different times. With this understanding, the Christian community then becomes the agent for transmitting the Word of God, and, at the same time, the privileged place for understanding the deep meaning of Sacred Scripture in a progression of expressing the faith and, thereby, in a development of dogma. Because of this prerogative, the Church, from the very beginning, has held the books of the Bible in veneration and established with certainty a definitive list through precepts in the canon of Divine Books: 73 books, 46 of which comprise the Old Testament and 27, the New Testament (12).
b. The Spirit breathes life into the written word, placing the Book in the wider mystery of the Incarnation and the Church. The Spirit makes the Word of God a liturgical and prophetic reality, which is a proclamation (kerygma) before it is a Book and a testimonial of the Holy Spirit to the presence of Christ.
c. In summary, the following can be said with certainty:
— the charism of inspiration allows God to be the author of the Bible in a way that does not exclude humankind itself from being its true author. In fact, inspiration is different from dictation; it leaves the freedom and personal capacity of the writer in tact, while enlightening and inspiring both;
— with regards to what might be inspired in the many parts of Sacred Scripture, inerrancy applies only to "that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation" (DV 11);
— in virtue of the charism of inspiration, the Holy Spirit constitutes the books of the Bible as the Word of God and entrusts them to the Church, so that they might be received in the obedience of faith;
— the totality and organic unity of the Canon of Sacred Scripture constitutes the criterion for interpreting the Sacred Book; and
— since the Bible is the Word of God recorded in human language, its interpretation is consonant with literary, philosophic and theological criteria, always subject, however, to the unifying force of faith and the guidance of the Magisterium (13).
Tradition, Scripture and the Magisterium
16. The Second Vatican Council insists on a unity of origin and many links between Tradition and Scripture which the Church gathers "with the same sense of loyalty and reverence" (DV 9). In this regard, we recall that, in Christ, the Word of God became the Gospel or Good News (cf. Rm 1:16), and, as such, was consigned to apostolic preaching. The Word of God continues its course in the following manner:
— primarily through the current of a living Tradition manifested by "all that she [the Church] herself is, all that she believes" (DV 8), as in worship, teaching, charity, holiness and martyrdom; and
— then, through Sacred Scripture, this living Tradition is conserved, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in the unchanging written word, where those elements from which it comes and those which make it up are recorded. "This Sacred Tradition, therefore, and Sacred Scripture of both the Old and New Testaments are like a mirror in which the pilgrim Church on earth looks at God, from whom she has received everything, until she is brought in the end to see him as he is, face to face (cf. 1 Jn 3:2)" (DV 7).
Finally, the Magisterium of the Church, which is not above the Word of God, has the responsibility "to authentically interpret the Word of God, whether written or handed down", by "listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully" (DV 10). In summary, a true reading of the Scriptures as the Word of God cannot be done except in Ecclesia, in accord with her teaching.
The Old and New Testaments, a Sole Economy of Salvation
17. Knowledge of the Old Testament as the Word of God seems to be a real problem among Catholics, particularly as it relates to the mystery of Christ and the Church. Because of unresolved exegetical difficulties, many are reluctant to take up passages from the Old Testament which appear incomprehensible, leading to their being arbitrarily selected or never read at all. The faith of the Church considers the Old Testament a part of the one Christian Bible and an integral part of Revelation and, hence, the Word of God. This situation urgently requires a formation centred on a reading of the Old Testament with Christ in mind, which acknowledges the bond between the two testaments and the permanent value of the Old Testament (cf. DV 15-16) (14). This task can be assisted by liturgical practice which always proclaims the Sacred Text of the Old Testament as essential for understanding the New Testament, as witnessed by Jesus himself in the episode of Emmaus, in which the Master "beginning with Moses and all the prophets, interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself" (Lk 24:27). In this matter, St. Augustine’s statement is certainly applicable: "Novum in Vetere latet et in Novo Vetus Patet (15)" ("The New is in the Old concealed and the Old is in the New revealed"). St. Gregory the Great maintains: "what the Old Testament promised is brought to light in the New Testament; what was proclaimed in a hidden manner in the past, is proclaimed openly as present. Thus, the Old Testament announces the New Testament; and the New Testament is the best commentary on the Old (16)". This understanding has many important practical implications.
18. People are becoming increasingly aware that the Bible cannot be read in a casual manner. In discovering the Scriptures, certain Bible groups begin with an enthusiasm which progressively declines, because of the want of fertile ground, namely, an understanding of the Word of God in the mystery of grace, as Jesus taught in the parable of the sower (cf. Mt 13:20-21). This situation has the following pastoral implications:
a. Because Scripture is intimately bound to the Church, the Christian community exercises an essential role in approaching the Word of God and gives the Word its authentic character. The Church becomes the criterion for the proper understanding of Tradition, since both the liturgy and catechesis draw their nourishment from the Bible. As previously mentioned, the Books of Sacred Scripture have a direct, concrete power of appeal not possessed by other Church texts.
b. Consideration needs to be given to the practical implications of the distinction between Apostolic Tradition and Church traditions. While the former comes from the apostles and transmits what they received from Jesus and the Holy Spirit, Church traditions arise from time to time in the local Churches and are adaptions of the "great Traditions (17)". The Church’s definitive listing of the canonical books of the Bible needs to be appreciated as guaranteeing the Bible’s authenticity, given the proliferation of spurious and apocryphal books. Gnostic interpretations today, based on a popularization of truths at the beginning of Christianity, require an explanation on what the Canon of Sacred Books is and how it was compiled. This will give a proper orientation to the practice and diffusion of Sacred Scripture and show why the Church’s recognition was necessary. Study needs to be done on Scripture, Tradition and the signs of the Word of God in the created world, especially humankind and its history, because every created thing is the Word of God, since all creation proclaims God (18).
c. In giving directives and defining dogma, the Magisterium does not intend to set limits on the personal reading of Scripture. Rather, the Church’s teaching provides a sure context in which research takes place. Unfortunately, the teaching of the Magisterium and an understanding of the various levels of its pronouncements are oftentimes not well-known or accepted. The Synod is providing the occasion to rediscover Dei Verbum and later pontifical documents. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI’s different magisterial discourses on the understanding and use of the Word of God in the Bible are particularly applicable.
d. In the context of the living Tradition of the Church and, thus, as a genuine service to the Word of God, catechisms also need to be taken into consideration, from the first symbol of the faith, the nucleus of every catechism, to the various expressions of the faith promoted throughout the Church’s history, among which are, more recently, The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the respective catechisms of the local Churches.
e. At this point, a fundamental distinction needs to be made, which will have serious repercussions in pastoral practice, namely, the primary encounter with Scripture takes place in the Church’s great actions of the liturgy and catechesis, where the Bible itself is placed in the context of public ministry. In addition, Lectio Divina, Bible courses and Bible groups are also means for an immediate encounter. These are being promoted today to counteract a certain distancing of the People of God from the direct, personal use of Sacred Scripture.
f. The Old Testament is to be understood as a stage in the development of the faith and coming to know God. Its figurative character and its relationship to the scientific and historical mentality of our times need clarification. At the same time, numerous Old Testament passages have a spiritual, acute and uniquely cultural force. They provide a rich catechesis on human realities and illustrate stages in the journey of faith of the People of God. Knowing and reading the Gospels do not exclude a greater understanding of the Old Testament; instead the Old Testament gives a greater depth to the reading and understanding of the New Testament.
g. Finally, a practical pastoral vision requires some observations which can help the faithful better discern their relation to the teaching of the faith. General speaking, the faithful set the Bible apart from other religious texts and give it great importance in living the faith. However, in practice, many prefer to read easily understood spiritual books, edifying talks or writings and various other works associated with popular piety. Some hold that people encounter the Word of God in a practical way by living it in their lives more than by knowing its origin or reasoning, thus creating a tenuous situation. Speaking in an understandable manner is needed. Pastoral activity then must devise ways to help the faithful come to know what the Bible is, why it exists, its value in the life of faith and how to use it.
B. Interpreting the Bible according to the faith of the Church
The Hermeneutic Problem from a Pastoral Perspective
19. Hermeneutics, in which the Word of God and inculturation (19) are realized, is an important yet delicate subject. God’s communicating with a person is not a transmission of some kind of more or less interesting information, and even less purely of the human or academic order. Instead, his communication is his word of truth and salvation, which, on the part of the one who hears, requires an intelligent, vital and real response. This involves a dual movement, one coming from a person’s having a proper sense of the spoken or written Word, just as the Lord communicates it through the sacred authors, and another coming from the Word itself, having a real significance for the person who hears it today.
Listening to Experience
20. The bishops’ responses mention that Christ's faithful are dedicating themselves to interpreting the Word, notwithstanding apparent contradictions. Many Christians, individually or in groups, intently read the Word of God with a readiness to understand what God says and to faithfully obey it. The Church sees a valuable opportunity in this faithful willingness to provide assistance in understanding the Sacred Text properly and applying it to everyday life. In a certain way, this is especially true today (kair s), because Scripture reading can provide a fresh encounter of the Word of God with human learning, particularly in philosophical, scientific and historical research. This contact between the Word and culture can help people come to a knowledge of the truth and values concerning God, humanity and things. In the process, reason seeks faith, resulting in people working together for truth and life in accordance with God’s Revelation and the aspirations of humankind.
At the same time, this phenomenon is not without the risk that the Scriptures will be interpreted arbitrarily or literally, as in fundamentalism. On the one hand, this approach shows a desire to remain faithful to the text, but on the other hand, it displays a lack of knowledge of the texts themselves. In this way, it falls into serious errors and also creates useless controversy (20). Another danger in Bible reading can come from viewing the Scriptures with a certain "ideology" or simply as human words apart from faith (cf. 2 Pt 1:19-20; 3:16), resulting in opposing opinions or different versions of the Bible. The Bible powerfully proclaims the Word and is the source of life for believers. Generally speaking, the reports speak of a scarce or imprecise knowledge of the hermeneutical rules of the Word.
The Meaning of the Word of God and How to Find It
21. Today, other aspects of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and subsequent documents of the Magisterium require detailed examination so that the Word can be properly communicated in the Church’s pastoral activity (21). The Bible, the Book of God and man, has to be read with a correct blending of its historical-literal sense and the theological-spiritual sense, or more simply, its spiritual sense (22). The Note cited by the Pontifical Biblical Commission on the subject states: "As a general rule, the spiritual sense, as defined by the Christian faith, is the meaning expressed by the biblical texts, when they are read under the influence of the Holy Spirit in the context of the Paschal Mystery of Christ and the new life which comes from it. This context effectively exists. The New Testament recognizes in it the fulfilment of the Scriptures. Therefore, the Scriptures are customarily re-read in light of this new context, that of life in the Spirit (23)".
A proper exegesis of the text, therefore, must be based on the historical-critical method, enriched by other approaches (24). This is the basis for interpreting Scripture. However, to arrive at its complete and total sense, the theological criteria, set forth in Dei Verbum, need to be considered and attention given to: "the content and unity of the whole of Scripture...the living tradition of the whole Church...along with the harmony which exists between elements of the faith" (DV 12) (25).
Today, thorough theological and pastoral reflection is necessary in forming Church communities in a proper and fruitful knowledge of Sacred Scripture as the Word of God. Pope Benedict XVI observed in the matter: "I would very much like to see theologians learn to interpret and love Scripture as the Council desired, in accordance with Dei Verbum: may they experience the inner unity of Scripture—something that today is helped by "canonical exegesis" (still to be found, of course, in its timid first stages)—and then make a spiritual interpretation of it that is not externally edifying but rather an inner immersion in the presence of the Word. It seems to me a very important task to do something in this regard, to contribute to providing an introduction to living Scripture as an up-to-date Word of God beside, with and in historical-critical exegesis "(26).
22. As the Church leads the People of God to discover the great prospects of the Word of God, she attempts to avoid making Bible reading sound too complicated. Surely, the most important matters in the Bible are those most directly linked to daily life, as was the case with Jesus. The following are some key points in properly interpreting the Holy Book.
a. First of all, the interpretation of the Word of God is accomplished each time the Church comes together for the celebration of the Sacred Mysteries. The Introduction to the Lectionary containing the readings proclaimed during the Eucharist has the following to say on the subject: "Since, by the will of Christ himself, the new People of God is unique in the wonderful variety of its members and also in the diversity of tasks and offices which each has in relation to the Word of God: the faithful have the responsibility to listen to and meditate on it; but to explain it is the responsibility only of those who by right of sacred ordination have the task of teaching or those who have been entrusted with the exercise of this ministry. Thus, in her teaching, life and worship, the Church carries on and transmits to all generations all that she herself is and all that she believes. In this way, she constantly ensures that the Word of God, in the fullness of divine truth, is realized in her throughout the ages" (27).
b. We should remember that "the spiritual sense is not to be confused with subjective interpretations dictated by the imagination or from intellectual speculation. It arises from three levels of reality: the Biblical text (in its literal sense), the Paschal Mystery and the circumstances present in the life in the Spirit (28)". In every case, the biblical text is the indispensable starting point in interpretation as it is in pastoral activity.
c. Since the Note of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, entitled The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, does not seem to have been read outside the circle of experts, the faithful should be encouraged to read it to help them know the basic rules on how to approach a biblical text. Aids provided for this purpose are of great value.
d. In this matter, the outstanding exegesis of the Church Fathers (29) should be taken up again and properly understood as well as the great medieval institutions of the "four senses of Scripture", and interest in them kept alive. Not to be overlooked are the various biblical practices and traditions which have sprung up in the People of God through the saints, spiritual masters and confessors. In this regard, theological and human learning can also serve a purpose as well as the "history of effects" (Wirkungsgeschichte), especially in art, which abounds with examples of a spiritual reading of the Bible. Since the reading of the Bible by non-believers today shows its anthropological value, an interpretation of this aspect might prove enriching. Sacred Scripture is read in union with the Church, in all places and times, in the company of the great cloud of witnesses to the Word, from the very first of the Church Fathers, the many lives of the saints over the centuries to the Magisterium of today (30).
e. In addition to treating the classic questions associated with the Bible, a request was made that the Synod also consider, from the same biblical perspective, the present-day problems posed by bioethics and inculturation. Bible groups have frequently asked: "How do we go from our everyday lives to the Bible text and from the Bible text to our everyday lives?" and "How can we read the Bible with our lives and our lives with the Bible?"
f. A new problem in biblical hermeneutics is emerging in the course of communicating the faith, requiring not only understanding what the Bible says but also a familiarity with the present-day culture, which is less bound to the oral and written word and more oriented towards electronic communication. With people being bombarded by all kinds of information technology, traditional forms of proclaiming the Word might be difficult for the hearer.
The disposition required to hear the word
The bishops’ responses to the Lineamenta point to the need to cultivate among the people, individually and in groups, the practice of praying with the Word of God, which can prompt and nourish a response in faith.
An Efficacious Word
23. The main figures involved in the communication of the Word are the God who proclaims and the recipient, either individually or a community. If God speaks and the believer is not listening, the Word is spoken but not heard. Revelation in the Bible can therefore be said to be an encounter between God and people who, in experiencing the one and only Word, together actually "do" the Word. Faith acts and the Word creates faith.
The passage in Hebrews 4:12-13 together with that of Isaiah 55: 9-11, not to mention many other biblical texts, attest to the unfailing effectiveness of the Word of God. How is this effectiveness understood? Various reports from the bishops indicate that this question still needs to be raised, because, at times, new Christians attribute almost magical powers to reading the Bible, without personal commitment and responsibility. In fact, the parable of the sower (cf. Mk 4: 1-20) teaches that the Word of God shows its effectiveness, when obstacles are removed and the proper conditions exist for the seed of the Word to produce fruit.
The Word’s effectiveness is shown in the Gospel passage in which the seed must die to produce fruit. Christ says that his death was necessary to fulfil the plan of salvation. The cross then is the power and wisdom of God. St. Paul tells the Christians at Corinth that the Gospel is the "word of the cross" (1 Cor 1:18). The Word’s effectiveness then comes from the cross; both the Word and the cross are two aspects of a single plan. Their power is grounded in the dynamism of divine love: "God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son" (Jn 3:16; cf. Rm 5:8). The fruits of the Word are obtained by the person who believes in the love of God, who speaks the Word. In this way, the potentiality of the Word of God is activated, realized and made truly personal.
The Believer: One Who Hears the Word of God in Faith
24. "The obedience of faith is owed to the God who reveals." The person is to listen to the One who gives through speaking, "freely surrendering his entire self" (DV 5). In a person’s inner depths, where the Word is heard, God gives the grace to respond in faith. This leads to a disposition in each believer and entire communities to totally accept the invitation of full communion with God and to do his will. (cf. DV 2). This disposition of faith and communion is witnessed in every encounter with the Word in spirited preaching and the reading of the Bible. For this reason, in approaching the Scriptures, Dei Verbum recommends what is universally confirmed about the Word of God: "God...speaks to men and women as to a friend...so that he might invite and take them into fellowship with himself." (DV 2). "In the Sacred Books, the Father who is in heaven meets his children with great love and speaks with them" (DV 21). Revelation is a communion of love, which is oftentimes expressed in Sacred Scripture in terms of covenant. In summary, through a proper disposition in prayer, "God and man talk together; for ‘we speak to Him when we pray; we hear Him, when we read the divine sayings’" (DV 25) (31).
The Word of God transforms the lives of those who approach him in faith. The Word never fails; it is renewed each day. This requires, however, faith in the hearer. In many instances, Scripture attests that hearing is what makes Israel the People of God: "If you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples" (Ex 19:5; cf. Jer 11:4). Hearing leads to belonging; hearing creates a bond and permits entrance into a covenant. In the New Testament, we are directed to hear the Person of Jesus, the Son of God: "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him" (Mt 17:5).
The believer is one who hears. The person who hears proclaims the presence of the one who speaks and desires to become involved with him. The person who hears creates a living space in his heart for the other. The person who hears confides in the one who speaks. Therefore, the Gospels call for a discernment of what is heard (cf. Mk 4:24) and how it is heard (cf. Lk 8:18). Indeed, we are what we hear! The human being described in the Bible is a person capable of hearing, having a heart that hears (cf. 1 Kgs 3:9). This kind of hearing is not simply listening to passages from the Bible but a process of discerning the Word of God in the Spirit, which demands faith and must come from the Holy Spirit.
Mary: Every Believer’s Model for Receiving the Word
25. Salvation history has great examples of hearers and evangelizers of the Word of God: Abraham, Moses, the prophets, Sts. Peter and Paul, the other Apostles and the evangelists. In faithfully hearing the Lord’s Word and communicating it to others, these people created a space for the Kingdom of God.
From this vantage point, the Virgin Mary assumes a central role as one who lived, in singular fashion, the encounter with the Word of God, who is Jesus himself. She is then a model of every aspect of hearing and proclaiming. Already possessing a familiarity with the Word of God in her intense experience of the Scriptures of the Chosen People, Mary of Nazareth, from the moment of the Annunciation to her presence at the foot of the Cross, and even to her participation at Pentecost, receives the Word in faith, meditates upon it, interiorizes it and intensely lives it (cf. Lk 1:38; 2:19, 51, Acts 17:11)). Because of her uninterrupted response of "yes" to the Word of God, she knows how to take into account what is happening around her and live the necessities of daily life, fully aware that what she receives as a gift from the Son is a gift meant for everyone: in the service of Elizabeth, at Cana and at the foot of the cross (cf. Lk 1:39; Jn 2:1-12; 19: 25-27). Therefore, the words, uttered by Jesus in her presence, are appropriately applied to her as well, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it" (Lk 8:21). "Since Mary is completely imbued with the Word of God, she is able to become the Mother of the Word Incarnate" (32).
Mary’s way of hearing the Word of God deserves special consideration. The Gospel text, "Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Lk 2:19), means that she heard and knew the Scriptures, meditated upon them in her heart in an interior process of maturation, where the mind is not separated from the heart. Mary sought the spiritual sense of the Scriptures and found it, associating it (symallousa) with the written words, the life of Jesus and the moments of discovery in her personal history. Mary is our model not only for receiving the faith which is the Word, but also for studying it. It is not enough for her to receive it. She reflects on it. She not only possesses it, but values it. She not only gives it her assent, but also develops it. In doing so, Mary becomes an example of faith for all of us, from the most simple soul to the most scholarly of the Doctors of the Church, who seek, consider and set forth how to bear witness to the Gospel.
In receiving the Good News, Mary is the ideal model of the obedience of faith, becoming a living icon of the Church in service to the Word. Isaac of Stella states: "In the inspired Scriptures, what is said in a universal sense of the virgin mother, the Church, is understood in an individual sense of the Virgin Mary.... The Lord’s inheritance is, in a general sense, the Church; in a special sense, Mary; and in an individual sense, the Christian. Christ dwelt for nine months in the tabernacle of Mary’s womb, he dwells until the end of the ages in the tabernacle of the Church’s faith. He will dwell for ever in the knowledge and love of each faithful soul (33)". She teaches us not to stand by as idle spectators before the Word of Life, but to become participants, making our own the "here I am" of the prophet (cf. Is 6:8) and allowing ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit, who abides in us. She "magnifies" the Lord, discovering in her life the mercy of God, who makes her "blessed," because "she believed that there would be a fulfilment of what had been spoken to her from the Lord" (Lk 1:45). St. Ambrose says that every Christian believer conceives and begets the Word of God. According to the flesh, Christ has only one mother; but, according to the faith, everyone gives him birth (34).
26. The following are important pastoral implications concerning faith in the Word of God.
a. Faith may not be necessary in reading the Bible. However, Faith is indeed necessary, if a person is to hear the Word of God in the Bible. A Bible group does well if its members, while reading the Bible, also receive instruction in the faith, so they can conform their lives as Christians to the indications offered in the Bible as well as bring faith to bear in difficult times.
b. People today need to hear a positive and encouraging message which offers various ways of approaching the biblical texts in a spiritual reading of the Bible, in prayer, in sharing the Word, etc.... This is done primarily in viewing the Word not so much as a static deposit of dogmatic truth or pastoral reference, but a font of living water, where a person joyously awaits to hear the Lord through the events of everyday life. The complete hermeneutic circle must be followed, namely, to believe so as to understand, and to understand so as to believe; faith seeks understanding and understanding opens the way to faith. The story of Emmaus remains an exemplary model of the believer’s encounter with the Incarnate Word (cf. Lk 24:13-35).
c. "Hear, O Israel!", "Shema Israel", is the first commandment of the People of God (Deut 6:4). "Hear" is also the first word of St. Benedict’s Rule. God invites the faithful to hear with the ears of their heart. In the Bible, the heart is not only the seat of feelings or emotion, but the in-depth core of the person, where decisions are made. Therefore, a prolonged silence, unable to be put into words, must be there, so that the Holy Spirit can reveal the intent and understanding of the Word of God and unite himself silently to our spirit (cf. Rom 8: 26-27).
d. Each person needs to hear like Mary and with Mary, the Mother and Teacher of the Word of God. In the mysteries of the Rosary, Mary provides the simple, universally applicable form to prayerfully hearing the Word. Pope John Paul II has highlighted the richness of this prayer, calling it "the Gospel compendium", where the announcement of the mystery "allows God to speak" and permits "contemplating Christ with Mary" (35). Moreover, the Church, like the Virgin Mary, the Temple of the Spirit, in her silent, humble and hidden life, learns to bear witness to this close relationship between the Word and Silence and the Word and the Spirit of God. In the believer, this causes the hearing of the Word in faith to become understanding, meditation, communion, sharing and fulfilment, which are the components of Lectio Divina, the privileged manner of approaching the Bible with faith.
e. A disposition of faith is linked to the Word of God in all its signs and expressions. Faith receives a communication of truth from the Word through a story or doctrinal formula. Faith recognizes the Word of God to be the initial stimulus towards a fruitful conversion, the light to respond to the many questions of the believer, the guidance in wisely discerning reality and an invitation to do the Word (cf. Lk 8:21) and not simply to read it or speak it; and, finally, the enduring font of consolation and hope. Thus, believers must work towards recognizing and ensuring the primacy of the Word of God in their lives, receiving it as the Church announces it, understands it, explains it and lives it.
f. Finally, methods, employing appropriate means, need to be devised to communicate the Word to the many people who are unable to read.
THE WORD OF GOD IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it." (Is 55:9-11)
The Word of God gives life to the Church
When the Holy Spirit begins his activity in the life of the People, one of the first and most compelling signs of his presence is a love for the Word of God in the Scriptures and a desire to know it more. This is so, because the Word of Scripture is a word personally addressed by God, like a letter, to each one, in the concrete circumstances of life. The communication has an extraordinary immediateness and power of penetrating to the core of the human being. In fact:
– the Church is born from the Word of God and lives by it;
– the Word of God sustains the Church throughout her history;
– the Word of God permeates and animates, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the entire life of the Church.
The Church is born and lives by the Word of God
27. The Acts of the Apostles says that when Paul and Barnabas arrived in Antioch "they gathered the Church together and declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles" (Acts 14:27).
As happened at Antioch and in the assembly of Jerusalem in the people’s listening to Barnabas and Paul (cf. Acts 15:12), the Synod will surely witness "the miracles and prodigies"of the Word. Indeed, the particular Churches report many experiences of the Word of God: in the Eucharist; in Lectio Divina on the individual and communal level; in days dedicated to the Bible; in Bible courses; in Gospel groups and those which hear the Word of God; in diocesan biblical programmes; in spiritual exercises; in pilgrimages to the Holy Land; in celebrations of the Word; and in music, art, literature and cinema.
The Lineamenta responses provide the following examples:
— After the Second Vatican Council, the Word of God is being read more and more, primarily in reference to the Eucharistic liturgy. Many Churches give the Bible a privileged place, exposing it in a visible way next to the altar or on the altar, as is the case in the Eastern Churches.
— Churches are notably increasing their efforts to make Sacred Scripture accessible to people. Episcopal conferences, dioceses, parishes religious communities, associations and movements are involved in the great undertaking of the Word of God in a totally new manner for the past ten years.
— In response to a growing desire, people are being introduced to a taste for the Word of God; in some cases it is a priority in relation to other demands of pastoral service. Having a taste for the Jesus of the Gospel remains the basic need of people, even those most unawares.
— Familiarity with the Word of God takes many forms. In the ancient Christian world, the Bible was more of a lived experience than a document to be read. Data from one part of the world indicates that a meaningful use of the Bible needs to significantly increase and that the faithful should become better aware of the fundamental, decisive role of the Word of God in their Christian lives.
— In other geographic areas, a problem arises more from a scarcity of means, especially Bible translations. The efforts which our oftentimes poorer brothers and sisters make to come in contact with the Word of God is truly edifying. An important reference to this is found in the Note of the Pontifical Biblical Commission: "there is reason to rejoice in seeing the Bible in the hands of people of lowly condition and the poor; they can bring to its interpretation and to its actualization a more penetrating light, because of their spiritual and existential point of view, than that which comes from a learning that relies upon its own resources alone" (37).
— A paradox is increasingly evident: the faithful’s hunger for the Word of God is not always receiving an adequate response in the preaching of the Church’s Pastors, because of a deficiency in seminary preparation or pastoral practice.
The Word of God Sustains the Church throughout History
28. The People of God is unceasingly drawing its energy from the Word. The Word is not static; the Word speeds on (cf. 2 Thess 3:1) and descends as a fruitful rain from heaven (cf. Is 55:10-11). This was the case when the prophets spoke to the people, when Jesus spoke to the crowd and his disciples and when the apostles spoke to the first communities, on through the ages until our day. We can well say that the service of the Word of God characterizes the various epochs recorded in the Bible and, subsequently, in the history of the Church.
In the patristic era, the Scriptures were the centre and source of theology, spirituality and the pastoral life. The Church Fathers are the unequalled masters of what is called the "spiritual" reading of the Scriptures, which, when done faithfully, does not destroy the "letter," that is, the concrete, historical sense, but allows a reading of the "letter" in the Spirit. In the Middle Ages, Sacred Scripture was also the basis of theological reflection. The approach at the time distinguished four senses of reading Scripture (literal, allegorical, moral and anagogical) (38). The age-old tradition of Lectio Divina is a monastic form of prayer. It serves as a source of artistic inspiration and is transmitted to the faithful through various forms of preaching and popular piety. Today, an increasingly critical spirit, scientific progress and divisions among Christians and the consequent duty of ecumenism, are leading—not without difficulty and debate—to a more proper methodological approach and a better understanding of the mystery of Scripture in the heart of Tradition. At present, the Church is experiencing a renewal based on the centrality of the Word of God, the great plan of the Second Vatican Council, which continues to the time of this Synod.
In the overall picture of the Church’s living Tradition, each particular Church develops its own traditions and proper character over time. In the process, history still shows signs of the possibility of links, influence and exchanges among the Churches. In this case, the responses to the Lineamenta can be divided into two parts. On the one hand, the Word of God can be seen to be spreading through the work of evangelization in the particular Churches of the five continents. The Word is progressively being inculturated in them, thereby becoming a source of animation of the faith of many people, the basis of the Church’s communion, a testimony to the inexhaustible richness of the mystery of the Word and the lasting font of inspiration and transformation of culture and society. On the other hand, the biblical apostolate seems to be encountering difficulties not only because of historical reasons related to when evangelization was begun but also because of real problems in faith, arising from different situations in life or the lack of economic resources.
The Word of God Permeates and Animates Every Aspect of the Church’s Life, Through the Power of the Holy Spirit.
29. The use of the Bible, the conception of the Church and pastoral practice are all correlated. When the Holy Spirit creates harmony between the Scriptures and the community, this correlation is properly achieved. Consequently, respecting the interior need which moves the community to encounter the Word of God is very important. At the same time, certain tendencies must be held in check, e.g., an exaggerated spontaneity, overly subjective experiences and superstitious practices. Attention also needs to focus on what the scriptural text is saying, reflecting on it so as to understand its literal sense before applying it to life. This is not always easy, because of the risk of fundamentalism. This phenomenon affects anthropology, sociology and psychology, but, it is applied in a particular way to the reading of the Bible and its subsequent interpretation of the world. In Bible reading, fundamentalism takes refuge in literalism and refuses to take into consideration the historical dimension of biblical revelation. It is thus unable to fully accept the Incarnation itself. This kind of interpretation is winning more and more adherents...even among Catholics. It demands an unshakable adherence to rigid doctrinal points of view and imposes, as the only source of teaching for Christian life and salvation, a reading of the Bible which rejects all questioning and any kind of critical research" (39). The extreme form of this type of tendency exists in the sects, where Scripture is isolated from the dynamic and life-giving action of the Spirit. As a result, the community atrophies and is no longer a living body, but becomes a closed group which does not admit inner differences and plurality and displays an aggressive attitude towards ways of thinking differing from its own (40).
Instead, a community needs to keep alive a docility to the Holy Spirit, and avoid the risk of extinguishing the Spirit through an excessive activism or the showy aspects of the life of faith. Likewise, the community should resists the danger of making the Church a bureaucracy, limiting pastoral activity to its institutional aspects and reducing Bible reading to one activity among others.
30. Jesus said that the Spirit guides the Church to the whole truth (cf. Jn 16:13), allowing her to understand the true sense of the Word of God and ultimately leading her to the encounter with the Word itself, the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth. The Spirit is the soul and interpreter of Sacred Scripture, which, therefore, "must be read and interpreted in the sacred Spirit in which it was written" (DV 12). Guided by the Spirit, the Church seeks to move ahead towards a deeper understanding so as to feed her children. In doing so, she also draws in a special way from the study of the Fathers of the Eastern and Western Churches (cf. DV 23), from theological and exegetical research and from the lives of the saints and witnesses to the faith.
In this regard, the line from the Pr notanda on the subject of the Lectionary is worth quoting: "The working of the Holy Spirit is needed if the Word of God is to make what we hear outwardly have its effect inwardly. Because of the Holy Spirit's inspiration and support, the Word of God becomes the foundation of the liturgical celebration and the rule and support of all our life. The working of the Holy Spirit precedes, accompanies and brings to completion the whole celebration of the Liturgy. But the Spirit also brings home (cf. Jn 14:15-17, 25, 26; 15:26-16:15) to each person individually everything that is spoken in the proclamation of the Word of God for the good of the whole gathering of the faithful. In strengthening the unity of all, the Holy Spirit also fosters a diversity of gifts and furthers their multiform operation" (41).
The Christian community is being built up each day, allowing itself to be guided by the Word of God, under the action of the Holy Spirit, who gives light, conversion and consolation. Indeed, "for whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope" (Rm 15:4). The primary work of Pastors is to assist the faithful in understanding how to encounter the Word of God under the guidance of the Spirit. In a particular way, they are to teach how this process takes place in the spiritual reading of the Bible with a disposition of listening and prayer. In this regard, St. Peter Damascene states: "Whoever has experienced the spiritual sense of the Scriptures knows that the simplest word of Scripture and the most profound are uniquely one, both having the salvation of humankind as their purpose" (42).
31. If the Word of God is the source of life for the Church, Sacred Scripture must essentially be considered as a vital food. This involves:
a. maintaining a constant check on the effective place the Word of God has in life of the community, on the most constructive experiences and the recurring risks.
b. understanding the history and the diffusion of the Word of God in one’s own community, diocese, nation, continent and the Church in general, in order to recognize the great wonders of God (magnalia Dei), to perceive better what needs are to be addressed and what initiatives must be undertaken and to raise solidarity with communities through material and spiritual resources.
c. realizing, in an incisive manner, a pastoral program animated by the Word of God and recognizing and promoting the unique role of the particular Churches in communion among themselves. Their fruitful initiatives as the People of God, united to the Bishop, from which great and small experiences arise, create the continuous activity of the Word of God in the different communities.
The Word of God in the many services of the Church
Ministry of the Word
32. "Like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture" (DV 21). This specific obligation, recalled at the Second Vatican Council, requires real effort.
The particular Churches are undertaking programmes of service to the Word of God in various settings and situations. A prime place is being given to experiencing the Word of God in the Eucharistic liturgy and the sacraments. Responses recommend Lectio Divina as an ideal, that is, the prayerful reading of the Word of God, individually or in groups. Catechesis should serve as an introduction to Sacred Scripture and its programmes and catechisms themselves, not to mention preaching and popular piety, should be grounded in the Bible. Furthermore, a biblical apostolate needs to create an encounter with the Word of God through forming and guiding Bible groups in such a way as to ensure that the Word, the Bread of Life, also becomes the material bread of assistance to the poor and suffering. Study and meetings, especially in interreligious and intercultural exchanges, urgently need to give an appreciable place to the Word of God in relation to culture and the human spirit. To realize these objectives requires an attentive faith, an apostolic zeal and a creative, well-done, ongoing pastoral programme, geared at promoting the spirit of communion. The need for a pastoral programme continually based on the Bible has never been greater.
From the perspective of unity and interaction, the dynamic character of the Word of God’s encounter with the person needs to be recognized and fully assisted, a dynamism which underlies all the Church’s pastoral activity. By necessity, the Word proclaimed and heard becomes the Word celebrated in the Liturgy and sacraments, so as to inspire a life lived according to the Word in communion, charity and mission (43).
An Experience in Liturgy and Prayer
33. Particular Churches have many experiences in common. For a majority of Christians the world over, the celebration of the Eucharist on Sundays is the sole encounter with the Word of God. The People of God have a growing consciousness of the importance of liturgies of the Word of God, prompted in part by the reference and revision of them in the new Lectionary. In this regard, some responses mention that they want to see a better thematic coordination of the three readings as well as a greater fidelity in translations to the original texts. Homilies could clearly stand improvement. In certain cases, the Liturgy of the Word is serving as a form of Lectio Divina. Work remains in encouraging the lay faithful’s participation in praying the Liturgy of the Hours. At the same time, some indicate that the People of God have never really been introduced to a theology of the Word of God in the liturgy. Some still live it passively, unaware of its sacramental character and unmindful of the riches contained in the Introductions of the liturgical books, sometimes because bishops lack interest. The many signs and gestures proper to the Liturgy of the Word are oftentimes an external formality without interior understanding. On occasion, the relation of the Word of God to the sacraments, particularly the Sacrament of Penance, appears to be given little value.
The Theological-Pastoral Foundation: Word, Spirit, Liturgy and Church
34. Persons in every area of Church life need a better understanding of the liturgy as the privileged place of the Word of God, where the Church is built-up. Consequently, some fundamental points are important to bear in mind.
— The Bible is the book of a people and for a people, received as an inheritance and a testament given to readers to make present in its life the history of salvation therein recorded in writing. Therefore, a mutual, life-giving relationship exists between the People and the book. The Bible becomes alive in the People’s reading it. The People cannot exist without the Book, because it contains its reason for existence, its calling and its very identity.
— The mutual relationship between the People and Sacred Scriptue is celebrated in the liturgical assembly, which is the place where the work of receiving the Bible takes place. In this regard, the discourse of Jesus in the Synagogue at Nazareth (cf. Lk 4:16-21) takes on a particular significance. What took place then also takes place each time the Word of God is proclaimed in the liturgy.
— The proclamation of the Word of God in the Scriptures results from the action of the Spirit. The power which made the Word into a book, now, in the liturgy, transforms the book into the Word. Indeed, the liturgical tradition in Alexandria has a double epiclesis, namely, an invocation of the Spirit before the proclamation of the readings and a second after the homily (44). The Spirit guides the presider in the prophetic task of understanding, proclaiming and adequately explaining the Word of God to the assembly and, in a parallel way, invoking a just and worthy reception of the Word by the gathered community.
— Through the Holy Spirit, the liturgical assembly hears Christ "himself who speaks when the Holy Scriptures are read in the Church" (SC 7) and receives the covenant, which God renews with his People. Thus, Scripture and the liturgy converge in the single purpose of bringing the People into dialogue with the Lord. The Word which goes forth from the mouth of God and is attested to in the Scriptures returns to God in the form of the prayerful response of the People (cf. Is 55:10-11).
— During liturgical celebrations, the proclamation of the Word in the Scriptures is a deeply dynamic dialogue, a dialogue which reaches its highest degree of dynamism in the Eucharistic assembly. Throughout the history of the People of God, both in biblical and post-biblical times, the Bible has been, from the very beginning, the book providing assistance in God’s relationship with his People, namely, the book of worship and prayer. Indeed, the Liturgy of the Word "is not so much a time for meditation and catechesis as a dialogue between God and his People, a dialogue in which the wonders of salvation are proclaimed and the demands of the Covenant are continually restated" (45).
— An integral part of the Word’s relation to the liturgical action is praying the Liturgy of the Hours. Though deeply important for the entire Church, the Liturgy of the Hours has particular significance in the consecrated life. The Liturgy of the Hours is particularly adapt in a formation to prayer, primarily because the Psalms best illustrate the divine-human character of Sacred Scripture. The Psalms are the school of prayer, where the person who sings or recites them learns to hear, interiorize and interpret the Word of God.
— In addition to receiving the Word of God in personal and communal prayer, all Christians have the unavoidable responsibility to receive it in liturgical prayer. This requires a new outlook towards Sacred Scripture, one which sees the Bible more than a written book, but a proclamation of and testimony to the Person of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. According to a previously cited passage from the Second Vatican Council, "Christ is present in his Word, since it is he himself who speaks when the Holy Scriptures are read in the Church" (SC 7). Consequently, "Sacred Scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy" (SC 24).
The Word of God and the Eucharist
35. Oftentimes, the Liturgy of the Word is not sufficiently prepared or is not properly linked to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. An intimate bond exists between the Word and the Eucharist as seen in scriptural testimony (cf. Jn 6), confirmed by the Fathers of the Church and reasserted by the Second Vatican Council (cf. SC 48, 51, 56; DV 21, 26; AG 6, 15; PO 18; PC 6). In this regard, the Church’s great Tradition has many significant expressions which can serve as examples: "Corpus Christi intelligitur etiam Scriptura Dei" ("The Divine Scriptures are also considered the Body of Christ") (46), and "Ego Corpus Iesu Evangelium puto" ("I consider the Gospel to be the Body of Christ") (47).
The increasing consciousness of Christ’s presence in the Word is proving beneficial in the immediate preparation for the celebration of the Eucharist as well as in the action of uniting oneself with the Lord in the celebration of the Word. Consequently, this Synod, while always maintaining the priority of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, looks to reflect in a special manner on the relation of the Word of God to the Eucharist (48). St. Jerome observes in the matter: "The Lord’s flesh is real food and his blood real drink; this is our true good in this present life: to nourish ourselves with his flesh and to drink his blood in not only the Eucharist but also the reading of Sacred Scripture. In fact, the Word of God, drawn from the knowledge of the Scriptures, is real food and real drink" (49).
The Word and the Economy of the Sacraments
36. The Word must be lived in the economy of the Sacraments, being seen as not only the communication of truth, teachings and moral precepts, but the reception of power and grace. Such an understanding not only creates an encounter for the person who hears in faith, but makes it a real celebration of the covenant.
Some responses call for consideration to equally be given to various forms of encountering the Word in the liturgical action, the sacraments, the celebration of the liturgical year, the Liturgy of the Hours and sacramentals. Particular attention needs to be given to the Liturgy of the Word in the celebration of the three Sacraments of Christian Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. A renewed consciousness is required in proclaiming the Word during various celebrations, particularly the individual celebration of the Sacrament of Penance. An appreciation of the Word of God is also called for in the many forms of preaching and popular piety.
37. The Eucharist, specifically the Sunday Eucharist, deserves primary attention in pastoral activity, because "the table of the Word and the Bread of Life" are intimately bound together (DV 21). The Eucharist is "the privileged place where communion is ceaselessly proclaimed and nurtured" (50).Since Sunday Mass is the sole moment of sacramental encounter with the Lord for most Christians, zealously fostering authentic, joyous Eucharistic Liturgies becomes both a task and a gift. The principal aim of proclamation and the Christian life in general is the Eucharist, celebrated in a manner which shows the intimate union of Word, sacrifice and communion.
Care is needed in ensuring that the various parts of the Liturgy of the Word proceed in an harmonic way (the proclamation of the readings, the homily, the profession of faith and the prayer of the faithful), mindful of their intimate connection with the Eucharistic liturgy (51). The One spoken of in the texts makes himself present in the total sacrifice of himself to the Father.
Introductions to liturgical books, which explain elements in the liturgy, need to be given greater value, especially the Prænotanda of the Roman Missal, the Anaphore of the Eastern Churches, the Ordo Lectionum Missæ, the Lectionaries, and the Divine Office, all of which should be included in the liturgical formation of Pastors and the faithful, together with the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council.
Less division of passages and greater fidelity to original texts are needed in translation work. Since rite and word are to be intimately connected in the liturgy (cf. SC 35), encountering the Word of God comes about through the specific character of the signs at play in the liturgical celebration, for example, the positioning of the ambo, the care of the liturgical books, a proper style of reading, and the procession and incensation of the Gospel.
In the Liturgy of the Word, maximum attention should be given to a clear, understandable proclamation of the texts and a homily based on the Word (52). This requires competent, well-prepared readers who, for this purpose, need to be formed in schools, even ones which might be established by the diocese. At the same time, the Word of God might be better understood, if the lector made a brief introduction on the meaning of the reading to be proclaimed.
In the homily, preachers need to make a greater effort to be faithful to the biblical text and mindful of the condition of the faithful, providing them assistance in interpreting the events of their personal lives and historical happenings in the light of faith. This biblical aspect can opportunely be supplemented with the basics of theology and morality. Consequently, a proper formation of future ministers is indispensable. Some recommend the blending of hymns and music to the communication of the Word of God and a greater appreciation of words and silence. Outside of the liturgy, various forms of dramatization of the Word of God are possible in writings, figures and also noble artistic works, such as, religious shows.
Some want religious communities, especially monastic ones, to assist parish communities in discovering a taste for the Word of God in liturgical celebrations. Since people are displaying an interest in participating in the Liturgy of the Hours, consideration needs to be given today on how to make this excellent means of communicating the Word of God more accessible to the faithful and a greater part of pastoral life.
38. Praying with the Word of God is a privileged experience, traditionally called Lectio Divina. "Lectio Divina is a reading, on an individual or communal level, of a more or less lengthy passage of Scripture, received as the word of God and leading, at the prompting of the Spirit, to meditation, prayer and contemplation" (53). The whole Church seems again to be giving specific attention to Lectio Divina. In some places, people have traditionally employed it. In certain dioceses, the practice has progressively increased after the Second Vatican Council. Many communities are seeing it as a new form of prayer and Christian spirituality of significant benefit in the ecumenical movement. At the same time, some see the need to take into consideration the real possibilities among the faithful and adapt this classic form to different situations in such a way as to conserve the essence of this reading in prayer, while highlighting its nutritive value for a person’s faith. Lectio Divina is a reading of the Bible which goes back to the beginnings of Christianity and has been a part of the Church throughout her history. Monasteries kept the practice alive. Today, however, the Spirit, through the Magisterium, proposes Lectio Divina as an effective pastoral instrument and a valuable tool in the Church in the education and spiritual formation of priests, in the everyday lives of consecrated women and men, in parish communities, in families, associations and movements and in the ordinary believer—both young and old—who can find in this form of reading a practical, accessible means, for individuals or entire communities, to come in contact with the Word of God (cf. OT 4) (54).
According to Pope John Paul II: "It is especially necessary that listening to the Word of God should become a life-giving encounter, in the ancient and ever valid tradition of Lectio Divina, which draws from the biblical text the living word which questions, directs and shapes our lives " (55). His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI specifies that this comes "through the use of new methods, carefully thought through and in step with the times" (56). In particular, the Holy Father recalls for youth that "it is always important to read the Bible in a very personal way, in a personal conversation with God; but, at the same time, it is also important to read it in the company of people with whom one can advance..." (57). He urges them "to become familiar with the Bible, and to have it at hand so that it can be your compass pointing out the road to follow" (58). In a message addressed to various persons, especially young people, the Holy Father expresses his heartfelt desire that the practice of Lectio Divina spread as an important element in renewing faith today. He states: "I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of Lectio Divina: the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart (cf. DV 25). If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church—I am convinced of it—a new spiritual springtime. As a strong point of biblical ministry, Lectio Divina should therefore be increasingly encouraged, also through the use of new methods, carefully thought through and in step with the times. It should never be forgotten that the Word of God is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path (cf. Ps 119: 105)" (59).
The newness of Lectio Divina among the People of God requires an appropriate pedagogy of initiation which leads to a good understanding of what is treated and provides clear teaching on the meaning of each of its steps and their application to life in both faithful and creatively wise manner. Various programmes, such as the Seven Steps, are already being practiced by many particular Churches on the African continent. This form of Lectio Divina receives its name from the seven moments of encounter with the Bible (acknowledging the presence of God, reading the text, dwelling on the text, being still, sharing insights, searching together and praying together) in which meditation, prayer and sharing the Word of God are central. In various places, Lectio Divina is called by another name, for example, "the School of the Word" or "Reading in Prayer". Because of rapidly changing and oftentimes divisive situations in people’s lives today, the hearer/reader of the Word of God is different from the hearer/reader of the past, requiring that the clergy, consecrated persons and the lay faithful receive a formation which is instructive, patient and ongoing. In this regard, the sharing of experiences, drawn from listening to the Word (collatio) (60), or practical applications, above all, in works in charity (actio), already being done in some places, can be useful. Lectio Divina should become a source of inspiration in various practices of the community, such as, spiritual exercises, retreats, devotions and religious experiences. An important aim is to help a person mature in reading the Word and wisely discern reality.
Lectio Divina is not confined to a few, well-committed individuals among the faithful nor to a group of specialists in prayer. Instead, Lectio Divina is a necessity element of an authentic Christian life in a secularized world, which needs contemplative, attentive, critical and courageous people who, at times, must make totally new, untried choices. These particular undertakings will not be purely routine nor come from public opinion but will result from hearing the Word of the Lord and perceiving the mysterious stirring of the Holy Spirit in the heart.
The Word of God and the Service of Charity
39. Diakonia or the service of charity is the vocation of the Church of Jesus Christ in response to the charity shown by the Word of God Incarnate in his words and deeds.
The Word of God should lead to love of neighbour. Many communities demonstrate that the encounter with the Word is not limited to hearing alone or celebrations in themselves but seeks to become a real commitment, by individuals or a community, to the poor, who are a sign of the Lord present in our midst. This understanding underlies a liberationist approach to the Bible. "A decisive factor" in the further development of this approach and its benefits to the Church "will rest in clarifying its hermeneutical presuppositions, its methods and its coherence with the faith and the Tradition of the Church as a whole" (61).
The Word of God’s relation to charity urgently needs to be shown, since charity is particularly powerful in causing an encounter with the Word of God for both believers and non-believers alike. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI attests to this association in his Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est in pointing to the three elements which make up the essential nature of the Church: proclamation of the Word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebration of the sacraments (leitourgia) and the exercise of the ministry of charity (diakonia). The Holy Father writes: "The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word" (62). The Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi states that "the Christian message was not only ‘informative’ but ‘performative’. That means: the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known—it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing. The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life" (63). The basis for the relationship between the Word and charity is clearly the example of the Word-made-flesh himself, Jesus of Nazareth who "went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him" (Acts 10:38).
Many pages of Sacred Scripture not only recommend but command respect for justice towards one’s neighbour (cf. Deut 24:14-15; Am 2:6-7; Jer 22:13; Joel 5:4). Faithfulness to the Word of God exists when the first form of charity is realized in a respect for the rights of the human person and in defence of the oppressed and those who suffer. For this reason, specific importance is rendered by communities of faith, grounded in Bible reading, which also include the poor, who need to hear the message of consolation and hope. With his Word, the Lord, who loves life, desires to enlighten, guide and bring comfort to believers throughout their lives and in every aspect of those lives—in work, at celebrations, in times of suffering, at leisure, in duties to family and society and in life’s every moment—so that all might test everything and hold fast to what is good (cf. 1 Thess 5:21), thereby coming to know God’s will and put it into practice (cf. Mt 7:21).
Exegesis of Sacred Scripture and Theology
40. "The study of the sacred page is, as it were, the soul of sacred theology" (DV 24). Undoubtedly, the Lord is owed praise for the fruits produced in the period after the Second Vatican Council, one of which is the commitment of a great number of exegetes and theologians who study and explain the Scriptures "according to the sense of the Church" and interpret and present the Word, written in the Bible, within the context of a living Tradition. In doing so, they also take into account the heritage of the Church Fathers and the guidelines of the Magisterium (DV 12). In this way they offer assistance to Pastors in their ministry, and thereby merit a word of gratitude and encouragement (64).
In one sense, because the Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us (cf. Jn 1:14), the Spirit is prompting us to meditate on the new itinerary which he intends to pursue among the people of our time. At the same time, that same Spirit sends us forth to gather the people’s prospects and challenges to the Word. Both aspects call for new efforts in study as well as service to the community.
Study in this area requires a programme set up according to the guidelines of the Magisterium, in a knowledge, method of research and process of interpretation which must focus on the fullness given by the spiritual sense of the sacred text (65). In the course of work, the apparent division between exegetical research and theological formulation needs to be overcome and lead to reciprocal collaboration. Theology will then use biblical data in an objective fashion, and exegetical research will not limit itself to a literal interpretation only but recognize and communicate the theological content present in the inspired text. In particular, theological study is to work hand-in-hand with a theology of Sacred Scripture as an assistance in understanding and appreciating the truth of the Bible in the life of faith, in the dialogue with cultures and in reflecting on present-day anthropological currents, moral questions, faith and reason and the dialogue with the great religions.
Exegetical and theological study is also to appreciate the testimony from Sacred Tradition, such as the liturgy and the Fathers of the Church. From those dedicated to study, the Christian community expects "appropriate helps", which might assist the ministers of the Divine Word to offer "the nourishment of the Scriptures for the People of God, to enlighten their minds, strengthen their wills, and set their hearts on fire with the love of God" (DV 23). To achieve this, some responses call for an ongoing constructive dialogue among exegetes, theologians and Pastors, which would lead to translating theological reflection into proposals for a more incisive evangelization. Generally speaking, greater attention should be given to the recommendations found in Optatam Totius on the subject of teaching theology and biblical exegesis and the reflection on methodology in preparation to form future pastors. For the most part, these recommendations are still waiting to be implemented.
The Word of God in the Life of the Believer
41. The consciousness that the Word of God is an inestimable gift leads to the responsibility to receive that gift in faith. Therefore, inherent to hearing the Word is—as Jesus says—doing the Word (cf. Mt 7:21). The Church has always preached a conduct of life in keeping with the Word, seeking to build formation on a biblical spirituality.
The kind of relation believers have with the Word of God is clearly determined by their faith. A study of the responses reveals that for some the Bible is seen purely as a cultural object with no effect on life, while others, instead, display a certain affection for the book but without knowing why. Generally speaking, however, like the types of soil in the parable of the sower, there are also those who yield fruit, thirty, sixty and one-hundred fold (cf. Mk 4:20). Experience is proving that progress in catechetics and spirituality are among the most appealing and promising aspects of the encounter of the Word of God with his People.
The basis for a believer’s vital relationship to the Bible is summarized in Dei Verbum as holding fast to the Sacred Scriptures through diligent sacred reading and careful study (cf. DV 25), because the Bible is the "the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life" (DV 21). An authentic spirituality of the Word demands "that prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that God and man may talk together; for ‘we speak to Him when we pray; we hear Him when we read the divine sayings’" (DV 25) (66). St. Augustine confirms this: "Your prayer is your word addressed to God. When you read the Bible God speaks to you; when you pray you speak to God" (67). The faithful must learn in their Christian lives what leads to truly reading the Bible with faith. In doing so, they will make their hearts into a library of the Word (68).
The Word of God has an impact on the life of faith, not primarily as a collection of doctrinal questions or a series of ethical principles, but as God’s love inviting the believer to a personal encounter with him and as a manifestation of his ineffable greatness in the Paschal Mystery. The Word of God presents the salvific plan of the Father for each person and for all peoples. The Word questions, exhorts and incites the believer on the road of discipleship and in the following of Christ; prepares a person to accept the transforming action of the Spirit; greatly promotes communion and the creation of deep bonds of fellowship; and inspires a commitment to spreading the Word. Such is the case, especially for consecrated persons.
Some aspects related to the subject need attentive consideration. First of all, the Word of God is encountered by those who are poor in spirit, both interiorly and exteriorly, "for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich" (2 Cor 8:9). To be poor in spirit is a way of being, like Jesus, one who hears the Word of the Father and announces it to the poor (cf. Lk 4:18). Some persons, especially women, work under great hardship, watch over the family, dedicate themselves to their children and, with an ardent faith, provide multiple services to their neighbours, reminiscent of the Psalms and the Gospels. The witness of a good life makes reading the Bible credible.
The masters of the spiritual life describe certain situations where the Word can nourish the life of the believer, thereby creating a biblical spirituality: a deep interiorizing of the Word; persevering in trials with the Word’s inspiration; and continuing the spiritual warfare against all erroneous and hateful words, thoughts and deeds. The Bible is also under the sign of the cross, where the Crucified Christ is present. The above situations exist in many religious communities and centres of spirituality which offer real assistance in deepening an experience of the Word of God.
THE WORD OF GOD IN THE
"And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the Sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.’ And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’" (Lk 4: 16-21).
The Mission of the Church
42. The Church’s mission to proclaim the Good News is intricately bound to experiencing the Word of God in life. In the school of that same Word Incarnate, the Church becomes aware that her frequent encounters with Christ are themselves a word and living experience to be communicated to all in response to the Lord’s command. Today, the Church’s mission in service to the Word of God is addressed to a wide variety of individuals: peoples and groups of persons, those in socio-cultural contexts where Christ and his Gospel are unknown or are not yet well grounded; communities of Christians ardent in faith and life; and, in some places, entire groups of baptized who no longer consider themselves members of the Church, leading a life far from Christ and his Gospel (69). Consequently, the situation requires a consideration of a proper response in a diversified missionary activity of the Word of God in the Church.
Towards a "wide access to sacred scripture" (DV 22)
43. At the beginning of this new millennium, the Church’s mission is to be nourished by the Word through being a servant of the Word in the work of evangelization (70).
Undoubtedly, proclaiming the Gospel is the raison d’etre of the Church and her mission. This implies that she lives what she preaches. Doing so in a decisive manner will ensure that what she proclaims is credible, despite the need and weakness of her members. In responding to the Word of God, the People of Israel said: "All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient" (Ex 24:7). At the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also invited his disciples to make the same response (cf. Mt 7: 21-27).
In the Lord’s teachings, proclamation of the Word of God has the Kingdom of God as its inner power and content (cf. Mk 1: 14-15). The Kingdom of God is the Person of Jesus himself who offers salvation to everyone through his words and deeds. Consequently, in preaching Jesus Christ, the Church participates in the steady growth of the Kingdom of God—illustrated in the Gospel story of the seed that sprouts (cf. Mk 4:27)—which everyone is invited to accept.
St. Paul’s lament, "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (1 Cor 9:16), also finds a compelling resonance in the Church today, becoming for all Christians not a simple fact but a call to serve the Gospel for the world’s sake. Truly, as Jesus said, "the harvest is plentiful" (Mt 9:37); it is also richly diversified. Many people have never heard the Gospel and are awaiting it to be proclaimed a first time, especially on the continents of Africa and Asia, while others have forgotten the Gospel and look to a new evangelization. A bold, shared testimony of a life lived according to the Word of God, as seen in the life of Jesus, is a prerequisite in being faithful to the mission of the Church.
In this regard, difficulties exist, and always will, which impede the Gospel’s proclamation and hearing the Lord. Various reasons are given: for example, relativism and secularism in today’s culture; the world’s many demands and an activism in life which stifles the spirit, accounting for a notable difficulty in interiorizing the Gospel message; and a lack of assistance in many regions which makes the use of the Bible, its translation and distribution impossible. Moreover, the sects and fundamentalism hinder a proper interpretation of the Bible. Bringing the Word of God to people is an important mission which implies a deep conviction of sentire cum Ecclesia.
One of the first requirements for an effective Gospel proclamation is trust in the transforming power of the Word in the heart of the one who hears. Indeed, "the word of God is living and active ... discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Heb 4:12). A second requirement, particularly noticed and credible today, is to proclaim the Word of God as the source of conversion, justice, hope, fellowship and peace. Other requirements are boldness, courage, the spirit of poverty, humility, coherence, and the friendliness of the one who serves the Word of God. According to St. Augustine: "we should clearly understand that the fulfillment and the end of the Law, and of all Holy Scripture, is love...Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbour, does not yet understand them as he ought" (71). In summary, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, insists that receiving the Word of God, which is love, necessitates proclaiming the Lord in the exercise of justice and charity (72).
The Mission of the Church is Fulfilled in Evangelization and Catechesis
44. Throughout the history of the People of God, the proclamation of the Word has taken place by means of evangelization and catechesis. Since the Second Vatican Council, the Bible has enjoyed a very close relation to evangelization in its various forms, from its initial proclamation to ongoing catechesis. Everywhere, national catechisms and the directories inspired by them have the Bible as a distinctive feature, giving first place to the Word of God drawn from Scripture. However, a central point needs clarification: the integration in treating the Bible of a knowledge of the faith, proposed by Tradition and the Magisterium.
In principle, the Second Vatican Council states specifically: "By the same word of Scripture the ministry of the word also, that is, pastoral preaching, catechetics and all Christian instruction, in which the liturgical homily must hold the foremost place, is nourished in a healthy way and flourishes in a holy way" (DV 24). Pope John Paul II observed that "the work of evangelization and catechesis...is drawing new life from attentiveness to the Word of God" (73). The General Directory for Catechesis is more precise regarding "the Word God, the font of catechesis" by insisting: "Catechesis will always draw its content from the living source of the Word of God transmitted in Tradition and the Scriptures" (74).
It is important to remember that the Word of God in catechesis should not be seen as a mere object of academic study. Instead, from the vantage point of Revelation, encountering Sacred Scripture in catechesis is to be understood as an act with which God himself speaks to people, as he does in liturgical celebrations. The biblical texts are to communicate an experience of the abiding and gracious presence of God, who does not cease to manifest himself to humanity. In this manner, catechesis is closely bound to Lectio Divina which itself is an experience, originating at a young age, of listening and praying the Word of God.
45. Practically speaking, attention needs to be given to the forms of communication of the Word of God together with the current demands of the faithful according to their age and the spiritual, cultural and social situations in their lives, as indicated in the General Directory for Catechesis and the Catechetical Directories of the various particular Churches (75).
The celebrations of the liturgical year, the courses for Christian Initiation and ongoing formation are particularly appropriate occasions for evangelization (76). By often drawing from the Word of God, the catechumenate and mystogogical catechesis provides an effective biblical outlook which can also have a beneficial effect on popular piety. Direct contact with the Scriptures has an important role and is a primary aim: catechesis "must imbibe and permeate itself with biblical and evangelical thought, spirit and attitudes by constant contact with them" (77).
Because of the Word of God’s particular effects on culture, greater appreciation needs to be given to teaching the Bible in schools, especially in courses on religion, by presenting a complete course in learning the most significant Bible texts and the methods of interpretation adopted by the Church. For this purpose, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is "a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith" (78). However, the Catechism is not intended to be a substitute for biblical catechesis but a means to integrate it in a broader vision of the Church.
Significant cultural and social changes taking place in the world call for a catechesis that helps to explain the "difficult pages" of the Bible, primarily in the Old Testament, which give a certain view of history, science and the moral life, particularly ethical behaviour and how God is portrayed. Working towards an overall solution needs to take into account what is provided by not only exegesis and theology but also anthropology and pedagogy.
Finally, preaching in its many forms remains not only one of the pre-eminent means of communicating the faith in the Church but also, perhaps, the one most exposed to the judgment of the faithful. A well-planned approach needs to be taken in forming preachers of the Word (cf. DV 25). As for the process of communication, the Apostolic Exhortation Evangellii Nuntiandi of Pope Paul VI, continues to have a timely character, particularly when it declares the primacy given to personal witness in proclaiming the Word of God and its transmission in the family and everyday experiences.
The Word of God in serving and forming the People of God
The formation of the faithful in receiving and communicating the Word of God is a particularly important pastoral commitment. Dei Verbum refers to this duty by recalling the multi-faceted value of the Word of God and by clearly indicating the tasks, responsibilities and formation programme.
The Hunger and Thirst for the Word of God (cf. Am 8:11): Attention to the Needs of the People of God
46. Knowledge, understanding and practice of the Word are seen as needing consideration. Knowledge concerns the true nature of the Word and its means of communication, Scripture and Tradition, along with the service provided by the Magisterium. Though considerable work has been done since the Second Vatican Council, the need for clarity and certainty on what Revelation offers is truly great. As previously noted, the main problem in understanding is the interpretation and inculturation of the Word of God. Difficulties exist in biblical practice. Many people do not have a translation of the Bible available.
Today, other aspects need to be borne in mind. For example, illiteracy in many parts of the world poses problems in reading. For many, learning depends primarily on seeing and hearing; as a result it is momentary and limited. In certain parts of the world the prevailing religious culture does not allow immediate access to the Bible.
"In Sacred Scripture, the marvellous ‘condescension’ of eternal wisdom is clearly shown" (DV 13).
47. Evidence seems to show that the Spirit is recommending to the particular Churches to again read the documents of the Second Vatican Council, especially the four Constitutions, with Dei Verbum at the centre, and making them the object of catechesis for the entire People of God in such a way as to bring people to a better consciousness of them. The theology of revelation, the theology of Scripture, the relation of the Old to the New Testament and divine pedagogy are significant topics which can only be treated in a working programme of catechesis and a structured study of the Bible.
This requires, by necessity, a method of approach and vital supports. The Word of God can be heard in a variety of ways. The essential matter, however, is that the Word can truly touch hearts and become a living Word and not just a Word which is simply heard or known. Consequently, nothing can substitute for the habitual, patient dedication of a person to prayer. Simple assistance, accessible to everyone, and encouragement need to be offered. Various movements, Catholic Action among them, provide ways to apply the Word of God to everyday life. Today, the technology and the means which put people in contact with the Bible are many and generally well-done, including commentaries, introductory materials to the Bible, Bibles for children and young people, spiritual books and scholarly and popular magazines on the Bible, not to mention the vast field of simple and elaborate means which serve to communicate the Word of God. The Bread of the Word needs to be offered and made understandable to our brothers and sisters in the faith. This calls for solidarity between the particular Churches on various levels, including material support.
All that concerns the new forms of communication requires fresh and proper thinking. Familiarity with the Sacred Scriptures is not an easy task. Like the minister of the Queen of Ethiopia, understanding the contents of a biblical text requires a pedagogy which begins in Scripture itself and leads to an understanding and acceptance of the Good News of Jesus (cf. Acts 8:26-40). Above all, such a programme needs to follow creative and Gospel-inspired ways of putting into practice the teaching of Dei Verbum, which, in its time, provided an authentic qualitative and quantitative access to the Word of God contained in the Scriptures.
Bishops in the Ministry of the Word
48. The Second Vatican Council teaches that "bishops have the responsibility to give the faithful entrusted to them suitable instruction in the right use of the divine books" (DV 25). Consequently, according to the munus docendi of bishops, this task is directly related to the person of the bishop as both a hearer and servant of the Word (79). In the world of communications, the bishop ought to be a fit communicator of the wisdom contained in the Bible, not so much through his learning on the subject as his habitual contact with the sacred books, becoming thereby a guide for all those who open the Bible each day. Making the Word of God and the Sacred Scriptures the soul of his pastoral activity, the bishop is capable of bringing the faithful to encounter Christ, the Font of Life. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI has pointed out the need to educate the people in reading and meditating on the Word of God as spiritual food, "so that, through their own experience, the faithful will see that the words of Jesus are spirit and life (cf. Jn 6:63). ...We must build our missionary commitment and the whole of our lives on the rock of the Word of God. For this reason, I encourage the Bishops to strive to make it known " (80). Therefore, the best way to foster a taste for the Sacred Scriptures is for the bishop himself to be formed by the Word of God. He has the continual possibility of helping the faithful taste Scripture. Each time he speaks to Christ’s faithful, especially priests, he can give some example and wisdom from Lectio Divina. If he engages in this practice regularly and presents it in a simple manner, the faithful will be led to true knowledge. Every Bible practice and every initiative to foster it—surely the aim of the ministry of Pastors—is to be considered the way of the Church and the basis of every devotion.
The Task of Priests and Deacons
49. Knowledge of and familiarity with the Word of God is also of prime importance for priests and deacons in their calling to the ministry of evangelization. The Second Vatican Council states that, by necessity, all the clergy, primarily priests and deacons, ought to have continual contact with the Scriptures, though assiduous reading and attentive study of the sacred texts, so as not to become idle preachers of the Word of God, hearing the Word only with their ears while not hearing it with their hearts (cf. DV 25; PO 4). In keeping with this conciliar teaching, canon law speaks of the ministry of the Word of God entrusted to priests and deacons as collaborators of the Bishop (81).
By being in daily contact with the Word, priests and deacons draw the life necessary to resist being conformed to the mentality of the world and receive the ability wisely to discern personal matters and those of the community so that, in their apostolic activity, they can zealously guide the People of God in the ways of the Lord. Consequently, instruction and pastoral formation inspired by the Word of God are a necessity. Developments in biblical learning, various needs and the ever-changing pastoral situation demand an ongoing formation.
The task of proclamation calls for recourse to specific initiatives, for example, a full appreciation of the Bible in all pastoral projects. In every diocese a biblical pastoral programme, under the guidance of the bishop, can insert the Bible into the Church’s great initiatives in evangelization and catechesis. If this is done, the Word of God can be seen as the basis for and manifestation of communion among the clergy and laity, and, consequently, among parishes, communities of the consecrated life and ecclesial movements.
From the vantage point of priestly service, seminary formation increasingly calls for a greater, up-to-date knowledge of exegesis and theology, a solid formation in the pastoral use of the Bible and a true and proper initiation into biblical spirituality, without neglecting an instruction in a passionate love for the Word expressed in service to the People of God. Members of the clergy, then, are asked to dedicate themselves to being students of Sacred Scripture, even through higher studies.
Various Ministries of the Word of God
50. Biblical and liturgical renewal requires servants of the Word of God, primarily in the liturgy and then in other forms of communicating the Bible. As for service in the liturgy, the ministry of the Word of God is realized in proclaiming the readings and, in a special way, in the homily. The proclamation of the Word in the liturgy is an office proper to the instituted ministry of lector. In his absence, a qualified lay man or woman can proclaim the readings. The homily is to be done only by an ordained minister (82). In certain cases, canon law makes provisions for the laity to preach in a Church or oratory (83).
Servants of the Word include catechists, the leaders of Bible groups and those who have a role in the formation of the laity in the liturgy, charitable activity and the teaching of religion in schools. The General Directory for Catechesis lists the required competencies. The matter of pastoral assistants is receiving special attention in all particular Churches, as seen in both the great hunger for Sacred Scripture and the difficulties encountered in rendering the services needed.
The Task of the Laity
51. As members of the Church through Baptism and sharers in Christ’s priestly, prophetic and royal office, the lay faithful participate in the salvific mission which the Father entrusted to his Son for the salvation of all peoples (LG 34-36) (84). Through exercising their mission, they "are made sharers in the appreciation of the Church's supernatural faith, that ‘cannot err in matters of belief’ (LG 12) and sharers as well in the grace of the Word (cf. Acts 2:17-18; Rev 19:10). They are also called to allow the newness and the power of the Gospel to shine out everyday in their family and social life (85). In this way, their faithfulness to his Word contributes to building the Kingdom of God.
In exercising their mission in the world, the laity have the responsibility to proclaim the Good News to mankind in the everyday circumstances of their lives. In the prophetic style of Jesus of Nazareth, the proclamation of the Word of God "ought to appear to each person as a solution to his problems, an answer to his questioning, a widening of his values and an overall fulfilment to his aspirations" (86).
On their journey of encountering the Word of God, the lay faithful ought not to be passive listeners but active participants in every area touched by the Bible: in higher studies, in the service of the Word in the liturgy and catechetics and in leadership in various Bible groups. The laity’s service, however, calls for different competencies which require a specific biblical formation. The following are some special tasks: the Bible in the Christian initiation of children; the Bible in the pastoral care of youth, for example, in World Youth Days; and the Bible for the infirm, soldiers, and those in prison.
A privileged means of encounter with the God who speaks is catechesis within families which can be enhanced with the Bible passages and preparation of the readings of the Sunday liturgy. The family’s task is to introduce children to Sacred Scripture through reading the great stories of the Bible, especially the life of Jesus, and through prayer inspired by the Psalms or other pertinent books.
Movements or groups, such as associations, aggregations and new communities, also deserve greater consideration. Though they be very different among themselves as to their methodology and fields of commitment, they share a common trait in rediscovering the Word of God and giving it a privileged place in their spiritual-pedagogical programmes which sustain and nourish their spiritual lives. They can provide effective formation programmes which focus on a true assimilation of the Word of God. By placing great importance on the Word of God, they can teach their members how to live the privileged moment of the Church’s liturgy and engage in personal prayer. Within these groups praying the Office and Lectio Divina are also practiced as moments of spiritual nourishment.
The task at-hand is to ensure that, in the course of this ardent encounter with the Word of God, ecclesial communion and charity are always exercised towards the faithful who do not belong to these groups
The Service of Consecrated Persons
52. Persons in the consecrated life have a special role in this programme of the Word of God in the life of the Christian people. The Second Vatican Council emphasizes that they, "in the first place, should have recourse daily to the Holy Scriptures in order that, by reading and meditating on Holy Writ, they may learn ‘the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ’ (Phil 3:8)" (PC 6) and find renewed energy in their work of instruction and evangelization, especially among the poor, the lowly and the least, through the writings of the New Testament, "especially the Gospels, which are ‘the heart of all the Scriptures’...This will lead, in ways proper to each person's particular gifts, to setting up schools of prayer, spirituality and the prayerful reading of the Scriptures" (87).
Consecrated persons should make the biblical text the object of a daily ruminatio and reference-point in personal and communal discernment in view of their work of evangelization. When a person begins to read Sacred Scripture–insists St. Ambrose–God comes to walk with him in the earthly paradise (88). The prayerful reading of the Word, done with the young, is the way leading to a renewed increase in vocations and a fruitful adherence to the Gospels and to the spirit of their founders, so much desired by the Second Vatican Council and recently proposed to persons in the consecrated life by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI (89). In particular, consecrated persons are to value their contact with the Word of God in the community, which will lead to fraternal communion and a joyous sharing of their experiences with God in their lives and will assist their growth in the spiritual life (90).
Pope John Paul II stated: "The Word of God is the first source of all Christian spirituality. It gives rise to a personal relationship with the living God and with his saving and sanctifying will. It is for this reason that from the very beginning of Institutes of Consecrated Life, and in a special way in monasticism, what is called Lectio Divina has been held in the highest regard. By its means the Word of God is brought to bear on life, on which it projects the light of that wisdom which is a gift of the Spirit " (91).
Everyone Should Have Access to the Word of God at All Times.
53. The Church maintains that "easy access to Sacred Scripture should be provided for all the Christian faithful" (DV 22) (92), because "every person has a right to the truth" (93). This is a prerequisite for mission today. Oftentimes, however, a true encounter with Scripture in the Church risks being lost because it is subjective and arbitrary. Consequently, pastoral activity must forcefully and credibly foster Sacred Scripture by proclaiming, celebrating and living the Word in the Christian community, engaging in dialogue with the cultures of our time, putting the Word at the service of truth and not current ideologies and promoting the dialogue which God desires to have with each person (cf. DV 21).
To achieve this, appropriate support must be given to spreading Bible practice, in establishing Bible movements among the laity, providing for the formation of leaders of Bible groups, especially among the young (94), and teaching the faith through the Word of God, even to immigrants and those who are searching for meaning in life.
Since "the first areopagus of the modern age is the world of communication, which is unifying humanity...The use of the media has become essential for evangelization and catechesis. In fact, the Church would feel herself guilty before God if she did not take advantage of those powerful instruments...In them she finds in a new and more effective forum a platform or pulpit from which she can address the multitudes" (95).(cf. NA 11). Ample room is given in due proportion to new methods and forms of communication in the transmission of the Word of God, such as: radio, TV, theatre, cinema, music and songs, including the latest media, CD, DVD, Internet, etc. A good use of the media in pastoral activity requires serious, committed and trained persons. The message must also be integrated into the "new culture" created by modern communication, with new elements, new techniques and a new psychology (96).
Finally, references should be made to the existence and work of the Catholic Biblical Federation (CBF), instituted in 1968 by Paul VI to propagate the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the Word of God.
The Word of God and the grace of communion
The Word of God: The Bond of Ecumenism
54. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI has given primary importance to the full, visible union of all disciples of Jesus Christ and its impact on the witness to the Gospel (97). Christians have two realities in common: the Word of God and Baptism. Through embracing these gifts, the ecumenical movement can reach fulfilment. The farewell discourse of Jesus in the Upper Room forcefully illustrates that this unity is manifested through a common witness to the Word of the Father, spoken by the Lord (cf. Jn 17:8). According to the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI: "Listening to the Word of God is a priority for our ecumenical commitment. Indeed, it is not we who act or who organize the unity of the Church. The Church does not make herself or live of herself, but from the creative Word that comes from the mouth of God. To listen to the word of God together; to practice the Lectio Divina of the Bible, that is, reading linked with prayer; letting ourselves be amazed by the newness of the Word of God that never ages and is never depleted; overcoming our deafness to those words that do not correspond with our prejudices and our opinions; to listen and also to study, in the communion of believers of all ages; all these things constitute a path to be taken in order to achieve unity in the faith as a response to listening to the Word" (98).
Generally speaking, it is gratifying to see the Bible being used today as a major point of encounter in prayer and dialogue between the Church and ecclesial communities. The faith that unites us and the differences in interpreting of the same Word are an invitation to rediscover together the reasons responsible for divisions. At the same time, progress done in ecumenical dialogue with the Word of God can undoubtedly lead to other benefits. A good example of this, in the last decade, is the positive effect of a commonly-agreed-upon Traduction oecuménique de la Bible (TOB), and the collaboration of various Christian Bible Associations which have fostered understanding and dialogue among the different confessions. However, the common bond in ecumenism, from the beginning of the last century until the present, is the communal invocation of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, who fosters the spirit of ecumenism among Christians. According to the Second Vatican Council, "this change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians, should be regarded as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement" (UR 8).
The Word of God: Source of Dialogue between Christians and Jews
55. Special attention is given to the Jewish people. Christians and Jews are both children of Abraham, grounded in the same Covenant, because God, who is always faithful to his promises, has not revoked the first Covenant (cf. Rm 9-11) (99). According to Pope John Paul II, "this people was gathered together and led by God, the Creator of heaven and earth. Thus its existence is not a mere fact of nature or culture, in the sense that through culture man displays the resources of his own nature. It is a supernatural fact. This people perseveres in spite of everything because they are the people of the Covenant, and despite human infidelities, the Lord is faithful to his Covenant" (100). Christians and Jews share a major part of the canonical books of the Bible. Christians refer to their "Holy Scriptures" (cf. Rm 1:2) as the Old Testament. This close relationship based on the Bible gives a unique character to the dialogue between Christians and Jews. In this regard, the Pontifical Biblical Commission’s document, entitled The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible (101) reflects on the close association of the two in faith, which is equally mentioned in Dei Verbum (cf. DV 14-16). Recognizing Jesus of Nazareth to be a "son of the Jewish people " (102) can lead to a better understanding of his Person. Jesus is and always will be a Jew.
Particular consideration should be given to the following two points. Firstly, the Jewish understanding of the Bible can be of assistance in the Christian understanding and study of the Bible (103). In some cases, ways to study Sacred Scripture together are being developed—and can be further developed—providing occasion to learn from each other, while closely respecting each’s differences. Secondly, efforts need to be made to eliminate every form of anti-Semitism. The Second Vatican Council emphasized that the Jews "should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures" (NA 4). On the contrary, Pope John Paul II often made reference to the fact that, because of Abraham, we can and should become a source of blessing for each other and the world (104).
56. Making reference to what the Magisterium of the Church has expressed up until now (cf. AG 11; NA 2-4) (105), and the various responses which arrived, the following points call for reflection and evaluation. The Church, sent to bring the Gospel to all creation (cf. Mk 16:15), encounters a great number of followers of traditional religions and those which possess sacred books with their own way of understanding them. Everywhere she encounters persons who are actively searching or simply awaiting the "Good News". In every case, the Church feels herself duty-bound to the Word which saves (cf. Rm 1:14). Positively speaking, an effort should be made to discern the "seeds of the Word" (semina Verbi) among people, which can serve as a genuine preparation for the Gospel (106). Religions and spiritual traditions which especially merit attention because of their age and diffusion, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, ought to be objects of study by Catholics, in light of a faithful, respectful dialogue.
In particular way, "the Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to humankind" (NA 3). As Christians and Jews , Muslims also look to Abraham, seeking to imitate him in his submission to God whom they worship, above all, with prayer, alms and fasting. Although they do not recognize Jesus as God, they venerate him as a prophet and honour Mary his virgin mother (cf. NA 3). They await the day of judgment and value the moral life.
The dialogue of Christians with Muslims and members of other religions is an urgent need, providing mutual understanding and working together in promoting religious, ethical and moral values, thereby, contributing to the building of a better world.
The encounter in Assisi in 1986 is a reminder that hearing God must lead to eliminating every form of violence, because his Word becomes active in the heart through the promotion of justice and peace (107). The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI has said: "We must seek paths of reconciliation and learn to live with respect for each other's identity" (108) .
When considering the Bible in relation to the sacred texts of other religions, due care is required so as not to fall prey to syncretism, superficial approaches or a distortion of the truth, because of various conceptions about the inspiration of such sacred texts. Particular attention is given to the many sects at work in different continents, who take up the Bible in an improper manner and apply methods at odds with the Church.
The Bible is not exclusively for Christians; it is a treasure for all humanity. Through fraternal and personal contact, it can become the source of inspiration for those who do not believe in Christ.
The Word of God: Leaven in Modern Cultures
57. Throughout the centuries the book of the Bible has entered cultures, so much so as to inspire various fields of knowledge, including philosophy, pedagogy, science, art and literature. Biblical thought can so penetrate as to become the summary and soul of culture itself. In an essay on the Encyclical Fides et Ratio, the then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote: "Already in the Bible is formulated a patrimony of pluralistic religious and philosophical thought coming from the various cultures of the world. The Word of God develops in the context of a series of encounters with the man’s search to respond to his ultimate questions. It does not fall directly from heaven, but is properly a synthesis of cultures " (109). The economic and technological influence of a widely diffused mass-media, strongly inspired by secularism, calls for an intense dialogue between the Bible and culture. At times, this dialogue can be dialectical but it is always full of potential in proclaiming the Word, because of its richness in meaning. In this way, the Word of the Lord can prove to be a freeing experience.
To do this, the Word of God must enter as leaven in a pluralistic and secularized world, in the modern areopaghi, bringing "the power of the Gospel into the very heart of culture and cultures" (110), to purify them, elevate them and make them instruments of the Kingdom of God. This task requires an inculturation of the Word of God which is done in a serious manner, so as to adequately prepare a person to weigh opposing factors and to clearly sets forth the Christian mystery and its beneficial effects in people’s personal lives. The process requires research in the so-called "history of effects" (Wirkungsgeschichte) of the Bible on culture and on a common ethos, for which the Bible is rightly referred to and valued as the "Great Code," especially in the West. According to Pope Benedict XVI: "Today more than ever, reciprocal openness between the cultures is a privileged context for dialogue between people committed to seeking an authentic humanism, over and above the divergences that separate them. In the cultural arena too, Christianity must offer to all a very powerful force of renewal and exaltation, that is, the Love of God who makes himself human love" (111). Many centres for culture throughout the Catholic world are undertaking this work with great seriousness and merit.
The Word of God and Human History
58. During the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI described the Church as the "servant of humanity"(112) guiding the world towards the Kingdom of God, according to the measure of Jesus Christ, the Perfect Man (GS 22). The Church, then, recognizes the mark of God on history, resulting from the freedom of the individual which is sustained by divine grace.
In this context, the Church is aware that the Word of God is read in the events and signs of the times with which God manifests himself in history. According to the Second Vatican Council, "to carry out such a task [serving the world], the Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel. Thus, in language intelligible to each generation, she can respond to the perennial questions which men ask about this present life and the life to come, and about the relationship of the one to the other" (GS 4). Immersed in human events, she therefore must "decipher authentic signs of God's presence and purpose in the happenings, needs and desires in which this People has a part along with other people of our age" (GS 11). In this way, exercising her prophetic role by means of her members, she will be able to help humanity encounter in history the way leading from death to life.
In this regard, the Holy Spirit calls the whole Church to proclaim the Word of God as the source of grace, freedom, justice and peace and the safeguard of creation. The Church is also to put the Word of the Lord into practice in various ways, in collaboration with all people of good will. The Church’s members draw sustenance, above all, from the words and example of Jesus himself and use as a reference point and a source of encouragement the first words spoken by God in the Bible in creating the world and the human person: "God saw that...it was good...very good" (Gen 1:4-31). Through the due means of culture, the Bible, then, provides inspiration and motivation in the duty to promote justice and human rights, to participate as Catholics in public life and to care for the environment as a commonly shared heritage.
In this way, the Word of God, planted by Christ as the seed of God’s Kingdom, makes its way through human history (cf. 2 Thess 3:1). When Jesus returns in glory, that Word will resound in an invitation to participate fully in the joy of the Kingdom (cf. Mt 25:24). In response to this sure promise, the Church cries out in ardent prayer: "Maranatha" (1 Cor 16:22) "Come Lord Jesus!" (Rev 22:20).
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col 3:16-17).
The Word of God: Gift to the Church
59. In his great goodness, the Triune God wished to communicate to humanity the mystery of his life hidden for ages (cf. Eph 3:9). In his Only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, God the Father spoke his final Word, through the Spirit, to each person who comes into the world. A attentive listening to the Word is fundamental to a personal encounter with God. Living according to the Spirit results from making room for the Word and allowing it to be born in one’s heart. No one can fathom the depths of the Word of God. However, only in the previously mentioned manner can the Word take hold of and convert a person, making him discover its riches and secrets, widening his horizons and promising freedom and full human development (cf. Eph 4:13). Knowing Sacred Scripture is one of the charisms of the Church; she transmits this knowledge to believers who are open to the Spirit.
According to St. Maximus the Confessor: "The Words of God, if pronounced by rote and not heard, have no resonance in the actions of those who merely speak them. But rather, if they are pronounced and put into action, they have the power to dispel demons and help people build God’s dwelling in their hearts and make progress in works of justice "(113). This comes about through an act of praise arising from the heart, without the use of words, a prayer which flows from simplicity and adoration, after the example of Mary, the Virgin who listened so well that every Word of God was taken up and lived in love (cf. Deut 6:5; Jn 13:34, 35).
The Church, as the community of believers, is called by the Word of God. It is the privileged place in which the believer encounters God who continues to speak in the liturgy, prayer and the service of charity. Through the Word celebrated, especially in the Eucharist, the faithful insert themselves more and more in Church communion which has its origin in the Trinity, the mystery of infinite communion.
The Father, who in the love of the Holy Spirit creates all that exists through his Son and for his Son (cf. Col 1:16), proceeds in his original work in what the Son himself does (cf. Jn 5:17) on earth. His work is his Church, the Church of the Incarnate Word, the Way which in one sense descends from God to man and, in another, ascends from man to God (cf. Jn 3:13). In this life-giving and active Word (cf. Heb 4:12) the Church is born, is built up (cf. Jn 15: 16; Acts 2:41ff) and finds life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10).
In response to the mandate of the Risen Lord, the Church, the community of his disciples, guided by the Apostles, is sent to proclaim salvation always and everywhere, in faithfulness to the Word of the Master: "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mk 16:15).
(1) Cf. SYNODUS EPISCOPORUM, Relatio Finalis Synodi Episcoporum Exeunte Coetu Secundo: Ecclesia sub Verbo Dei Mysteria Christi Celebrans pro Salute Mundi (07.12.1985), B, a), 1-4: Enchiridion del Sinodo dei Vescovi 1, EDB, Bologna 2005, pp. 2316-2320.
(2) BENEDICTUS XVI, Adhort. Apost. Post-Syn. Sacramentum caritatis (22.2.2007), 6; 52: AAS 99 (2007) 109-110; 145.
(3) IOANNES PAULUS II, Litt. Enc Redemptoris Missio (7.12.1990), 56: AAS 83 (1991) 304.
(4) Cf. BENEDICTUS XVI, Litt. Enc. Deus Caritas Est (25.12.2005), 1: AAS 98 (2006) 217.
(5) S. IRENAEUS, Adversus Haereses IV, 34, 1: SChr 100, 847.
(6) Cf. S. BERNARDUS, Super Missus Est, Homilia IV, 11: PL 183,86.
(7) ORIGENES, In Johannem V, 5-6: SChr 120, 380-384.
(8) BENEDICTUS XVI, Ad Conventum Internationalem Sacred Scripture in the Life of the Church (16.09.2005): AAS 97 (2005) 957. Cf. PAULUS VI, Epist. Apost. Summi Dei Verbum (04.11.1963): AAS 55 (1963) 979-995; IOANNES PAULUS II, Weekly General Audience (22.05.1985): L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 27.05.1985, pp. 1-2; Discourse on the Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (23.04.1993): L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 28.04.1993, pp. 3-4, 6; BENEDICTUS XVI, Angelus (06.11.2005): L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 09.11.2005, p. 1.
(9) Cf. CATECHIMUS CATHOLICAE ECCLESIAE , 825.
(10) BENEDICTUS XVI, Ad Conventum Internationalem Sacred Scripture in the Life of the Church (16.09.2005): AAS 97 (2005) 956.
(11) S. HIERONIMUS, Com. In Is., Prol: PL 24, 17.
(12) Cf. CATECHISMUS CATHOLICAE ECCLESIAE, 120.
(13) Cf. PONTIFICIA COMMISSIO BIBLICA, L’Interprétation de la Bible dans l’Église (15.04.1993), IV, C3: Enchiridion Vaticanum 13, EDB, Bologna 1995, p. 1724.
(14) Cf. PONTIFICIA COMMISSIO BIBLICA, Le peuple juif et ses Saintes Écritures dans la Bible chrétienne (24.05.2001), 19: Enchiridion Vaticanum 20, EDB, Bologna 2004, pp. 570-574.
(15) S. AUGUSTINUS, Quaestiones in Heptateucum, 2, 73: PL 34, 623; cf. DV, 16.
(16) S. GREGORIUS MAGNUS, In Ezechielem, I, 6, 15: CCL 142, 76.
(17) Cf. CATECHISMUS CATHOLICAE ECCLESIAE, 83; RATZINGER J. Commento alla Dei Verbum, L Th K, 2, pp. 519-523.
(18) Cf. S. BONVENTURA, Itinerarium mentis in Deum, Prol. 2; II, 12: ed. Quaracchi, 1891, Vol V., pp. 302ff; cf. RATZINGER J., Un tentativo circa il problema del concetto di tradizione: RAHNER K.-RATZINGER J, Rivelazione e Tradizione, Morcelliana, Brescia 2006, pp. 27-73.
(19) Cf. PONTIFICIA COMMISSIO BIBLICA, L’interprétation de la Bible dans l’Église (15.04.1993), IV, A-B: Enchiridion Vaticanum 13, EDB, Bologna 1995, pp. 1702-1714.
(20) Cf. ibidem., I, A-F, pp. 1568-1634.
(21) Cf. CATECHISMUS CATHOLICAE ECCLESIAE, 115-119; PONTIFICIA COMMISSIO BIBLICA, L’interprétation de la Bible dans l’Église (15.04.1993), IV, A-B: Enchiridion Vaticanum 13, EDB, Bologna 1995, pp. 1628-1634.
(22) Cf. CATECHISMUS CATHOLICAE ECCLESIAE, 117.
(23) PONTIFICIA COMMISSIO BIBLICA, L’interprétation de la Bible dans l’Église (15.04.1993), IV, A-B: Enchiridion Vaticanum 13, EDB, Bologna 1995, pp. 1648-1650.
(24) Ibidem, I, pp. 1568-1628.
(25) Cf. CATECHISMUS CATHOLICAE ECCLESIAE, 109-114..
(26) BENEDICTUS XVI, Address to the Bishops of Switzerland (7.11.2006): L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 22.11.2006, pp. 5, 10; cf. RATZINGER J., Jesus of Nazareth, Doubleday, New York 2007, pp. XI-XXIV.
(27) MISSALE ROMANUM, Ordo Lectionum Missae: Editio typica altera, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano 1981: Praenotanda, n. 8.
(28) PONTIFICIA COMMISSIO BIBLICA, L’interprétation de la Bible dans l’Église (15.04.1993), IV, A-B: Enchiridion Vaticanum 13, EDB, Bologna 1995, p. 1650.
(29) Cf. ibidem, III, B 2, pp. 1672-1676.
(30) Cf. BENEDICTUS XVI, Ad Sacrorum Alumnos Seminarii Romani Maioris (19.02.2007): AAS 99 (2007) 254.
(31) S. AMBROSIUS, De Officiis Ministrorum, I, 20, 88: PL 16, 50.
(32) BENEDICTUS XVI, Litt. Enc. Deus Caritas Est (25.12.2005), 41: AAS 98 (2006) 251.
(33) Isaac de Stella, Serm. 51: PL 194, 1862-1863, 1865.
(34) Cf. S. AMBROSIUS, Evang. secundum Lucam 2, 19: CCL 14, 39.
(35) IOANNES PAULUS II, Epist. Apost. Rosarium Virginis Mariae (16.10.2002), 1; 3; 18; 30: AAS 95 (2003) 5, 7, 17, 27.
(36) S. GREGORIUS MAGNUS, Registrum, Epistolarum V, 46, ed. Ewald-Hartmann, pp. 345-346.
(37) PONTIFICIA COMMISSIO BIBLICA, L’interprétation de la Bible dans l’Église (15.04.1993), IV, A-B: Enchiridion Vaticanum 13, EDB, Bologna 1995, p. 1724.
(38) Cf. CATECHISMUS CATHOLICAE ECCLESIAE, 115-119.
(39) Cf. PONTIFICIA COMMISSIO BIBLICA, L’interprétation de la Bible dans l’Église (15.04.1993), IV, A-B: Enchiridion Vaticanum 13, EDB, Bologna 1995, p. 1630.
(40) Cf. IOANNES PAULUS II, Discourse on Interpreting the Bible in the Church (23.04.1993): L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, (28.04.1993), p. 4.
(41) MISSALE ROMANUM, Ordo Lectionum Missae: Editio typica altera, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano 1981: Praenotanda, n. 9.
(42) PETRUS DAMASCENUS, Liber II, vol. III, 159: La Filocalia, vol. 3º, Torino 1985, p. 253.
(43) Cf. CONGREGATIO PRO CLERICIS, Directorium Generale pro Catehesi (15.08.1997), pp. 47-49: Enchiridion Vaticanum 16, EDB, Bologna 1999, pp. 662-664.
(44) Cf. Euchologion Serapionis, 19-20, ed. JOHNSON, M.E., The Prayers of Serapion of Thmuis (Orientalia Christiana Analecta 249), Roma 1995, pp. 70-71.
(45) IOANNES PAULUS II, Epist. Apost. Dies Domini (31.05.1998), 41: AAS 90 (1998) 738-739.
(46) WALTRAMUS, De Unitate Ecclesiae Conservanda: 13, ed. W. Schwenkenbecher, Hannover 1883, p. 33: "Dominus enim Iesus Christus ipse est, quod praedicat Verbum Dei, ideoque Corpus Christi intelligitur etiam Evangelium Dei, doctrina Dei, Scriptura Dei."
(47) ORIGENES, In Ps. 147: CCL 78, 337.
(48) Cf. BENEDICTUS XVI, Adhort Apost. Post-Syn. Sacramentum caritatis (22.02.2007), 44-46: AAS 99 (2007) 139-141.
(49) S. Hieronymus, Commentarius in Ecclesiasten, 313: CCL 72, 278.
(50) IOANNES PAULUS II, Litt. Apost. Novo Millennio Ineunte (06.01.2001), 36: AAS 93 (2001) 291.
(51) Cf. BENEDICTUS XVI, Adhort Apost. Post-Syn. Sacramentum caritatis (22.02.2007), 44-48: AAS 99 (2007) 139-142.
(52) Cf. ibidem, 46; AAS 99 (2007) 141.
(53) PONTIFICIA COMMISSIO BIBLICA, L’interprétation de la Bible dans l’Église (15.04.1993), IV, C 2: Enchiridion Vaticanum 13, EDB, Bologna 1995, p. 1718.
(54) Cf. IOANNES PAULUS II, Adhort. Apost. Post-Syn. Pastores Dabo Vobis (25.03.1992), 47: AAS 84 (1992) 740-742; BENEDICTUS XVI, Meeting of the Youth of Rome and the Lazio Region (06.04.2006); L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 12.04.2006, pp. 6-7; Message for the 21st World Youth Day (22.02.2006): L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 01.03.2006, p. 3.
(55) IOANNES PAULUS II, Litt. Apost. Novo Millennio Ineunte (06.01.2001), 39: AAS 93 (2001) 294.
(56) BENEDICTUS XVI, Ad Conventum Internationalem The Sacred Scripture in the Life of the Church (16.09.2005): AAS 97 (2005) 957.
(57) BENEDICTUS XVI, Meeting of the Youth of Rome and the Lazio Region (06.04.2006); L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 12.04.2006, p. 6.
(58) BENEDICTUS XVI, Message for the 21st World Youth Day (22.02.2006): L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 01.03.2006, p. 3.
(59) BENEDICTUS XVI, Ad Conventum Internationalem The Sacred Scripture in the Life of the Church (16.09.2005): AAS 97 (2005) 957; cf. DV 21, 25; PO 18-19; CATECHISMUS CATHOLICÆ ECCLESIÆ , 1177; IOANNES PAULUS II, Adhort. Apost. Post-Syn. Pastores Dabo Vobis (25.03.1992), 47: AAS 84 (1992) 740-742; Adhort. Apost. post-syn, Vita Consecrata (25.03.1996), 94: AAS 88 (1996) 469-470; Litt. Apost. Novo Millennio Ineunte (06.01.2001), 39-40: AAS 93 (2001) 293-295; Adhort. Apost. post-syn, Ecclesia in Oceania (22.11.2001), 38: AAS 94 (2002) 411; Adhort. Apost. Post-Syn. Pastores Gregis (16.10.2003), 15: AAS 96 (2004) 846-847.
(60) Cf. IOANNES PAULUS II, Adhort. Apost. Post-Syn. Vita Consecrata (25.03.1996), 94: AAS 88 (1996) 469-370.
(61) PONTIFICIA COMMISSIO BIBLICA, L’interprétation de la Bible dans l’Église (15.04.1993), I, E 1: Enchiridion Vaticanum 13, EDB, Bologna 1995, p. 1622.
(62) BENEDICTUS XVI, Litt. Enc. Deus Caritas Est (25.12.2005), 22: AAS 98 (2006) 234-235.
(63) BENEDICTUS XVI, Litt. Enc. Spe Salvi (30.11.2007), 2: AAS 99 (2007) 986.
(64) RATZINGER J., Jesus of Nazareth, Doubleday, New York 2007, p. XXIII.
(65) Cf. ibidem, p. 256.
(66) S. AMBROSIUS, De Officiis Mnistrorum, I, 20, 88: PL 16, 50.
(67) S. AUGUSTINUS, Enarrat. In Ps. 85, 7: CCL 39, 1177.
(68) Cf. ORIGENES, In Genesim homiliae, 2.6: SChr 7 bis, 108.
(69) Cf. IOANNES PAULUS II, Litt. Enc. Redemptoris Missio (07.12.1990), 33: AAS 83 (1991) 277-278.
(70) Cf. IOANNES PAULUS II, Litt. Apost. Novo Millennio Ineunte (06.01.2001), 40: AAS 93 (2001) 294.
(71) S. AUGUSTINUS, De Doctrina Christiana, I, 35, 39 - 36, 40: PL 34, 34.
(72) Cf. BENEDICTUS XVI, Litt. Enc. Deus Caritas Est (25.12.2005): AAS 98 (2006) 217-252
(73) IOANNES PAULUS II, Litt. Apost. Novo Millennio Ineunte (06.01.2001), 39: AAS 93 (2001) 293.
(74) CONGREGATIO PRO CLERIS, Directorium Generale pro Catechesi (15.08.1997), 94: Enchiridion Vaticanum 16, EDB, Bologna 1999, pp. 738-740; cf. IOANNES PAULUS II, Adhort. Apost. Catechesi Tradendae (16.10.1979), 27: AAS 71 (1979) 1298.
(75) Cf. CONGREGATIO DE CULTU DIVINO ET DISCIPLINA SACRAMENTORUM, Direttorio su pietà popolare e liturgia (09.04.2002), 87-89, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano 2002, pp. 81-82.
(76) Cf. CONGREGATIO PRO CLERICIS, Directorium Generale pro Catechesi, (15.08.1997), I, 2: Enchiridion Vaticanum 16, EDB, Bologna 1999, pp. 684-7908.
(77) Ibidem, 127, p. 794; cf. IOANNES PAULUS II, Adhort. Apost. Catechesi Tradendae (16.10.1979), 27: AAS 71 (1979) 1298.
(78) IOANNES PAULUS II, Const. Apost. Fidei Depositum (11.101992), IV: AAS 86 (1994) 117.
(79) Cf. IOANNES PAULUS II, Adhort. Apost. Post-Syn. Pastores Gregis (16.10.2003), III: AAS 96 (2004) 859-867.
(80) BENEDICTUS XVI, Allocutio In Inauguratione Operum V Coetus Generalis Episcoporum Americae Latinae et Regionis Caraibicae (13.05.2007), 3; AAS 99 (2007) 450.
(81) Cf. CIC can. 757; CCEO, can. 608; 614.
(82) Cf. MISSALE ROMANUM, Institutio Generalis, 66, editio typica III, Typis Vaticanis 2002, p. 34.
(83) Cf. CIC can. 766; CCEO, can. 614, § 3; 4.
(85) IOANNES PAULUS II, Adhot. Apost. Post-Syn. Christifideles Laici (30.12.1988), 14: AAS 81 (1989) 411.
(86) PAULUS VI, Voti e norme per il IV Congresso Nazionale Francese dell’insegnamento religioso (01-03.04.1964): L’Osservatore Romano (04.04.1964), p. 1.
(87) IOANNES PAULUS II, Adhort. Apost. Post-Syn. Vita Consecrata (25.03.1996), 94: AAS 88 (1996) 469.
(88) Cf. S. AMBROSIUS, Epist. 49, 3: PL 16, 1154 B.
(89) Cf. BENEDICTUS XVI, Address for the World Day of Consecrated Life (02.02.2008): L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 06.02.2008, pp. 2, 4.
(90) Cf. IOANNES PAULUS II, Adhort. Apost. Post-Syn. Vita Consecrata (25.03.1996), 94: AAS 88 (1996) 469.
(92) Cf. CIC, can. 825; CCEO, can. 662, § 1; 654.
(93) CONGREGATIO PRO DOCTRINA FIDEI, Doctrinal Notes on Some Aspects of Evangelization (03.12.2007): L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 19/26.12.2007, pp. 10-12.
(94) Cf. BENEDICTUS XVI, Message for the 21st World Youth Day (22.02.2006): L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, (01.03.2006), p. 3.
(95) CONGREGATIO PRO CLERICIS, Directorium Generale pro Catechesi (15.08.1997), 160: Enchiridion Vaticanum 16, EDB, Bologna 1999, p. 844; Cf. PAULUS VI, Adhort Apost. Evangelii Nuntiandi (08.12.1975), 45: AAS 68 (1976) p. 35; IOANNES PAULUS II, Litt. Enc. Redemptoris Missio (07.12.1990), 37: AAS 83 (1991) pp. 284-286; CIC, can. 761; CCEO, can. 651 § 1.
(96) CONGREGATIO PRO CLERICIS, Directorium Generale pro Catechesi (15.08.1997), 161: Enchiridion Vaticanum 16, EDB, Bologna 1999, p. 846;
(97) Cf. BENEDICTUS XVI, Pontificatus Exordia: Sermo ad S.R.E. Cardinales ad Universumque Orbem Catholicum (20.04.2005), 5; AAS 97 (2005) 697-698.
(98) BENEDICTUS XVI, Homily: Our World Awaits the Common Witness of Christians (25.01.2007): L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 31.01.2007, p. 5.
(99) Cf. IOANNES PAULUS II, Allocutio Mogontiaci ad Iudaeos habita Veteris Testamenti Hæreditas ad pacem et iustitiam fovendas trahit (Mains, 17.11.1980): AAS 73 (1981) 78-82.
(100) IOANNES PAULUS II, Ai partecipanti all’incontro di studio su Radici dell’antigiudaismo in ambiente cristiano (31.10.1997), 3: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, 20/2, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano 2000, p. 725.
(101) Cf. PONTIFICIA COMMISSIO BIBLICA, Le peuple juif et ses Saintes Écritures dans la Bible chrétienne (24.05.2001): Enchiridion Vaticanum 20, EDB, Bologna 2004, pp. 506-834.
(102) Ibidem, 2, p. 524; cf. RATZINGER J., Jesus of Nazareth, Doubleday, New York 2007, pp. 101ff.
(103) Cf. Cf. PONTIFICIA COMMISSIO BIBLICA, Le peuple juif et ses Saintes Écritures dans la Bible chrétienne (24.05.2001) 22: Enchiridion Vaticanum 20, EDB, Bologna 2004,, pp. 584-586.
(104) Cf. IOANNES PAULUS II, Messaggio agli Ebrei polacchi in occasione del 50º Anniversario dell’insurrezione (06.04.1993): Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, 16/1, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano 1993, p. 830: "As Christians and Jews, following the example of the faith of Abraham, we are called to be a blessing for the world (Cf. Gen 12: 2ff). This is the common task awaiting us. It is therefore necessary for us, Christians and Jews, to be first a blessing to one another."
(105) Cf. CONGREGATIO PRO DOCTRINA FIDEI, Declaratio Dominus Jesus (06.08.2000), 20-22: AAS 92 (2000) 761-764.
(106) Cf. CONGREGATIO PRO CLERICIS, Directorium Generale pro Catechesi (15.08.1997), p. 109: Enchiridion Vaticanum 16, EDB, Bologna 1999, pp. 764-766.
(107) Cf. BENEDICTUS XVI, Nuntii ob Diem ad Pacem Fovendam Nella verità, la pace (08.12.2005): AAS 98 (2006) 56-64; La persona umana, cuore della pace (08.12.2006): L’Osservatore Romano (13.12.2006), pp. 4-5.
(108) BENEDICTUS XVI, Address at a Meeting of Representatives of some Muslim Communities (20.08.2005): L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 24.08.2005, p. 9
(109) RATZINGER, J., Allocutio Fede e Ragione in occasione dell’incontro su "La Fede e la ricerca di Dio" (Roma, 17.11.1998): L’Osservatore Romano (19.11.1998), p. 8.
(110) IOANNES PAULUS II, Adhort. Apost. Catechesi Tradendæ (16.10.1979), 53: AAS 71 (1979) 1320.
(111) BENEDICTUS XVI, Discourse to the Pontifical Council for Culture (15.06.2007): L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 11.07.2007, p. 4.
(112) PAULUS VI, Homilia ad Patres Conciliares (07.12.1965): AAS 68 (1966) 57.
(113) S. Maximus Confessor, Capitum Theologicorum et onomicorum Du Enturi IV, 39: MG 90, 1084.
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