Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Scripture: Historia Salutis, Chapter 1 (Revelation, the Word of God and the Church)

Part 2 of the Historia Salutis series.

  1. Knowledge of the Word of God in the History of Salvation
    • What is the prevalent idea among the faithful in Revelation, the Word of God, the Bible, Divine Tradition and the Magisterium?
    • Do the faithful understand the various levels of meaning of the Word of God?
    • Is Jesus Christ understood to be central to the Word of God?
    • What is the relation between the Word of God and the Bible? What aspects are less understood? What are the reasons?
  2. The Word of God and the Church
    • To what extent does approaching the Word of God develop a dynamic knowledge of belonging to the Church, the Body of Christ, and prompt a genuine participation in the Church's mission?
    • What is the faithful's understanding of the relation between the Word of God and the Church?
    • Does a proper relation between the Bible and Divine Tradition exist in exegetical and theological studies and in the faithful's encounter with the Holy Book?
    • Is catechesis based on the Word of God?
    • Are the Sacred Scriptures well-valued?
    • What is the perception of the Magisterium's importance and responsibility in the proclamation of the Word of God?
    • Is there a genuine listening to the Word of God in faith? What aspects need to be clarified and reinforced?
  3. Signs of the Church's Faith in the Word of God
    • How has Dei Verbum been received? The Catechism of the Catholic Church?
    • What is the specific magisterial role of Bishops in the apostolate of the Word of God?
    • What is the task of ordained ministers, priests and deacons in proclaiming the Word (cf. Lumen Gentium 25, 28)?
    • What is the faithful’s understanding of the relation between the Word of God and the consecrated life?
    • How can the Word of God be employed in the formation of future priests?
    • What formation in the Word of God is needed in the People of God -- priests, deacons, consecrated persons and the laity?
  4. The Bible as the Word of God
    • Why are Christians eagerly seeking the Bible today? What effect does the Bible have on the life of faith?
    • How is the Bible received in the non-Christian world? And among people of culture?
    • Does a proper approach to the Scriptures always exist? What are some of the more common failings?
    • Describe the faithful’s understanding of the charism of inspiration and truth of the Scriptures.
    • Do the faithful realize that the spiritual sense of Scripture is the final sense willed by God?
    • How is the Old Testament received?
    • If the Gospels are read more often, is the knowledge and reading of them satisfactory?
    • What are overwhelmingly considered the “difficult pages” of the Bible today, and what approach should be taken in their regard?
  5. Faith in the Word of God
    • How do believers look at the Word of God?
    • Do the faithful listen to the Word of God with a deep faith and do they aim at re-generating their faith by it?
    • Why do the faithful read the Bible?
    • What criteria for discernment are used by believers in reading the Bible?
  6. Mary and the Word of God
    • Why is Mary the Model and Mother of listening to the Word of God?
    • Is the Word of God received and lived as she did?
    • How can Mary become the Model for every believer of listening, meditating upon and living the Word of God?
  1. God Takes the Initiative: Divine Revelation by the Word of God
    "At the risk of subjecting the mystery of God to the human word and the formality of an arbitrary report, the Second Vatican Council masterfully and accurately set forth in Dei Verbum a summary of the faith profession by the Church throughout the ages." God seeks to create an "interpersonal relationship of truth and love with humankind". He reveals "a plan which seeks the salvation of humankind" and all of creation thereby. Divine Revelation gloriously culminates in Jesus Christ, "who is both the mediator and the fullness of all Revelation" (HS 6, DV 2). Looking at the Bible as a whole, it is clear this communication between God and Man has "continually taken place from Genesis to Revelation".
  2. The Human Person Needs Revelation
    Man is "capable of knowing God by relying simply on God-given human resources", specifically the created world (cf. Rom 1:20). Because of sin, this knowledge "has become clouded and uncertain and even denied by many". Despite this, "God does not abandon humanity", and places a "deep longing in individuals for light, salvation and peace, even if this is not always recognized".
  3. The Word of God is Intimately a Part of Human History and Guides it
    Some cultures fashion people to think they are self-sufficient and "masters of their own destiny", which "makes it difficult for them to accept that someone might come into the world to enter into dialogue and provide the meaning of existence". But this is what God does through His Word; as St. Gregory the Great explains, "Scripture comes down to our level in using our poor words, so as to allow us gradually to climb, step-by-step, from what is seen near-at-hand to things sublime" (Moralia, 20, 63). From His first encounter with Man, God wanted "to make known the way leading to eternal salvation" (DV 3), and to His chosen people Israel, "the supreme Revelation took place in Jesus Christ, His Eternal Word-Made-Flesh" (cf. John 1:14). Because God has never removed Himself from His creation, "traces of the Word of God can be seen in nature and culture" -- our history is not "composed simply of human thoughts, words and initiatives". Rather, God has revealed that He is Emmanuel, God-with-us (Isaiah 8:10).
  4. Jesus Christ is the Word of God Made Man, the Fullness of Revelation
    As the letter to the Hebrews says at its beginning, God spoke through prophets up until the time when He had determined to speak to us by His Son. By his life, and particularly at his death and resurrection, "Jesus took upon himself and fulfilled the entire purpose, meaning, history and plan of the Word of God". It is clear in the Scriptures that Jesus is "the Eternal Word of God, which shines forth in creation, is given a historical character in the message of the prophets, is fully manifested in the Person of Jesus, is echoed in the voice of the apostles and is proclaimed in the Church today". All the books that comprise the Sacred Scriptures testify to him, thus displaying "continuity [...] in diversity". He is present in the history of Israel in the Old Testament "which bears witness to him as Messiah" just as he is present today. St. Bernard wrote: "In the plan of the Incarnation of the Word, Christ is the center of all scripture. The Word of God, already capable of being heard in the Old Testament, became visible in Christ." (Super Missus est, Homilia IV, 11)
  5. The Word of God as a Symphony
    The Word of God "can be compared to a symphony played with many instruments, since God communicates his Word in many and various ways". It is Revelation, which can be found in:
    1. The "Eternal Word of God, the Second Person the Most Blessed Trinity, the Son of the Father".
    2. The "created world" which "tells of the glory of God" (Psalm 19:1) and is his voice (cf. Sirach 46:17; Psalm 68:34). God has made "all creation [...] to render 'perennial witness to Him'" (DV 3).
    3. The Word-made-flesh, "the Gospel of God to humankind": Jesus Christ.
    4. Through the "proclamation of the prophets and the apostles", God spoke to the ancient fathers of the people of Israel. These messengers of God were inspired through the Holy Spirit, so "the words of man are taken as the words of God".
    5. The "Books of Sacred Scripture" unite "Jesus-the-Word to the words of the prophets and apostles". "Every page looks to the Word, Jesus" (cf. John 5:39; Luke 24:27,44-49).
    6. Although "Revelation ended with the death of the last apostle" (cf. DV 4), the Word is continually revealed through "spirited preaching and many other forms in service to the Gospel".
    It is one of the responsibilities of ordained ministers to "instruct the faithful in a proper conception of the Word of God by avoiding erroneous or over-simplistic approaches and any ambiguity".
  6. Personal Faith Responds to the Word of God, a Faith Manifested in Listening
    "The obedience of faith is owed to the God who reveals." (DV 5) In doing so, each person accepts "the invitation of full communion with God" and is committed to "doing His will for the sake of the community and every believer" (DV 2, 5). In his life of communion, "the Word is the basic force at work in conversion; a light in response to the many questions in the believer's life; a guide to a proper and wise discernment of reality; an invitation not simply read or speak the Word but to 'do it' (Luke 8:21); and finally, an everlasting source of consolation and hope".
  7. Mary, Every Believer's Model of How to Welcome the Word
    Mary, in her life of faith, is "the exemplar of every encounter with the Word". "She welcomes the Word in faith, meditates upon it, interiorizes it and lives it." (cf. Luke 1:38; 2:19,51) As she said upon meeting Elizabeth, her soul "magnifies the Lord" (Luke 1:46), "discovering in her life the mercy of God, who makes her 'blessed' because 'she believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her from the Lord'" (Luke 1:45). Christ has one mother according to the flesh, but each Christian gives birth to the Word through faith (cf. St. Ambrose, Evang. secundum Lucam 2, 19).
  8. The Word of God, Entrusted to the Church, is Transmitted to Every Generation
    "Even though Revelation has ended, it continues, in a certain way, in a communication where the Word of God becomes actually present to us" so that we may "increase our understanding". Thus, "the Word is not an inert deposit in the Church", but advances "through the power of the Holy Spirit" and grows with the "reflection and study of believers" and the "preaching of Bishops" (cf. DV 8, 21). It is clear that the mission of the Church is the proclamation of "the Divine Word to all humankind in every time and place" (cf. Matt. 28:18-20).
  9. Divine Tradition and Sacred Scripture in the Church: A Single Sacred Deposit of the Word of God
    "The Word of God became the Gospel" in Jesus Christ. Thus, the preaching that began in apostolic times and "continues through the ages" has, as a part of itself, the Word of God. This is found in two ways. One is "the dynamic flow of Tradition, manifested [...] through worship, doctrine and the Church's life". The other is Scripture, which "by virtue of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, preserves in written form the unchanging character of the original and constitutive elements of this living Tradition". The teaching authority of the Church, the Magisterium, "which is not above the Word of God", must "authentically interpret the Word of God, whether written or handed on" (DV 10). Scripture and Tradition are a fundamental unit and close connected, and the Church treats both "with the same sense of loyalty and reverence" (Council of Trent, Session IV). Both come from the same single deposit of the faith, since, "in the early Church, Tradition preceded Scripture and was always a kind of fertile humus"; in this way, "both can be called, and indeed are, the 'Word of God'". For this reason, Sola Scriptura "cannot exist in and of itself, because the Scriptures are related to the Church, namely, to the one who receives and understands both Tradition and Scripture".
  10. Sacred Scripture, the Inspired Word of God
    "Sacred Scripture is the Word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit." (DV 9, cf. 24) The written Word of God is known by such names as "Scripture", "the Bible", "Holy Writ", and "the Good Book". Both "Scripture and Tradition communicate the Word of God without change and echo the 'voice of the Holy Spirit'" (DV 21). "Biblical truth" is understood, above as, as "that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings" (DV 11). The Bible is "the Word of God written in human language". Proper, authentic interpretation of the Bible (which is the service rendered irreplaceably by the Magisterium) is "united to philosophical and theological criteria, bearing in mind the document of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church".
  11. A Necessary, Demanding Task: Interpreting the Word of God in the Church
    Because there is an increase in interest in studying the Word of God found in the Church's members, there is an "opportunity to instruct the faithful in understanding it properly and apply it to everyday life". Studying Scripture "can help people come to a knowledge of the truth and values concerning God, man and things", but at the same time, it can "pose a danger that the Scriptures will be interpreted arbitrarily or literally, as in fundamentalism". While "this approach shows a desire to remain faithful to the text", it also "displays a lack of knowledge of the texts themselves". It also opens the door to numerous "contrary opinions or different versions of the Bible". These are "serious errors" and can create "useless controversy". The Bible, as "the Book of God and man, has to be read with a correct blending if its historical-literal sense and its theological-spiritual sense" (cf. CCC 117). Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI, in an address to the Bishops of Switzerland, stated his desire that "theologians learn to interpret and love Scripture as the Council intended, in accordance with Dei Verbum". While "the faithful have the responsibility to listen to and meditate on" the Word of God, "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".
  12. Old and New Testaments: A Single Economy of Salvation
    Many people's knowledge of the Scriptures "is not totally satisfactory". In particular, "there is a reluctance to take up passages from the Old Testament which appear difficult"; these may get "set aside, considered arbitrarily or never read at all". The Church recognizes the Old Testament as part of its Scriptures and "acknowledges its permanent value"; therefore, the solution "requires a formation centered on a Christian reading of the Old Testament", for "the reading of the Old Testament [is] essential for a full understanding of the New Testament". The sentiment of St. Augustine, "Novum in Vetere latet et in Novo Vetus patet" (Quaestiones in Heptateucum. 2, 73), is echoed by St. Gregory the Great: "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 Testament" (In Ezechielem I, 6, 15).

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