Friday, September 07, 2007

Scripture: Historia Salutis, Chapter 2 (The Word of God in the Life of the Church)

Part 3 of the Historia Salutis series.

  1. The Word of God in the Life of the Church
    • What importance is shown to the Word of God in the life of your community and among the faithful-at-large?
    • In what way is the Word of God a source of nourishment for Christians?
    • Does the danger exist of reducing Christianity to a "religion of the book"?
    • Describe how individuals show reverence and familiarity towards the Word of God in their personal life and in the life of the community on Sundays? Weekdays? In the special seasons of the liturgical year?
  2. The Word of God in the Formation of the People of God
    • What is being done to transmit the entire and complete teaching of the Word of God to your community and to each member of the faithful?
    • Are future priests, consecrated persons and those responsible for various services in the community (catechists, etc.) properly formed and periodically up-dated in the biblical aspects of their pastoral ministry?
    • Are there ongoing programs of formation for the laity?
  3. The Word of God, Liturgy and Prayer
    • What is the faithful’s approach to Sacred Scripture in liturgical and personal prayer?
    • What is their understanding of the relationship between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist?
    • Between the Word celebrated in the Eucharist and the everyday life of the Christian?
    • Does the Word of God have a genuine resonance in homilies? What needs to be done?
    • Is a listening to the Word of God incorporated in the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
    • Does the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours include a listening to and dialog with the Word of God? Does this practice extend to lay people?
    • Do the People of God have sufficient access to the Bible?
  4. The Word of God, Evangelization and Catechesis
    • Bearing in mind the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and those of the Church’s Magisterium, describe the positive and negative aspects of the Word of God and catechesis.
    • How is the Word of God treated in the various forms of catechesis (Christian initiation and ongoing formation)?
    • Does the community give sufficient attention and study to the written Word of God? If yes, please explain.
    • How are various groups of people (children, adolescents, young people and adults) introduced to the Bible?
    • What introductory courses on Sacred Scripture are offered?
  5. The Word of God, Exegesis and Theology
    • Is the Word of God the soul of exegesis and theology?
    • Is its character as the Word-Revealed sufficiently understood and reverenced?
    • Is scientific research of the Bible animated and sustained by a proper grounding in the faith?
    • What is the customary method of approaching the scriptural text?
    • What role does the Bible play in theological study?
    • Is the Bible sufficiently taken into consideration in the pastoral life of the community?
  6. The Word of God and the Life of the Believer
    • What is the impact of Sacred Scripture in the spiritual lives of the People of God? The clergy? Those in the consecrated life? The lay faithful?
    • Is Mary’s attitude of poverty and trust in the Magnificat evident?
    • Why does seeking to pile up material goods impede a fervent listening to the Word of God?
    • In the celebration of the Eucharist and other liturgical celebrations, is the Word of God a strong or weak instrument of communicating the faith?
    • Why do various Christians seem to be cold or indifferent to the Bible?
    • Is lectio divina practised? Under what forms? Which factors favour it and which do not?
  1. The Church is Born and Lives by the Word of God
    The Church is "constantly called and renewed by the Word of God". She follows the model of Mary, "who listened to the Word and put it into practice (cf. Luke 1:38)"; for this, "the Lord made her a model of the Church". The Scriptures, "together with Sacred Tradition [are] the supreme rule of faith" (DV 21). The Bible is received by Christians "from the Church; they read it with the Church and share its spirit and purpose".
  2. The Word of God Sustains the Church Throughout Her History
    The members of the Church constantly draw "on the power of the Word" in their lives. Excellent examples of this can be found in the writings of the Church Fathers, who "are the masters, without equal, of what is called the 'spiritual' reading of the Scriptures". By the Middle Ages, four distinct sense of Scripture were identified: "literal, allegorical, moral, and anagogical". The monastic practice of lectio divina is a form of prayer derived from reading and meditating upon Scripture. "At present, the Church is experiencing a renewal based on the centrality of the Word of God".
  3. Through the Power of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God Permeates and Animates Every Aspect of the Church's Life
    As Jesus promised in John 16:13, the "Holy Spirit guides the Church to all truth" and brings her to the true understanding of the Word of God. The Holy Spirit is then the "soul and interpreter of Sacred Scripture" as it was written under His inspiration. Therefore, Sacred Scripture "must be read and interpreted in the sacred Spirit in which it was written" (DV 12). The Introduction of the Lectionary of the Roman Missal explains that the "working of the Holy Spirit is needed if the Word of God is to make what we hear outwardly have its effect inwardly". It is for this reason that the Church's "primary task is to assist the faithful in understanding how to encounter the Word of God under the guidance of the Spirit", and particularly to teach them how this takes place "in the spiritual reading of the Bible". She also shows them how "the Bible, Tradition and the Magisterium are intrinsically joined by the spirit".
  4. The Church is Nourished on the Word in Various Ways
    "All preaching in the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture." (DV 21) There are four ways in which "the Word of God becomes the basis for the Church's life through her experience of communion, charity and mission": (Directorium generale pro catechesi 47)
  5. a) In the Liturgy and Prayer
    There is an intimate connection between the words and the rites in the Liturgy (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 35) as evidenced by the increased reading of Scripture and the homily, among other things. Because "Christ is present in his Word [...] it is he himself who speaks when the Holy Scriptures are read in the Church" (Sacrosanctum Concilium 7). Thus, the texts should be proclaimed "in a clear, audible manner", and the homilies must resound with the Word "in a clear and encouraging manner".
  6. b) In evangelization and catechesis
    In receiving the gift of the Word of God, the Church is "taking the Word is her greatest task, namely, giving the Word to others" (cf. CIC can. 762). The various forms of communicating the Word in the Church today include the lectionary, praying the Liturgy of the Hours, catechisms, and celebrations of the Word (that is, apart from Mass). Catechesis should be "an authentic introduction to lectio divina, that is, to a reading of the Sacred Scriptures, done according to the Spirit who dwells in the Church" (Directorium generale pro catechesi 127). The teaching of the Bible in school "has particular value in culture".
  7. c) In exegesis and theology
    It is the "duty of exegetes and theologians to study and explain the Scriptures according to the mind of the Church". There is a great need to ensure the proper "interpreting and teaching the Word of the Bible in conjunction with the Church's living Tradition". In this process, "the heritage of Church Fathers" must be kept "uppermost in mind", and "the Church's magisterial teachings" should be relied on for guidance. (cf. DV 12; Ad Gentes 22)
  8. d) In the life of the believer
    St. Jerome wrote that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ himself (cf. Comm. in Is.; Prologue), and the Second Vatican Council declare the need for all to "hold fast to the Sacred Scriptures through diligent sacred reading and careful study" (DV 25). Because of advances in biblical catechesis, "the spiritual sense of Scripture is one of the most appealing and promising aspects of the Word of God in the life of his People". To read the Word with genuine spirituality, "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 words" (DV 25). The Church strongly recommends the "biblical practice traditionally called lectio divina with its four stages (lectio, meditatio, oratio and contemplatio)". Lectio divina has been with the Church since its early days; it was "originally reserved to monasteries, but today the Spirit, through the Church's Magisterium, is inspiring the practice among the clergy, parish communities, ecclesial movements, families and the young". St. Cyprian appealed thus: "Diligently practice prayer and lectio divina. When you pray, you speak with God; when you read, God speaks with you." (Ad Donatum 15) As the Psalmist wrote, "Your word is a lamp for my step, a light on my path" (Psalm 119:105).

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