Friday, 12 November 2010

Verbum Domini - The Pope's Apostolic Exhortation on Scripture

Pope Benedict XVI's Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation on Scripture Verbum Domini has just been released and is available here.

There is lots of important material here, and it will take some time to absorb it, and I'll probably write more soon.  But here is a quick lifting of key points from my first quick read!

  • It opens saying the exposition will be based around the famous prologue of St John's Gospel, said every day in the EF Mass, In the beginning was the Word...;
  • Reminds that we are not (as Muslims claim)  a religion 'of the book': "Consequently the Scripture is to be proclaimed, heard, read, received and experienced as the word of God, in the stream of the apostolic Tradition from which it is inseparable." (7)
  • The Old testament and New Testaments are affirmed as history, not myth!:"It is very beautiful to see how the entire Old Testament already appears to us as a history in which God communicates his word..." (11); "the death of Christ testifies that the word of God became thoroughly human “ flesh ”, human “ history ”.  Similarly, the resurrection of Jesus takes place “ on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures ”" (13), (32)
  • Importance of the patristic and medieval tradition (thoughout, but esp 37);
  • eschatological dimension of Scripture reaffirmed - no new public revelation until Second Coming of Christ  - thus be careful on private revelations, claims of false religions (14);
  • Scripture can't be understood without the action of the Holy Spirit (16);
  • Scripture must be understood in context of  apostolic 'living Tradition' ;
  • reaffirms inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture: "we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures. Thus, ‘all scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be proficient, equipped for every good work’" (19);
  • importance of the book of Psalms as prayer (24);
  • the sin of refusal to hear God (26);
  • Our Lady as the model for the Church.
The Interpretation of the Word in the Church
  • the primary setting for scriptural interpretation is the life of the Church (29) - "we can never read
    Scripture simply on our own"...we slip too easily into error (30);
  • textual and form criticism might be interesting, but only preliminary and incomplete (30)
  • Reaffirms teaching of Providentissimus Deus and Divino Afflante Spiritu on historical and other methodologies of analysis (33)
  • Three key principles: "1) the text must be interpreted with attention to the unity of the whole of Scripture; nowadays this is called canonical exegesis; 2) account is be taken of the living Tradition of the whole Church; and, finally, 3) respect must be shown for the analogy of faith." (34);
  • Limits of historical criticism - more attention needs to be paid to the theological dimensions of the text (34)
  • dangers of artificial separation of scientific exegesis and lectio divina - faith and reason needed (35-6);
  • Importance of the Fathers and their exegetical methods  - both literal and spiritual sense of texts important (37);
  • Importance of OT, unity of Scripture (39) - "a basic aspect of continuity with the Old Testament revelation, an aspect of discontinuity and an aspect of fulfilment and transcendence" (40)
  • Need a Christological, typological methodology to interpret OT (41);
  • Can't just ignore the dark passages of Scripture (42);
  • Value of dialogue with Jews on Scripture (43);
  • reject fundamentalist literalism (44);
  • value of ecumenical bible study but care needed in how done, esp noting importance of translations and other differences in approach (46);
  • Listen to the saints on Scripture (47).
  • Liturgy as the privileged setting for Scripture that should shape our understanding of it (52);
  • Unbreakable bond with Eucharist and sacraments (55);
  • lectionary issues (58);
  • Ministry of reader  - no change on instituted lectors?, need for training whoever does it (59);
  • sermons (clerics only!) important - directory to be prepared (60)
  • Confession and Scripture (61);
  • Liturgy of the Hours important - where possible introduce in parishes etc (64)
  • 'Celebrations of the Word' encouraged (65);
  • Rediscover value of silence (66);
  • Give Bible visible place of honour, and other measures to emphasise importance;
  • Use of songs at appropriate times - Preference should be given to songs which are of clear biblical inspiration and which express, through the harmony of music and words, the beauty of God’s word. We would do well to make the most of those songs handed down to us by the Church’s tradition which respect this criterion. I think in particular of the importance of Gregorian chant (70);
  • importance of Scriptural formation and catechesis for Catholics (74-5);
  • Value and importance of lectio divina - BUT "it is important to read and experience sacred Scripture in communion with the Church, that is, with all the great witnesses to this word, beginning with the earliest Fathers up to the saints of our own day, up to the presentday magisterium" (86);
  • Basic steps of lectio: "the reading (lectio) of a text, which leads to a desire to understand its true content: what does the biblical text say in itself? Without this, there is always a risk that the text will become a pretext for never moving beyond our own ideas. Next comes meditation (meditatio), which asks: what does the biblical text say to us? Here, each person, individually but also as a member of the community, must let himself or herself be moved and challenged. Following this comes prayer (oratio), which asks the question: what do we say to the Lord in response to his word? Prayer, as petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise, is the primary way by which the word transforms us. Finally, lectio divina concludes with contemplation (contemplatio), during which we take up, as a gift from God, his own way of seeing and judging reality, and ask ourselves what conversion of mind, heart and life is the Lord asking of us?...not concluded until it arrives at action (actio), which moves the believer to make his or her life a gift for others in charity (87);
  • Reading Scripture as an opportunity to gain indulgences (87);
  • Scriptural rosary, Angelus, etc (88);
  • Importance of the Holy Land (89)
  • Word as source of Church's missionary imperative - need a renewed commitment to mission by all (90 - 94);
  • Mission 'ad gentes' essential (95);
  • To the baptised but not really insufficiently evangelized - New Evangelization (96);
  • public and social life;
  • importance of practical charity, not just commitments to reconciliation etc (103);
  • Migration  - "Large numbers of people who know nothing of Christ, or who have an inadequate understanding of him, are settling in countries of Christian tradition. At the same time, persons from nations deeply marked by Christian faith are emigrating to countries where Christ needs to be proclaimed and a new evangelization is demanded. These situations offer new possibilities for the spread of God’s word. In this regard the Synod Fathers stated that migrants are entitled to hear the kerygma, which is to be proposed, not imposed. If they are Christians, they require forms of pastoral care which can enable them to grow in the faith and to become in turn messengers of the Gospel. Taking into account the complexity of the phenomenon, a mobilization of all dioceses involved is essential, so that movements of migration will also be seen as an opportunity to discover new forms of presence and proclamation." (105)
  • interesting stuff on poverty as a virtue as well as a problem (107);
  • importance of culture (109-110);
  • importance of internet (while not replacing face to face) - "I express gratitude to those Catholics who are making serious efforts to promote a significant presence in the world of the media..." - need more (113)
  • No syncretism under the guise of inculturation (114);
Interreligious dialogue
  • Context of mission - an essential part of the proclamation of the word to consist in encounter, dialogue and cooperation with all people of good will, particularly with the followers of the different religious traditions of humanity; no syncretism or relativism (117);
  • Possibility of countering secularism together;
  • Islam - look for ways of promoting peaceful co-existence (118);
  • But all interreligius dialogue must be predicated on freedom to practice own religion - need for reciprosity (120).

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