Tag Archives: scripture

No tiring of the Bible

Biblical commentaries:

Opening locked gates we didn’t know existed!

By Sister Genevieve Glen, OSB

bible reading.jpgTake out your Bible. Look at it. It’s not really so big, is it? You could read a bestseller that size during a week at the beach. Yet Jews and Christians have spent centuries studying and pondering the books that make up this one “book,” and still they discover new questions, new insights, new information.

 

God, being tricky, has given us a book full of open doors, mysterious holes and sudden surprises to keep us wondering, searching and asking.

 

There is no tiring of the Bible — unless we just skim across the surface.

 

The most common excuse for empty skimming is, “I don’t get it.” The Bible is not like the morning paper or your favorite cookbook or the latest tech manual. All those come from today’s world, speak today’s language and provide information you can grasp quickly.

 

The Bible comes from faraway places; it was written in Greek and Hebrew, and not even modern Greek and Hebrew; the ink dried centuries ago. Yet, because it is God’s word to us, it speaks to us even when we just sit down and read it attentively as part of the conversation with God we call prayer.

 

However, it says a great deal more to us if we make use of the maps left by other explorers, those who have spent a lifetime studying the intricacies of old manuscripts, the subtleties of the original languages, the literary, religious and cultural world that produced the various books of the Bibles. Their commentaries open up locked gates we didn’t even know existed.

 

Commentaries come in all shapes and sizes. Among the most interesting are commentaries that shed light on the cultures of the Bible.

 

Did you know, for example, that salt was used as a fire starter in Jesus’ day? When Jesus shows concern about salt that has lost its zing, he isn’t talking only about flavor but about the failure of old, tired salt to light the fire that makes us the “light of the world” — because, of course, fire from the sun, lamps or hearths was the only source of light in Jesus’ day.

 

It’s no surprise then that Jesus speaks of salt and light in the same Gospel passage (see John A. Pilch’s Cultural Dictionary of the Bible, Liturgical Press, 1999). Pilch’s fascinating books are only one example of the richness students of the history of culture can provide for us.

 

More demanding commentaries shed light on details of the historical or literal meaning of biblical texts so that we can get a firm grip on what the text actually says and sometimes on what the human author seems to have meant.


Raymond Brown.jpgThe late Sulpician Father Raymond Brown left us a magisterial commentary of this kind in The Death of the Messiah (Doubleday, 1994). After reading his account of the many possible meanings of the “cup” Jesus asks the Father to take away (Mark 14:36), you could spend all of Lent thinking about your answer to Jesus’ question, “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” (Matthew 20:22).

 

Other commentaries explore what Christian tradition calls the “spiritual” meaning of biblical texts. These books, some as ancient as the first Christian centuries, some as recent as last week, are really extended homilies. They seek to connect the biblical texts with our spiritual growth and decisions in the midst of everyday life.

 

If you’ve ever been in love, read the fifth-century Sermon 147 “On the Incarnation” by St. Peter Chrysologus for an eye-opening reflection on Moses’ plea (Exodus 33:18) to see God’s “glory” (The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 17, 1953).

 

The word “disciple” means “learner.” To be faithful disciples, we must become lifelong learners of the Bible — and we are rich in teachers!

 

Benedictine Sister Genevieve Glen is a nun at the Abbey of Saint Walburga,
Mother Maria Michael  and Sr Genevieve Glen.jpgVirginia Dale, Colorado. She is a frequent contributor and assisting editor of
Magnificat. This article appeared 4 February 2008. Copyright (c) 2008 Catholic News Service/U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Focus on the Synod on Scripture

As you know, there is a synod happening in Rome. It will be working on themese related
Thumbnail image for bible.jpgto the sacred Scriptures. This synod and our study of the Bible is essential to our spiritual life and our life in the Catholic Church, so spend time with materials that will broaden your scriptural horizon. The synod and the Year of Saint Paul are apt for our times.

 

The 29 September 2008 issue of America Magazine published worthwhile articles on the
Synod of Bishops on the Word of God. They are worth your consideration.

 

Abbot John B. Klassen, OSB, “Ever Ancient, Ever New

 

Bishop Richard J. Sklba, “Nourished and Ruled By Sacred Scripture

 

Father Richard J. Clifford, S.J., “The Original Testament

 

Father John R. Donahue, S.J., “A Hymn With Many Voices

 

Father Ronald D. Witherup, S.S., “From Council to Synod

 

Doctor Pheme Perkins, “Sowing the Word

 

AND when you’re finished with the above, read John Allen’s article here.

 

Synod on the Word of God: Are YOU praying for it? What are you doing to know the Scriptures better?

Are you praying for the Holy Spirit’s
holy-spirit.jpgintercession? Will you following the Pope’s meeting on the Bible?  Prayer to the Spirit is always key to the work of our Church: the scholars, pastors, students and faithful rely on our intercession on their behalf.

 

A meeting was called by Pope Benedict XVI to study the role of the Bible in our lives as Catholics. The meeting (October 5-26) is technically called by the Church a “Synod of Bishops” which is a gathering of invited bishops, experts and others to offer input on a particular subject to the Holy Father who will later write a paper as a follow up setting a direction in which he thinks the entire Church should go. It was Pope Paul’s intention that “Synod [is] in response to the desire of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council to keep alive the spirit of collegiality engendered by the conciliar experience.” The Holy See’s own understanding of the role of a synod is:

 

A Synod is a religious meeting or assembly at which bishops, gathered around and with the Holy Father, have opportunity to interact with each other and to share information and experiences, in the common pursuit of pastoral solutions which have a universal validity and application. The Synod, generally speaking, can be defined as an assembly of bishops representing the Catholic episcopate, having the task of helping the Pope in the governing of the universal Church by rendering their counsel. Pope John Paul II has referred to the Synod as “a particularly fruitful expression and instrument of the collegiality of bishops.

 


Nikola Eterovic.jpgThe commission which coordinates the Synod of Bishops is headed by Croatian Archbishop Nikola Eterovic. In collaboration with the cardinals, bishops and experts, and of course with the Holy Father himself, a theme and an agenda is set for the Synod participants to work on. Therefore, the coming Synod is thus…

 


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
Bishops.jpgScripture 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. Romans 6:6), his followers seek to conform themselves to their Master so that each might live Christ (cf. Galatians 2:20). Such is also the case in the Old Testament which, according to Jesus’ own words, refers to himself (cf. John 5:39; Luke 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.

 

Pope Benedict XVI’s general prayer intention for October is: “That the Synod of Bishops may help the pastors and theologians, the catechists and promoters who are engaged in the service of the Word of God to courageously transmit the truth of faith in communion with the entire Church.”

 

So, let’s remember the Synod members in prayer. Perhaps we should offer a rosary and fast for the Pope’s intention.

Saint Jerome: encourages us to live by the Word

The example of Saint Jerome, priest, confessor of the faith and doctor of the Church lived ca. 341-420. He lived a simple life dedicated to the Church; he made the sacred Scriptures accessible to the people by translating them into Latin and writing commentaries. Saint Jerome was a colorful character and concerned for the welfare of others. 


St Jerome2.jpg

O God,

Who for the expounding of the Holy Scriptures

did raise up in Thy Church the great and holy Doctor Jerome;

we beseech Thee, grant that by his intercession and merits we may,

by Thy help, be enabled to practice what he taught us both by word and by work.

Given that today is a feast day of a great saint dedicated to knowing and living the Scriptures, an excerpt from the work, All About the Bible, seems useful for our meditation today.

Man Shares with God

Making all this known to man was not the work of a moment, from our point of view. God had made man to His own image and likeness. This means that man shares with God the power to know himself and others. Man shares with God the freedom to embrace that which is good. Man can even know the infinite goodness Itself which is God; he has the power to make his whole being center on that goodness of God – to bring about his own human perfection and the perfection of those with whom he lives. 

But man had so distorted this image of God as to seek happiness where there is only misery, peace where there is only disturbance, security where there is only danger. But God is not so weak that He would have to start over with a new human race. God is not so petty as simply to seek revenge on the man who betrayed Him. Because man had made himself an ugly distortion of the image of God, God came into man’s world as Savior to bring beauty out of ugliness. In this is seen the power of God; in this also is known the love of God who can never cease to pursue this fallen man so as to give him greater blessings than those he had thrown away. When God took a hand in our world, He still respected that image of Himself in man that man had distorted. Man doesn’t change overnight from an infant into an adult. He doesn’t learn all things suddenly in a flash of light. This is not the way God made us. In coming to man as his Savior, God dealt with man as God Himself had made him – a being who learns step by step, a being who learns from others and from the world about him, a being who can do only as much as he knows how to do.

 

To bring to the world the knowledge of the astonishing love and goodness of God was a long process. Two thousand years passed before the full work of God as Savior was established in our world as a living thing. The central point of this work was the coming of Jesus of Nazareth, One who was wholly and completely a man like us in all save sin, and yet true God from all eternity. Christians group all the events that led up to this central event of history under the term “Old Testament.” It was that period between the call of Abraham about 1800 years before Christ to the coming of Christ Himself. It was that patient struggle of God to show man how far he had drifted from God, how little he actually knew about either God or man himself. By His unselfish, relentless pursuit of man, God brought at least some – those who were willing to do what they knew how to do for God – to realize that their only happiness in their own lives and in their nation was to be found in obedience to God.

All About the Bible is a booklet published by the Catholic Information Service. There are more than 60 titles published by CIS to help learn the Catholic faith or just to review some things about the faith.

Pope Benedict Prepares for the 12th Synod of Bishops on the Word of God

Today the press office of the Holy See published the names of those the Pope asked to
Pope and Gospel.jpgassist the work of the
12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops being held in Rome October 5-26, 2008. The Synod will be dealing with the topic of The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”

 

Pope Benedict’s Janaury 21st address to attending the general meeting for the Synod is here. In the address, the Holy Father says: “Among the Ecclesial Community’s many and great duties in today’s world, I emphasize evangelization and ecumenism. They are centred on the Word of God and at the same time are justified and sustained by it. As the Church’s missionary activity with its evangelizing work is inspired and aims at the merciful revelation of the Lord, ecumenical dialogue cannot base itself on words of human wisdom (cf. I Cor 2: 13) or on neat, expedient strategies, but must be animated solely by constant reference to the original Word that God consigned to his Church so that it be read, interpreted and lived in communion with her.”

 

On Sunday October 5, at 9:30 a.m., in the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls, Pope Benedict will open the Synod.

 

The list of the Ordinary members with the assistance of experts and auditors is extensive and likely to be meaningless for many but there are some names that we ought to raise an eyebrow and say, “Well….” Of interest to me and perhaps to you are the following:

scholars.jpg

 

Ordinary members
 

-Marc Cardinal Ouellet, P.S.S.


 
Bishop Vincenzo Paglia, Bishop of Terni-Narni-Amelia, Pres. of the Catholic Biblical Federation

-Very Rev’d Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus

-Rev’d Fr. Julián Carrón, President of Communion and Liberation

 

 

 


Thumbnail image for St Jerome.jpgExperts

-Rev’d Fr. Peter Damian Akpunonu, Mundelein Seminary, Mundelein, IL

-Rev’d Fr. Enzo Bianchi, Prior of the Monastic Community of Bose, Italy

-Rev’d Sr. Sara Butler, M.S.B.T., Professor of Dogmatic Theology, St. Joseph Seminary, NY

-Rev’d Fr. Juan Javier Flores, O.S.B. Pres. of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, Rome

-Rev’d Fr. Stephen F. Pisano, S.J. Rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute (from the USA)

-Rev’d Fr. Marko Rupnik, S.J., Director of the Ezio Aletti Center for Studies & Research, Rome

-Rev’d Sr. Germana Strola, O.C.S.O., Trappist nun of the Vitorchiano Abbey, Italy

-Rev’d Fr. Cyril Vasil, S.J., Rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, Rome

-Rev’d Mons. Timothy Verdon, Professor of Sacred Art, Theological Faculty of Central Italy, Florence (from the USA)

-Prof. Michael Waldstein, Professor of NT, International Theological Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, Gaming, Austria (citizen of the USA & Austria)

 

 
810116100_aa052c6422.jpg

Auditors

-Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus (from the USA)

-Luis F. Figari, Superior General of the Sodalitium Vitae Christianae (from Peru)

-Abbot Michel Jorrot, O.S.B., Abbey of Clervaux (from Luxemburg)

-Rev’d Mother Clare Millea, A.S.C.J., Superior General of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart (from the USA)

-Andrea Riccardi, Founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio (from Italy)

-Maria Voce, Pres. Of the Focolari Movement (from Italy)

 

Interesting to note that there are no bishops from the USA among the Ordinary members of the Synod. Plus, a number of the experts already sit on the International Theological Commission which is under the auspices of the CDF. One can also appreciate the presence of the ecclesial movements participating in the Synod!

 

 

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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