Tag Archives: scripture

Pope Benedict speaks on Saint Bede

St Bede.jpgThe saint on whom we reflect today is called Bede. He was born in Northeast England, in fact in Northumbria, in the year 672/673. He himself narrates that, when he was seven years old his parents entrusted him to the abbot of the neighboring Benedictine monastery, to be educated. “In this monastery,” he recalls, “I lived from then on, dedicating myself intensely to the study of Scripture, while observing the discipline of the Rule and the daily effort to sing in church, I always found it pleasant to learn, teach and write” (Ecclesiastical History of the English People, V, 24). In fact, Bede was one of the most illustrious figures of erudition of the High Middle Ages because he was able to make use of many precious manuscripts that his abbots, who went on frequent trips to the Continent and to Rome, were able to bring back to him. His teaching and the fame of his writings enabled him to have many friendships with the principal personalities of his time, who encouraged him to continue in his work, from which so many benefited. Falling ill, he did not cease to work, always having an interior joy that was expressed in prayer and song. He concluded his most important work, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, with this invocation: “I pray, O good Jesus, who benevolently has allowed me to draw from the sweet words of your wisdom, that I may reach you one day, source of all wisdom, and to always be before your face.” Death came to him on May 26, 735: It was Ascension day.

St Bede symbol.jpgSacred Scriptures were the constant source of Bede’s theological reflection. Having made a careful critical study of the text (we have a copy of the monumental Codex Amiatinus of the Vulgate, on which Bede worked), he commented on the Bible, reading it in a Christological vein, namely, re-uniting two things: On one hand, he listened to what the text was saying exactly, he really wanted to listen and understand the text itself; on the other hand, he was convinced that the key to understanding sacred Scripture as the unique Word of God is Christ and with Christ, in his light, one understands the Old and the New Testament as “a” sacred Scripture.

The events of the Old and New Testament go together, they are together the path toward Christ, though expressed in different signs and institutions (it is what he calls “concordia sacramentorum”). For example, the tent of the covenant that Moses raised in the desert and the first and second temple of Jerusalem are images of the Church, new temple built on Christ and the Apostles with living stones, cemented by the charity of the Spirit. And, as was the case for the construction of the ancient temple of Jerusalem, even pagan people contributed, making available valuable materials and the technical experience of their master builders, thus apostles and masters not only from ancient Hebrew, Greek and Latin stock contributed to the building of the Church, but also new peoples, among which Bede is pleased to enumerate the Iro-Celts and the Anglo-Saxons. St. Bede witnessed the universality of the Church grow, which is not restricted to a certain culture, but is made up of all the cultures of the world which must open themselves to Christ and find in him their point of arrival.
Eccl His.jpgAnother topic loved by Bede is the history of the Church. After having taken interest in the period described in the Acts of the Apostles, he reviewed the history of the Fathers of the Church and the councils, convinced that the work of the Holy Spirit continues in history. In the Cronica Maiora, Bede traces a chronology that would become the basis of the universal calendar “ab incarnatione Domini.” Up to then, time was calculated from the foundation of the city of Rome. Bede, seeing that the true point of reference, the center of history is the birth of Christ, gave us this calendar that reads history beginning with the Lord’s Incarnation. He registered the first six ecumenical councils and their development, presenting faithfully the Christian, Mariological and Soteriological doctrine, and denouncing the Monophysite and Monothelite, iconoclastic and neo-Pelagian heresies. Finally, he wrote with documentary rigor and literary expertise the already mentioned Ecclesiastical History of the English People, for which he is recognized as “the father of English historiography.” The characteristic traits of the Church that Bede loved to evidence are: a) its catholicity, as fidelity to tradition together with openness to historical developments, and as the pursuit of unity in multiplicity, in the diversity of history and cultures, according to the directives that Pope Gregory the Great gave to the apostle of England, Augustine of Canterbury; b) its apostolicity and Romanness: In this regard he considers of primary importance to convince the whole Iro-Celtic Churches and that of the Picts to celebrate Easter uniformly according to the Roman calendar. The calculation elaborated scientifically by him to establish the exact date of the Easter celebration, and thus of the entire cycle of the liturgical year, became the text of reference for the whole Catholic Church.
Bede was also an illustrious teacher of liturgical theology. In the homilies on the Sunday Gospels and those of feast days, he develops a true mystagogy, educating the faithful to celebrate joyfully the mysteries of the faith and to reproduce them consistently in life, while expecting their full manifestation of the return of Christ, when, with our glorified bodies, we will be admitted in offertory procession to the eternal liturgy of God in heaven. Following the “realism” of the catecheses of Cyril, Ambrose and Augustine, Bede teaches that the sacraments of Christian initiation make every faithful person “not only a Christian but Christ.” In fact, every time that a faithful soul receives and guards the Word of God with love, in imitation of Mary, he conceives and generates Christ again. And every time that a group of neophytes receives the Easter sacraments, the Church is “self-generated,” or to use a still more daring expression, the Church becomes “Mother of God,” participating in the generation of her children, by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Thanks to this way of making theology, interlacing the Bible, the liturgy and history, Bede has a timely message for the different “states of life”:

a) For scholars (doctores ac doctrices) he recalls two essential tasks: to scrutinize the wonders of the Word of God to present it in an attractive way to the faithful; to show the dogmatic truths avoiding the heretical complications and keeping to the “Catholic simplicity,” with attention to the small and humble to whom God is pleased to reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom.

b) For pastors, that for their part, must give priority to preaching, not only through the verbal or hagiographic language, but also valuing icons, processions and pilgrimages. Bede recommends to them the use of the vernacular, as he himself does, explaining in Northumbria the “Our Father,” and the “Creed” and carrying forward until the last day of his life, the commentary to John’s Gospel in the common language.

c) For consecrated people who are dedicated to the Divine Office, living in the joy of fraternal communion and progressing in the spiritual life through ascesis and contemplation, Bede recommends to take care of the apostolate — no one has the Gospel just for himself, but must regard it as a gift also for others — either by collaborating with the Bishops in pastoral activities of various types in favor of the young Christian communities, or being available to the evangelizing mission to the pagans, outside their own country, as “peregrini pro amore Dei.”
Placed in this perspective, in the commentary to the Canticle of Canticles, Bede presents the synagogue and the Church as collaborators in the propagation of the Word of God. Christ the Spouse desires an industrious Church, “bronzed by the fatigues of evangelization” — clear is the reference to the word of the Canticle of Canticles (1:5), where the Bride says: “Nigra sum sed formosa” (I am brown, but beautiful) — attempts to till other fields or vines and to establish among the new populations “not a provisional bell but a stable dwelling, namely, to insert the Gospel in the social fabric and the cultural institutions. In this perspective, the saintly Doctor exhorts the lay faithful to be assiduous to the religious instruction, imitating those “insatiable evangelical multitudes who did not even give the Apostles time to eat.” He teaches them how to pray constantly, “reproducing in life what they celebrate in the liturgy,” offering all actions as spiritual sacrifices in union with Christ. To parents he explains that also in their small domestic realm they can exercise “the priestly office of pastors and guides,” by giving Christian formation to the children and states that he knows many faithful (men and women, spouses and celibates) “capable of an irreproachable conduct that, if suitably pursued, could approach daily Eucharistic communion (“Epist. ad Ecgbertum,” ed. Plummer, p. 419).
St Bede2.jpgThe fame of holiness and wisdom that Bede enjoyed already in life, served to merit him the title of “Venerable.” He is thus called also by Pope Sergius I, when he wrote his abbot in 701 requesting to make him come temporarily to Rome for consultation on questions of universal interest. The great missionary of Germany, Bishop St. Boniface (d. 754), requested the archbishop of York several times and the abbot of Wearmouth to have some of his works transcribed and to send him to them so that they and their companions could also enjoy the spiritual light he emanated. A century later Notkero Galbulo, abbot of St. Gall (d. 912), being aware of the extraordinary influence of Bede, equated him with a new sun that God had made arise not in the East but in the West to illumine the world. Apart from the rhetorical emphasis, it is a fact that, with his works, Bede contributed effectively to the making of a Christian Europe, in which the different populations and cultures amalgamated among themselves, conferring on them a uniform physiognomy, inspired by the Christian faith.

Let us pray that also today there be personalities of Bede’s stature, to keep the whole Continent united; let us pray so that all of us are willing to rediscover our common roots, to be builders of a profoundly human and genuinely Christian Europe.


(Wednesday General Audience, Rome, 18 February 2009)

The encounter with Christ?

Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, in his weekly article on the forthcoming Sunday Scriptures, “To What Lengths Are We Willing to Go to Encounter Jesus?” asks:


Do we share the paralytic man’s faith in today’s Gospel? Do we have the chutzpah, creativity, perseverance and persistence of his friends to bring someone to Christ? To what lengths are we willing to go to encounter Jesus? How much are we willing to sacrifice so that our friends, too, might hear his saving word and experience the Lord’s healing touch and presence?


Find the article here.


AND the answer is? What does your time doing Lectio Divina reveal to you?

Beginnings, translations and God’s Plans

Rusty Reno tackles the question of where to begin when considering our life in God in his First Things essay, “In The Beginning.” Reno provokes me to ask a few questions. Where do we begin, when, why and for what purpose? What is our destiny, in other words? Where do our loyalties exist? Are we wedded too much to our ideas? That is, are we blinded to a particular theological lens and biblical interpretation that when truth is presented we pass it by because we are too comfortable in our belief system? If we are rigidly following what we think is right versus wrong will we ever advance in wisdom, grace and love? AND the problem is thus exposed: who’s wisdom, grace and love are living in? God’s or ours? What place does Torah and the Gospel have in our lives? Do we follow a political personality or Jesus, the Savior?

Father Julián Carrón & Carl Anderson speak about the Synod of Bishops

Last evening (19 January) two participants in the October 2008 Synod of Bishops spoke about the importance and value of knowing Christ personally and intimately. Christ is not an abstraction nor is Christianity an ethic. Merely knowing about Jesus is moralistic and inconsistent with the true experience of Christinity which says that Jesus Christ is the true, personal foundation of life and that He answers the need of heart. Father Julián Carrón, President of the Fraternity of Communion & Liberation and Mr. Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus addressed a crowd of more than 200 people, including the Most Reverend Peter A. Rosazza, an auxiliary bishop of Hartford and Vicar for New Haven, CT. The evening was moderated by Dominican Father Peter John Cameron, Editor-in-Chief of Magnificat magazine.

The discussion was built on the theme “The Word’s Face: The Word of God in the Life and Mission of Every Believer.” Saint Mary’s Church Hall (New Haven, CT) was the venue of the evening. This was the same hall that the Venerable Servant of God Michael J. McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882.

The discussion emphasized that Christians are not a people of the Book, as is commonly but wrongly asserted, but a people who follow a person, the definitive revelation of God, Jesus Christ. Moreover, it was emphasized that Catholics know Christ through sacred Scripture and Tradition. Anderson made a point in saying that he had heard a story of someone facing imprisonment who given a choice in taking one book with him and he selected the missal. The reasoning was the missal had both Scripture and the Liturgy. Both Anderson and Carrón dealt with various aspects of Dei Verbum, the revolutionary document on Divine Revelation from the Second Vatican Council.  Anderson made a point that the Church is missionary in sharing the faith with others and noted that Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have made the effective preaching of Jesus Christ a particularly important aim of the entire Church, each according to his or her place in the Body of Christ.

Father Julián Carrón was an Ordinary member of the Synod meaning that he was a full and voting participant in the Synod as the bishops who are appointed to the gathering. Father Carrón’s Synodal intervention can be read here. Mr. Anderson was an auditor at the Synod meaning that he was a partial participant at the Synod but less important as his role was to listen to the work of the Synodal Fathers, to meet experts and those participating in the Synod and to make brief intervention before the full body of the Synod. Both have participated in previous Synods of Bishops.

Father Carrón and Mr. Anderson answered questions fielded from the audience and afterwards met with anyone who presented themselves. Father Carrón met very briefly with members of the local members of the Communion & Liberation. The event was an experience of Christ among us.

The evening was sponsored by Communion & Liberation of Connecticut, the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus and Saint Mary’s Church & Priory.

A brief article and video of the panel discussion can be found here.

Scripture Study: A Catholic’s love

St Jerome.jpgSaint Jerome once said that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. Therefore it is not a stretch to say that an authentic, believing Catholic studies and prays the Bible.

But what do we believe about the Bible? Catholics hold that Scripture is the inerrant Word of God and is authoritative for understanding Christ’s teaching; it is the basis for all Church teaching. Further, it is the Holy Spirit who provides a guide to understanding Christ’s teaching which is called Tradition. In fact, it was Church who, under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration that the Scriptures were written. With Tradition assisting us, nothing can replace an intimate familiarity with the Word of God through study and prayer (personal & communal). As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council said that we are to, “[hear] the word of God with reverence and proclaiming it with faith.”

In 1965, the Church gave us a pivotal document on Scripture, Dei Verbum, which outlines its place in the life of every Christian. For many Dei Verbum is a middle way for biblical interpretation which lies between Protestant fundamentalism and secular rationalism. I recommend that you consider each word of this document. If you think Catholics find Scripture irrelevant you will find the following astonishing :

Therefore, all the clergy must hold fast to the Sacred Scriptures through diligent sacred reading and careful study, especially the priests of Christ and others, such as deacons and catechists who are legitimately active in the ministry of the word. This is to be done so that none of them will become “an empty preacher of the word of God outwardly, who is not a listener to it inwardly” since they must share the abundant wealth of the divine word with the faithful committed to them, especially in the sacred liturgy. The sacred synod also earnestly and especially urges all the Christian faithful, especially Religious, to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures the “excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:8). “For ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”

Therefore, they should gladly put themselves in touch with the sacred text itself, whether it be through the liturgy, rich in the divine word, or through devotional reading, or through instructions suitable for the purpose and other aids which, in our time, with approval and active support of the shepherds of the Church, are commendably spread everywhere. And let them remember 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 saying.”

It devolves on sacred bishops “who have the apostolic teaching” to give the faithful entrusted to them suitable instruction in the right use of the divine books, especially the New Testament and above all the Gospels. This can be done through translations of the sacred texts, which are to be provided with the necessary and really adequate explanations so that the children of the Church may safely and profitably become conversant with the Sacred Scriptures and be penetrated with their spirit.

If you are looking for a fine review of what Dei Verbum has meant to us 35 years later I tend to think this essay of Archbishop Charles Chaput of 2000 as helpful. Additionally, you will find a wealth of information for biblical study at St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology directed by Scott Hahn. Hahn’s section on biblical studies is found in this internet library.

You may be short of time so I have drawn together a set of booklets on some aspects of Scripture published by the Catholic Information Service that are quite fine. Here are 8 online resources about sacred Scripture and the faith that will help know the fundamentals which will assist your personal study and prayer life:

About the Bible

God’s Story of Creation

Some Lessons from Genesis

The Ten Commandments

Revelation: A Divine Message of Hope

Q& A about the Catholic Faith

An underestimated chain of scripture is the gift of the Rosary. I would venture to say that no serious Catholic can resist the Rosary as form of prayer especially if he or she wants to know the Lord and to decapitate the head of sin. The Scriptural Rosary for Peace makes it clear the intimate connection between Scripture and the rosary

If you are looking for a primer on the Faith, then I would recommend reading and/or listening to the 30 booklets that address the various elements of our salvation in Jesus Christ in the Hart series. This series carries the reader through a systematic study of what Catholics believe and how Catholics worship and live.

One last point: pray the Divine Office. The sacred Liturgy of the Church comprises the praying the Divine Office (at the hinge hours of Morning and Evening Prayer) and praying the Sacrifice of the Mass. In a real sense one can’t divorce the Divine Office from the Mass as they form a unit. So if one conceives of the Liturgy as merely the Mass and makes no connection to the Divine Office, then that person has deficient view of the sacrifice of praise the Church continually offers to God. And what is the Divine Office and Mass? Pure Scripture; pure praise of the Blessed Trinity. Once you discover that the Liturgy (the Office & Mass) is the Church’s prayer speaking the Word of God and God speaking to us, or say it another way, the Mass is the face of the Word of God today and into eternity.

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.
coat of arms



Humanities Blog Directory