Tag Archives: Verbum Domini

The Word of God is everything: hearing what the WORD has to say

I am reading Verbum Domini with great eagerness. I am talking my reading seriously and trying to ponder what the Pope has given us as a path to Christ and to live as an authentic Christian today. Let’s recall the extraordinary address of Pope Benedict XVI on October 6, 2008 where he said: 


“the Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality. And to be realistic, we must rely upon this reality. We must change our idea that matter, solid things, things we can touch, are the more solid, the more certain reality. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount the Lord speaks to us about the two possible foundations for building the house of one’s life: sand and rock. The one who builds on sand builds only on visible and tangible things, on success, on career, on money. Apparently these are the true realities. But all this one day will pass away. We can see this now with the fall of large banks: this money disappears, it is nothing. And thus all things, which seem to be the true realities we can count on, are only realities of a secondary order. The one who builds his life on these realities, on matter, on success, on appearances, builds upon sand. Only the Word of God is the foundation of all reality, it is as stable as the heavens and more than the heavens, it is reality. Therefore, we must change our concept of realism. The realist is the one who recognizes the Word of God, in this apparently weak reality, as the foundation of all things. Realist is the one who builds his life on this foundation, which is permanent.”

Scott W. Hahn, Covenant and Communion (2009), p. 22.


In another place we read: 

You cannot put revelation in your pocket like a book you carry around with you. It is a living reality that requires a living person as the locus of its presence.

That is, the believer becomes real insofar as he becomes the Word by hearing such that he does it. That seems to be the only reality that perdures. Revelation is an act in which God shows Himself. Faith is a corresponding act of hearing and doing the Word heard. Outside of that, everything else perishes into nothingness.

J. Ratzinger, God Word: Scripture – Tradtion – Office, Ignatius (2008): 52.

Lectio Divina: 9 qualities of doing

At yesterday’s terrific conference on Lectio Divina, the keynote presenter, Trappist Brother Simeon Levia, monk of Saint Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer, MA, gave an incredible talk on doing the work of Lectio Divina at a conference on Lectio sponsored by Mario Paredes and his staff at the American Bible Society. Brother Simeon is an established Catholic thinker.

One central aspect of Brother Simeon’s talk was his development of 9 qualities of Lectio Divina. Please note, lectio divina is not the exclusive domain of professional religious, that is, the exclusive use of monks and nuns, even though a lot of artwork often limits itself to portraying monks doing lectio. My notes are an expansion of what he said about doing lectio divina:

monk doing lectio.jpg

1. It’s done leisurely, it is not a rushed process: give at least 30 minutes. There’s an open-endedness of doing lectio; it’s to be done in a slow manner, not achievement or goal oriented. You might want to read Josef Pieper’s seminal book, Leisure: The Basis of Culture. By doing lectio in a leisurely manner one activates the deepest levels of the human heart opening the heart up to its potentiality. Brother Simeon said something crucial for me: doing lectio in a leisurely manner you return to Paradise where there’s an original delight in all things –God, His Presence, ourselves, the Other. Brother noted that in this category we are able to build “islands of leisure for all” in that we cultivate healthy relationships. Remembering that we are made for the other –be it for life in the Trinity and the other person– and not to cultivate healthy relationships we are prone to die. Pertinent, therefore, is to ask the question: How do I spend my free time and take delight in that time? With a style of life that prizes the use of time, how we use our time is a sacrifice. Time is a precious gift from God. If you are inclined to do things out of obligation: forget it. Moralisms don’t work here.
2. It’s ruminative, that is, you turn over and over in mind a word or an image like a cow chews her cud. One’s ruminating on words and images means that you stay close to the text until you deplete for the moment the energy of that word and/or image. Brother Simeon advocates our attention to the language (the grammar) of the text. Here words are important,not just ideas. If you possible you would compare different translations of the Scriptural passage, and if you really skilled, you’d consult with the Latin and Greek texts. There’s no reductive choice of words for this work.
3. Lectio is cordial. There’s a freedom of the heart to follow its own instincts. The point here is to allow the flourishing of the language of the heart to work over the language of the logic of reasoning. Brother Simeon used the image of a “logic of fire” where sparks ignite flames that illuminate a path. A cordial reading of Scripture doesn’t allow the historical critical method to run one’s prayer (the aims of HCM and Lectio Divina are not same); Lection is about something that is new, unique and at a deeper of awareness.
4. Lectio is contemplative, that is, lectio is “the listening heart.” “Contemplation” is a much misunderstood and abused word. It is needs to be liberated by some much clutter, let me tell you. When you think of contemplation you ought to think of being receptive to the transcendent. As tell the students in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd the language that God most often uses is silence to express Himself. How much more do need to remind ourselves that silence needs to be cultivated in order to know, love and serve God. Into greater silence we should walk into if we are going to cut sin and falsehood.
Think of what Saint Paul said: “Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, was so glorious that the Israelites could not look intently at the face of Moses because of its glory that was going to fade, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit be glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation was glorious, the ministry of righteousness will abound much more in glory. Indeed, what was going to fade was glorious, how much more will what endures be glorious” (2 Cor. 3: 6-8).
5. It’s disinterested: there’s no predetermined goal or skills to be learned or analysis to be made. At this point the there’s no goal that’s not produced in freedom; the fruitfulness of the word is not known in the apostolate but in prayer. The apostolate for so many is more important than adoring the Word. No apostolic work will be fruitful if not grounded and sustained in lectio and prayer.
6. Lectio is provocative. With the prayerful reading of Scripture we’re not looking for a soothing by-product. The provocative nature of lectio means that our reading ought to take us out of our comfort zone. Scripture should make us a little –perhaps a lot in some cases– uncomfortable. Scripture’s provocative nature makes us sacrifice our preconceptions and ideologies opening us up to new mentality, an new attitude by which we judge reality. As Brother said, “God seeks to call us out of hiding.” Think of God calling Adam from his hiding place where he demurs: I am naked.
7. Lectio is necessarily and crucially ecclesial. Our ability to encounter God through Lectio Divina is an act of gratitude. It is the Church who is the owner and guardian of Scripture. We receive the Scriptures from the sacred Liturgy in its proclaimed and written form and seen in the context of its historical, grace-filled (liturgical) and eschatological planes. The heart and mind of the Church is respected because the Bible is a gift of the Holy Spirit.  When we say that lectio is ecclesial we also mean that it is inherently Christological and Marian. How could one read and pray with the Scriptures without thinking about it being Christo-centric: what converges is the reality of knowing who Christ is and how the Father sees his Son. Lectio is Marian because the Word is conceived in her womb, and Mary pondered the word in her heart. It is through Mary that we learn how to be silent, adoring, and faithful to God coming to humanity. Mary is the first church that lives the word in all its fullness.
8. Lectio is trans-biblical. This is a unique word formed by Brother Simeon by which he indicates that we are to allow the texts breath freely. Since the sacred Scripture reveals the hidden face of God in a unique and definitive manner. Allowing the Scriptures to live on their own, divine revelation is manifested according to the heart of God. Moreover, the sense here is that the Bible interprets itself: every part completes other parts.
9. Finally, lectio is mystagogical. Here is where lectio merits the adjective “divina.” The subjective is transformed by the objectivity and freedom of Grace. It is here that lectio divina realizes itself in its missio, its fruitfulness. The work done at this point can be expressed in this way: we become a living exegesis of the Word. The disciple learns from the Spirit on how to put on the mind of Christ; the Incarnation is born anew today. Recall: the Liturgy reminds us that today the Paschal Mystery has happened, today we are saved; today we are brought into intimacy with the crucified and risen Savior. And where does this happen: in me.
How close am I close to Christ? How close is Christ to me? With mystagogy the disciple recognizes the Lord in Word, Sacrament and prayer. Knowledge, therefore, loves to be fruitful. Lectio that lives in this point knows in the deepest parts of the the soul a modest foretaste of heaven.

Lectio Divina conference sponsored by American Bible Society

American Bible Society logo.pngI am exceedingly happy to see the American Bible Society (ABS) responding so quickly to Pope Benedict’s encouragement to delve more deeply into sacred Scripture through the practice of Lectio Divina. The Pope spoke eloquently of Lectio Divina and its need for us to practice in his recent work on Scripture, Verbum Domini.

Mario Paredes who oversees the Roman Catholic section of the ABS has organized for today “a contemporary approach to the ancient method of Lectio Divina as a service both to and through the Catholic Church with a new Lectio Divina Bible and Manuel. ABS will inaugurate the new Lectio Divina program at an official kick-off” today at 11 a.m at the ABS headquarters.
Brother Simeon Leiva, OCSO, a monk of Saint Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer, MA, will deliver a talk titled, “A Contemporary Approach to Lectio Divina.”

Tarcisio Bertone’s homily for the feast of St Andrew at the Orthodox Cathedral of the Assumption of Astana, Kazakhstan

Tarcisio Bertone.jpgI am happy to be in Astana, capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan, this noble and vast country located in the heart of the Eurasian territory. I wish to express my profound joy at being able to visit your Cathedral of the Assumption, recently opened for worship. I greet everyone with affection, beginning with His Eminence Metropolitan Alexander and, while I thank him for his fraternal reception, I bring to him and to all of you the cordial greeting of the Holy Father Benedict XVI, praying that it be transmitted to His Holiness Kirill, patriarch of Moscow and All Russias. I then greet the other religious (and civil) authorities, the priests, deacons and faithful of the Orthodox Church of Kazakhstan. May this fraternal meeting of ours inspire a renewed impetus to join forces, so that in a not distant future we, the disciples of Christ, can proclaim with one voice and one heart the Gospel, message of hope for the whole of humanity.

The occasion of this agreeable visit to Astana is the summit of heads of state and government of countries of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which will take place in the next few days. This circumstance suggested to the highest authorities of Kazakhstan to address to me a cordial invitation to visit your land. In willingly receiving this deferent and appreciated gesture, I immediately thought of the joy of being able to go to a country in which there are ample possibilities for a peaceful and profitable religious coexistence. In this context, for us Christians the duty of reciprocal love is all the more urgent: we are called, in fact, to give witness to all, with words and works, that God is Love. In this connection, my presence also intends to be an encouragement to continue on the way of great respect and affection, which I know exists between the Orthodox and Catholic communities of Astana, as well as of other cities. Propitious occasions are not lacking, dear friends, of mutual support and of deepening of friendship.

Today, in this welcome meeting with you, I have the special joy of fulfilling the lofty task entrusted to me by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, of handing you a fragment of the distinguished relics of the Apostle St. Andrew, which are venerated in Italy, in the city of Amalfi. This assignment, which I am honored to effect in the hands of His Eminence Metropolitan Alexander, comes in response to the devout request that his predecessor, Metropolitan Mefodji, and Archbishop Tomash Peta, Catholic Metropolitan, jointly addressed to Pope Benedict XVI. The Pontiff, gladly desiring to meet the ardent request, decided to send to the two respective Churches two fragments of the precious relics. This choice has a profound significance, in as much as is underlines the common veneration of the Apostles.

I am happy to stress that today’s event of handing the relic of St. Andrew, who you venerate, coincides in fact with the day in which, according to the calendar of the Latin Church, his liturgical feast is celebrated. Andrew was born in Bethsaida, at first he was a disciple of John the Baptist and then he followed the Lord Jesus, to whom he also led his brother Peter. Together with Philip he presented Christ himself to the Gentiles and pointed out the boy who carried the fish and the loaves. According to tradition, after Pentecost, he preached in different areas and was crucified in Achaia, Greece. The Gospel narrates that Jesus, “passing along by the Sea of Galilee, saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men'” (Mark 1:16-17). Andrew, hence, was the first of the Apostles to be called to follow Jesus. Precisely on the basis of this fact, the Byzantine liturgy honors him with the name of Protoklitos, which means precisely, the first called.

The evangelical account continues specifying that “immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Mark 1:18). It is this quick adherence that allowed the Apostles to spread the Word, the “good news” of salvation. Faith comes from listening, and what is heard is the Word of Christ, which still today the Church spreads to the ends of the earth. This Word is the indispensable food of the soul. It is said in the book of the prophet Amos that God will put hunger in the world, not hunger for bread, but to hear his word (cf. Amos 8:11). This is a healthy hunger, because it makes us seek constantly and receive the Word of God, knowing that it must nourish us for the whole of life. Nothing in life can have consistency, nothing can really satisfy us if it is not nourished, penetrated, illumined, guided by the Word of the Lord. Moreover, an ever more profound commitment of radical adherence to this Word, together with the support of the Holy Spirit, constitute the strength to realize the aspiration of every Christian community and of every individual faithful to unity (cf. Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, No. 46).

From the Gospel of St. John, we gather another important particular regarding the Apostle Andrew: “He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ. He brought him to Jesus” (John 1:41-43), demonstrating immediately an unmistakable apostolic spirit. To this end, St. John Chrysostom comments: “Andrew’s word is the word of one who anxiously awaited the coming of the Messiah, whose descent from heaven he awaited, who trembled with joy when he saw him arrive, and who hurried to communicate the great news to the others. See in what way he notifies what he had appreciated in a short time? Andrew, after having stayed with Jesus and having learned everything that Jesus taught him, did not keep the treasure to himself, but hurried to his brother to communicate to him the richness he had received. Look also at Peter’s spirit, from the beginning docile and quick in faith: he runs immediately without being concerned about anything else” (Homily 19, 1; PG 59, 120).

In the beautiful icon donated by Patriarch Athenagoras I to Pope Paul VI on Jan. 5, 1964, the two Holy Apostles, Peter the Coryphaeus and Andrew the Protoklitos, embrace, in an eloquent language of love, beneath the glorious Christ. Andrew was the first to follow the Lord, Peter was called to confirm his brothers in the faith. Their embrace under the gaze of Christ is an invitation to continue the path undertaken, toward that goal of unity that we intend to reach together. Nothing must discourage us, but we must go forward with hope, supported by the intercession of the Apostles Peter and Andrew, as well as by the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, Mother of Christ and our Mother. Let us ask God with particular intensity for the precious gift of unity among all Christians, making our own the invocation that Jesus raised to the Father for his disciples: “that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:21).

Saints in Verbum Domini

communion of saints LA Cathedral.JPGYou may be curious to know the saints and blessed Pope Benedict references in Verbum Domini, or whose work he used.

The Pope said, “The interpretation of sacred Scripture would remain incomplete were it not to include listening to those who have truly lived the word of God: namely, the saints” (48). 

And, “No sooner do I glance at the Gospel, but immediately I breathe in the fragrance of the life of Jesus and I know where to run. Every saint is like a ray of light streaming forth from the word of God…” (49).

Who are the saints in Verbum Domini?

Mary, the Mother of God

Saint Peter
Saint John the Evangelist
Saint Paul
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
Saint Bonaventure
Saint Thomas Aquinas

Saint John of the Cross
Saint Irenaeus of Lyons
Saint John Chysostom
Saint Maximus the Confessor
Saint Jerome
Saint Gregory the Great

Saint Ambrose
Saint Augustine
Saint Anthony, Abbot
Saint Basil the Great
Saint Benedict
Saint Athanasius

Saint Francis of Assisi
Saint Clare of Assisi
Saint Dominic
Saint Teresa of Avila
Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus
Saint Ignatius of Loyola
Saint John Bosco

Saint John Mary Vianney
Saint Pius of Pietrelcina
Saint Josemaría Escrivá
Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
Saint Gaetano Errico
Saint Maria Bernarda Bütler
Saint Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception

Saint Narcisa de Jesús Martillo Morán
Saint Ignatius of Antioch
Saint Elizabeth
Blessed Jordan of Saxony
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
Blessed Aloysius Stepinac
Blessed John XXIII

Plus, the Pope uses the works of Origen, Richard of Saint Victor and Hugh of Saint Victor, the last two are notable scholars and saintly men; Richard and Hugh are not saints but may be we can push their cause.

“Read the divine Scriptures frequently; indeed, the sacred book should never be out of your hands. Learn there what you must teach.”

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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