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?
Sacred Scripture: January 2009 Archives
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.
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:
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.