Verbum Domini EN 40

The relationship between the Old and the New Testaments

40 Against this backdrop of the unity of the Scriptures in Christ, theologians and pastors alike need to be conscious of the relationship between Old and the New Testaments. First of all, it is evident that the New Testament itself acknowledges the Old Testament as the word of God and thus accepts the authority of the sacred Scriptures of the Jewish people.[131] It implicitly acknowledges them by using the same language and by frequently referring to passages from these Scriptures. It explicitly acknowledges them by citing many parts of them as a basis for argument. In the New Testament, an argument based on texts from the Old Testament thus has a definitive quality, superior to that of mere human argumentation. In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus states that “Scripture cannot be rejected” (Jn 10,35) and Saint Paul specifically makes clear that the Old Testament revelation remains valid for us Christians (cf. Rm 15,4 1Co 10,11).[132] We also affirm that “Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew and the Holy Land is the motherland of the Church”:[133] the roots of Christianity are found in the Old Testament, and Christianity continually draws nourishment from these roots. Consequently, sound Christian doctrine has always resisted all new forms of Marcionism, which tend, in different ways, to set the Old Testament in opposition to the New.[134]

Moreover, the New Testament itself claims to be consistent with the Old and proclaims that in the mystery of the life, death and resurrection of Christ the sacred Scriptures of the Jewish people have found their perfect fulfilment. It must be observed, however, that the concept of the fulfilment of the Scriptures is a complex one, since it has three dimensions: a basic aspect of continuity with the Old Testament revelation, an aspect of discontinuity and an aspect of fulfilment and transcendence. The mystery of Christ stands in continuity of intent with the sacrificial cult of the Old Testament, but it came to pass in a very different way, corresponding to a number of prophetic statements and thus reaching a perfection never previously obtained. The Old Testament is itself replete with tensions between its institutional and its prophetic aspects. The paschal mystery of Christ is in complete conformity – albeit in a way that could not have been anticipated – with the prophecies and the foreshadowings of the Scriptures; yet it presents clear aspects of discontinuity with regard to the institutions of the Old Testament.

[131] Cf. Propositio 10; Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible (24 May 2001): Enchiridion Vaticanum 20, Nos. 748-755.
[132] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 121-122.
[133] Propositio 52.
[134] Cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible (24 May 2001), 19: Enchiridion Vaticanum 20, Nos. 799-801; Origen, Homily on Numbers 9, 4: SC 415, 238-242.

41 These considerations show the unique importance of the Old Testament for Christians, while at the same time bringing out the newness of Christological interpretation.From apostolic times and in her living Tradition, the Church has stressed the unity of God’s plan in the two Testaments through the use of typology; this procedure is in no way arbitrary, but is intrinsic to the events related in the sacred text and thus involves the whole of Scripture. Typology “discerns in God’s works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son”.[135] Christians, then, read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. While typological interpretation manifests the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament from the standpoint of the New, we must not forget that the Old Testament retains its own inherent value as revelation, as our Lord himself reaffirmed (cf. Mk Mc 12,29-31). Consequently, “the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old. Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament (cf. 1Co 5,6-8 1Co 10,1-11)”.[136] For this reason the Synod Fathers stated that “the Jewish understanding of the Bible can prove helpful to Christians for their own understanding and study of the Scriptures”.[137]

“The New Testament is hidden in the Old and the Old is made manifest in the New”,[138] as Saint Augustine perceptively noted. It is important, therefore, that in both pastoral and academic settings the close relationship between the two Testaments be clearly brought out, in keeping with the dictum of Saint Gregory the Great that “what the Old Testament promised, the New Testament made visible; what the former announces in a hidden way, the latter openly proclaims as present. Therefore the Old Testament is a prophecy of the New Testament; and the best commentary on the Old Testament is the New Testament”.[139]

[135] Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 128.
[136] Ibid., CEC 129.
[137] Propositio 52.
[138] Quaestiones in Heptateuchum, 2, 73: PL 34, 623.
[139] Homiliae in Ezechielem I, VI, 15: PL 76, 836B.

The “dark” passages of the Bible

42 In discussing the relationship between the Old and the New Testaments, the Synod also considered those passages in the Bible which, due to the violence and immorality they occasionally contain, prove obscure and difficult. Here it must be remembered first and foremost that biblical revelation is deeply rooted in history. God’s plan is manifested progressively and it is accomplished slowly, in successive stages and despite human resistance. God chose a people and patiently worked to guide and educate them. Revelation is suited to the cultural and moral level of distant times and thus describes facts and customs, such as cheating and trickery, and acts of violence and massacre, without explicitly denouncing the immorality of such things. This can be explained by the historical context, yet it can cause the modern reader to be taken aback, especially if he or she fails to take account of the many “dark” deeds carried out down the centuries, and also in our own day. In the Old Testament, the preaching of the prophets vigorously challenged every kind of injustice and violence, whether collective or individual, and thus became God’s way of training his people in preparation for the Gospel. So it would be a mistake to neglect those passages of Scripture that strike us as problematic. Rather, we should be aware that the correct interpretation of these passages requires a degree of expertise, acquired through a training that interprets the texts in their historical-literary context and within the Christian perspective which has as its ultimate hermeneutical key “the Gospel and the new commandment of Jesus Christ brought about in the paschal mystery”.[140] I encourage scholars and pastors to help all the faithful to approach these passages through an interpretation which enables their meaning to emerge in the light of the mystery of Christ.

[140] Propositio 29.

Christians, Jews and the sacred Scriptures

43 Having considered the close relationship between the New Testament and the Old, we now naturally turn to the special bond which that relationship has engendered between Christians and Jews, a bond that must never be overlooked. Pope John Paul II, speaking to Jews, called them “our ‘beloved brothers’ in the faith of Abraham, our Patriarch”.[141] To acknowledge this fact is in no way to disregard the instances of discontinuity which the New Testament asserts with regard to the institutions of the Old Testament, much less the fulfilment of the Scriptures in the mystery of Jesus Christ, acknowledged as Messiah and Son of God. All the same, this profound and radical difference by no means implies mutual hostility. The example of Saint Paul (cf. Rm 9-11) shows on the contrary that “an attitude of respect, esteem and love for the Jewish people is the only truly Christian attitude in the present situation, which is a mysterious part of God’s wholly positive plan”.[142]Indeed, Saint Paul says of the Jews that: “as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers, for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable!” (Rm 11,28-29).

Saint Paul also uses the lovely image of the olive tree to describe the very close relationship between Christians and Jews: the Church of the Gentiles is like a wild olive shoot, grafted onto the good olive tree that is the people of the Covenant (cf. Rm 11,17-24). In other words, we draw our nourishment from the same spiritual roots. We encounter one another as brothers and sisters who at certain moments in their history have had a tense relationship, but are now firmly committed to building bridges of lasting friendship.[143] As Pope John Paul II said on another occasion: “We have much in common. Together we can do much for peace, justice and for a more fraternal and more humane world”.[144]

I wish to state once more how much the Church values her dialogue with the Jews. Wherever it seems appropriate, it would be good to create opportunities for encounter and exchange in public as well as in private, and thus to promote growth in reciprocal knowledge, in mutual esteem and cooperation, also in the study of the sacred Scriptures.

[141] John paul II, Message to the Chief Rabbi of Rome (22 May 2004): Insegnamenti XXVII, 1 (2004), p. 655.
[142] Cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible (24 May 2001), 87: Enchiridion Vaticanum 20, No. 1150.
[143] Cf. Benedict XVI, Farewell Discourse at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv(15 May 2009): Insegnamenti, V, 1 (2009), 847-849.
[144] John Paul II, Address to the Chief Rabbis of Israel (23 March 2000): Insegnamenti XXIII, 1 (2000), 434.

The fundamentalist interpretation of sacred Scripture

44 The attention we have been paying to different aspects of the theme of biblical hermeneutics now enables us to consider a subject which came up a number of times during the Synod: that of the fundamentalist interpretation of sacred Scripture.[145] The Pontifical Biblical Commission, in its document The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, has laid down some important guidelines. Here I would like especially to deal with approaches which fail to respect the authenticity of the sacred text, but promote subjective and arbitrary interpretations.The “literalism” championed by the fundamentalist approach actually represents a betrayal of both the literal and the spiritual sense, and opens the way to various forms of manipulation, as, for example, by disseminating anti-ecclesial interpretations of the Scriptures. “The basic problem with fundamentalist interpretation is that, refusing to take into account the historical character of biblical revelation, it makes itself incapable of accepting the full truth of the incarnation itself. As regards relationships with God, fundamentalism seeks to escape any closeness of the divine and the human … for this reason, it tends to treat the biblical text as if it had been dictated word for word by the Spirit. It fails to recognize that the word of God has been formulated in language and expression conditioned by various periods”.[146] Christianity, on the other hand, perceives in the words the Word himself, the Logos who displays his mystery through this complexity and the reality of human history.[147] The true response to a fundamentalist approach is “the faith-filled interpretation of sacred Scripture”. This manner of interpretation, “practised from antiquity within the Church’s Tradition, seeks saving truth for the life of the individual Christian and for the Church. It recognizes the historical value of the biblical tradition. Precisely because of the tradition’s value as an historical witness, this reading seeks to discover the living meaning of the sacred Scriptures for the lives of believers today”,[148] while not ignoring the human mediation of the inspired text and its literary genres.

[145] Cf. Propositiones 46 and 47.
[146] Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (15 April 1993), I, F: Enchiridion Vaticanum 13, No. 2974.
[147] Cf. Benedict XVI, Address to Representatives of the World of Culture at the “Collège des Bernardins” in Paris (12 September 2008): AAS 100 (2008), 726.
[148] Propositio 46.

Dialogue between pastors, theologians and exegetes

45 An authentic hermeneutic of faith has several important consequences for the Church’s pastoral activity. The Synod Fathers themselves recommended, for example, a closer working relationship between pastors, exegetes and theologians. Episcopal Conferences might foster such encounters with the “aim of promoting greater communion in the service of the word of God”.[149] Cooperation of this sort will help all to carry out their work more effectively for the benefit of the whole Church. For scholars too, this pastoral orientation involves approaching the sacred text with the realization that it is a message which the Lord addresses to us for our salvation. In the words of the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, “Catholic exegetes and other workers in the field of sacred theology should work diligently with one another and under the watchful eye of the sacred magisterium. Using appropriate techniques, they should together set about examining and explaining the sacred texts in such a way that as many as possible of those who are ministers of God’s word may be able to dispense fruitfully the nourishment of the Scriptures to the people of God. This nourishment enlightens the mind, strengthens the will and fires the hearts of men and women with the love of God”.[150]

[149] Propositio 28.
[150] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum,
DV 23.

The Bible and ecumenism

46 Conscious that the Church has her foundation in Christ, the incarnate Word of God, the Synod wished to emphasize the centrality of biblical studies within ecumenical dialogue aimed at the full expression of the unity of all believers in Christ.[151] The Scriptures themselves contain Jesus’ moving prayer to the Father that his disciples might be one, so that the world may believe (cf. Jn 17,21). All this can only strengthen our conviction that by listening and meditating together on the Scriptures, we experience a real, albeit not yet full communion;[152] “shared listening to the Scriptures thus spurs us on towards the dialogue of charity and enables growth in the dialogue of truth”.[153] Listening together to the word of God, engaging in biblical lectio divina, letting ourselves be struck by the inexhaustible freshness of God’s word which never grows old, overcoming our deafness to those words that do not fit our own opinions or prejudices, listening and studying within the communion of the believers of every age: all these things represent a way of coming to unity in faith as a response to hearing the word of God.[154] The words of the Second Vatican Council were clear in this regard: “in [ecumenical] dialogue itself, sacred Scripture is a precious instrument in the mighty hand of God for attaining to that unity which the Saviour holds out to all”.[155] Consequently, there should be an increase in ecumenical study, discussion and celebrations of the word of God, with due respect for existing norms and the variety of traditions.[156] These celebrations advance the cause of ecumenism and, when suitably carried out, they represent intense moments of authentic prayer asking God to hasten the day when we will all be able at last to sit at the one table and drink from the one cup. Nonetheless, while it is praiseworthy and right to promote such services, care must be taken that they are not proposed to the faithful as alternatives to the celebration of Holy Mass on Sundays or holydays of obligation.

In this work of study and prayer, we serenely acknowledge those aspects which still need to be explored more deeply and those on which we still differ, such as the understanding of the authoritative subject of interpretation in the Church and the decisive role of the magisterium.[157]

Finally, I wish to emphasize the statements of the Synod Fathers about the ecumenical importance oftranslations of the Bible in the various languages. We know that translating a text is no mere mechanical task, but belongs in some sense to the work of interpretation. In this regard, the Venerable John Paul II observed that “anyone who recalls how heavily debates about Scripture influenced divisions, especially in the West, can appreciate the significant step forward which these common translations represent”.[158] Promoting common translations of the Bible is part of the ecumenical enterprise. I would like to thank all those engaged in this important work, and I encourage them to persevere in their efforts.

[151] It should be recalled, however, that with regard to the so-called deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament and their inspiration, Catholics and Orthodox do not have exactly the same biblical canon as Anglicans and Protestants.
[152] Cf.Relatio post disceptationem, 36.
[153] Propositio 36.
[154] Cf. Benedict XVI, Address to the Eleventh Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops (25 January 2007): AAS 99 (2007), 85-86.
[155] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, UR 21.
[156] Cf. Propositio 36.
[157] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, DV 10.
[158] Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint (25 May 1995), UUS 44: AAS 87 (1995), 947.

Consequences for the study of theology

47 A further consequence of an adequate hermeneutic of faith has to do with its necessary implications for exegetical and theological formation, particularly that of candidates for the priesthood. Care must be taken to ensure that the study of sacred Scripture is truly the soul of theology inasmuch as it is acknowledged as the word of God addressed to today’s world, to the Church and to each of us personally. It is important that the criteria indicated in Number 12 of the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum receive real attention and become the object of deeper study. A notion of scholarly research that would consider itself neutral with regard to Scripture should not be encouraged. As well as learning the original languages in which the Bible was written and suitable methods of interpretation, students need to have a deep spiritual life, in order to appreciate that the Scripture can only be understood if it is lived.

Along these lines, I urge that the study of the word of God, both handed down and written, be constantly carried out in a profoundly ecclesial spirit, and that academic formation take due account of the pertinent interventions of the magisterium, which “is not superior to the word of God, but is rather its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devoutly, guards it reverently and expounds it faithfully”.[159]Care must thus be taken that the instruction imparted acknowledge that “sacred Tradition, sacred Scripture and the magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others”.[160] It is my hope that, in fidelity to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, the study of sacred Scripture, read within the communion of the universal Church, will truly be the soul of theological studies.[161]

[159] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum,
DV 10.
[160] Ibid. DV 10
[161] Cf. ibid., DV 24.

The saints and the interpretation of Scripture

48 The interpretation of sacred Scripture would remain incomplete were it not to include listening tothose who have truly lived the word of God: namely, the saints.[162] Indeed, “viva lectio est vita bonorum”.[163] The most profound interpretation of Scripture comes precisely from those who let themselves be shaped by the word of God through listening, reading and assiduous meditation.

It is certainly not by chance that the great currents of spirituality in the Church’s history originated with an explicit reference to Scripture. I am thinking for example of Saint Anthony the Abbot, who was moved by hearing Christ’s words: “if you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (
Mt 19,21).[164] No less striking is the question posed by Saint Basil the Great in the Moralia: “What is the distinctive mark of faith? Full and unhesitating certainty that the words inspired by God are true … What is the distinctive mark of the faithful? Conforming their lives with the same complete certainty to the meaning of the words of Scripture, not daring to remove or add a single thing”.[165] Saint Benedict, in his Rule, refers to Scripture as “a most perfect norm for human life”.[166] Saint Francis of Assisi – we learn from Thomas of Celano – “upon hearing that the disciples of Christ must possess neither gold, nor silver nor money, nor carry a bag, nor bread, nor a staff for the journey, nor sandals nor two tunics … exulting in the Holy Spirit, immediately cried out: ‘This is what I want, this is what I ask for, this I long to do with all my heart!’”.[167] Saint Clare of Assisi shared fully in the experience of Saint Francis: “The form of life of the Order of Poor Sisters – she writes – is this: to observe the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”.[168] So too, Saint Dominic “everywhere showed himself to be a man of the Gospel, in word as in deed”,[169] and wanted his friars likewise to be “men of the Gospel”.[170]The Carmelite Saint Teresa of Avila, who in her writings constantly uses biblical images to explain her mystical experiences, says that Jesus himself revealed to her that “all the evil in the world is derived from not knowing clearly the truths of sacred Scripture”.[171] Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus discovered that love was her personal vocation by poring over the Scriptures, especially Chapters 12 and 13 of the First Letter to the Corinthians;[172] the same saint describes the attraction of the Scriptures: “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”.[173] Every saint is like a ray of light streaming forth from the word of God: we can think of Saint Ignatius of Loyola in his search for truth and in his discernment of spirits; Saint John Bosco in his passion for the education of the young; Saint John Mary Vianney in his awareness of the grandeur of the priesthood as gift and task; Saint Pius of Pietrelcina in his serving as an instrument of divine mercy; Saint Josemaria Escrivá in his preaching of the universal call to holiness; Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, the missionary of God’s charity towards the poorest of the poor, and then the martyrs of Nazism and Communism, represented by Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), a Carmelite nun, and by Blessed Aloysius Stepinac, the Cardinal Archbishop of Zagreb.

[162] Cf. Propositio 22.
[163] Saint Gregory the Great,Moralia in Job XXIV, VIII, 16: PL 76, 295.
[164] Cf. Saint Athanasius,Vita Antonii, II: PL 73:127.
[165] Moralia, Regula LXXX, XXII: PG 31, 867.
[166] Rule, RB 73, 3: SC 182, 672.
[167] Thomas of Celano,First Life of Saint Francis, IX, 22: FF 356.
[168] Rule, I, 1-2: FF 2750.
[169] Blessed Jordan of Saxony, Libellus de principiis Ordinis Praedicatorum, 104; Monumenta Fratrum Praedicatorum Historica, Rome, 1935, 16, p. 75.
[170] Order of Friars Preacher, First Constitutions or Consuetudines, II, XXXI.
[171] Vita, VIE 40, 1.
[172] Cf. Story of a Soul, MSB 254.
[173] Ibid., MSC 35v.

49 Holiness inspired by the word of God thus belongs in a way to the prophetic tradition, wherein the word of God sets the prophet’s very life at its service. In this sense, holiness in the Church constitutes an interpretation of Scripture which cannot be overlooked. The Holy Spirit who inspired the sacred authors is the same Spirit who impels the saints to offer their lives for the Gospel. In striving to learn from their example, we set out on the sure way towards a living and effective hermeneutic of the word of God.

We saw a direct witness to this link between holiness and the word of God during the Twelfth Assembly of the Synod when four new saints were canonized on 12 October in Saint Peter’s Square: Gaetano Errico, priest and founder of the Congregation of Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary; Mother Maria Bernarda Bütler, a native of Switzerland and a missionary in Ecuador and Colombia; Sister Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception, the first canonized saint born in India; and the young Ecuadorian laywoman Narcisa de Jesús Martillo Morán. With their lives they testified before the world and the Church to the perennial fruitfulness of Christ’s Gospel. Through the intercession of these saints canonized at the time of the synodal assembly on the word of God, let us ask the Lord that our own lives may be that “good soil” in which the divine sower plants the word, so that it may bear within us fruits of holiness, “thirtyfold, sixtyfold, a hundredfold” (
Mc 4,20).



“But to all who received him he gave power to become children of God”

(Jn 1,12)

The Word Of God And The Church

The Church receives the word

50 The Lord speaks his word so that it may be received by those who were created “through” that same word. “He came among his own” (Jn 1,11): his word is not something fundamentally alien to us, and creation was willed in a relationship of familiarity with God’s own life. Yet the Prologue of the Fourth Gospel also places us before the rejection of God’s word by “his own”, who “received him not” (Jn 1,11). Not to receive him means not to listen to his voice, not to be conformed to the Logos. On the other hand, whenever men and women, albeit frail and sinful, are sincerely open to an encounter with Christ, a radical transformation begins to take place: “but to all who received him, he gave power to become children of God” (Jn 1,12). To receive the Word means to let oneself be shaped by him, and thus to be conformed by the power of the Holy Spirit to Christ, the “only Son from the Father” (Jn 1,14). It is the beginning of a new creation; a new creature is born, a new people comes to birth. Those who believe, that is to say, those who live the obedience of faith, are “born of God” (Jn 1,13) and made sharers in the divine life: sons in the Son (cf. Ga 4,5-6 Rm 8,14-17). As Saint Augustine puts it nicely in commenting on this passage from John’s Gospel: “you were created through the word, but now through the word you must be recreated”.[174] Here we can glimpse the face of the Church as a reality defined by acceptance of the Word of God who, by taking flesh, came to pitch his tent among us (cf. Jn 1,14). This dwelling-place of God among men, this shekinah (cf. Ex 26,1), prefigured in the Old Testament, is now fulfilled in God’s definitive presence among us in Christ.

[174] In Iohannis Evangelium Tractatus, I, 12: PL 35, 1385.

Christ’s constant presence in the life of the Church

51 The relationship between Christ, the Word of the Father, and the Church cannot be fully understood in terms of a mere past event; rather, it is a living relationship which each member of the faithful is personally called to enter into. We are speaking of the presence of God’s word to us today: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28,20). As Pope John Paul II has said: “Christ’s relevance for people of all times is shown forth in his body, which is the Church. For this reason the Lord promised his disciples the Holy Spirit, who would ‘bring to their remembrance’ and teach them to understand his commandments (cf. Jn 14,26), and who would be the principle and constant source of a new life in the world (cf. Jn 3,5-8 Rm 8,1-13)”.[175] The Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbumexpresses this mystery by using the biblical metaphor of a nuptial dialogue: “God, who spoke in the past, continues to converse with the spouse of his beloved Son. And the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel rings out in the Church – and through it in the world – leads believers to the full truth and makes the word of Christ dwell in them in all its richness (cf. Col 3,16).”[176]

The Bride of Christ – the great teacher of the art of listening – today too repeats in faith: “Speak, Lord, your Church is listening”.[177] For this reason the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbumintentionally begins with the words: “Hearing the word of God reverently and proclaiming it confidently, this sacred Council…”.[178] Here we encounter a dynamic definition of the Church’s life: “With these words the Council indicates a defining aspect of the Church: she is a community that hears and proclaims the word of God. The Church draws life not from herself but from the Gospel, and from the Gospel she discovers ever anew the direction for her journey. This is an approach that every Christian must understand and apply to himself or herself: only those who first place themselves in an attitude of listening to the word can go on to become its heralds”.[179] In the word of God proclaimed and heard, and in the sacraments, Jesus says today, here and now, to each person: “I am yours, I give myself to you”; so that we can receive and respond, saying in return: “I am yours”.[180]The Church thus emerges as the milieu in which, by grace, we can experience what John tells us in the Prologue of his Gospel: “to all who received him he gave power to become children of God” (Jn 1,12).

[175] Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor (6 August 1993), VS 25: AAS 85 (1993), 1153.
[176] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, DV 8.
[177] Relatio post disceptationem, 11.
[178] No. DV 1.
[179] BenedictXVI, Address to the International Congress “Sacred Scripture in the Life of the Church” (16 September 2005): AAS 97 (2005), 956.
[180] Cf. Relatio post disceptationem, 10.

The Liturgy, privileged Setting for the Word of God

The word of God in the sacred liturgy

52 In considering the Church as “the home of the word”,[181] attention must first be given to the sacred liturgy, for the liturgy is the privileged setting in which God speaks to us in the midst of our lives; he speaks today to his people, who hear and respond. Every liturgical action is by its very nature steeped in sacred Scripture. In the words of the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium,“sacred Scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. From it are taken the readings, which are explained in the homily and the psalms that are sung. From Scripture the petitions, prayers and liturgical hymns receive their inspiration and substance. From Scripture the liturgical actions and signs draw their meaning”.[182] Even more, it must be said that Christ himself “is present in his word, since it is he who speaks when Scripture is read in Church”.[183] Indeed, “the liturgical celebration becomes the continuing, complete and effective presentation of God’s word. The word of God, constantly proclaimed in the liturgy, is always a living and effective word through the power of the Holy Spirit. It expresses the Father’s love that never fails in its effectiveness towards us”.[184]The Church has always realized that in the liturgical action the word of God is accompanied by the interior working of the Holy Spirit who makes it effective in the hearts of the faithful. Thanks to the Paraclete, “the word of God becomes the foundation of the liturgical celebration, and the rule and support of all our life. The working of the same Holy Spirit … brings home to each person individually every-thing that in the proclamation of the word of God is spoken for the good of the whole gathering. In strengthening the unity of all, the Holy Spirit at the same time fosters a diversity of gifts and furthers their multiform operation”.[185]

To understand the word of God, then, we need to appreciate and experience the essential meaning and value of the liturgical action. A faith-filled understanding of sacred Scripture must always refer back to the liturgy, in which the word of God is celebrated as a timely and living word: “In the liturgy the Church faithfully adheres to the way Christ himself read and explained the sacred Scriptures, beginning with his coming forth in the synagogue and urging all to search the Scriptures”.[186]

Here one sees the sage pedagogy of the Church, which proclaims and listens to sacred Scripture following the rhythm of the liturgical year. This expansion of God’s word in time takes place above all in the Eucharistic celebration and in the Liturgy of the Hours. At the centre of everything the paschal mystery shines forth, and around it radiate all the mysteries of Christ and the history of salvation which become sacramentally present: “By recalling in this way the mysteries of redemption, the Church opens up to the faithful the riches of the saving actions and the merits of her Lord, and makes them present to all times, allowing the faithful to enter into contact with them and to be filled with the grace of salvation”.[187] For this reason I encourage the Church’s Pastors and all engaged in pastoral work to see that all the faithful learn to savour the deep meaning of the word of God which unfolds each year in the liturgy, revealing the fundamental mysteries of our faith. This is in turn the basis for a correct approach to sacred Scripture.

[181] Final Message, III, 6.
[182] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium,
SC 24.
[183] Ibid., SC 7.
[184] Ordo Lectionum Missae, 4.
[185] Ibid, 9.
[186] Ibid., 3; cf. Lc 4,16-21 Lc 24,25-35 Lc 24,44-49.
[187] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, SC 102.

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