Friday, July 4, 2014

Bible Christians . . . that's what we're supposed to be

From 1962 to 1965 the Second Vatican Council met in Rome to work out how the Church could be more open to the renewing love and power of the Holy Spirit. Grass-roots Christian people were encouraged to rediscover aspects of Church life that had been neglected. Even at the time, this was not seen a matter just for Roman Catholics. In many areas of living the Faith in our daily lives, the work of the Council has proven to be of vital importance for ALL Christians. 

One of the most significant documents produced by the Council is DEI VERBUM, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (1965). Its purpose was to encourage all the faithful to use the Bible to nourish our relationship with God. As the following quotes indicate, it encourages us to become much more familiar with Scripture so as to hear the voice of God speaking to us from day to day. It is a powerful document and has always been one of my favourites.

(I have inserted headings into the following passages from Dei Verbum, and broken up the long paragraphs into shorter ones, for the ease of the modern reader.)

God speaks through Scripture

“The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God’s word and of Christ’s body.

“She has always maintained them, and continues to do so, together with sacred tradition, as the supreme rule of faith, since, as inspired by God and committed once and for all to writing, they impart the word of God Himself without change, and make the voice of the Holy Spirit resound in the words of the prophets and apostles.

“Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture.

“For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life. Consequently these words are perfectly applicable to Sacred Scripture: ‘For the word of God is living and active’ (Hebrews 4:12) and ‘it has power to build you up and give you your heritage among all those who are sanctified’ (Acts 20:32; see 1 Thessalonians 2:13).”

- Dei Verbum 21

Scripture needs careful interpretation

“Those who search out the intention of the sacred writers must, among other things, have regard for ‘literary forms.’ For truth is proposed and expressed in a variety of ways, depending on whether a text is history of one kind or another, or whether its form is that of prophecy, poetry, or some other type of speech.

“The interpreter must investigate what meaning the sacred writer intended to express and actually expresses in particular circumstances as he used contemporary literary forms in accordance with the situation of his own time and culture.

“For the correct understanding of what the sacred author wanted to assert, due attention must be paid to the customary and characteristic styles of perceiving, speaking, and narrating which prevailed at the time of the sacred writer, and to the customs normally followed at that period in their everyday dealings with one another.

“But, since Holy Scripture must be read and interpreted according to the same Spirit by whom it was written, no less serious attention must be given to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture, if the meaning of the sacred texts is to be correctly brought to light.

“The living tradition of the whole Church must be taken into account along with the harmony which exists between elements of the faith . . . The way of interpreting Scripture is subject finally to the judgment of the Church, which carries out the divine commission and ministry of guarding and interpreting the word of God.”

- Dei Verbum 12

All Christians should read Scripture

“Easy access to Sacred Scripture should be provided for all the Christian faithful.”

- Dei Verbum 22

“. . . The sacred synod also earnestly and especially urges all the Christian faithful, especially . . . to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures the “excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ” (Philippians. 3:8). ‘For ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.’(St Jerome)

“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.’ (St Ambrose)

- Dei Verbum 25


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