The Word of the Lord

On November 12, 2010 Pope Benedict published an Apostolic Exhortation known as Verbum Domini, or in English: The Word of the Lord. I know his comments on Condoms have been making headlines, but this too is important and we need to respect that the Church has issued an apostolic exhortation on scripture.

“Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ, May the words of the Gospel cleanse us of our sins.” It is with those words that we thank The Lord for His Son, and the revelation He has given us in mass every week.

The Word of the Lord, or Verbum Domini is Pope Benedict’s post-synodal exhortation to the faithful. It is also the most formative document on sacred scripture in 57 years. That’s a long time, especially given all the major changes in biblical scholarship. The last document that dealt exclusively with sacred scripture is called Divino Afllante Spiritu. I think we’re in a very exciting time for the future of the Church, so I guess in addition to blogging about the Theology of the Body I will be blogging though this very exciting and formational document and commenting on implication of how it can affect our futures. I will likely do this on my main blog which has been a bit neglected recently.

But anyways, let’s get back to the good stuff. Verbum Domini. You can find a link to the Vatican’s Full Text here. There are other websites that are publishing the entirety of the document as well, but I found this one first, so that’s the link I have provided. For a good overview of the document and commentary aside from my own you might want to hang tight with The Sacred Page, a rather super-awesome Catholic blog.

I am tempted to just quote The Sacred Page in full, but I will restrain myself and merely interact with some of his same source materials.

The Holy Father says:

I wish to point out certain fundamental approaches to a rediscovery of God’s word in the life of the Church as a wellspring of constant renewal. At the same time I express my hope that the word will be ever more fully at the heart of every ecclesial activity. (Paragraph 1)

I think it is important to take the Holy Father’s opening critique seriously. He uses the word rediscovery here. I think it is important we understand that sometimes Catholics are scripture-phobic. As a convert I know I have times when I reflect fondly on my upbringing because it placed the scriptures at the center of faith. Sometimes this focus happened detrimentally, but now that I have learned the place of scripture within the broader context of the Christian life it is wonderful to have a serious regard for and exposure to scripture in my personal devotions.

The Holy Father urges us to a  rediscovery of God’s word in the life of the Church. He thinks that if this rediscovery takes place it will be a source of inexhaustible renewal. In other words, just because we had a synod, or because a document on the bible has been published does not mean the work is over, or that the conversation is ended. In fact, the Holy Father seems to be urging us to…gasp!! Read and interact with the scriptures.

Holy crap…this pope might be an Evangelical Protestant masquerading around with fancy robes to make us think he’s the pope. At least, when it comes to Catholics and scriptures, sometimes that’s the attitude that prevails among radical-“traditionalists”.

This pope has asked us over and over in his pontificate to take the gospels seriously, to take the Word of God seriously, to take Jesus seriously. He’s worked furiously, and fastidiously to make sure the Church embraces a way of reading both Church History and Sacred Scripture in light of continuity between the two and the Tradition that binds them. He expresses the hope that every ecclesial activity will be permeated with scripture, and that this permeation might be the fruit of our renewed vigor for the sacred texts and their proper role in both our personal and public lives.

We might even say that a good way of summing up Pope Benedict’s work thus far could be the famous maxim by Saint Jerome, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

Just a personal aside to my skeptical readers: “Before all else, I would like to call to mind the beauty and pleasure of the renewed encounter with the Lord Jesus which we experienced during the synodal assembly.” Pope Benedict knows Jesus, and has experienced an encounter with Him at a synod where the Church was working through scripture in the Life of the Faithful. I know, surprise, surprise, it might be scandalous to some people, but yes, Catholics are Christians.

The Word Made Flesh

The next issue on Pope Benedict’s agenda is outlining how the word is tangible in the writings of St. John, and how this tangibility can help us understand the need for scripture in our midst. He says, “The Apostle speaks to us of hearing, seeing, touching and looking upon(cf. 1 Jn 1:1) the word of life, since life itself was made manifest in Christ.” He goes on to talk about how we must proclaim this gift of the Word which we can see, touch, and behold, and how this enacts communion in the Divine life.

Benedict Continues as follows:

For this reason I encourage all the faithful to renew their personal and communal encounter with Christ, the word of life made visible, and to become his heralds, so that the gift of divine life – communion – can spread ever more fully throughout the world. (Subheading: That Our Joy May be Complete)

Again, the Holy Father is urging all Christians to renew their personal encounter with Jesus, so that we can proclaim and live out the gift of divine life, and His communion can spread throughout the world. This is amazing writing, and I am ecstatic. It is through this encounter with Christ Himself that the Pope seeks to encourage and foster a truly Biblical Renewal in Catholic Culture and life so that “..the word will be ever more fully at the heart of every ecclesial activity.

In closing this post, I want to offer up the words of the Holy Father which are so pressing for our times. Taking his apostolic cue from the Gospel of St. John he invites us to grow in divine communion. Ultimately, working within Jerome’s maxim, what Pope Benedict XVI offers us is encounter with Christ Himself, and the knowledge of Him, through our knowledge of scripture. The Holy Father says,  “There is no greater priority than this: to enable the people of our time once more to encounter God, the God who speaks to us and shares his love so that we might have life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10).


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