Synodevaders - 25 oktober 2008
Van de 12e Gewone Bisschoppensynode over het Woord van God in het leven en de zending van de Kerk (Engelstalige versie)
|►||THE WORD OF GOD IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH|
The assembly, convoked and gathered by the Spirit to hear the proclamation of the Word of God, is transformed by the same action of the Spirit that is manifested in the celebration.
In fact, there, where the Church is, Lord's Spirit is; and where the Lord's Spirit is, the Church also is (cf. Saint Irenaeus, "Adversus Haereses," III, 24, 1).
The synodal fathers reaffirm that the liturgy is the privileged place in which the Word of God is fully expressed, both in the celebration of the sacraments as above all in the Eucharist, in the Liturgy of the Hours and in the liturgical year. The mystery of salvation narrated in sacred Scripture finds in the liturgy its own place of proclamation, listening and acting.
For this reason, it is imperative that:
-- The book of sacred Scripture, even outside liturgical action, has a visible and honorable place in the church.
-- Silence should be encouraged after the first and second reading and after the homily is finished, as suggested in the General Order of the Roman Missal (cf. No. 56).
-- Celebrations of the Word of God are provided, centered on the Sunday readings.
-- Readings of sacred Scripture be proclaimed from worthy liturgical books, namely the lectionaries and the Gospel, to be treated with the most profound respect for the Word of God they contain.
-- Highlight the role of the servers of the proclamation: readers and cantors.
-- Men and women lectors be adequately formed, so that they can proclaim the Word of God in a clear and comprehensible way. The latter must be invited to study and witness with their life the contents of the Word they read.
-- The Word of God be proclaimed in a clear way, with control of the dynamics of communication.
-- Persons for whom the reception of the Word of God, communicated in the usual way is difficult as well as persons with sight or hearing disabilities not be forgotten.
-- Competent and effective use be made of acoustic instruments.
Moreover, the synodal fathers feel the duty to remind of the grave responsibility of those who preside over the Eucharist so that the texts of sacred Scripture are never substituted by other texts. No text of spirituality or literature can have the value and wealth contained in sacred Scripture, which is the Word of God.
The homily that updates the proclaimed Word: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:21). It leads to the mystery celebrated, invites to mission and shares the joys and sorrows, the hopes and fears of the faithful, thus disposing the assembly both to the profession of faith (Creed) as well as the universal prayer of the Mass.
There should be a homily in all Masses "cum populo," even during the week. It is necessary that preachers (bishops, priests, deacons) prepare themselves in prayer, so that they preach with conviction and passion. They must ask themselves three questions:
-- What do the proclaimed readings say?
-- What do they say to me?
-- What must I say to the community, taking into account its concrete situation?
The preacher should above all allow himself to be questioned first by the Word of God he proclaims. The homily must be nourished by doctrine and transmit the teaching of the Church to strengthen the faith, call to conversion in the framework of the celebration and prepare for the action of the Eucharistic paschal mystery.To help the preacher in the ministry of the Word, and in continuity with the teaching of the post-synodal apostolic "Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis" (No. 46), the synodal fathers desire the elaboration of a "Directory on the Homily," which should show, together with the principles of homiletics and of the art of communication, the content of the biblical topics that appear in the lectionaries that are used in the liturgy.
It is recommended that an examination of the Roman Lectionary be initiated to see if the present selection and ordering of the readings are really adequate to the mission of the Church at this historic moment. Specifically, the relation of the reading of the Old Testament with the evangelical pericope should be reconsidered, so that it does not imply a too restrictive reading of the Old Testament or the exclusion of important passages.
The revision of a Lectionary could be done in dialogue with ecumenical counterparts who use this common Lectionary.
It is desirable that an authoritative examination of the problem of the Lectionary be carried out in the liturgies of Oriental Catholic Churches.
The synodal fathers acknowledge and encourage the service of the laity in the transmission of the faith. On this point, women especially have an indispensable role above all in the family and in catechesis. In fact, they are able to awaken interest in the Word, the personal relationship with God, and to communicate the meaning of forgiveness and evangelical sharing.
It is desirable that the ministry of the lector be open also to women, so that the Christian community will recognize their role as heralds of the Word.
The celebration of the Word of God is recommended according to the different forms received from the liturgical tradition (cf. SC 35). Many ecclesial communities, which do not have the possibility of the Sunday Eucharistic celebration, find in the celebration of the Word the food for their faith and for Christian testimony.
The celebration of the Word is one of the privileged places of encounter with the Lord, because in this proclamation, Christ makes himself present and continues to speak to his people (cf. SC 7). Even in the midst of today's noise, which makes effective listening very difficult, the faithful are encouraged to cultivate a disposition of interior silence and of listening to the Word of God that transforms life.
The Synodal Fathers recommend that ritual directories be formulated, based on the experience of Churches in which formed catechists regularly lead Sunday assemblies round the Word of God. The purpose is to avoid such celebrations being confused with the Eucharistic liturgy.
Reception of the Word, the prayer of praise, thanksgiving and petition, which make up the celebration of the Word of God, are manifestations of the Spirit in the heart of the faithful and in the Christian assembly, gathered round the Word of God. The Holy Spirit, in fact, makes the proclaimed and celebrated Word of God fruitful in the heart and life of those who receive it.
We also believe that pilgrimages, celebrations, different forms of popular piety, the missions, spiritual retreats and special days of penance, reparation and forgiveness are a concrete opportunity, offered to the faithful to celebrate the Word of God and enhance their knowledge.
The Liturgy of the Hours is a privileged way to hear the Word of God because it puts the faithful in contact with sacred Scripture and with the living Tradition of the Church. Hence, the Synod hopes that the faithful will participate in the Liturgy of the Hours, above all in lauds and vespers. Hence, it would be useful to prepare a simple form of the Liturgy of the Hours where it does not exist yet.
Bishops, priests, deacons, religious and those already delegated to it by the Church must remember their sacred duty to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. This is very much recommended to the lay faithful, so that this liturgy becomes, in an even greater sense, the prayer of the whole Church.
The Word of God is at the origin of marriage (cf. Genesis 2:24). Jesus himself inscribed marriage among the institutions of his Kingdom (cf. Matthew 19:4-8), giving it a sacramental statute. In the sacramental celebration, the man and woman pronounce a prophetic word of reciprocal self-giving, being "one flesh," sign of the mystery of the union of Christ and the Church (cf. Ephesians 5:32). Through the fidelity and unity of family life, spouses are to their children the first heralds of the Word of God. They must be supported and helped in developing prayer in the family, the domestic celebration of the Word, reading of the Bible and other forms of prayer.Spouses must remember that the Word of God is a valuable support also in the difficulties of conjugal and family life.
The synod recommends the formation of small ecclesial communities where the Word of God is heard, studied and prayed, also in the form of the rosary as biblical meditation (cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter "Rosarium Virginis Mariae"). In many countries there are already small communities, which can be made up of families living in the parishes or connected to the different ecclesial movements and new communities.
They meet regularly, around the Word of God, to share among themselves, and receive strength from it.
Some only rarely have the possibility to celebrate the Eucharist. They experience the sense of community and encounter the Word of God personally. Through the reading of the Bible they feel themselves loved personally by God. The service of the laity that leads these communities must be appreciated and promoted as they carry out a missionary service to which all the baptized are called.
The synod proposes that all the faithful, including young people, be exhorted to approach the Scriptures through "prayerful" and assiduous "reading" (cf. "Dei Verbum," 25), in such a way that the dialogue with God becomes a daily reality of the people of God.
Therefore, it is important:
-- That the prayerful reading be profoundly related to the example of Mary and the saints in the history of the Church, as those who carried out the reading of the Word according to the Spirit;
-- That it be ensured that pastors, priests and deacons, and in a very special sense future priests, have adequate formation so that, in turn, they can form the people of God in this spiritual dynamic;
-- That the faithful be initiated -- in keeping with the circumstances, categories and cultures -- in the most appropriate method of prayerful reading, personal and/or community ("lectio divina," spiritual exercises in daily life, "Seven Steps" in Africa and in other places, various methods of prayer, sharing in the family and in the grassroots ecclesial communities, etc.);
-- That the practice of prayerful reading be encouraged, using liturgical texts that the Church proposes for the Sunday and daily Eucharistic celebration, to better understand the relation between Word and Eucharist;
-- That care be taken that the prayerful reading of the Scriptures, above all by the community, result in a commitment to charity (cf. Luke 4:18-19).
Conscious of the present widespread diffusion of "lectio divina" and of other similar methods, the synodal fathers see in them a true sign of hope and encourage all ecclesial leaders to multiply their efforts in this sense.
Preferably, catechesis should have its roots in Christian revelation. It should take as model Jesus' pedagogy on the road to Emmaus.
On the road to Emmaus, Jesus opens the heart of the disciples to an understanding of the Scriptures (cf. Luke 24:27). His way of proceeding shows that the catechesis that plunges its roots in Christian revelation implies an explanation of the Scriptures, inviting us also to approach the men of today to transmit to them the Gospel of salvation:
-- With special attention to the youngest children;
-- To those in need of a more profound formation rooted in the Scriptures;
-- To catechumens who must be supported on their path, showing them the plan of God through the reading of sacred Scripture, preparing them to encounter the Lord in the sacraments of Christian initiation, to be committed in the community, and to be missionaries.
The pre-baptismal catechumenate is followed by a post-baptismal mistagogy, a continuing formation in which sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church must hold center place.
Consecrated life is born from listening to the Word of God; it receives the Gospel as its norm of life. In the school of the Word, it rediscovers its identity continually and becomes a "testificatio evangelica" for the Church and the world.
Called to be living "exegesis" of the Word of God (cf. Benedict XVI, Feb. 2, 2008), it itself is a word with which God continues speaking to the Church and the world.
The synod thanks consecrated persons for their testimony of the Gospel and their willingness to proclaim it in the geographical and cultural frontiers of the mission through their charismatic services.
At the same time, it exhorts them to take care of the personal and community spaces of listening to the Word of God, and to promote schools of biblical prayer open to the laity, above all young people.
They must be able to listen to the Word of God with the heart of the poor and express their response in a commitment to justice, peace and the integrity of creation.
The synod highlights the importance of contemplative life and its valuable contribution to the tradition of "lectio divina." Monastic communities are schools of spirituality and give strength to the life of local Churches. "The monastery, as spiritual oasis, points today's world to what is most important, in a word, the only decisive thing: there is an ultimate reason which makes life worth living, namely, God and his inscrutable Love" (Benedict XVI, Angelus, Nov. 18, 2007).
In contemplative life, the Word is received, prayed and celebrated. Care must be taken, therefore, so that these communities receive the biblical and theological formation appropriate to their life and mission.
The biblical hermeneutic proposed in "Dei Verbum," 12, continues to be of great present importance and efficacy, which envisages two different and correlative methodological levels.
The first level corresponds, in fact, to the so-called historical-critical methods that, in modern and contemporary research, often was used with fruitfulness and that entered the Catholic field, above all with the encyclical "Divino Afflante Spiritu" of the servant of God Pius XII. This method is necessary by the very nature of the history of salvation, which is not mythology, but a true history with its apex in the incarnation of the Word, divine and eternal, who comes to dwell in men's time (cf. John 1:14). The Bible and the history of salvation, therefore, also call for study with the methods of serious historical research.
The second methodological level necessary for a correct interpretation of the sacred Scriptures, corresponds to the nature, also divine, of human biblical words. The Second Vatican Council justly recalls that the Bible must be interpreted with the help of the same Holy Spirit who guided its writing.
Biblical hermeneutic cannot be considered carried out if -- along with the historical study of the texts -- it does not also seek its theological dimension in an adequate manner. "Dei Verbum" identifies and presents the three decisive references to arrive at the divine dimension and, therefore, to the theological meaning of the sacred Scriptures. It is a question of the content and the unity of the whole of Scripture, of the living tradition of the whole Church and, finally, of attention to the analogy of the faith. "Only where the two methodological levels are observed, the historical-critical and the theological, can one speak of a theological exegesis, an exegesis adequate to this book" (Benedict XVI, Oct. 14, 2008).
The positive fruit contributed by the use of modern historical-critical research is undeniable; at the same time, however, it is necessary to look at the state of present-day exegetical studies by looking also at the difficulties. While current academic exegesis, including the Catholic, works at a very high level as regards the historical-critical methodology, including its happy and most recent integrations (cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission, "The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church"), the same cannot be said about the study of the theological dimension of the biblical texts. Sadly, the theological level indicated by the three elements of "Dei Verbum," 12 very often is almost absent.
The first consequence of such absence is that the Bible becomes for present-day readers a mere book of the past, incapable of speaking to our time. In these conditions, biblical exegesis runs the risk of becoming pure historiography and history of literature.
The second consequence, perhaps even graver, is the disappearance of the hermeneutics of the faith pointed out in "Dei Verbum." Instead of believing hermeneutics, what is then insinuated in fact is a positivist and secular hermeneutics that denies the possibility of the presence and access of the divine in the history of man.
The synodal fathers, while sincerely thanking the many exegetes and theologians that have given and give essential help in the profound discovery of the Scriptures, request from all a growing commitment in order to reach with greater force and clarity the theological level of biblical interpretation. To truly arrive at a growing love for the Scriptures, hoped for by the Council, greater care must be taken to apply the principles that Dei Verbum itself pointed out with thoroughness and clarity.
For the life and mission of the Church, and for the future of the faith within contemporary cultures, it is necessary to overcome the dualism between exegesis and theology. Sadly, not infrequently an unproductive separation between exegesis and theology occurs even at the highest academic levels.
A worrying consequence is uncertainty and scarce solidity in the intellectual formative path including that of some future candidates to ecclesial ministries. Biblical theology and systematic theology are two dimensions of that unique reality that we call theology.
The synodal fathers, therefore, with esteem address an appeal, both to theologians as well as exegetes, so that, with a clearer and more harmonious collaboration, they will not fail to give contemporary theology the force of the Scriptures, and not reduce the study of the Scriptures to the historiographic dimension of the inspired texts.
"When exegesis is not theology, Scripture cannot be the soul of theology and, vice-versa, when theology is not essentially interpretation of Scripture in the Church, such theology loses its foundation" (Benedict XVI, Oct. 14, 2008).
Episcopal conferences are requested to favor regularly meetings between pastors, theologians and exegetes to promote greater communion in service to the Word of God.
We hope that exegetes and theologians will be able to share ever better the fruits of their science for the enhancement of the faith and the edification of the People of God, always keeping in mind the characteristic dimensions of the Catholic interpretation of the Bible (cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission, "The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church," III).
At times difficulties arise in reading the Old Testament because of texts that contain elements of violence, injustice, immorality and scarce exemplarity, even in important biblical figures.
Consequently, an adequate preparation of the faithful is required for reading these passages and a formation that teaches them to read the texts in their historical and literary context, so that a Christian reading is favored. The latter has as central hermeneutical key the Gospel and the new commandment of Jesus Christ fulfilled in the paschal mystery. Hence, it is recommended that the reading of the Old Testament not be neglected, which, despite some difficulties, is essential to fully understand the history of salvation (cf. "Dei Verbum," 15).
"Dei Verbum" exhorts that the Word of God not only be made the soul of theology but also the soul of the whole of pastoral care, of life and of the mission of the Church (cf. "Dei Verbum," 24). Bishops must be the first promoters of this dynamic in their dioceses. To be a herald and a credible herald, the bishop must first nourish himself with the Word of God, so that he can sustain and make ever more fruitful his own episcopal ministry. The synod recommends increasing "biblical pastoral ministry" not in juxtaposition to other forms of pastoral care but as biblical animation of the whole of pastoral care.Under the guidance of pastors, all the baptized participate in the mission of the Church. The synodal fathers wish to express their most profound esteem and gratitude, as well as to encourage the service of evangelization that so many lay people, especially women, offer with generosity and commitment in communities spread throughout the world, following the example of Mary Magdalene, first witness of paschal joy.
Candidates to the priesthood must learn to love the Word of God. Therefore, Scripture should be the soul of their theological formation, underlining the indispensable circularity between exegesis, theology, spirituality and mission. Hence, the formation of priests should include multiple approaches to Scripture.
-- Prayerful reading of "lectio divina," both personal as well as in community, in the framework of a first reading of the Bible. It will be necessary to continue it during the whole process of formation, taking into account what the Church establishes in regard to retreats and spiritual exercises in the education of seminarians.
-- Nourish himself assiduously with the Word of God, also through the richness of the Divine Office.
-- The discovery of exegesis in its various methods. A precise and ample study is necessary of the hermeneutical rules to overcome the risks of an arbitrary interpretation. The methods of the exegesis must be understood in an appropriate manner, with its possibilities and limits, allowing for correct and fruitful understanding of the Word of God.
-- Knowledge of the history of what produced the reading of the Scriptures in the Fathers of the Church, the saints, the doctors and the masters of spirituality down to our day.
-- Intensification, during the seminary years, of the formation for preaching, and vigilance of permanent formation during the exercise of the ministry, so that the homily can speak to those who hear it (cf. Acts 2:37).
-- Parallel to formation in the seminary, future priests will be invited to take part in meetings with lay groups or associations, gathered around the Word of God. These meetings, held during a sufficiently long amount of time, will foster in future ministers the experience and taste for hearing what the Holy Spirit inspires in believers gathered as Church, whether they are young or old. Serious study of philosophy must not be neglected; it will lead to evaluate with clarity the assumptions and implications contained in the various hermeneutics applied to the study of the Bible (cf. "Optatam Totius," 15).
To this end, it is hoped that philosophic and cultural thought (art and music) open to transcendence will be addressed and taught in philosophic faculties, so that disciples can hear and understand better the Word of God, the only one that can satisfy the desires of the human heart (cf. "Fides et Ratio," 83).
What is hoped for is a renewal of academic programs (cf. John Paul II, apostolic constitution "Sapientia Christiana") so that the systematic study of theology in the light of sacred Scripture is manifested better.
Moreover, a revision of the courses in seminaries and in houses of formation must take care that the Word of God has its due place in the various dimensions of formation.
Love of the Bible is a grace of the Holy Spirit that permeates the whole life of the believer. Hence, Christians must be formed in appreciation of this gift of God. "If you knew the gift of God" (John 4:10), says the Lord.
Hence, it is hoped that in each cultural region centers of formation will be established for the laity and for missionaries of the Word, where they learn to understand, live and proclaim the Word of God. Moreover, that institutes specialized in biblical studies are created so that exegetes may have solid theological understanding and sensibility to the contexts of their mission. This can also be done by a re-examination or reinforcement of existing structures, such as seminaries and faculties.
Finally, it is necessary to offer adequate formation in biblical tongues to persons who are translators of the Bible into various modern languages.
"To listen together to the Word of God, to practice the 'lectio divina' of the Bible (...) is a path to follow to attain the unity of the faith, as response to the listening of the Word" (Benedict XVI's Address, Jan. 25, 2007). Hence, common listening of the Scriptures stimulates the dialogue of charity and makes that of truth grow. An open ecumenical problem is the understanding of the individual authorized in the interpretation of the Church (especially the magisterium); therefore, common study and biblical research should be intensified. Likewise, common efforts in the translations and diffusion of the Bible must be intensified, as well as inter-confessional celebrations of listening to the Word of God.
The synodal fathers thank God for the presence and interventions of the fraternal delegates, representatives of other Churches and ecclesial communities and, in a special way, for the prayer of Vespers presided over by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, together with His Holiness Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople. The words of the ecumenical patriarch addressed to the synodal fathers have made it possible to experience a profound spiritual joy and to have a living experience of real and profound communion, though still not perfect; in them we have tasted the beauty of the Word of God, read in the light of the sacred liturgy and of the fathers, a spiritual reading strongly contextualized in our time.
Thus, we have seen that, going to the heart of sacred Scripture, we really find the Word in the words, which opens the eyes of the faithful to respond to the challenges of today's world. Moreover, we have shared the joyful experience of having common Fathers in the East and West. May this meeting become a fervent prayer to the one Lord that Jesus' prayer "Ut omnes unum sint" may be a reality as soon as possible (John 17:20).
Van de 12e Gewone Bisschoppensynode over het Woord van God in het leven en de zending van de Kerk (Engelstalige versie)
|Datum:||25 oktober 2008|
|Copyrights:||© 2008, Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Bron: Zenit.org (vertaling vanuit de onofficiële Italiaanse versie)
|7 november 2019|