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Archive for March 2014

What is the relationship between sacred Scripture and the working of the sacraments?

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Sacred Scripture and the sacraments

In discussing the importance of the liturgy for understanding the word of God, the Synod of Bishops highlighted the relationship between sacred Scripture and the working of the sacraments. There is great need for a deeper investigation of the relationship between word and sacrament in the Church’s pastoral activity and in theological reflection.[188] Certainly “the liturgy of the word is a decisive element in the celebration of each one of the sacraments of the Church”;[189] in pastoral practice, however, the faithful are not always conscious of this connection, nor do they appreciate the unity between gesture and word. It is “the task of priests and deacons, above all when they administer the sacraments, to explain the unity between word and sacrament in the ministry of the Church”.[190] The relationship between word and sacramental gesture is the liturgical expression of God’s activity in the history of salvation through the performative character of the word itself. In salvation history there is no separation between what God says and what he does. His word appears as alive and active (cf. Heb 4:12), as the Hebrew term dabar itself makes clear. In the liturgical action too, we encounter his word which accomplishes what it says. By educating the People of God to discover the performative character of God’s word in the liturgy, we will help them to recognize his activity in salvation history and in their individual lives.

[188] Cf. Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (22 February 2007), 44-45: AAS 99 (2007) 139-141.
[189] Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (15 April 1993) IV, C, 1: Enchiridion Vaticanum 13, No. 3123.
[190] Ibid., III, B, 3: Enchiridion Vaticanum 13, No. 3056.

VERBUM DOMINI, Benedict XVI

The profound unity of word and Eucharist is grounded on what?

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The word of God and the Eucharist

What has been said in general about the relationship between the word and the sacraments takes on deeper meaning when we turn to the celebration of the Eucharist. The profound unity of word and Eucharist is grounded in the witness of Scripture (cf. Jn 6; Lk 24), attested to by the Fathers of the Church, and reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council.[191] Here we think of Jesus’ discourse on the bread of life in the synagogue of Capernaum (cf. Jn 6:22-69), with its underlying comparison between Moses and Jesus, between the one who spoke face to face with God (cf. Ex 33:11) and the one who makes God known (cf. Jn 1:18). Jesus’ discourse on the bread speaks of the gift of God, which Moses obtained for his people with the manna in the desert, which is really the Torah, the life-giving word of God (cf. Ps 119; Pr 9:5). In his own person Jesus brings to fulfilment the ancient image: “The bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” … “I am the bread of life” (Jn 6:33-35). Here “the law has become a person. When we encounter Jesus, we feed on the living God himself, so to speak; we truly eat ‘the bread from heaven’”.[192] In the discourse at Capernaum, John’s Prologue is brought to a deeper level. There God’s Logos became flesh, but here this flesh becomes “bread” given for the life of the world (cf. Jn 6:51), with an allusion to Jesus’ self-gift in the mystery of the cross, confirmed by the words about his blood being given as drink (cf. Jn 6:53). The mystery of the Eucharist reveals the true manna, the true bread of heaven: it is God’s Logos made flesh, who gave himself up for us in the paschal mystery.

Luke’s account of the disciples on the way to Emmaus enables us to reflect further on this link between the hearing of the word and the breaking of the bread (cf. Lk 24:13-35). Jesus approached the disciples on the day after the Sabbath, listened as they spoke of their dashed hopes, and, joining them on their journey, “interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (24:27). The two disciples began to look at the Scriptures in a new way in the company of this traveller who seemed so surprisingly familiar with their lives. What had taken place in those days no longer appeared to them as failure, but as fulfilment and a new beginning. And yet, apparently not even these words were enough for the two disciples. The Gospel of Luke relates that “their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (24:31) only when Jesus took the bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them, whereas earlier “their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (24:16). The presence of Jesus, first with his words and then with the act of breaking bread, made it possible for the disciples to recognize him. Now they were able to appreciate in a new way all that they had previously experienced with him: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (24:32).

From these accounts it is clear that Scripture itself points us towards an appreciation of its own unbreakable bond with the Eucharist. “It can never be forgotten that the divine word, read and proclaimed by the Church, has as its one purpose the sacrifice of the new new covenant and the banquet of grace, that is, the Eucharist”.[193] Word and Eucharist are so deeply bound together that we cannot understand one without the other: the word of God sacramentally takes flesh in the event of the Eucharist. The Eucharist opens us to an understanding of Scripture, just as Scripture for its part illumines and explains the mystery of the Eucharist. Unless we acknowledge the Lord’s real presence in the Eucharist, our understanding of Scripture remains imperfect. For this reason “the Church has honoured the word of God and the Eucharistic mystery with the same reverence, although not with the same worship, and has always and everywhere insisted upon and sanctioned such honour. Moved by the example of her Founder, she has never ceased to celebrate his paschal mystery by coming together to read ‘in all the Scriptures the things concerning him’ (Lk 24:27) and to carry out the work of salvation through the celebration of the memorial of the Lord and through the sacraments”.[194]

[191] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 48, 51, 56; Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, 21, 26; Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church Ad Gentes, 6, 15; Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, 18; Decree on the Renewal of the Religious Life Perfectae Caritatis, 6. In the Church’s great Tradition we find significant expressions such as “Corpus Christi intelligitur etiam […] Scriptura Dei” (“God’s Scripture is also understood as the Body of Christ”): Waltramus, De Unitate Ecclesiae Conservanda, 1, 14, ed. W. Schwenkenbecher, Hanoverae, 1883, p. 33; “The flesh of the Lord is true food and his blood true drink; this is the true good that is reserved for us in this present life, to nourish ourselves with his flesh and drink his blood, not only in the Eucharist but also in reading sacred Scripture. Indeed, true food and true drink is the word of God which we derive from the Scriptures”: Saint Jerome, Commentarius in Ecclesiasten, III: PL 23, 1092A.
[192] J. Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), Jesus of Nazareth, New York, 2007, 268.
[193] Ordo Lectionum Missae, 10.
[194] Ibid.

VERBUM DOMINI, Benedict XVI

Why lectionary is important and what is its purpose?

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Sacred Scripture and the Lectionary

In stressing the bond between word and Eucharist, the Synod also rightly wanted to call attention to certain aspects of the celebration which concern the service of the word. In the first place I wish to mention the importance of the Lectionary. The reform called for by the Second Vatican Council[201] has borne fruit in a richer access to sacred Scripture, which is now offered in abundance, especially at Sunday Mass. The present structure of the Lectionary not only presents the more important texts of Scripture with some frequency, but also helps us to understand the unity of God’s plan thanks to the interplay of the Old and New Testament readings, an interplay “in which Christ is the central figure, commemorated in his paschal mystery”.[202] Any remaining difficulties in seeing the relationship between those readings should be approached in the light of canonical interpretation, that is to say, by referring to the inherent unity of the Bible as a whole. Wherever necessary, the competent offices and groups can make provision for publications aimed at bringing out the interconnection of the Lectionary readings, all of which are to be proclaimed to the liturgical assembly as called for by the liturgy of the day. Other problems or difficulties should be brought to the attention of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Nor should we overlook the fact that the current Lectionary of the Latin rite has ecumenical significance, since it is used and valued also by communities not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church. The issue of the Lectionary presents itself differently in the liturgies of the Eastern Catholic Churches; the Synod requested that this issue be “examined authoritatively”,[203] in accordance with the proper tradition and competences of the sui iuris Churches, likewise taking into account the ecumenical context.

201] Cf. Constitution on Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 107-108.
[202] Ordo Lectionum Missae, 66.
[203] Propositio 16.

VERBUM DOMINI, Benedict XVI

Written by Erineus

March 31, 2014 at 3:16 am

Why should reader be truly suitable and carefully trained?

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Proclamation of the word and the ministry of Reader

The Synod on the Eucharist had already called for greater care to be taken in the proclamation of the word of God.[204] As is known, while the Gospel is proclaimed by a priest or deacon, in the Latin tradition the first and second readings are proclaimed by an appointed reader, whether a man or a woman. I would like to echo the Synod Fathers who once more stressed the need for the adequate training[205] of those who exercise the munus of reader in liturgical celebrations,[206] and particularly those who exercise the ministry of Reader, which in the Latin rite is, as such, a lay ministry. All those entrusted with this office, even those not instituted in the ministry of Reader, should be truly suitable and carefully trained. This training should be biblical and liturgical, as well as technical: “The purpose of their biblical formation is to give readers the ability to understand the readings in context and to perceive by the light of faith central point of the revealed message. The liturgical formation ought to equip readers to have some grasp of the meaning and structure of the liturgy of the word and the significance of its connection with the liturgy of the Eucharist. The technical preparation should make the readers skilled in the art of reading publicly, either with the power of their own voice or with the help of sound equipment.”[207]

 [204] Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (22 February 2007), 45: AAS 99 (2007), 140-141.
[205] Cf. Propositio 14.
[206] Cf. Code of Canon Law, cc. 230 §2; 204 §1.
[207] Ordo Lectionum Missae, 55

VERBUM DOMINI, Benedict XVI

Why Church acoustics is important and concern should be shown for it?

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In order to facilitate hearing the word of God, consideration should be given to measures which can help focus the attention of the faithful. Concern should be shown for church acoustics, with due respect for liturgical and architectural norms. “Bishops, duly assisted, in the construction of churches should take care that they be adapted to the proclamation of the word, to meditation and to the celebration of the Eucharist. Sacred spaces, even apart from the liturgical action, should be eloquent and should present the Christian mystery in relation to the word of God”.[238]

[238] Propositio 40.

VERBUM DOMINI, Benedict XVI

Why silence is important in relation to the word of God and its reception in the lives of the faithful?

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b) The word and silence

In their interventions, a good number of Synod Fathers insisted on the importance of silence in relation to the word of God and its reception in the lives of the faithful.[231] The word, in fact, can only be spoken and heard in silence, outward and inward. Ours is not an age which fosters recollection; at times one has the impression that people are afraid of detaching themselves, even for a moment, from the mass media. For this reason, it is necessary nowadays that the People of God be educated in the value of silence. Rediscovering the centrality of God’s word in the life of the Church also means rediscovering a sense of recollection and inner repose. The great patristic tradition teaches us that the mysteries of Christ all involve silence.[232] Only in silence can the word of God find a home in us, as it did in Mary, woman of the word and, inseparably, woman of silence. Our liturgies must facilitate this attitude of authentic listening: Verbo crescente, verba deficiunt.[233]

The importance of all this is particularly evident in the Liturgy of the Word, “which should be celebrated in a way that favours meditation”.[234] Silence, when called for, should be considered “a part of the celebration”.[235] Hence I encourage Pastors to foster moments of recollection whereby, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the word of God can find a welcome in our hearts.

[231] Cf. Propositio 14.
[232] Cf. Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Ephesios, XV, 2: Patres Apostolici, ed. F.X. Funk, Tubingae, 1901, I, 224.
[233] Saint Augustine, Sermo 288, 5: PL 38, 1307; Sermo 120, 2: PL 38, 677.
[234] General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 56
[235] Ibid., 45; cf.Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 30.

VERBUM DOMINI, Benedict XVI

The Liturgy, Privileged Setting For The Word Of God.

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The Liturgy, Privileged Setting For The Word Of God

The word of God in the sacred liturgy

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, 24.
[183] Ibid., 7.
[184] Ordo Lectionum Missae, 4.
[185] Ibid, 9.
[186] Ibid., 3; cf. Lk 4:16-21; 24:25-35, 44-49.
[187] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 102.

VERBUM DOMINI, Benedict XVI

Written by Erineus

March 31, 2014 at 2:46 am