“In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Heb 1:1,2).
God Takes the Initiative: Divine Revelation by the Word of God
6. “In his goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of his will.”10 At the risk of subjecting the mystery of God to the human word and the formality of an arbitrary report, the Second Vatican Council masterfully and accurately set forth in Dei Verbum a summary of the faith professed by the Church throughout the ages. God makes himself known in a gratuitous and direct way so as to enter into an interpersonal relationship of truth and love with humankind and the world he created. God reveals himself in the visible realities of the cosmos and history “through deeds and words having an inner unity,”11 thereby demonstrating an “economy of Revelation,” namely, a plan which seeks the salvation of humankind and, through it, all creation. At one and the same time, this Revelation communicates the truth about God, One in Three, and the truth about humanity, loved by God and destined for eternal happiness. This Divine Revelation gloriously culminates in the Person of Jesus Christ, “who is both the mediator and the fullness of all Revelation.”12
This gratuitous communication, which presupposes a deep communion analogous to human intimacy, is characterised by God himself and his Word, that is, the “Word of God.” Fundamentally speaking, it is a personal act of the Trinitarian God, who loves and consequently “speaks.” God speaks to humankind so that each person might acknowledge his love and respond to him.13An attentive reading of the Bible clearly demonstrates that this communication has continually taken place from Genesis to Revelation. When the Word of God is read and proclaimed, above all in the Eucharist, the “Sacrament par excellence,”14 and in the other sacraments, the Lord himself makes an appeal to us to “become part” of a deeply profound and uniquely interpersonal event of communion between him and us and each of us with one another. Truly, the Word of God is active and accomplishes its purpose (cf. Heb 4:12).
The Human Person Needs Revelation
7. A person is capable of knowing God by relying simply on God-given human resources (cf. Rm 1:20), namely, the world of creation (liber natur ). In various circumstances in history, as a result of sin, this knowledge of God has become clouded and uncertain and even denied by many. But God does not abandon humanity; he puts a deep longing in individuals for light, salvation and peace, even if this is not always recognised. Proclaiming the Gospel to the whole world has helped keep people aware of this bond with the Creator and has resulted in religious and cultural values.
The People of God are showing signs of a keen desire—even a deep yearning—for an intense, sure faith. In removing the veil of ignorance, confusion and self-doubt about God and humankind, the People of God can discern and uphold the truth of God among the many conquests of our technological age. This deep, extensive yearning, almost a crying out, leaves a person open to perceive the truth of God’s revealing himself for the sake of humanity and to listen to his Word. This is the underlying objective of the Synod: to investigate the pastoral implications of the topic in guaranteeing and advancing the process of a new evangelization and permitting the gathering of valuable information for ecumenical, interreligious and cultural dialogue.
The Word of God is Intimately a Part of Human History and Guides it
8. Persons in some cultures think that everything comes from them and as a result consider themselves masters of their own destiny. This attitude makes it difficult for them to accept that someone might come into the world to enter into dialogue and provide the meaning of existence. Such a mentality can also be seen in often incorrect conceptions of God and various forms of doubt. God, however, who cannot silence the truth of his Word, reassures the individual that his Word is amicable and spoken for a person’s good. While always respecting a person’s freedom, the Word of God, nonetheless, requires a faithful listening to and meditating on its content. Truly, the Word of God “must appear to each individual as an opening to his problems, with a response to his questions, a widening of his values and together meet his aspirations.”15 Again, we understand from Dei Verbum that the Word of God precedes every human word and initiative. God pronounces his Word to open a person to unexpected horizons of truth and meaning as stated in Genesis 1; John 1:1ff.; Hebrews 1:1; Romans 1:19-20; Galatians 4:4; and Colossians 1:15-17. St. Gregory the Great maintains: “Scripture comes down to our level in using our poor words, so as to allow us gradually to climb, step-by-step, from what is seen near-at-hand to things sublime.”16
From the start, God wanted “to make known the way leading to eternal salvation.”17 Scripture reveals how God’s Almighty Word began a dynamic dialogue with humanity from its very beginning. Oftentimes, dialogue was often dramatic, but eventually it prevailed. In the history of God’s Chosen People, Israel, the supreme Revelation took place in Jesus Christ, his Eternal Word-Made-Flesh (cf. Jn 1:14). St. Ephrem states: “I considered the Creator-Word, and likened it to the Rock that accompanied the people in the wilderness. It was not from any reservoir of water within the Rock that it poured forth glorious streams for them: there was no water in the Rock, yet oceans sprang forth from it. In like manner, the Word created things out of nothing. Blessed is that person accounted worthy to inherit your Paradise! In his book, Moses described the creation of the natural world, so that both Nature and Scripture might bear witness to the Creator: Nature, through man's use of it, Scripture, through his reading of it. These are the witnesses which abound everywhere; they are to be found at all times, present at every hour, confuting the unbeliever, who is ungrateful towards the Creator.”18
The pastoral implication of this idea of the Word of God is striking. Its history is intimately intertwined with the history of humankind. In fact, it is the very basis of the history of humanity. For this reason, human history is not composed simply of human thoughts, words and initiatives. Vibrant traces of the Word of God can be seen in nature and culture. Not only does the Word give human knowledge its true value, but the human sciences themselves help reveal the Word’s identity. The Word, in taking on a human nature, reveals the humanism intended from the very beginning. In a special way, the Word itself chose a people to share the path of freedom and salvation and to show the steadfastness and patience of God and his being an “Emmanuel” (Is 7:14) “God-with-us” (Is 8:10; cf. Rm 8:31; Rev 21:3). This explains how the Word of God, through biblical testimony, was reflected in the thoughts and expressions of individuals through the ages. At times, this took place in a contorted and beleaguered manner like a cry for help in the dark events of history, yet it had extraordinary effects in history as seen in an appealing manner in the lives of the saints. Living their special charisms as gifts of the Holy Spirit, they showed the inherent, fundamental potentiality of the Word of God, when taken to heart.
Today, people need help to understand the correct relationship between public Revelation, which constitutes the Christian Creed, and private revelations, not to mention the importance of both for a faith which is indeed genuine.
Jesus Christ is the Word of God Made Man, the Fullness of Revelation
8. “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son” (Heb 1:1ff). Generally speaking, Christians are aware of the centrality of the Person of Jesus Christ in the Revelation of God. However, they do not always know the important underlying reasons, nor do they understand in what sense Jesus is at the heart of the Word of God. Consequently, when they read the Bible, they are at a loss in making it a truly Christian reading.
For this reason, Dei Verbum recalls that God willed a totally unexpected event to take place: “For he sent his Son, the Eternal Word, who enlightens all men, so that he might dwell among men and tell them of the innermost being of God (cf. Jn 1:1-18). Jesus Christ, therefore, the Word-Made-Flesh, was sent as ‘a man to men.’ He ‘speaks the words of God’ (Jn 3;34), and completes the work of salvation which his Father gave him to do (cf.Jn 5:36; 17:4).”19 Therefore, in his earthly life and hour of glory, Jesus took upon himself and fulfilled the entire purpose, meaning, history and plan of the Word of God. Thus, St. Irenaeus maintains: “Christ brought us all that could possibly be new, by bringing himself.”20
Pastorally speaking, this truth requires an understanding on how to gather, in an analogous way, the various meanings of the Word of God in the faith of the Church, as seen in the Bible. In the Scriptures, Jesus Christ is shown to be the Eternal Word of God, which shines forth in creation, is given a historical character in the message of the prophets, is fully manifested in the Person of Jesus, is echoed in the voice of the apostles and is proclaimed in the Church today. In a general sense, the Word of God is Christ-the-Word, who, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is the key to all interpretation. “The Word of God, who was in the beginning with God, is not, in his fullness, much talk or a multiplicity of words; but a single Word, which embraces a great number of ideas (theoremata), each of which is a part of the Word in its entirety... and if Christ refers us to the Scriptures in testifying to himself, it is not to one book that he sends us to the exclusion of another, but to all, because all speak of him.”21 Thus, continuity can be seen in diversity.
The essence of the Church’s proclamation is this richness of the Word. If the Church knows how to understand herself in Jesus Christ, she will feel herself generated and renewed by the Word of God. However, it is also true that the Word of God (which is Jesus) has also to be understood, as he himself said, “according to the Scriptures” (Lk 24:44-49). Christ-the-Word is in the history of the People of God in the Old Testament, which bears witness to him as Messiah; he is present at this historical moment in the Church, who proclaims Christ-the-Word through preaching, meditates on him through the Bible and experiences him through divine friendship. Christ-the Word guides the Church’s life. St. Bernard observes: “In the plan of the Incarnation of the Word, Christ is the centre of all Scripture. The Word of God, already capable of being heard in the Old Testament, became visible in Christ.”22
The Word of God as a Symphony
9. The points treated in the preceding section now permit a listing of the senses which the Church gives to the Word of God in the process of Revelation. It can be compared to a symphony played with many instruments, since God communicates his Word in many and various ways (cf. Heb 1:1). The history of Revelation is long and has a diversity of heralds, yet it is always characterised by a hierarchy in meaning and function. Consequently, it is right to speak of an analogous sense of the Word.
a - In Revelation, the Word of God is the Eternal Word of God, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, the Son of the Father, the basis for intra and extra communication of the Trinity: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (Jn 1:1-3; cf. Col 1:16).
b - Therefore, the created world “tells of the glory of God” (Ps 19:1); everything is his voice (cf. Sir 46:17; Ps 68:34). In the beginning, God created the cosmos by his Word and sealed creation with his wisdom. The work of interpreting the created order was given to humankind, created to the image and likeness of God (cf. Gn 1:267-27; Rm 1:19-20). Indeed, humanity receives through the Word the invitation to enter into dialogue with God and creation. God thus made all creation and humanity in primis to render “perennial witness to him.”23
c - “The Word became flesh” (Jn 1:14): The Word of God par excellence, the ultimate and definitive Word, is Jesus Christ. His Person, mission and life on earth are intimately united, according to the Father’s plan which culminates at Easter. But that plan will not reach its fulfilment until Jesus consigns the Kingdom to the Father (cf. 1 Cor 15:24). He is the Gospel of God to humankind.
d - In view of the Word who is the Son-Incarnate, the Father spoke in ancient times to the fathers through the prophets (cf. Heb 1:1). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the apostles continue to proclaim Jesus and his Gospel. Thus, in service to the one Word of God, the words of man are taken as the words of God, resounding in the proclamation of the prophets and the apostles.
e - Sacred Scripture, under divine inspiration, unites Jesus-the-Word to the words of the prophets and apostles. The Bible itself attests to the authenticity of this fact. In containing the Word of God written under divine inspiration, the Bible can truly be said to be the Word of God.24 Every page looks to the Word, Jesus, because he said, “It is precisely the Scriptures that bear witness to me” (Jn 5:39). Through the charism of divine inspiration, the Books of Sacred Scripture have a direct, concrete power of appeal not possessed by other texts or holy writings.
f - But the Word of God is not locked away in writing. Even though Revelation ended with the death of the last apostle,25 the Word-Revealed continues to be proclaimed and heard throughout Church history. The Church has the responsibility to proclaim the Word in the world as a response to its aspirations. In this way, the Word continues to move ahead through spirited preaching and many other forms in service to the Gospel. Preaching is the Word of God communicated by a living God to living persons in Jesus Christ by means of the Church. From this vantage point, it can be understood that when God’s Revelation is preached, something which can truly be called the “Word of God” finds fulfilment in the Church.
The Word of God displays all the qualities of true communication between persons. For example, it is informative, because God communicates his truth; expressive, because God makes plain his manner of thinking, loving and acting; and finally, it is an appeal addressed by God to a person to be heard and given a response in faith.
The task of ordained ministers is to instruct the faithful in a proper conception of the Word of God by avoiding erroneous or over-simplistic approaches and any ambiguity. Emphasis needs to be placed on the Word of God’s intrinsic connection to the mystery of the Trinitarian God and his Revelation; its manifestation in the world of creation; its germinal presence in the life and history of humanity; its supreme expression in Jesus Christ; its infallible confirmation in Sacred Scripture and its transmission in the living Tradition of the Church. Since the employment of human language is part of the mystery of the Word of God, research in the sciences of language and communication will necessarily be involved.
Personal Faith Responds to the Word of God, a Faith Manifested in Listening
10. “The obedience of faith is owed to the God who reveals.”26 A person is to listen to the One who gives through speaking, “freely surrendering his entire self.”27 This leads to a person’s totally accepting the invitation of full communion with God and doing his will for the sake of the community and every believer.28 This idea of faith and communion will be seen in each encounter with the Word in preaching and Bible reading. For this reason, Dei Verbum recommends in approaching the Scriptures what is universally confirmed about the Word of God: “God...speaks to men and women as to a friend...so that he might invite and take them into fellowship with himself.”29 “In the Sacred Books, the Father who is in heaven meets his children in great love and speaks to them....”30 Revelation is a communion of love, oftentimes expressed in Sacred Scripture in terms of “covenant” (Jn 9:9; 15:18; Ex 24:1-18; Mk 14:24).
An aspect of noteworthy pastoral significance is touched upon here, namely, faith concerns the Word of God in all its signs and languages. Through the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit, the Word communicates truth to faith by means of a teaching or doctrinal formula. It recognizes that the Word is the basic force at work in conversion; a light in response to the many questions in the believer’s life; a guide to a proper and wise discernment of reality; an invitation not simply to read or speak the Word but to “do it” (Lk 8:21); and finally, an everlasting source of consolation and hope. From this follows, as a certain logic of faith, the task of acknowledging and ensuring the primacy of the Word of God in the life of believers by receiving it as the Church proclaims it, understands it, explains it and lives it.
Mary, Every Believer’s Model of How to Welcome the Word
11. In penetrating the mystery of the Word of God, Mary of Nazareth, from the moment of the Annunciation, remains the Teacher and Mother of the Church and the exemplar of every encounter with the Word by individuals or entire communities. She welcomes the Word in faith, mediates upon it, interiorises it and lives it (cf. Lk 1:38; 2:19,51; Acts 17:11). Indeed, Mary listened to and meditated upon the Scriptures; she associated them with Jesus’ words and the events which she discovered were related to his life. Isaac of Stella says: “In the inspired Scriptures, what is said in a universal sense of the virgin mother, the Church, is understood in an individual sense of the Virgin Mary.... The Lord’s inheritance is, in a general sense, the Church; in a special sense, Mary; and in an individual sense, the Christian. Christ dwelt for nine months in the tabernacle of Mary’s womb, he dwells until the end of the ages in the tabernacle of the Church’s faith. He will dwell for ever in the knowledge and love of each faithful soul.”31
The Virgin Mary knows how to take into account what is happening around her and live the necessities of daily life, fully aware that what she receives as a gift from her Son is a gift for everyone. She teaches us not to stand by as idle spectators before the Word of Life, but to become participants, allowing ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit, who abides in believers. She “magnifies” the Lord, discovering in her life the mercy of God, who makes her “blessed,” because “she believed that there would be a fulfilment of what had been spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:45). She invites every believer to put Jesus’ words into practise: “Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe” (Jn 20:29). Mary is the paradigm of the person who truly prays the Word and knows how to keep the lamp of faith burning in daily life. St. Ambrose observes that every Christian believer conceives and begets the Word of God. According to the flesh, Christ has only one mother; but, according to the faith, everyone gives him birth.32
The Word of God, Entrusted to the Church, is Transmitted to Every Generation
12. “In His gracious goodness, God has seen to it that what he had revealed for the salvation of all nations would abide perpetually in its full integrity and be handed on to all generations.”33 As Friend and Father of humankind, God continues to speak. Even though Revelation has ended, it continues, in a certain way, in a communication where the Word of God becomes actually present to us. Indeed, Revelation is still able to provide enlightenment and increase our understanding. This is because the Father, in giving the Spirit of Jesus to the Church, entrusts the treasure of Revelation to her34 and makes her the primary recipient and privileged witness of the loving and salvific Word of God.
For this reason, the Word is not an inert deposit in the Church, but “the supreme rule of her faith” and life-giving power, “advancing through the power of the Holy Spirit” and “growing” with the “reflection and study of believers,” the personal experiences of the spiritual life and the preaching of Bishops.35 Men of God, who have “abided in” the Word, bear particular witness to it.36 Surely, the clear and primary mission of the Church is to transmit, in keeping with Jesus’ mandate (cf. Mt 28:18-20), the Divine Word to all humankind in every time and place. History confirms how this took place and how it continues, after so many centuries, even in our day with great vitality and fruitfulness, despite the various obstacles it encounters.
Divine Tradition and Sacred Scripture in the Church: A Single Sacred Deposit of the Word of God
13. In treating this subject, we need to recall that the Word of God became the Gospel or lieta notizia (“Good News”) in Jesus Christ. As such, the Word of God becomes part of apostolic preaching and continues through the ages in two ways which are visibly and inextricably interconnected. One is the dynamic flow of a living Tradition, manifested by “all that she herself [the Church] is and all that she herself believes,”37 that is, through worship, doctrine and the Church’s life. The other is Sacred Scripture, which, by virtue of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, preserves in written form the unchanging character of the original and constitutive elements of this living Tradition. “This Sacred Tradition, therefore, and Sacred Scripture of both the Old and New Testaments are like a mirror in which the pilgrim Church on earth looks at God, from whom she has received everything, until she is brought finally to see him as he is, face to face (cf. 1 Jn 3:2).”38 The Church’s Magisterium, which is not above the Word of God, must “authentically interpret the Word of God, whether written or handed on.”39
The Second Vatican Council insists on the fundamental unity and close connection between Scripture and Tradition, stating that the Church treats both “with the same sense of loyalty and reverence.”40 The Magisterium renders irreplaceable service in guaranteeing an authentic interpretation of the Word of God by “listening [to it] devoutly, guarding [it] scrupulously and explaining [it] faithfully.”41
Pastorally speaking, through following the Church’s teaching, the relation between Scripture and Tradition is clearly seen and is translated into real-life experiences. For example, in the early Church, Tradition preceded Scripture and was always a kind of fertile “humus” which “makes the Sacred Letters more profoundly understood and continuously active in her.”42 On the other hand, “‘the Word of God is living and active’ (Heb 4:12) and ‘it has power to build you up and give you your heritage among all those who are sanctified’ (Acts 20:32; cf. 1 Thess 2:13).”43 Both are channels of communication of the Word of God. Therefore, the Word of God finds its completeness of meaning and grace in experiencing both, “one inside the other.” In this way, both can be called, and indeed are, the “Word of God.”
This teaching has many important implications in pastoral practise. For example, the idea of “sola Scriptura” cannot exist in and of itself, because the Scriptures are related to the Church, namely, to the one who receives and understands both Tradition and Scripture. The Scripture has the essential role of providing access to and being the authentic source of the Word, thus becoming the reference point in the proper understanding of Tradition.
Practical implications also arise from the distinctions concerning apostolic tradition, later tradition which interprets it and applies it to the present, and other ecclesiastical traditions. Also to be considered is the Church’s decisive action in determining the canon of the Scriptural Books which thus guaranteed their authenticity (73 books: 46 of the Old Testament and 27 of the New Testament).44
Finally, what always needs to be borne in mind is the necessary and active interaction and dialogue of Sacred Scripture and Tradition with the signs of the Word of God in the world of creation, especially in the human race and its history.45
Thought also needs to be given to the Church’s living Tradition and the genuine service to the Word of God in the form of catechisms, from the first Symbol of the Faith, the core of every catechism, to the various versions through the ages, the most recent in the universal Church being the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the catechisms of the local Churches respectively.
Sacred Scripture, the Inspired Word of God
14. “For Sacred Scripture is the Word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”46 The Word of God set in writing is commonly referred to as Scripture (Sacred) and the Bible, two particularly meaningful names in themselves, much like Holy Writ and the Good Book, terms known even outside the confines of Church.
Principally speaking, the following points come to mind in reading the Bible: the theological framework previously mentioned; Scripture and Tradition communicate the Word of God without change and echo the “voice of the Holy Spirit;”47 the meaning of the charism of inspiration with which the Holy Spirit constitutes the biblical books as the Word of God and entrusts them to the Church for acceptance through faithful obedience; the unity of the Canon as the criterion of interpretation of Sacred Scripture; biblical truth understood, above all, as “that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings;”48 and the sense and content of the Bible as the Word of God written in human language, in which the interpretation of the Bible, under the guidance of faith, is united to philosophical and theological criteria, bearing in mind the document of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church.49
Today, the People of God are increasingly showing a hunger and thirst for the Word of God (cf. Am 8:11, 12). This vital fact should not be overlooked, because the Lord himself is prompting it. At the same time, sad to say, this need is not universally felt, because of little contact with the Word of God and a lack of adequate access to the Holy Book. To help the faithful understand what the Bible is, why it is there, how beneficial it is to the faith and how to use it, the Church has always responded, and needs to even more today, to the important demands contained in four chapters of Dei Verbum.50 Our Church communities are faced with the task to adequately know them, in conjunction with other magisterial teaching and competent research.
A Necessary, Demanding Task: Interpreting the Word of God in the Church
15. The fact that many of the Church’s members, individually and in groups, are intensely studying the Word of God in the Bible affords a rare opportunity to instruct the faithful in understanding it properly and apply it to everyday life. In a certain way, this is especially true today, because Scripture reading can provide a fresh encounter between the Word of God and the human sciences, particularly in philosophical, scientific and historical research. This contact between the Word and culture can help people come to a knowledge of the truth and values concerning God, man and things. It also allows a continuous opportunity to treat new problems. In the process, reason seeks faith, which results in people working together for truth and life in accordance with God’s Revelation and the aspirations of humankind.51
At the same time, this phenomenon can also pose a danger that the Scriptures will be interpreted arbitrarily or literally, as in fundamentalism. On the one hand, this approach shows a desire to remain faithful to the text, but on the other, displays a lack of knowledge of the texts themselves. In this way, it falls into serious errors and also creates useless controversy.52 Another danger in Bible reading can come from viewing the Scriptures in a certain “ideological” fashion or simply as human words apart from faith (cf. 2 Pt 1:19-20; 3:16), resulting in contrary opinions or different versions of the Bible. The Bible dynamically proclaims the Word and is the source of life for the believer. Improperly reading the Bible can also obscure the role of the Magisterium in service to the Word of God, both in the Bible and Tradition. Generally speaking, there is a scarce, imprecise knowledge of the rules of hermeneutics concerning the Word, which should draw on criteria coming from human and revealed sources in conjunction with Church Tradition and an attentive listening to the Magisterium.
Today, other aspects of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and subsequent documents of the Magisterium53 require detailed examination so that the Word can be properly communicated in the Church’s pastoral activity. The Bible, the Book of God and man, has to be read with a correct blending of its historical-literal sense and its theological-spiritual sense.54 A proper exegesis of the text, therefore, must be based on the historical-critical method enriched by other approaches.55 This is the basis for interpreting Scripture. However, to arrive at its complete and total sense, the theological criteria, set forth in Dei Verbum, should be taken into consideration: “the content and unity of all of Sacred Scripture...the living Tradition of the whole Church...[and] the analogy of faith.”56 Today, thorough theological and pastoral reflection is necessary in forming Church communities in a proper and fruitful knowledge of Sacred Scripture as the Word of God, contained in the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, living in his Church.
The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, stated: “I would very much like to see theologians learn to interpret and love Scripture as the Council desired, in accordance with Dei Verbum: may they experience the inner unity of Scripture—something that today is helped by ‘canonical exegesis’ (still to be found, of course, in its timid first stages)—and then make a spiritual interpretation of it that is not externally edifying but rather an inner immersion into the presence of the Word. It seems to me a very important task to do something in this regard, to contribute to providing an introduction to living Scripture as an up-to-date Word of God, beside, with and in historical-critical exegesis.”57
In this context, careful attention should be given to what might be gleaned from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the various voices and traditions which the Bible has generated in the life of the People of God and research in the theological and human sciences.
In this regard, consideration must be given to the interpretation of the Word of God done each time the Church comes together to celebrate the Sacred Mysteries. The Introduction to the Lectionary, proclaimed during the Eucharist, has the following to say on the subject: “Since, by the will of Christ himself, the new People of God is unique in the wonderful variety of its members and also in the diversity of tasks and offices which each has in relation to the Word of God: the faithful have the responsibility to listen to and meditate on it; but to explain it is the responsibility only of those who by right of sacred ordination have the task of teaching or those who have been entrusted with the exercise of this ministry. Thus, in her teaching, life and worship, the Church carries on and transmits to all generations all that she herself is and all that she believes. In this way, she constantly ensures that the Word of God, in the fullness of divine truth, is realized in her throughout the ages.”58
Old and New Testaments: A Single Economy of Salvation
16. For various reasons, many people’s knowledge of the Scriptures and their recourse to the Bible in the Church is not totally satisfactory. At times, there is a reluctance to take up passages from the Old Testament which appear difficult. These run the risk of being set aside, considered arbitrarily or never read at all. The faith of the Church considers the Old Testament a part of the one Christian Bible and acknowledges its permanent value and the bond between the two testaments.59 This situation urgently requires a formation centred on a Christian reading of the Old Testament. This task can be assisted by liturgical practise which always makes the reading of the Old Testament essential for a full understanding of the New Testament. Jesus himself confirmed this in the Emmaus account where the Master, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures” (Lk 24:27). The liturgical readings of the Old Testament can serve as an invaluable tool in providing for a specific, working encounter with the Sacred Text, which consists in using both the responsorial psalm as an invitation to pray and meditate on what is proclaimed, and the thematic link between the first reading and the Gospel in light of the general plan of the mystery of Christ. In this regard, it can truly be said, “The New is in the Old concealed, and the Old is in the New revealed:” Novum in Vetere latet et in Novo Vetus patet.60
St. Gregory the Great maintains: “What the Old Testament promised is brought to light in the New Testament; what was proclaimed in a hidden manner in the past, is proclaimed openly as present. Thus, the Old Testament announces the New Testament; and the New Testament is the best commentary on the Old Testament.”61
Today, the New Testament enjoys a certain familiarity in biblical practise. The rich variety of texts in lectionaries and the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours gives central value to the Gospels, which are proclaimed in their entirety in a three-year cycle of liturgical feasts and each year on the weekdays. These lectionaries also give prominence to the great teachings of St. Paul and the other Apostles.62