"Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers (see Acts 2:42, Greek text), so that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common effort.This post is a follow-up to yesterday's post, especially the part about the crucial difference between our inability to live the truth fully, which is precisely what gives rise to our need for a Savior, and the outright denial of the truth, which sometimes and sadly extends as far as our insistence that the Church is in error on fundamental matters. To rail against some aspect of Church teaching one finds difficult, maybe even impossible to live, shows our fallen-ness in that, kind of like our first parents, we want to save ourselves by being perfect.
"But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed. The first duty of the Church's teaching office.
"It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God's most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls" (par.10).
So, if I find an aspect of the faith impossible to live, this reasoning goes, then it must be false precisely because I can't live it, or it takes effort on my part and that, despite my effort, I find that I still fail. Put bluntly, we can't stand not being perfect. We can't bear the fact that we need a Savior. We don't really believe what St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:6-10 that Christ's "power is made perfect in [our] weakness." His death on the Cross shows us definitively just how His power is made perfect in weakness. Hence, "when I am weak, then I am strong." Nor what the apostle writes in Romans 5:20 that "where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more." This is why, turning back to 2 Corinthians 12, that as a Christian, like Paul, we "boast most gladly of [our] weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with [us]." This is why faith can never be reduced to moralism.
Dei Verbum is a profound and all too often ignored dogmatic statement about what Catholics believe with regard to divine revelation, namely that it has two streams that flow from the one source, Jesus Christ, who is the fullness of God's revelation. The two streams are Scripture and tradition, tradition being nothing other than the living community of the Church through time. Hence, while authentic interpretation of the word of God "is entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church" by Christ himself, the Church's living magisterium "is not above the word of God." The first duty of the Church is to listen to God's word "devoutly." It is only after listening and discerning what God has revealed in Christ Jesus that it can be guarded and explained in order to be lived, that is given witness to. Finally, the Church "draws from this one deposit of faith," constituted by Scripture and tradition, "everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed."
This is why, beginning with Dei Verbum, all the Christian faithful are encouraged to daily study the Scriptures. At the end of the recently concluded Synod of Bishops on the Church in the Middle East among the 41 propositions given by the synod to the Holy Father for inclusion in his forthcoming post-synodal exhortation, numbers two and three deal with the need for Christians to study Sacred Scripture:
The Word of God
The Word of God is the soul and foundation of the Christian life and of all pastoral work; we hope that every family would own a Bible.
The synod fathers encourage daily reading of and meditation on the Word of God, especially "lectio divina", and the creation of a website about the Bible, including Catholic explanations and commentaries which are easily understood by the faithful. We would also like to see the preparation of an introductory booklet to the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, which could offer a simple way to help people read the Bible.
They also encourage eparchies / dioceses (throughout the document, the word "diocese" also applies to an "eparchy", the equivalent term in Eastern terminology) and parishes to introduce and promote Bible studies in which the Word of God is meditated upon and explained in such a way as to answer the questions the people have, and help them to become more familiar with the Scriptures, deepening their spirituality and apostolic and missionary commitment.
A Biblical Pastoral Programme
The synod fathers urgently recommend that work be undertaken to place the two Testaments of Holy Scripture at the centre of our Christian life by encouraging the faithful to proclaim them, read them, meditate on them, interpret them in the light of Christ and celebrate them liturgically, as did the first Christian communities.
We propose that a Year of the Bible be proclaimed after due preparation and that it be followed by an annual Week of the Bible.
This certainly constitutes a challenge for us, if not an outright provocation. Let us be attentive to the emtymology of the word pro- vocation. After all, there is only one vocation, a vocation that fell often from the lips of the late Pope John Paul II: "Follow Christ!" We do this knowing, like his first disciples, that following Him leads to the Cross. It also leads us beyond it- "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it" (Luke 9:24). This is why God gives us each other as companions (which literally means people who share bread) on the way, to love, help, and support one another as we work together to usher in God's Kingdom.
While we're on the subject of Vatican II, my brother deacon, Trip D. (a.ka. Deacon Dr. Ditewig), points out that today is the forty-fifth anniversary of a landmark decree of this great ecumenical council, Nostra Aetate. Like Dei Verbum, it is short. So, take a minute and read it today.
It bears noting that 8 December 2010, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Concpetion of the Blessed Virgin Mary, marks the forty-fifth anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, which is surely a watershed of living water in the history of the church.