Mike Aquilina

Word on the Word

Friday May 18th 2007, 3:01 am

The Vatican has released the preparatory document (lineamenta) for the 2008 Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in the Church. The event will, I think, be of interest to all Christians. Readers of this blog will appreciate the decidedly patristic cast of the document:

In the times of the Church Fathers, the Scriptures were the centre and source of theology, spirituality and the pastoral life. The Fathers are the masters, without equal, of what is called the “spiritual” reading of the Scriptures, which, when done faithfully, does not destroy the “letter,” that is, the concrete, historical sense, but allows a reading of the “letter” in the Spirit.

The Fathers are everywhere in this document. My friend David Scott took the time to pull out every patristic quote and send them my way. Take a look:

“The Lord’s flesh is real food and his blood real drink; this is our true good in this present life: to nourish ourselves with his flesh and to drink his blood in not only the Eucharist but also the reading of Sacred Scripture. In fact, the Word of God, drawn from the knowledge of the Scriptures, is real food and real drink.”
— St. Jerome

“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.”
— St. Gregory the Great

“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.”
— St. Ephrem

“Christ brought us all that could possibly be new, by bringing himself.”
— St. Irenaeus

“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.”
— Origen

“The New is in the Old concealed, and the Old is in the New revealed.”
— St. Augustine

“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.”
— St. Gregory the Great

The Scriptures are then in the heart and hands of the Church as the “Letter sent by God to humankind.”
— St. Gregory the Great

“Whoever has experienced the spiritual sense of the Scriptures knows that the simplest word of Scripture and the most profound are uniquely one, both having the salvation of humankind as their purpose.”
— St. Peter Damascene

“Your prayer is your word addressed to God. When you read the Bible, God speaks to you; when you pray you speak to God.”
— St. Augustine

“Diligently practice prayer and lectio divina. When you pray, you speak with God; when you read, God speaks with you.”
— St. Cyprian

“We should clearly understand that the fulfilment and goal of the Law and all Holy Scripture is the love of an object which is to be enjoyed and the love of an object which we can enjoy in fellowship with others. No one needs to be commanded to love himself. The whole temporal dispensation was framed for our salvation by the Providence of God that we might know this truth and be able to act upon it….Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but interprets them in a way not leading to building up this twofold love of God and neighbor, does not yet understand them as he should.”
— St. Augustine

“Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ himself.”
— St. Jerome

“The Words of God, if pronounced by rote and not heard, have no resonance in the actions of those who merely speak them. But rather, if they are pronounced and put into action, they have the power to dispel demons and help people build God’s dwelling in their hearts and make progress in works of justice.”
— St. Maximus the Confessor

Dave notes also that Ambrose is paraphrased, saying that when a person begins to read Sacred Scripture, God walks with him in an earthly paradise.

Expect great things from the Synod. Seed time is not too soon to pray for an abundant harvest.