On reading the scriptures in the heart of the Church

The word of God is meant to be read in the heart of the Church.  The scriptures were written by the Church and for the Church.  One of the principal errors of our separated brothers and sisters in the Protestant communities is that they have ripped the bible from the Church and claimed it for themselves.  All the errors of Protestantism come from this single error.  God gave us Christ who gave us the Church.  Outside of this Church, this visible communion, the scriptures get corrupted as they are interpreted by men and women who are not accountable to anyone except for themselves and their own interpretation of scriptures.   With no one to guide them each person in a very un biblical individualistic way becomes their own Pope and their own Magisterium.  This un biblical view of the scriptures is not what Christ left us with.   Christ prayed for unity of faith among his flock.  Sola Scriptura’s biggest failure is to divide Christianity into small bodies with constant infighting and discord.

Below are two samples of what an authentic reading of scriptures should be and why.

First we have from Erasmo Leiva in the introduction of his Fire of Mercy series, which goes line by line through the gospel of Matthew.

Here we have, then, the crucial dramatic situation at the heart of the economy of redemption: God creates for himself a Church, a beloved companion to whom he gives himself in word and in deed; and we, the innumerable anonymous beggars of all ages, pleading for the bread of knowledge and of the light of God, can enter the Kingdom of the Son only through this magnificent Portal he has built for himself, and we can truly listen to and read his Word only in the heart of the nave, which is to say, through the ears and eyes of the Church: she is the only Bride, and only she knows the secrets of the Heart of her divine Bridegroom. This is why the unshakable pillars of an ecclesial reading of Scripture are the great dogmas that the Church herself believes and teaches us, most magnificently in our generally distraught age in that living treasure, the Catechism of the Catholic Church: the Trinity and unity of God, creator of all visible and invisible realities; the glorious humanity and divinity of the one Son, “one of the Trinity become man”; his sacrificial and abiding presence in the Holy Eucharist; the virginity and maternity of our Lady; the vital identity of the Church as Mystical Body of Christ and the necessary subsistence of this Body on earth as a recognizable institution requiring human coöperation with divine action; a firm faith in the divine inspiration of the sacred text in which, as St. Thomas holds, “all things come [simultaneously] from God and from man.” These dogmas are the liberating “limits” that anchor us in the reality and fullness of revelation, that insure that our Christian lives, thought, and prayer will be roots growing deep into fertile ground and not ephemeral weeds—“limits” that thus insure, as well, that our reading of the Gospel will be, not only passionate, but also true. (Erasmo Leiva)

 

holy-spirtAnd from the 2010 synod on the word of God, our dear Pope Benedict summarized it quite well:

The Church as the primary setting for biblical hermeneutics

29. Another major theme that emerged during the Synod, to which I would now like to draw attention, is the interpretation of sacred Scripture in the Church. The intrinsic link between the word and faith makes clear that authentic biblical hermeneutics can only be had within the faith of the Church, which has its paradigm in Mary’s fiat. Saint Bonaventure states that without faith there is no key to throw open the sacred text: “This is the knowledge of Jesus Christ, from whom, as from a fountain, flow forth the certainty and the understanding of all sacred Scripture. Therefore it is impossible for anyone to attain to knowledge of that truth unless he first have infused faith in Christ, which is the lamp, the gate and the foundation of all Scripture”.[84] And Saint Thomas Aquinas, citing Saint Augustine, insists that “the letter, even that of the Gospel, would kill, were there not the inward grace of healing faith”.[85]

Here we can point to a fundamental criterion of biblical hermeneutics: the primary setting for scriptural interpretation is the life of the Church. This is not to uphold the ecclesial context as an extrinsic rule to which exegetes must submit, but rather is something demanded by the very nature of the Scriptures and the way they gradually came into being. “Faith traditions formed the living context for the literary activity of the authors of sacred Scripture. Their insertion into this context also involved a sharing in both the liturgical and external life of the communities, in their intellectual world, in their culture and in the ups and downs of their shared history. In like manner, the interpretation of sacred Scripture requires full participation on the part of exegetes in the life and faith of the believing community of their own time”.[86] Consequently, “since sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit through whom it was written”,[87] exegetes, theologians and the whole people of God must approach it as what it really is, the word of God conveyed to us through human words (cf. 1 Th 2:13). This is a constant datum implicit in the Bible itself: “No prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Pet 1:20-21). Moreover, it is the faith of the Church that recognizes in the Bible the word of God; as Saint Augustine memorably put it: “I would not believe the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church led me to do so”.[88] The Holy Spirit, who gives life to the Church, enables us to interpret the Scriptures authoritatively. The Bible is the Church’s book, and its essential place in the Church’s life gives rise to its genuine interpretation.

30. Saint Jerome recalls that we can never read Scripture simply on our own. We come up against too many closed doors and we slip too easily into error. The Bible was written by the People of God for the People of God, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Only in this communion with the People of God can we truly enter as a “we” into the heart of the truth that God himself wishes to convey to us.[89] Jerome, for whom “ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ”,[90] states that the ecclesial dimension of biblical interpretation is not a requirement imposed from without: the Book is the very voice of the pilgrim People of God, and only within the faith of this People are we, so to speak, attuned to understand sacred Scripture. An authentic interpretation of the Bible must always be in harmony with the faith of the Catholic Church. He thus wrote to a priest: “Remain firmly attached to the traditional doctrine that you have been taught, so that you may exhort according to sound doctrine and confound those who contradict it”.[91]

Approaches to the sacred text that prescind from faith might suggest interesting elements on the level of textual structure and form, but would inevitably prove merely preliminary and structurally incomplete efforts. As the Pontifical Biblical Commission, echoing an accepted principle of modern hermeneutics, has stated: “access to a proper understanding of biblical texts is only granted to the person who has an affinity with what the text is saying on the basis of life experience”.[92] All this brings out more clearly the relationship between the spiritual life and scriptural hermeneutics. “As the reader matures in the life of the Spirit, so there grows also his or her capacity to understand the realities of which the Bible speaks”.[93] The intensity of an authentic ecclesial experience can only lead to the growth of genuine understanding in faith where the Scriptures are concerned; conversely, reading the Scriptures in faith leads to growth in ecclesial life itself. Here we can see once again the truth of the celebrated dictum of Saint Gregory the Great: “The divine words grow together with the one who reads them”.[94] Listening to the word of God introduces and increases ecclesial communion with all those who walk by faith.

[84] Breviloquium, Prol.: Opera Omnia, V, Quaracchi 1891, pp. 201-202.

[85] Summa Theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 106, art. 2.

[86] Pontifical biblical commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (15 April 1993), III, A, 3: Enchiridion Vaticanum 13, No. 3035.

[87] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, 12.

[88] Contra epistulam Manichaei quam vocant fundamenti, V, 6: PL 42, 176.

[89] Cf. BenedictXVI, General Audience (14 November 2007): Insegnamenti III 2 (2007), 586-591.

[90] Commentariorum in Isaiam libri, Prol.: PL 24, 17.

[91] Epistula 52:7: CSEL 54, p. 426.

[92] Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (15 April 1993), II, A, 2: Enchiridion Vaticanum 13, No. 2988.

[93] Ibid., II, A, 2: Enchiridion Vaticanum 13, No. 2991.

[94] Homiliae in Ezechielem I, VII, 8: PL 76, 843D.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s