On "Dei Verbum" and Reading Scripture

«The Church Always Draws From the Gospel»

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 6, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today from the window of his study to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square before the midday Angelus.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On Nov. 18, 1965, the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council approved the dogmatic constitution on Revelation, «Dei Verbum,» which is one of the pillars of the whole conciliar edifice. This document speaks of Revelation and its transmission, of the inspiration and interpretation of sacred Scripture and of its fundamental importance in the life of the Church.

Gathering the fruits of the preceding theological renewal, Vatican II puts Christ at the center, presenting him as «both mediator and the fullness of all revelation» (No. 2). In fact, the Lord Jesus, Word made flesh, dead and risen, carried to fulfillment the work of salvation, realized with gestures and words, and manifested fully the face and will of God, so that until his glorious return no other new public revelation must be awaited (cf. No. 3).

The apostles and their successors, the bishops, are the depositories of the message that Christ has entrusted to his Church so that it is fully transmitted to all generations. The sacred Scripture of the Old and New Testament and sacred Tradition contain this message, whose understanding grows in the Church under the assistance of the Holy Spirit. This same Tradition allows one to know the full canon of the sacred books and makes them correctly understood and effective, so that God, who spoke to the patriarchs and prophets, does not cease to speak to the Church and, through her, to the world (cf. No. 8).

The Church does not live of herself but of the Gospel and always draws from the Gospel the direction for her path. The conciliar constitution «Dei Verbum» gave an intense impulse to the appreciation of the Word of God, from which has derived a profound renewal of the life of the ecclesial community, above all in preaching, catechesis, theology, spirituality and ecumenical relations.

The Word of God, by the action of the Holy Spirit, guides believers to the fullness of truth (cf. John 16:13). Among the many fruits of this biblical spring, I want to mention the spread of the ancient practice of «lectio divina,» or spiritual reading, of sacred Scripture. It consists of meditating fully on a biblical text, reading and rereading it, «ruminating it» in a certain sense, as the Fathers write, and squeezing all its «juice» so that it nourishes meditation and contemplation and, like sap, is able to irrigate concrete life. As a condition, «lectio divina» requires that the mind and heart be illuminated by the Holy Spirit, that is, by the inspirer himself of the Scriptures and to place oneself, therefore, in an attitude of «religious listening.»

This is the typical attitude of Mary Most Holy exactly as shown in the emblematic image of the annunciation: The Virgin receives the heavenly messenger while meditating on the sacred Scriptures, represented generally with a book that May holds in her hands, or on her lap, or on a lectern. This is also the image of the Church offered by the Council itself, in the constitution «Dei Verbum» (No. 1).

Let us pray so that, like Mary, the Church is a docile handmaid of the Divine Word and proclaims it always with firm confidence so that «the whole world, hearing, will believe the proclamation of salvation; believing will hope, and hoping will love» (ibid.).

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking visitors gathered here today. In this month of November, I pray especially for the souls of your loved ones who have died, commending them to God’s infinite mercy. Upon all of you I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I assure you of my prayers and good wishes for yourselves and your families. May God bless you all.

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