Synod Propositions 21-25

Conclusions of Episcopal Assembly on Word of God

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 7, 2008 ( Here are translations of the synodal propositions 21-25, which were submitted to Benedict XVI at the end of the world Synod of Bishops on the “Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church,” held in October at the Vatican.

ZENIT will publish a translation of the remaining propositions in subsequent services.

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Proposition 21

Word of God and small communities

The synod recommends the formation of small ecclesial communities where the Word of God is heard, studied and prayed, also in the form of the rosary as biblical meditation (cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter “Rosarium Virginis Mariae”). In many countries there are already small communities, which can be made up of families living in the parishes or connected to the different ecclesial movements and new communities.

They meet regularly, around the Word of God, to share among themselves, and receive strength from it.

Some only rarely have the possibility to celebrate the Eucharist. They experience the sense of community and encounter the Word of God personally. Through the reading of the Bible they feel themselves loved personally by God. The service of the laity that leads these communities must be appreciated and promoted as they carry out a missionary service to which all the baptized are called.

Proposition 22

Word of God and prayerful reading

The synod proposes that all the faithful, including young people, be exhorted to approach the Scriptures through “prayerful” and assiduous “reading” (cf. “Dei Verbum,” 25), in such a way that the dialogue with God becomes a daily reality of the people of God.

Therefore, it is important:

— That the prayerful reading be profoundly related to the example of Mary and the saints in the history of the Church, as those who carried out the reading of the Word according to the Spirit;

— That it be ensured that pastors, priests and deacons, and in a very special sense future priests, have adequate formation so that, in turn, they can form the people of God in this spiritual dynamic;

— That the faithful be initiated — in keeping with the circumstances, categories and cultures — in the most appropriate method of prayerful reading, personal and/or community (“lectio divina,” spiritual exercises in daily life, “Seven Steps” in Africa and in other places, various methods of prayer, sharing in the family and in the grassroots ecclesial communities, etc.);

— That the practice of prayerful reading be encouraged, using liturgical texts that the Church proposes for the Sunday and daily Eucharistic celebration, to better understand the relation between Word and Eucharist;

— That care be taken that the prayerful reading of the Scriptures, above all by the community, result in a commitment to charity (cf. Luke 4:18-19).

Conscious of the present widespread diffusion of “lectio divina” and of other similar methods, the synodal fathers see in them a true sign of hope and encourage all ecclesial leaders to multiply their efforts in this sense.

Proposition 23

Catechesis and sacred Scripture

Preferably, catechesis should have its roots in Christian revelation. It should take as model Jesus’ pedagogy on the road to Emmaus.

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus opens the heart of the disciples to an understanding of the Scriptures (cf. Luke 24:27). His way of proceeding shows that the catechesis that plunges its roots in Christian revelation implies an explanation of the Scriptures, inviting us also to approach the men of today to transmit to them the Gospel of salvation:

— With special attention to the youngest children;

— To those in need of a more profound formation rooted in the Scriptures;

— To catechumens who must be supported on their path, showing them the plan of God through the reading of sacred Scripture, preparing them to encounter the Lord in the sacraments of Christian initiation, to be committed in the community, and to be missionaries.

The pre-baptismal catechumenate is followed by a post-baptismal mistagogy, a continuing formation in which sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church must hold center place.

Proposition 24

Word of God and consecrated life

Consecrated life is born from listening to the Word of God; it receives the Gospel as its norm of life. In the school of the Word, it rediscovers its identity continually and becomes a “testificatio evangelica” for the Church and the world.

Called to be living “exegesis” of the Word of God (cf. Benedict XVI, Feb. 2, 2008), it itself is a word with which God continues speaking to the Church and the world.

The synod thanks consecrated persons for their testimony of the Gospel and their willingness to proclaim it in the geographical and cultural frontiers of the mission through their charismatic services.

At the same time, it exhorts them to take care of the personal and community spaces of listening to the Word of God, and to promote schools of biblical prayer open to the laity, above all young people.

They must be able to listen to the Word of God with the heart of the poor and express their response in a commitment to justice, peace and the integrity of creation.

The synod highlights the importance of contemplative life and its valuable contribution to the tradition of “lectio divina.” Monastic communities are schools of spirituality and give strength to the life of local Churches. “The monastery, as spiritual oasis, points today’s world to what is most important, in a word, the only decisive thing: there is an ultimate reason which makes life worth living, namely, God and his inscrutable Love” (Benedict XVI, Angelus, Nov. 18, 2007).

In contemplative life, the Word is received, prayed and celebrated. Care must be taken, therefore, so that these communities receive the biblical and theological formation appropriate to their life and mission.

Proposition 25

Need for two levels in exegetical research

The biblical hermeneutic proposed in “Dei Verbum,” 12, continues to be of great present importance and efficacy, which envisages two different and correlative methodological levels.

The first level corresponds, in fact, to the so-called historical-critical methods that, in modern and contemporary research, often was used with fruitfulness and that entered the Catholic field, above all with the encyclical “Divino Afflante Spiritu” of the servant of God Pius XII. This method is necessary by the very nature of the history of salvation, which is not mythology, but a true history with its apex in the incarnation of the Word, divine and eternal, who comes to dwell in men’s time (cf. John 1:14). The Bible and the history of salvation, therefore, also call for study with the methods of serious historical research.

The second methodological level necessary for a correct interpretation of the sacred Scriptures, corresponds to the nature, also divine, of human biblical words. The Second Vatican Council justly recalls that the Bible must be interpreted with the help of the same Holy Spirit who guided its writing.

Biblical hermeneutic cannot be considered carried out if — along with the historical study of the texts — it does not also seek its theological dimension in an adequate manner. “Dei Verbum” identifies and presents the three decisive references to arrive at the divine dimension and, therefore, to the theological meaning of the sacred Scriptures. It is a question of the content and the unity of the whole of Scripture, of the living tradition of the whole Church and, finally, of attention to the analogy of the faith. “Only where the two methodological levels are observed, the historical-critical and the theological, can one speak of a theological exegesis, an exegesis adequate to this book” (Benedict XVI, Oct. 14, 2008).

[Translation by ZENIT]
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