· Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation by Benedict XVI ‘Verbum Domini’ on the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church ·
“As he said this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!’. But he said ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it!’” (Lk 11:27-28).
The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini on “The Word of God in the life and mission of the Church” is the Church’s assumption of Jesus’ answer, in the awareness that for 20 centuries it has been her duty to witness to the Word of God in the world and for the world. At the Second Vatican Council the Church expressed the essential content of the Revelation in these words: “the invisible God from the fullness of his love addresses men as his friends, and moves among them, in order to invite and receive them into his own company” ( Dei Verbum , n. 2).
The Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini takes up the same message 45 years later: “God makes himself known to us as a mystery of infinite love in which the Father eternally utters his Word in the Holy Spirit. Consequently the Word, who from the beginning is with God and is God, reveals God himself in the dialogue of love between the divine persons, and invites us to share in that love” (n. 6).
The Post-Synodal Exhortation aims to renew the Church’s faith in the Word of God (n. 27). It involves a dialogical, even a nuptial vision, a vision of the Revelation (n. 51); it also involves an ecclesial hermeneutic of Scripture and expresses the hope of a deepening of the relationship between the Word of God and the sacraments, and especially the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
The Apostolic Exhortation, on the one hand, recalls the performative character of the Word that derives from its link with the sacraments in particular. At the same time in the celebration of the sacraments as in the history of salvation the Word of God — dabar — points to a Word which is a divine Action: “God says and does. His word appears as alive and active ( cf . Heb 4:12). This performative character of the Word culminates in the words of the Eucharistic consecration.
Hence the idea of the sacramental nature of the Word, in analogy with the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist ( Verbum Domini , n. 56). “The proclamation of God’s word at the celebration entails an acknowledgment that Christ himself is present, that he speaks to us” ( Sacrosanctum Concilium , n. 7).
Furthermore, the profound unity between the Word of God proclaimed and the Eucharist manifests a circularity between the two, for comprehension of the Scriptures: “The Eucharist opens us to an understanding of Scripture, just as Scripture for its part illumines and explains the mystery of the Eucharist. Unless we acknowledge the Lord’s real presence in the Eucharist, our understanding of Scripture remains imperfect” ( Verbum Domini , n. 55).
Educating the People of God about this intrinsic link between the Word of God and the Sacrament will help them “to recognize [God’s] activity in salvation history and in their individual lives” (n. 53).
All the above-mentioned aspects remain to be deepened in the life of the Church, in the profound conviction that whoever reads the Bible or listens to the Word in prayer, personally encounters Christ. Scripture is in fact the one and only Word of God that calls our life to conversion. “All divine Scripture is one book”, Ugo di San Vittore writes, “and this one book is Christ, speaks of Christ and finds its fulfilment in Christ” (n. 39).
God speaks of the Church in the Sacred Scriptures to gather together his People, to nourish it with his life and to welcome it into his communion. This divine appeal is addressed to humanity as a whole.
The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation firmly places the accent on the divine dimension of the Word and proposes a new dialogical and pneumatological paradigm, inspired by the Trinitarian mystery and by the response of the Virgin Mary.
“Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it”. The Post-Synodal Exhortation therefore relaunches personal and ecclesial contemplation of the Word of God in the Sacred Scriptures, in the Divine Liturgy and in the personal and community life of believers. It likewise relaunches missionary activity and evangelization, since it renews the Church’s awareness of being loved and her mission of proclaiming the Word of God with daring and with confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit. May this so eagerly awaited Exhortation be the object of authentic acceptance and at the same time of enthusiasm.
Teaching the People of God to understand this intrinsic link between the Word of God and sacrament helps to “communicate in a lively way the history of salvation and the content of the Church’s faith, and so enable every member of the faithful to realize that this history is also a part of his or her own life”.
St. Peter’s Square
Feb. 27, 2020
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