VATICAN THE WORDS OF DOCTRINE: Rev Nicola Bux and Rev. Salvatore Vitiello - Marx, freedom and the Word of God

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - In the part of the Encyclical Spe salvi devoted to “The transformation of Christian faith-hope in modern times ”, Pope Benedict XVI affirms  "Marx not only omitted to work out how this new world would be organized—which should, of course, have been unnecessary. His silence on this matter follows logically from his chosen approach. His error lay deeper. He forgot that man always remains man. He forgot man and he forgot man's freedom. He forgot that freedom always remains also freedom for evil. He thought that once the economy had been put right, everything would automatically be put right. His real error is materialism: man, in fact, is not merely the product of economic conditions, and it is not possible to redeem him purely from the outside by creating a favourable economic environment. " (n.21).
This ideology is possible only if one ignores Sacred Scripture: this is why for centuries some Catholics believed in it, and even considered it compatible with the faith and hope taught by Christ. Therefore, the Pope deduces, " Again, we find ourselves facing the question: what may we hope? A self-critique of modernity is needed in dialogue with Christianity and its concept of hope. In this dialogue Christians too, in the context of their knowledge and experience, must learn anew in what their hope truly consists, what they have to offer to the world and what they cannot offer. Flowing into this self-critique of the modern age there also has to be a self-critique of modern Christianity, which must constantly renew its self-understanding setting out from its roots. " (n.22).
Catholics know this self-criticism is possible if we compare ourselves with the word of Jesus who revealed to us the mystery of God who is Father, and of man who is son. Certainly following Vatican II it should have been reassessed and placed as the pivot of permanent comparison of our life, something which was affirmed by the recent Synod. So to listen to the Word, to read it, to meditate it, is to convert our hearts day by day.
Sad to say, conversion as the ultimate result of comparison with the Bible is a rare commodity, in the face of the abundant intellectualism and spiritualism, which flourishes in the numerous 'schools of the Word' and 'lectiones divinae'.  So, let us perform an act of self-criticism on how we came to understand the Scripture with the protestant vision which sees the Word of God divorced from the Church, from living Church Tradition in the Magisterium, as again the Council re-defined in the Dei Verbum document.
For example, the insistence with which certain Biblists and certain members of the clergy demand that all Christians read the Bible, ignores the fact that reading in general, in these times of information technology, has become ever more rare, and secondly no few pages of the Bible are difficult and necessitate contextualisation and commentary. With a pinch of realism it would suffice to return to the bi-millennial tradition of the Catholic Church which preferred 'liturgical' reading, that is during Mass: think of the Capitulars with selected epistles prepared by Saint Jerome, and he was an expert on Scripture, or of the Ordo lectionum of our present day liturgy.
There is more. The early Fathers posed themselves the question of the reading of Scripture by catechumens and the faithful, and they reached a solution. How? We take as an example St Cyril – a great catechist (yes, because Scripture needs catechesis!) – who observes: "When learning and professing the faith, embrace only what is proposed to you by the Church and guaranteed by the whole Scripture. However not everyone is able to read Scripture. Some are impeded by incapacity, others by various occupations. This is why, to ensure the soul is not harmed by this ignorance, all the dogma of our faith is summarised in a few phrases […] Strive to memorise the symbol of the faith. It was written not according to caprice, it is the result of a selection of the most important points in all our Scripture […] the entire sum of the doctrine found in the Old and New Testaments" (Catechesis 5, on the faith and the symbol, 12: PG 33, 519-520). What exemplary realism!
Therefore, after listening to the Word of God at Mass, the recitation of the Symbol is almost a concise repetition. This is the 'patristic' method from which moved the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its Compendium, which deserve to be at last taken in hand as “the” most suitable tool for reading and for understanding Sacred Scripture and for preparing homilies, with the help - why not? - of images produced by religious art, real catechesis and the 'Bible of the poor'. (Agenzia Fides 20/11/2008)

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