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Overview of Verbum Domini
Posted By Eric Sammons On November 16, 2010 @ 8:04 am In Pope Benedict,Scripture | Comments Disabled
I’ve finished Verbum Domini , the new papal document on Sacred Scripture, and it is quite impressive. There were no surprises in it for those who are familiar with the Church’s teaching on Scripture, but it ably reiterated and explained the proper way a Catholic must approach the Bible.
One thing to note is that this is NOT an encyclical, but a “post-synodal apostolic exhortation”. Why does that matter? Because an encyclical will usually be almost exclusively theological and leave practical applications to other forums. But this exhortation, which was written as a response to the 2008 Synod of Bishops on the Word of God, tackles both theological issues as well as practical applications of those issues. This is one reason the text is so long (over 40,000 words, or about equivalent to a 150-page book).
The document is divided into three major sections, along with an introduction and conclusion:
Part I: Verbum Dei
The first section lays the theological foundations of the Church’s understanding of the Word of God. It stresses the multiple meanings of “Word of God” (which I’ll detail in another post) and emphasizes that Scripture can only be properly understood in the context of the living Church. If you are intimidated about reading this long document, I would recommend just reading this first section – it is beautifully written and gives a great explanation of the overall context in which the Church approaches the Bible.
Part II: Verbum in Ecclesia
The second part of Verbum Domini details how Scripture is to be read, interpreted and prayed in the life of the Church. It emphasizes the role of the liturgy for a proper interpretation of the Scriptures, something that is sorely forgotten in our post-Reformation era. Most Christians think that the Bible is something to be primarily read alone in one’s home, but the Church has always emphasized that the “privileged” setting for reading and interpreting the Scriptures is in the context of the worshiping Church, i.e. the liturgy. And Scripture should infuse every liturgical action, not just the Mass.
Also in this part is a wonderful explanation of lectio divina (sections 86-87). “Divine reading” is considered the proper way in which a Christian should approach the biblical text when doing personal study and reflection of the Scriptures, and it would be great if more Christians – whether priests, scholars or laypeople – used this ancient method when reading the Bible.
Part III: Verbum Mundo
The final part of Verbum Domini applies everything discussed above to the “real world”, i.e. how can our interaction with the Sacred Scriptures further the Church’s mission to the world? The document applies this to every conceivable arena, from evangelization to supporting the poor to interreligious dialogue. While much in this section is worthwhile, I would also say that some of it reads like a committee bullet point document which wants to make sure it addresses every member’s pet project (a consequence of being a response to a worldwide Synod of bishops, no doubt). But the overall emphasis of this part is evangelization: one must be in constant contact with the Word of God in order to preach and proclaim that Word to the world.
In my next post, I’ll review the major themes of Verbum Domini.
Article printed from Divine Life – A Blog by Eric Sammons: http://ericsammons.com/blog
URL to article: http://ericsammons.com/blog/2010/11/16/overview-of-verbum-domini/
URLs in this post:
 Verbum Domini: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20100930_verbum-domini_en.pdf
 An early Christmas gift from Pope Benedict XVI: http://ericsammons.com/blog/2010/11/11/an-early-christmas-gift-from-pope-benedict-xvi/
 Verbum Domini and the challenge of Catholic Scripture interpretation: http://ericsammons.com/blog/2010/11/12/verbum-domini-and-the-challege-of-catholic-scripture-interpretation/
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