Pope's Reflection at Synod on Word of God
"The Foundation of Everything, It Is the True Reality"
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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 7, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is an unofficial Vatican translation of the reflection Benedict XVI gave Monday at the first general congregation of the world Synod of Bishops on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church," under way in the Vatican through Oct. 26. The Pope addressed the assembly in Latin.
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Dear Brothers in the Episcopacy,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the beginning of our Synod the Liturgy of the Hours proposes a passage from Psalm 18 on the Word of God: praise for His Word, expression of the joy of Israel in learning it and, in it, to learn about His will and His face. I would like to meditate on a few verses of this Psalm with you.
It begins like this: “In aeternum, Domine, verbum tuum constitutum est in caelo... firmasti terram, et permanet”. This refers to the solidity of the Word. It is solid, it is the true reality on which we must base our life. Let us remember the words of Jesus who continues the words of this Psalm: “Sky and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”. Humanly speaking, the word, my human word, is almost nothing in reality, but a breath. As soon as it is pronounced, it disappears. It seems like nothing. But already the human word has incredible force. It is words that create history, it is words that form thoughts, the thoughts that create the word. It is the word that forms history, reality.
Even more, the Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality. And to be realistic, we must rely upon this reality. We must change our notion that matter, solid things, things we can touch, is the most solid, the most certain reality. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord speaks to us about the two possible foundations for building the house of one’s life: sand and rock. He who builds on sand only builds on visible and tangible things, on success, on career, on money. Apparently these are the true realities. But all this one day will vanish. We can see this now with the fall of two large banks: this money disappears, it is nothing. And thus all things, which seem to be the true realities we can count on, are only realities of a secondary order. Who builds his life on these realities, on matter, on success, on appearances, builds upon sand. Only the Word of God is the foundation of all reality, it is as stable as the heavens and more than the heavens, it is reality. Therefore, we must change our concept of realism. The realist is he who recognizes the Word of God, in this apparently weak reality, as the foundation of all things. Realist is he who builds his life on this foundation, which is permanent. Thus the first verses of the Psalm invite us to discover what reality is and how to find the foundation of our life, how to build life.
The following verse says: “Omnia serviunt tibi”. All things come from the Word, they are products of the Word. “In the beginning was the Word”. In the beginning the heavens spoke. And thus reality was born of the Word, it is “creatura Verbi”. All is created from the Word and all is called to serve the Word. This means that all of creation, in the end, is thought to create the meeting place between God and His creature, a place where the history of love between God and His creature can develop. “Omnia serviunt tibi”. The history of salvation is not a small event, on a poor planet, in the immensity of the universe. It is not a minimal thing, which happens by chance on a lost planet. It is the motivation for everything, the motivation for creation. Everything is created so that this story can exist, the encounter between God and His creature. In this sense, the history of salvation, Covenant, precedes creation. During the Hellenistic period, Judaism developed the idea that the Torah would have preceded the creation of the material world. This material world seems to have been created solely to make place for the Torah, for this Word of God that creates the answer and becomes the history of love. The mystery of Christ already is mysteriously revealed here. This is what we are told in the Letter to the Ephesians and to the Colossians: Christ is the prototypos, the first-born of creation, the idea the universe was conceived for. He welcomes all. We enter in the movement of the universe by uniting with Christ. One can say that, while material creation is the condition for the history of salvation, the history of the Covenant is the true cause of the cosmos. We reach the roots of being by reaching the mystery of Christ, His living word that is the aim of all creation. “Omnia serviunt tibi”. In serving the Lord we achieve the goal of the being, the goal of our own existence.
Let us take a leap forward: “Mandata tua exquisivi”. We are always searching for the Word of God. It is not merely present in us. Just reading it does not mean necessarily that we have truly understood the Word of God. The danger is that we only see the human words and do not find the true actor within, the Holy Spirit. We cannot find the Word in the words. Saint Augustine, in this context, recalls the scribes and Pharisees consulted by Herod when the Magi arrived. Herod wants to know where the Savior of the world would be born. They know this, they give the correct answer: in Bethlehem. They are great specialists, who know everything. However they do not see reality, they do not know the Savior. Saint Augustine says: they are signs on the road for the others, but they themselves do not move. This is a great danger as well in our reading of the Scriptures: we stop at the human words, words form the past, history of the past, and we do not discover the present in the past, the Holy Spirit who speaks to us today with the words from the past. This is not how we may enter the internal movement of the Word, which in human words hides and opens the divine words. Therefore, there is always a need for “exquisivi”. We must always look for the Word within words.
Therefore, exegesis, the true reading of the Holy Scripture, is not only a literary phenomenon, not only reading a text. It is the movement of my existence. It is moving towards the Word of God in the human words. Only by conforming to the Mystery of God, to the Lord who is the Word, can we enter within the Word, can we truly find the Word of God in human words. Let us pray to the Lord that He may help us to look for the word, not only with our intellect but also with our entire existence.
At the end: “Omni consummationi vidi finem, latum praeceptum tuum nimis”. All human things, all the things we can invent, create, are finite. Even all human religious experiences are finite, showing one aspect of reality, because our being is finite and can only understand one part, a few elements: “latum praeceptum tuum nimis”. Only God is infinite. And therefore His Word too is universal and knows no boundaries. Coming into communion with the Word of God, we enter a communion of the Church that lives the Word of God. We do not enter into a small group, with the rules of a small group, but we go beyond our limitations. We go towards the depths, in the true grandeur of the only truth, the great truth of God. We are truly a part of what is universal. And thus we go out into the communion of all the brothers and sisters, of all humanity, because the desire for the Word of God, which is one, is hidden in our heart. Therefore even evangelization, the proclamation of the Gospel, the mission are not a type of ecclesial colonialism, where we wish to insert others into our group. It means going beyond the individual culture into the universality that connects all, unites all, makes us all brothers. Let us pray once again that the Lord may help us to truly enter the “vastness” of His Word and thus open the universal horizon to humanity, what unites us despite all the differences.
At the end, we return to a preceding verse: “Tuus sum ego:salvum me fac”. This translates as: “I am yours”. The Word of God is like a stairway that we can go up and, with Christ, even descend into the depths of His love. It is a stairway to reach the Word in the words. “I am yours”. The word has a face, it is a person, Christ. Before we can say “I am yours”, He has already told us “I am yours”. The Letter to the Hebrews, quoting Psalm 39, says: “You gave me a body... Then I said, ‘Here I am, I am coming’”. The Lord prepared a body to come. With His incarnation He said: I am yours. And in baptism He said to me: I am yours. In the Holy Eucharist, He always repeats this: I am yours, so that we may answer: Lord, I am yours. In the path of the Word, entering the mystery of his incarnation, of His being among us, we wish to appropriate His being, expropriate our existence, giving ourselves to Him, He who gave Himself to us.
“I am yours”. Let us pray the Lord that we may learn to say this word with our whole being. That way we will be in the heart of the Word. That way we will be saved.