Pope Urges Prayerful Reading of Bible

Cites Example of Origen

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 25, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Prayerful reading of Scripture, and the consequent reform of life, is the secret to the constant renewal of the Church, Benedict XVI says.



The Pope affirmed that today when speaking of Origen of Alexandria at the general audience in St. Peter's Square. He continued with his series of catechesis on early Church Fathers.

Origen, "true teacher … brilliant theologian … exemplary witness of the doctrine he taught … the most prolific author of the first three Christian centuries," brought about an "irreversible turn in Christian thought," the Holy Father said.

"He grounded theology in the explanations of the Scriptures; or we could also say that his theology is the perfect symbiosis between theology and exegesis," the Pontiff explained.

He added: "The characterizing mark of Origen's doctrine seems to reside in his incessant invitation to pass from the letter to the spirit of the Scriptures, to progress in the knowledge of God.

"We can say, therefore, that the central nucleus of Origen's immense literary works consists in his 'three-pronged reading' of the Bible."

Three prongs

Benedict XVI explained Origen's methodology in studying sacred Scripture.

"To know what is actually written and to know what this text wanted to say intentionally and initially," was Origen's first step, the Pope said.

He explained how Origen used a system of columns to evaluate all the possible meanings of the original biblical language. For example, in the first column, he would put the Hebrew original. And in five parallel columns, Origen would do a transliteration and four different translations into Greek. He thus tried "to know exactly what is written," the Holy Father explained.

The second prong was reading Scripture along with its most famous commentaries. "He proceeds almost verse by verse, probing amply and deeply, with philological and doctrinal notes," the Pope added.

Finally, Benedict XVI continued: "Origen dedicated himself a great deal to the preaching of the Bible, adapting himself to varied audiences. In any case, as we see in his Homilies, the teacher, dedicated to systematic interpretation of verses, breaks them down into smaller verses.

"Origen takes every opportunity to mention the various senses of sacred Scripture that help or express a way of growth in faith: There is the 'literal' sense, but this hides depths that are not apparent upon a first reading; the second dimension is the 'moral' sense: what we must do as we live the Word; and in the end we have the 'spiritual' sense, the unity of Scripture in its diversity."

Multidimensional

Benedict XVI said that he followed a similar process in his recently released book.

"I tried somewhat, in my book 'Jesus of Nazareth,' to show the multiple dimensions of the Word in today's world, of sacred Scripture, that must first of all be respected in the historical sense," he said. "But this sense brings us toward Christ, in the light of the Holy Spirit, and shows us the way, how to live."

The Pope invited the faithful to follow Origen's example: "I invite you to welcome the teachings of this great teacher of the faith into your hearts.

"He reminds us that in the prayerful reading of Scripture and in a coherent way of life, the Church is renewed and rejuvenated."