The Synod Speaks

Here are some choice excerpts from the Synod's culminating address to the world:

5. Christian tradition has often placed the Divine Word made flesh on a parallel with the same word made book. This is what emerges already in the creed when one professes that the Son of God “was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man”, but also a profession of faith in the same “Holy Spirit, who spoke through the Prophets”. The Second Vatican Council gathers this ancient tradition according to which “the body of the Son is the Scripture transmitted to us” - as Saint Ambrose affirms (In Lucam VI, 33) - and clearly declares: “For the words of God, expressed in human language, have been made like human discourse, just as the Word of the eternal Father, when he took to himself the flesh of human weakness, was in every way made like men” (DV 13).
Indeed, the Bible is also “flesh”, “letter”; it expresses itself in particular languages, in literary and historical forms, in concepts tied to an ancient culture, it preserves the memories of events, often tragic; its pages not infrequently are marked by blood and violence, within it resounds the laughter of humanity and the flowing tears, as well as the cry of the distressed and the joy of those in love. For this, its “bodily” dimension requires an historical and literary analysis, which occurs through various methods and approaches offered by Biblical exegesis. Every reader of Sacred Scripture, even the most simple, must have a proportionate knowledge of the sacred text, recalling that the word is enveloped in concrete words, which is shaped and adapted to make it heard and understood by all of humanity.
This is a necessary commitment. If it is excluded, one could fall into fundamentalism which in practice denies the Incarnation of the divine Word in history, does not recognize that this word expresses itself in the Bible according to a human language, that must be decoded, studied and understood. Such an attitude ignores that divine inspiration did not erase the historical identities and personalities of its human authors. The Bible, however, is also the eternal and divine Word and for this reason requires another understanding, given by the Holy Spirit who unveils the transcendent dimension of the divine word, present in human words.

6. Here, thus, lies the necessity of the “living Tradition of all the Church” (DV 12) and of the faith to understand Sacred Scripture in a full and unified way. Should one focus only on the “letter”, the Bible is only a solemn document of the past, a noble, ethical and cultural witness. If, however, the Incarnation is excluded, it could fall into a fundamentalist equivocation or a vague spiritualism or pop-psychology. Exegetical knowledge must, therefore, weave itself indissolubly with spiritual and theological tradition so that the divine and human unity of Jesus Christ and Scripture is not broken.
In this rediscovered harmony, the face of Christ will shine in its fullness and will help us to discover another unity, that profound and intimate unity of Sacred Scriptures. There are, indeed, 73 books, but they form only one “Canon”, in one dialogue between God and humanity, in one plan of salvation. “At many moments in the past and by many means, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our time, the final days, he has spoken to us in the person of his Son” (Hb 1:1-2). Christ thus retrospectively sheds his light on the entire development of salvation history and reveals its coherence, meaning, and direction.He is the seal, “the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev 1:8) of a dialogue between God and his creatures distributed over time and attested to in the Bible. It is in the light of this final seal that the words of Moses and the prophets acquire their “full sense”. Jesus himself had indicated this on that spring afternoon, while he made his way from Jerusalem to the town of Emmaus, dialoguing with Cleopas and his friend, explaining “to them the passages in the Scriptures that were about himself” (Lk 24:27).
That the divine Word has put on a face is at the center of Revelation. That is precisely why the ultimate finality of biblical knowledge is “not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (Deus caritas est, 1).


The scene at Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35) is once again exemplary, and reproduces what happens every day in our churches: the homily by Jesus about Moses and the prophets gives way to the breaking of the Eucharistic Bread at the table. This is the moment of God’s intimate dialogue with His people. It is the act of the new covenant sealed in the blood of Christ (cf. Lk 22:20). It is the supreme work of the Word who offers himself as food in his immolated body, it is the source and summit of the life and mission of the Church. The Gospel account of the Last Supper, the memorial of Christ’s sacrifice, when proclaimed in the eucharistic celebration, through the invocation of the Holy Spirit, becomes event and sacrament. This is why the Second Vatican Council, in a very intense passage, declared: “The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God’s word and of Christ’s body” (DV 21). Therefore, we must place at the center of Christian life “the liturgy of the word and the eucharistic liturgy, [which] are so closely connected with each other that they form but one single act of worship” (SC 56).


In the house of the word we also encounter brothers and sisters from other Churches and ecclesial communities who, even with the still existing separations, find themselves with us in the veneration and love for the word of God, the principle and source of a first and real unity, even if not a full unity. This bond must always be reinforced through the common biblical translations, the spreading of the sacred text, ecumenical biblical prayer, exegetical dialogue, the study and the comparison between the various interpretations of the Holy Scriptures, the exchange of values inherent in the various spiritual traditions and the announcement and the common witness of the word of God in a secularized world.


This immense sigh of suffering that rises from the earth to heaven is continuously represented by the Bible, which proposes an historical and incarnated faith. It is enough to think only of the pages marked by violence and oppression, of the harsh and continuous cry of Job, of the vehement pleas of the Psalms, of the subtle internal crisis that passes through the soul of Qoheleth, of the vigorous prophetic denunciations against social injustice. The sentence of the radical sin that appears in all its devastating force, from the beginning of humanity in a fundamental text of Genesis (chapter 3), is unconditional. In fact, the “mystery of iniquity” is present and acts in history, but it is revealed by the word of God that assures the victory of good over evil, in Christ.
But above all in the Scriptures, the figure of Christ, who begins his public ministry with a proclamation of hope for the last persons of the earth, dominates: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring the good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord” (Lk 4:18-19). He repeatedly places his hands on ill and diseased flesh. His words proclaim justice, instill courage to the disheartened and offer forgiveness to sinners. Finally, he himself approaches the lowest level, “he emptied himself” of his glory , “taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross” (Phil 2:7-8).
In this way Christ feels the fear of death (“‛Father’, he said, ‛if you are willing, take this cup away from me’”), He experiences loneliness because of the abandonment and betrayal by friends, he penetrates the darkness of the cruelest physical pain through his crucifixion and even the darkness of the Father’s silence (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (Mk 15:34) and reaches the last abyss of any man, that of death (“he gave a loud cry and breathed his last”). To him, the definition that Isaiah gave to the servant of the Lord truly can be applied: “the lowest of men, a man of sorrows” (53:3).
Even so, even in that extreme moment, he does not cease being the Son of God: in his solidarity of love and with the sacrifice of himself, he sows a seed of divinity in the finiteness and evil of humanity, in other words, a principle of freedom and salvation. With his offering of himself to us he pours out redemption on pain and death, assumed and lived by him, and also opens to us the dawn of resurrection. Therefore the Christian has the mission to announce this divine word of hope, by sharing with the poor and the suffering, through the witness of his faith in the kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, of love and peace, through the loving closeness that neither judges nor condemns, but that sustains, illuminates, comforts and forgives, following the words of Christ: “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).

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