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The silence of listening in the spirit of joy

Gianfranco Ravasi - L'Osservatore Romano - Fri, Nov 11th 2011

Verbum Domini is a global work where theology, spirituality and pastoral care are intertwined


On Friday, November 11, the Cardinal President of the Pontifical Council for Culture will present the book, Verbum Domini. Studi e comenti sull’esortazione apostolica postsinodale di Benedetto XVI (edited by Paolo Mero and Giuseppe Pulcinelli, Città del Vaticano, Lateran University Press, 2011, pp 508, 40 euro). Talks will be given by the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, and the Rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, Bishop Enrico dal Covolo. Cardinal Ravasi has sent us an article on the theme, of which we publish an excerpt below.

Vladimir: “Did you ever read the Bible?” Estragon: “The Bible…. I must have taken a look at it.” This exchange by the two vagabond protagonists of Samuel Beckett’s celebrated play, Waiting for Godot (1952) expresses an attitude which is common to many: the Bible, which is so acclaimed, is at least worth a glance, but like the classics it is so little read.

The French poet Paul Claudel did not hesitate to say that Catholics have great respect for the Bible; so much so that they stay as far away from it as possible. In truth, we should recognize that the Second Vatican Council ensured that this distance was shortened in the liturgy, in catechesis and in theology itself. Ever more, even in “secular” environments, one acknowledges the need to have this “great codex” of Western culture at one’s fingertips in order to decipher and admire the highest works of art and even certain aspects of our daily lives, not to mention the importance of the Sacred Scriptures for questions of ethos and common ethics (one need only consider the importance of the Ten Commandments).

Several decades on from Vatican II, faced with a slackening and especially an addiction which could create a sort of generic and vague spiritualism or on the contrary, an arid technical approach on the part of specialists, the Synod of Bishops convoked by Benedict XVI in October 2008, has provided significant impetus for an intense and authentic return to the Word of God. The fruits of this assembly, expressed in numerous documents which it has produced – from preparatory materials to the addresses of the Synod Fathers, from discussions in the different linguistic areas to the final message for the people of God, from official speeches to the propositions voted on by the Synod – have been presented to the Pope who delivered the Post-Synodal Exhortation, significant both in its title Verbum Domini and in its genre, and emblematically released on the liturgical feast of St. Girolamo, September 30, 2010.

We would now like to offer a brief structural profile, with only one final emphasis which will surely be the focus of a vast and thorough analysis by exegetes and theologians. It is not a sober or bare-bones appeal which attempts to rouse the ecclesial community and the faithful; nor is it even a purely doctrinal and thematic text, just as it cannot be reduced only to the pastoral and operative environment; it does not even opt for a list of theories and practical proposals which are destined to be filled with documentation and successive applications. Instead, we are given a real and true global work, very near to a conciliar “constitution”, where theology and pastoral work are intertwined and where reflection is sustained and enriched by an inlay of meaningful quotes and effective references.

We do not use the term, “treatise” because it connotes something negative, academic, manualistic, and dated, but the substance expressed by the etymology of the word is applicable to this papal text: in it, the theme of the Word of God is “treated,” or analyzed, developed, and deepened in all of its iridescence.

Gianfranco Ravasi
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