The Synod on the Word of God
In October, from the 5th to the 26th, the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will take place in Rome, on the theme "The Word of God in the life and mission of the Church". It follows the synod on the Eucharist (2005), and thus is completed the table of the body of the Lord, where we are given as bread of life both the Word of God and the body of the Lord (DV 21). The Word, as proclaimed by Isaiah, is simultaneously bread to be eaten and seed to the sower (Isaiah 55:10).
a) Point of Arrival
This is the point of arrival of a
long journey by the entire Church, and the focus will be on the centrality of
the Word in pastoral life, in studies, in liturgy, in the spirituality of the
Church, as well as on the exploration of open problems and difficulties. This
is clearly stated in item 4 of the Lineamenta:
Main steps, during
the last century, of the return of the Word to the centre of Christian life:
Consequence: birth and diffusion of the
"biblical movement": highly scientific studies, but with a
focus on the pastoral, on liturgy and progressive diffusion of biblical
knowledge to all.
And now for the assessment: the Synod will certainly examine the greatest results, the most lively and authentic experiences, as well as the problems and needs that have arisen. An initial map of the results and issues was sketched in the Lineamenta (March 2007), but a more detailed and guiding map will be provided in the Instrumentum Laboris, already complete and soon to be published. This will be the practical guide for the coming Synod: we would do well to read and study it, in preparation for the great ecclesial event, but above all to bring our minds to bear on the main themes.
We can single out three specific areas upon which there is a focus:
b) We Carmelites
We are called, along with all the Church, to live this moment of discernment and recognition of ecclesial history and the pastoral life we carry forward. We cannot avoid it: it concerns us for a number of reasons. First of all because we seek to live with the Church and walk with it, because we are within it with our pastoral life and spirituality, because this new era has changed, undoubtedly for the better, our nature and our identity. It is something that concerns us directly: and we wish to live from the Church and with the Church.
But also for other reasons:
In view of the Synod we can:
c) Symbolic Return to Vivere in Obsequio Jesu Christi
Our first fathers sought, in their century, to
express the quest for a radical and original reformation of the Church and
evangelisation with a material return to the Holy Land, to live there, as in
the beginning, following and heeding the Word, the centrality of Jerusalem,
fragile fraternity, a sober and austere life. The Rule offers us some
references to this intention of theirs and their propositum.
Now we must find again this dynamic, this guiding wisdom:
Because there is no mysticism without prophecy, and no prophecy without obedient listening to the Word (VC 84), and there is no transforming power in listening without fraternity in listening, willingness to put ourselves at stake, as protagonists, shaking off our habitual laziness and mistaken or sleepy charismatic identities. Only if the Word burns in us, as happened to the words of Elijah (Sirach 48:1), as in the Vitae formula, the meditare die ac nocte in Lege Domini (R 10), will it be more than just a slogan, repeated by sleepwalkers who fool themselves into believing they are walking in the light of the sun. And too the vigilare in orationibus shall not be a mere regurgitation of pre-prepared prayers (RC 11), but the beating of a loving heart, in which desire lights up everything. And the exhortation to "do everything in the strength of and in fidelity to the Word of the Lord" (R 19) shall not be a hypocritical, unverified self-certification, but a process continually open to revision and guided by wisdom and discernment (R 24).
d) A Word on the Lectio Divina
Our participation in the new experiences of the lectio divina offers many opportunities. In reality this participation comes from, and is managed by not only the priests, but also the brothers, sisters, nuns and Carmelite laity. In the collection “Rotem – Ascolto orante della Parola” (Ed. Messaggero, Padova, 13 volumes to date), for which I am responsible, all of the above take part. Thus the clerical monopoly on the Word and the testimony of our charism is broken, and the reduction of our pastoral life to the celebration of the sacraments and to pious devotion centred on the priest or the liturgy of mass is no more.
Furthermore, there is an increase in ministerial capacities outside the common "sacramental" circuits which always fall within the scope of the clergy. And so creativity, a sense of faith, the co-responsibility of the many are put into play: suffice it to think of the results of the popular reading of Carlos Mesters in Latin America, which involved millions of people (particularly in the CEBs) and became recognised ecclesial heritage. We are in harmony with our charism (Rule) and the exhortations of Benedict XVI. In Italy too, though with more modest experiences, we now have a tradition. Without forgetting the website of our General Curia and other personal initiatives. We are seen by many as protagonists in this area of the lectio... It seems to me we have an opportunity to take part, in harmony with the Church and the true Charism. Of course, not to narcissistically show off, but to live and act as a true Church and not some mere sect.
However, I would like to join cardinal C.M. Martini: in his warning, that "The Lectio divina does not replace catechism nor other initiatives for teaching and cultural development which help Christians to mature in their faith. Nonetheless, the lectio does achieve something which the speeches, the sermons, the catechisms not always can: it places each person, with their conscience and responsibility, before God, who speaks, exhorts, calls, consoles or remonstrates, in an atmosphere of prayer and dialogue, of humble request for forgiveness, of a quest for light, of willingness to be guided by the Holy Spirit to make the offering of our own lives". On guard against confusion, but also with the necessary guidance to understand its use without confusion!
Because the lectio divina is not to be regarded as picking up the Bible every once in a while and reading a few pages, in a spirit of meditation. Rather, it is an ordered, methodical exercise, in an atmosphere of silence and praying reflection, with a progressive and systematic reading of the Bible, in the same way that liturgical procedure offers, in its Sunday and ferial cycles, an almost complete revisitation of the books of the Bible. The result should be inner unity, shaped by the Word of life, which finds in Christ the key and the sense of the contents of the Scriptures, and guides us towards a practical coherence of life in conformity with the biblical conventions, in communion with the community of believers and in open dialogue regarding the problems of current times (cf. our methodology).
"Living according to the Spirit results from making room for the Word and allowing it to be born in one’s heart" (Lineamenta, no. 34). This is how true spirituality could be defined! We think of ourselves as specialists in spirituality, or at least we are seen as such by many, but is it truly with this outlook that we specialise in and inhabit the Church?
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Last revised: 30 May 2008