From the Synod – October 14, 2008

Today’s session involved not only comments from Bishops but also interventions by the Pope himself, along with religious women and men, and laity who comprise the auditors invited to attend the Synod.
The Holy Father, a master teacher, focused his reflection on the historical-critical and theological-spiritual interpretation of the Scriptures. In a clear, concise, and lucid way, Benedict opened up this complex and critical point in dealing with the Word of God. He emphasized that the historical-critical and theological-spiritual forms of exegesis are both necessary. Alone the historical-critical methodology is not sufficient, although important.

If one attends only to the historical-critical approach to the Bible, the Scriptures become a book of the past with nothing to say to the exigencies of the day. The Bible becomes pure history and nothing more.

Even more problematic, he said, exegetes only resorting to such an approach see everything in the Scriptures as reduced to human terms. One can deny the intervention of God in human history. Yet history also has a divine side.

He called the Synod Fathers and experts in Biblical exegesis to overcome the dualism possible between exegesis and theology. Clearly it is a point that concerns him deeply.

Benedict teaches masterfully and from the depths of his understanding of theology and God’s Word. As he sat at his place and expounded his text, I sensed a man who deeply loves the Scriptures, believes in the divine presence in the Word and is entirely convinced of the Word’s relevance for today. The Scriptures are God’s speaking to us here and now.

For the first time, the Synod Hall heard the voice of women, including one from the United States, invited to participate in the Synod. Among the women who addressed the assembly were Maria Voce, President of the Focolare Movement, Michelle Moran, President of International Catholic Council of the Charismatic Renewal Services, Sister Evelyne Franc, Superior General of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent DePaul, Ewa Kusz, President of the World Conference of Secular Institutes, Sister Jocelyn Huot, General President of the Les Brebise de Jesus Movement, Agnes Kam Leng Lam, President of the Catholic Biblical Association of Hong Kong, Teresa Maria Wilsnagh, Regional Director of the Bible Foundation of Cape Town, Sister Clara Millea, Superior General of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (USA), Sister M. Viviana Ballarin, O.P.,Superior Genral of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena and President of the Superiors Major of Italy, and Natalja Fedorova Borovskaja, Professor at the State Humanistic University in Russia and at the Russian Academy of Fine Arts.

From this list you see the wide range of women who spoke, their diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Before the Synod some expressed concern whether the voice of women would be heard at the Synod. The women who spoke today did so effectively, each adding their perspective and some offering suggestions for consideration by the Synod. Their contributions added some helpful directions as the Synod begins to look at forming propositions to be given to the Holy Father in preparation for his post-synodal exhortation.

Professor Fedorova, who teaches children about art and offers courses in art history, spoke of art and beauty as a way to encounter Christ. She described how so much of Scripture has been put to art reflecting especially on the painting by Rembrandt of the Prodigal Son, which is on display at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia.

It was this picture that Henri Nouwen used in writing about forgiveness, analyzing every facet of Rembrandt’s masterpiece to teach his theological, spiritual message. Art has a power few media can provide.

AgnesKam Leng Lam, who works in Hong Kong, even suggested the Holy Father do a blog as a way of enticing the young to meet Christ. He smiled. I think it is a good idea. He has a way of inspiring young people.

One of the most striking moments of today was the comment made by Cardinal Emmanuel Delly of Iraq. His words moved us as he spoke of life in Iraq as tragic, a real Calvary. People lack basic elements of life. Schools are closed. Danger lurks everywhere. People fear for the future. He mentioned that 16 of his priests and two bishops have been kidnapped and some killed. Countless innocents have died. He asked, “Pray for us and with us.”

 All in the hall applauded, a way of being in solidarity with him and his people who continue to suffer so much.

 We also had an opportunity today to be led in the method of Lectio Divina, which received so much attention in the Instrumentum Laboris, and in the reflections of the Synod Fathers. Bishop Santiago Jaime Silva Retamales of Chile explained the steps reflecting on how effective the method has been in his own diocese.

 The four steps involve reading a Scriptural text, meditating on it while focusing on some key words that draw the attention of the reader, praying and asking God the implications of this text for the person, ending in contemplation considering the conversion God is calling the prayer to realize in the person praying.

 His intervention made more real this important way of entering into the Word of God.

 We are nearing the end of the presentations. Most are looking forward to working in small groups to hone the reflections into concrete propositions that will assist the Holy Father in writing his document following the Synod.

 

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