Synod on the Word "Boring"?

Yes, well, His Eminence George Cardinal Pell may have described the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church (which closed on Sunday) as “least interesting” of all the synods he has attended, but that is only judging by the “Crittenden Criteria” that to be interesting religious news has to be controversial.

But things will really become interesting when (and, sad to say, IF) the fruits of the last three weeks find their way into the life of the Church.

I am currently working through the Synod Propositions (currently only available in Italian, but you can use Google Translation to come up with a tolerably readable text). I am only half way through, but there are some very interesting suggestions for liturgy, catechesis and exegetical/theological study.

In particular:

1) The proposal for a CDF study of “inspiration and the truth of the Bible” which highlights the particular Catholic hermeneutic of scripture.

2) The proposal (#14) of giving a special “visible place of honour” to the book of the Scriptures “within the church.” Lutheran Churches used to (not so common any more) have an open copy of the Scriptures always upon the altar itself facing the people. I don’t think that is a good idea (the altar is the table of the Eucharist, not of the word), but why not in association with the Ambo from which the Word is proclaimed? Of course, it is usually the Lectionary or the Gospel book that usually has pride of place there. But it is something to think about.

3) The proposal for a true “gospel procession” (#14) being reinstituted in the ceremony of the Liturgy of the Word – perhaps along the line of the Eastern rites?

4) The suggestion originally made by Archbishop Mark Coleridge for a “Homiletical Directory” is taken up in proposition #15.

5) The suggestion (#16) for a revision of the Lectionary ditching the forced connection currently existing between the Old Testament reading and the Gospel. This would be very opportune.

6) The suggestion of promoting the ministry of women in the reading of scripture in the liturgy. I haven’t seen the latin text, so I don’t know if the Synod is actually proposing that ordination to the office of “Lector” should be open to women. I would be surprised by this and even more surprised if the Holy Father actually agrees with this suggestion.

7) Work on the Sunday “celebrations of the word of God” so as to prevent confusion with teh Eucharistic liturgy (#18)

8) An official “simple form of the Liturgy of the Hours” for laity (#19)

9) support for “small ecclesial communities” (#21). This would have to be handled carefully given the history of BEC’s in the church, but could be beneficial.

10) I am glad that suggestions for devotional reading of scripture are much broader than the classical “lectio divina” every one talks so much about today. (#22)

11) The emphasis on the connection between Catechesis and Scripture (#23) suggests that there should be a kind of Post-RCIA course following baptism especially deepening the newly baptised adult’s connection with scripture and the catechism.

12) A number of propositions directly addressing the catastrophic division between academic scriptural exegetical study and the study of theology (#24-28).

That last mentioned set of propositions could, in the end, be the most significant outcome for the whole Synod. I had started to blog on this but didn’t finish the entry. I will get around to it.

I expect that the propositions will be available on Zenit in English by tomorrow.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Synod on the Word "Boring"?

  1. eulogos

    While we are on the subject of exegesis, what do you think of sentences like this one, thrown casually into the chapter on the sacraments in a book on Catholicism,
    Referring to Matt 28:29,”Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”
    The book then comments “This baptismal formula in the name of the Trinity, rather than coming from the risen Jesus himself, reflects the practie of Mathew’s community in th e70s who experienced the risen Lord present in their midst.”

    Now, how do they know that? As far as I know, there isn’t any independent source which tells what was going on in Matthew’s community. Are they assuming that Jesus couldn’t have said that because it is too theological and formulaic, so it must have come later? They have some wisdom which tells them what the incarnate God could and could not have said?

    Please help me with this.
    Susan Peterson

  2. Past Elder

    No takers? Well hell, then:

    “how do they know that?” To be properly impressive at faculty receptions, graduate seminars, mall openings, and other ceremonial but useless events, one must call such a question an epistemological questioning of an ontological position.

    Having epistemologically questioned their ontological position, the answer is — holy crap, they don’t know that at all, there is no independent source, no Book of the Proceedings of Matthew’s Community, at all, yes, it is simply inferred that because it is formulaic it must have been interjected later: the believing community expressing its experience of Jesus by putting that experience in his mouth, which is not just making stuff up, but a mode of ancient authorship where if the sentiments are those to whom they are ascribed, the author, then the words of the writer do not have to be, and, as the believing community reflects ever more deeply upon its experience, it may find other formulae more helpful — Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier, say, rather than Father, Son, Holy Ghost — thus the sentiments remain and the believing community endures as its self-understanding and awareness develops, no change in essentials, only details.

    At least that’s how it was explained to me in Roman Catholic scriptural theology classes taken by theology majors and seminarians. After the Revolution, er, Vatican II, of course.

  3. Schütz

    PE has it right, Susan. This attitude toward the text and the church’s tradition forms a piece with that attitude the Holy Father was criticising in his address to the Synod about scriptural exegetical scholars being divorced from theology and tradition.

    This is what is behind the nonsense that is going on up in Brisbane here in Australia. See my comments on Fr Kennedy’s essay (which is exactly on this topic you mention) here.