Monday, April 18, 2005

Liturgical Footnote #10
By Fr. J.C. Garrett

As has been already noted, the first reading at Sunday Mass is from the Old Testament; with the exception of during the Easter Season when we read from the Acts of the Apostles. In Catholic Bibles there are 46 books in the Old Testament. Most of these books were first passed down orally before being written down. They were composed over several centuries, and contain various literary styles. While we can look at each book as a separate work, we must also look at the entire Old Testament as a single Revelation. God loves us, and He wants to share (communicate) His life with us. God reveals Himself to us in His Creation, but He has also made Himself known to us through the Holy Spirit inspiring Sacred Scripture. Of course the most complete revelation of God is Jesus Christ. In a very real way, all of Scripture has a common author, the Holy Spirit. The “Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation” (Dei Verbum; DV) issued by the Second Vatican Council teaches that the Holy Spirit is the principle author of Sacred Scripture. There are a few erroneous ways of considering the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the human authors of the works with compose Sacred Scripture. On the one hand, it is not a mere mechanical dictation, with the Holy Spirit telling the human author word for word what to write for DV clearly teaches that the human authors are real authors who employed their skills (given to them, of course by God). On the other hand, the Holy Spirit did not just give the Divine “seal of approval” to works written by the human authors. God had a definite message that He wanted revealed to us, thus DV states, “that the books of Scripture, firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures.” It is very important to keep both the Holy Spirit (primary) and human beings as true authors.

St. Augustine noted in one of his famous sayings that the New Testament was hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New. As we have noted, the Old Testament reading at Sunday Mass was selected because it is supposed to reflect in some way the Gospel reading for that Sunday. Sometimes this connection is more obvious than times. The study of typology, of how one thing foreshadows another, is often useful in seeing this connection. For a good introduction to typology and a basic introduction to Biblical theology, I recommend Scripture Matters, by Dr. Scott Hahn. While it is very important to solidly grounded in what the Church calls the ‘literal sense’ of the Scripture (what is really being said based on literary style, historical context, etc), as Fr. Francis Randolph notes in his book, Know Him in the Breaking of the Bread, “We must remember that we are not saved by knowing about the history and archaeology of Palestine; we are saved by knowing Jesus Christ, and the value of the Old Testament is in what it tells us about him” (p. 71).

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