THE WORD OF GOD
- Written by Cardinal Thomas Collins
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The Scriptures do not stand on their own; they must be explained, interpreted within the context of the living faith of the community, and applied to its present circumstances, often radically different from those out of which the text first arose. The proclamation of God’s word in the liturgy provides the best possible context for the authentic interpretation of the Bible. In the liturgy the biblical context is proclaimed to the assembled Christians, and the apostolic leader of the community explains its significance by relating it to its original situation, to the whole plan of God, to the faith of the Church, to the practical concerns of his particular community, and to the experience of the Lord in the Eucharist.
The Jewish tradition of liturgical proclamation of the Scriptures includes a tradition of interpretation. In the synagogue services of ancient Palestine, the Scriptures were read in Hebrew, but since many in the congregation understood only Aramaic, an official of the synagogue would provide a running translation in that language, a targum, which was a kind of paraphrase including within it a commentary on the text. The spiritual leaders of the synagogue community would also preach on the various scriptural texts. In Luke 4 we have an account of Jesus reading the scriptural text and commenting on it.
In Justin’s description of the Eucharistic liturgy, a member of the community reads the texts and then the leader explains their meaning. Down through the centuries, liturgical proclamation of the Scriptures has been inseparable from the homiletic interpretation. Many scriptural commentaries of the Fathers of the Church are really homilies on the texts proclaimed in the liturgy. In our own day the Constitution on the Liturgy states that “through the homily, the hidden realities of faith and the guiding principles of the Christian life are explained over the course of the liturgical year from the text of the scripture: (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 52). The homily is a basic element of the liturgical reading of the Bible.