January 23, 2011

The Word of God

Last year, we finished with an introduction to Verbum Domini. Let's get into the document and see what the recent synod and the Holy Father have to tell us about the Word of God.

The first section of Verbum Domini is titled "The God Who Speaks". This leads naturally to a few questions. How does God speak to us? And why?

The first subsection - "God in dialogue" - gives us a very rich description of the Trinity (as much as God in His nature can be adequately described), and it's worth some time rereading and meditating on. For now, let's focus on just a few statements. First, we read that "the Father eternally utters the Word in the Holy Spirit." Right there, we find all three persons of the Trinity interacting. God the Father speaks the Word, and we know from St. John that that Word is Jesus Christ (John 1:14). God speaks His Word in the Holy Spirit. There is a "dialogue of love between the divine persons", as the Pope puts it. Like the love between a married couple that becomes a distinct person, the Holy Spirit - the spirit of love in which God speaks - is the third person of the Trinity.

We have, then, (1) God the Father speaking. His spoken Word (2) is called the Logos, in Greek; this can refer to language (as in "spoken word") but also reason (as in "thought" or "mind"). We might say, then, that Jesus is the living mind of God. No wonder that Jesus said believing in Him is believing in the Father (John 12:44) and that His words are the Father's (John 12:49). Finally, the Father speaks His Word in the Holy Spirit (3), creating a dialogue of love. We might say, then, that the Holy Spirit is this spirit of love between the Father and Son.

Let's get back to our two questions. First, how does God speak to us? We'll be exploring other ways shortly, but the primary way is through the incarnation of His Word - through Jesus Christ. The Father speaks to us through His Son, and to know the Son is to know the Father. Second, why does God speak to us? Why send His Son to us? He gives us His Word in the Holy Spirit, in the same spirit of love. God is love (1 John 4:8). He speaks to us because He loves us, and He wants us to know Him.

The Word of God (Verbum Domini) is Jesus Christ, given because of God's great love for us. So that's it, right? We're done.

Well, not quite. The phrase "Word of God" can have other, secondary meaning. There are many ways to use the phrase "word of God". All of these other meanings will fit together and, ultimately, refer back to Christ. This gives us what the Pope calls "a symphony of the word". Among the instruments in this symphony, we have God's word spoken through the prophets, the word preached by the apostles at Christ's command (Mark 16:15), the living Sacred Tradition handed down through the apostles' successors, and the divinely inspired Sacred Scripture. We are not Bible-only Christians but full Christians that read the written Word, follow the spoken Word that's been handed on, and receive "the incarnate and living Word" that is Jesus Christ at Mass.

Still, God's word is spoken "most fully in the mystery of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God." It all centers on Him. It's all Christ.

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