The "Sacrament" of the Word
WITH Septuagesima Sunday we
enter upon the liturgical cycle which reaches its climax in the celebration of Easter. Before us lies the whole story of our Redemption. The time is one during which, by way of preparation, we may profitably undertake some special course of spiritual reading. The devotional literature of the Church offers a wide choice, so wide, indeed, that selection may be difficult. We can avoid the problem of selection, however, by going back to the point where all this literature meets and from which it radiates, that it, to the Book of which, in a special sense, God is Himself the Author. and, in particular, to the Gospels. If we are willing to break through the crust formed by familiarity with the language and thus, by intensive meditation, under the direction of the Church, get to the heart of the narrative, we shall win the reward which ever awaits original research.
For our reading of the Gospels to be truly devotional, there is one fact which we must fully realise: this story was not only written by God about God, but in it we come face to face with God Himself. This Book is His dwelling-place, a temple housing His living Presence. " Our separated brethren do not kneel with us at the Communion-rail. But to meditate with faith on the Holy Gospel is to enter into spiritual cornmunion with our Lord and Saviour." So wrote Cardinal Faulhaber. In a recent illuminating article contributed to Blackfriors, Fr. Kehoe. 0.P., speaks in similar terms. " The words of Scripture," he says, "do not point to what God does; they are what he does. And it is necessary not so much to follow their guidance as to participate in their Mystery." Elsewhere he attributes to them a sacramental character. That is to say, the Scriptures are more than a sign-post pointing to something outside themselves. They are not like a road-map from which one must look away to see the route it indicates. They contain Him of Whom they speak, and it is He Who interprets them. The incident, related by St. Luke, when Jesus " beginning at Moses and all the prophets," expounded the Scriptures to the disciples on the road to Emmaus and showing how they related to Himself. has permanent and universal significance. Many another besides they have said: " Was not our heart burning within us whilst He spoke by the way, and opened to us the Scriptures." He uses the printed word as a means of approach and reveals Himself in them.
The process is a searching and therefore painful one. " For the word of God," says the Epistle to the Hebrews." is living and effectual, and more piercing than any twoedged sword . . . and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." But what better preparation could there be for the celebration of the Mysteries to which the liturgical cycle is about to introduce us? STANLEY B. JAMES.