Dei Verbum paragraph 23
Do you have Ratzinger’s (aka Pope Benedict, aka Pope Emeritus Benedict) books on the shelf entitled “Jesus of Nazareth” with the intention that “someday I will get around to reading this.” Well, today take the first volume off of the shelf and read just the forward. You will see echoes of today’s paragraph ringing loudly and clearly.
Sacred Scripture is a living thing which we are to strive to ever more understand it that it might bring us life. Like heat from a fire that brings us warmth, Scriptures are designed to bring us insight, freedom of mind, and hope. But there are just so many ways to screw that up. In that forward, Benedict rips on some of the ways that exegesis is done today that make Jesus incredibly distant, or nonexistent, or into a remarkable carbon copy of the person who is doing the exegesis.
John Cardinal Newman once said, “To be steeped in history is to cease being Protestant.” When trying to figure out what Scriptures is saying we must take into account G. K. Chesterton’s Democracy of the Dead. What have Christians been saying since the beginning of the Church? (and not just what someone tells you it said.) The Church Fathers of both the east and west give remarkable insight into the early Church and Scripture.
Recently, the local megachurch which is also anti-Catholic (in that they teach false things about the Church and then proceed to tear those falsities down and ask those who correct their misinterpretations of the Church to kindly never come back) asked to come and take pictures of our church building for a talk they were giving. I am sure it will involve popish comments about how we make things up and that their services are much closer to what first Christians did. But read the early Church fathers (first, second, third centuries) and you will find us doing the exact same thing that the early Church was doing. In case you were wondering, I let them come. Maybe someone will see the pictures, hear something that doesn’t quite jive, and be lead to explore this interesting building and be led to the faith. Who knows? Say a prayer.
But this is also why exegesis is done “with the mind of the Church.” It is not because the Church wants to control over everybody but because there is truth and falsity. One can fall way off of the track and end up leading others into a ditch going nowhere.
Christ is the bridegroom and we are His espoused taught by His Holy Spirit. The Bridegroom leads His spouse into truth and freedom. The Magisterium (at its best) makes sure that the fields of exploration are fruitful ones.