Some years ago, I presided at the funeral of a longtime parishioner. The moment I remember most from the Mass is when a young man came forward in a wheelchair to proclaim the New Testament reading. He began: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose . . .” (Rom 8:28). He read with a clear, strong voice, perfectly cadenced, and concluded, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (38-39).
There was absolute silence in the assembly as he read. Afterward, tears flowed both for the deceased man and for Michael, the grandson who had proclaimed the text. I found out later that Michael had suffered the devastating injury that left him paralyzed one warm summer day as he swam with a group of college friends. With the exuberance of youth, he dove into the lake and hit bottom, severing his spinal cord. His life changed in an instant; yet he came to accept it and thus could proclaim on the day his grandfather was buried, “Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Certainly all of us have had the experience of listening to a scripture passage being proclaimed so beautifully, so authentically that it felt like we were hearing it for the very first time. Such is the power of the spoken word!
Pope Francis reminds us, as he did two years ago while addressing an international gathering of biblical scholars, that the church’s life and mission are founded on the word of God, “which is the soul of theology as well as the inspiration of all of Christian existence.” And the heart of the word that God has enunciated to humanity is the person Jesus Christ.
As we highlight Dei Verbum, the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, in this issue of Emmanuel, let me quote a favorite number from the decree: “The church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God’s word and of Christ’s body” (21).
We are fed at two tables; both nourish and govern our Christian life.
In this Issue
Robert J. Nogosek, CSC, who was present at Vatican II as an invited theologian, has written a very clear article enumerating the core ideas and teachings of Dei Verbum and helping us understand, from the perspective of someone who was actually there, how the decree gradually took shape as it moved through three revisions to its final form. Complementing Father Nogosek’s summary is a very personal reflection by James W. Brown on his experience of engaging the Scriptures and undertaking biblical studies after the council.
Also in Eucharistic Teachings, Dennis Billy, CSsR, introduces us to the distinguished abbot, spiritual writer, and liturgist Don Columba Marmion.
You will also find shorter articles on Trinitarian theology (David H. Powell) and the notion of sacrifice in the Judeo-Christian tradition and today (Hugh Cleary, CSC). The solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity is observed on Sunday, May 31, this year and the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) on the following Sunday, June 7. May these reflections enrich your celebration of these two title feasts!
Anthony Schueller, SSS