The Word of God and the Consecrated Life

My men’s group has been reading Verbum Domini (“Word of the the Lord”), a 2010 apostolic exhortation by Pope Benedict XVI. This document synthesizes and puts the Pope’s stamp on the deliberations of the 2008 Synod of Bishops at the Vatican devoted to the topic of the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church.

This past week, we came to paragraph 83, which is devoted specifically to the relationship between the Word and consecrated life. Leaving out only the footnotes, that section is reproduced below:

With regard to the consecrated life, the Synod first recalled that it “is born from hearing the word of God and embracing the Gospel as its rule of life.” A life devoted to following Christ in his chastity, poverty and obedience thus becomes “a living ‘exegesis’ of God’s word.” The Holy Spirit, in whom the Bible was written, is the same Spirit who illumines “the word of God with new light for the founders and foundresses. Every charism and every rule springs from it and seeks to be an expression of it,” thus opening up new pathways of Christian living marked by the radicalism of the Gospel.

Here I would mention that the great monastic tradition has always considered meditation on sacred Scripture to be an essential part of its specific spirituality, particularly in the form of lectio divina. Today too, both old and new expressions of special consecration are called to be genuine schools of the spiritual life, where the Scriptures can be read according to the Holy Spirit in the Church, for the benefit of the entire People of God. The Synod therefore recommended that communities of consecrated life always make provision for solid instruction in the faith-filled reading of the Bible.

Once again I would like to echo the consideration and gratitude that the Synod expressed with regard to those forms of contemplative life whose specific charism is to devote a great part of their day to imitating the Mother of God, who diligently pondered the words and deeds of her Son (cf. Lk. 2:19, 51), and Mary of Bethany, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened attentively to his words (cf. Lk. 10:38). I think in particular of monks and cloistered nuns, who by virtue of their separation from the world are all the more closely united to Christ, the heart of the world. More than ever, the Church needs the witness of men and women resolved to “put nothing before the love of Christ.” The world today is often excessively caught up in outward activities and risks losing its bearings. Contemplative men and women, by their lives of prayer, attentive hearing and meditation on God’s Word, remind us that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (cf. Mt. 4:4). All the faithful, then, should be clearly conscious that this form of life “shows today’s world what is most important, indeed, the one thing necessary: there is an ultimate reason which makes life worth living, and that is God and his inscrutable love.”

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