The 50th Anniversary of Dei Verbum

Over the past three years, the Catholic Church has celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, which was held in three different sessions between years of 1962 to 1965. At the end of each session, documents were promulgated, 16 all together, which focused on different aspects of the Church’s life, which included, the sacred liturgy, holy scriptures, social communication, what the Church says about herself and to the world, religious life, the role of the laity, catholic education and religious liberty. Each document is important and should be read by all the faithful of the Church.

On October 28, we commemorated five documents, on December 7, we will commemorate four documents which includes Gaudium et Spes, The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. Today, November 18, we commemorate the document on the Laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem) as well as the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, which we will examine today.

I am no stranger to this document, since I have read it nearly twelve times since late 2008. While in graduate school at Franciscan University of Steubenville, I read Dei Verbum at least five times for five different courses. If you ask any of my peers who studied with me during the years of 2008-2010, they will tell you the same thing, we read this document many times!

Dei Verbum was written and promulgated so that the Modern World may come to understand the importance of the Sacred Scriptures in the life of the Catholic Church. Dei Verbum not only focuses on the Sacred Scriptures, but also explains the relationship the Scriptures have with Sacred Tradition and how the Magisterium, the official teaching of the Church, interprets these two known collectively as the Deposit of Faith.

If you have not read it yet, please take the time to read it. You will come to love the Sacred Scriptures more and have a passion to pray and study the Scriptures in your daily life. To conclude today’s post on Dei Verbum, here are 12 points of the document that have stood out of me each time I have read it –

  1. “…This present council wishes to set forth authentic doctrine on divine revelation and how it is handed on, so that by hearing the messages of salvation the whole world may believe, by believing it may hope, and by hoping it may love” (1).
  1. “The Christian dispensation, therefore, as the new and definitive covenant, will never pass away and we now await no further new public revelation before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ (see 1 Tim. 6:14 and Tit. 2:13)” (4).
  1. “This sacred tradition, therefore, and Sacred Scripture of both the Old and New Testaments are like a mirror in which the pilgrim Church on earth looks at God, from whom she has received everything, until she is brought finally to see Him as He is, face to face (see 1 John 3:2)” (7).
  1. “Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence” (9).
  1. “Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church…But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ” (10).
  1. “…The books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself…the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully, and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation” (11).
  1. “The plan of salvation foretold by the sacred authors, recounted and explained by them, is found as the true word of God in the books of the Old Testament: these books, therefore, written under divine inspiration, remain permanently valuable…The principal purpose to which the plan of the old covenant was directed was to prepare for the coming of Christ…” (14-15).
  1. “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).
  1. “Easy access to Sacred Scripture should be provided for all the Christian faithful” (22).
  1. “…And so the study of the sacred page is, as it were, the soul of sacred theology” (24).
  1. “Therefore, all the clergy must hold fast to the Sacred Scriptures through diligent sacred reading and careful study, especially the priests of Christ and others, such as deacons and catechists who are legitimately active in the ministry of the word” (25).
  1. “…Prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that God and man may talk together; for “we speak to Him when we pray; we hear Him when we read the divine saying” (25).

Again, if you have never read this document, or the other 15 documents, I highly encourage you to do so. Too many people in the Universal Church “quote” these documents, more often than not incorrectly, because they have never actually read them. I would also encourage you to read the Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini, promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI on September 30, 2010. With the assistance of the Synod Fathers, he picks up where Dei Verbum leaves off.

Tom Perna

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Tom Perna is the Director of Adult Evangelization and Catechesis at Saint Mary Magdalene Catholic Church where he oversees RCIA, Adult Confirmation, the faith formation ministries, and the Porta Fidei Adult Faith Formation Program. In addition to his work at the parish, Tom spends time writing on his blog – TomPerna.org. He is the author of Understanding Catholic Teaching on the Blessed Virgin Mary (Emmaus Road Publishing). Tom holds a Masters in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville, a Masters in Education from the University of Phoenix and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from the University of San Francisco, which includes a Great Books Certificate from the St. Ignatius Institute.

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  • Gitanjali Sudhir

    Just curious: How many of the Clergy have ever prayerfully read the entire Bible?
    Or encouraged the laity to do the same?
    Despite the fact there are 2 to 3 readings in the Mass, these readings perhaps do NOT reach the homes of average Catholics…
    Gita – Chennai – India

  • John Servorum

    Just FYI, the Second Vatican Council took place over four sessions not three – 1962, 63, 64 and 65.

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