Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The word

As much as I love reading the Bible I have to stop occasionally and remind myself that the Word which is at the center of my faith is not the Book, in Greek Biblios. As a Christian, the Word that is the center of my faith is a person, Jesus. He is the Word of God made flesh. As John's Gospel reminds us,

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God

Jesus is the. Logos, the Word.

If I forget this I can run the risk of turning the Bible into an idol. Is the Bible the inspired words of God? Of course. But its purpose is to draw us into a deeper relationship with the Word, Jesus Christ. And because the purpose of the Bible is to draw us into that personal relationship with Jesus, there is a hierarchy to the importance we give to various books of the Bible. The Gospels stand in the first place, and all other scripture must be read in light of them. Then come the other books of the New Testament, because of their proximity to him. Then the Old Testament because as St. Augustine said, "The New Testament is hidden in the Old."

St. Paul today reminds us that we must not limit ourselves to what is written. In his second letter to the Thessalonians he tells us to

brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.

Paradosis- tradition. The prefix para we all recognize as "that which stand along side" (paralegal, paramedic, or parallel). And note that he references the oral and written. St. Paul commands us to hold on tightly to all of the tradition. Does the Bible contain everything necessary for salvation? Of course. Does it contain everything we can know about Jesus, the early Church, and how we are to live as Christian? No.

To hunger for the word of God is to hunger not for the Bible but to hunger for the living Word, Jesus Christ. As I read the Bible it seems only logical to look to the earliest sources we can get to help us understand it, the interpreters who are closest to the source. The Fathers of the Church, as we call them, help us to answer the question of not only how did the apostles understand Jesus but how did the students of the apostles, the earliest generations of Christians understand Jesus. We should be ready to devour these ancient texts as more and more of the oral tradition got set down in writing. We should be open to hear any legitimate source that helps us to draw closer to the the WORD, Jesus. To immerse ourselves in the word of God is to loose ourselves in the love of Christ, to allow ourselves to fall in love with the Word of which John wrote:

All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.