In an interview published this week by the Spanish Catholic magazine Ecclesia, Cardinal Alberto Vanhoye, S.J., the former Rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute of Rome and Secretary Emeritus of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, said the way to overcome the temptation to read the Sacred Scriptures with the rationalist approach characteristic of some contemporary scholars, is to read it with an authentic spirit of prayer.
The renowned Bible scholar, who was made cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI on March 24, 2006, said in the interview, “Providence has deigned that I have been able to consecrate truly all of my life to the profound study of Scripture to the benefit of so many students from all over the world. Therefore, I thank the Lord for giving me this privilege.”
The 85 year-old Jesuit then laid out some premises for studying the Bible, which he said are “clearly premises of faith.”
“The Bible is a text that expresses the faith. In order to receive it in a serious and profound way, we must enter into the current that produced it. Therefore, approaching the inspired text with a spirit of faith is essential. On the other hand, there also exists the conviction that the Bible is at the same time an historical book, not simply a theoretical word. It is a revelation with facts, events, an historical, existential reality that must be received in this way,” he said.
“Sacred Scripture,” the cardinal added, “is essential for knowing Christ, for following him, for researching all of the dimensions of the mystery of Christ.” Moreover, he pointed out, there is a “close relationship between exegetical research and the deepening of faith and the spiritual life. This has made me never doubt once about studying, researching and employing all of my strength and capacities in this study of such fundamental importance for the life of the Church.”
Cardinal Vanhoye also brought up the topic of giving the faithful the means to meditate on the Word of God. He said that Lectio Divina is a special and effective way of doing so.
Asked about how to keep the Bible from becoming a mere object of study separate from one’s spiritual life, the cardinal said, “The principal remedy is mediation on the biblical texts, with a spirit of faith and of prayer.”
“Exegetes cannot be content with just studying the texts. They should meditate on them in an atmosphere of searching for the Lord and for union with Him, and always aware that only Christ gives all the riches of the inspired Scripture. He is the one who fully opens our minds to the knowledge of the Scriptures, as the end of the Gospel of St. Luke says. Therefore, the remedy is daily prayer, understood as meditation that seeks union with the Lord, receiving his light, receiving his love. Only this can save one from the danger of a rationalist and sterilizing spirit, that can become an obstacle for the lives of the faithful,” the cardinal said.