The New Dictionary of Sacramental Worship by Peter E. Fink, SJ states that God’s word is more than“mere external utterance or intellectual discourse. It is the self-communication of God to creation.”This is where we encounter God. The logos — Jesus incarnate and with us. The Word became flesh.
Historically, there was a perception that Protestantism was focused on the Word while Catholicism was sacramental. With theological and ecumenical movements through time, a greater appreciation for the relationship of Word and sacrament developed. Our shared understanding of the revelation of God through Word and sacrament unites Christians.
How does the Word of God become a lived reality in a life? The rhythm of the liturgical year and the resonance of the scriptural narratives follows the unfolding of our lives. Does the narrative of the Nativity or the Passion have any less impact despite the many times we may have heard it? Staring at the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt brings a feeling of familiarity. This is a story that has formed us. We encounter God again and again listening to the Word throughout our days.
The thousands of years of history, the poetry, the theatricality, the music and the emotion of humanity rest in these pages. In hearing the Word, we come to know God intimately. Recently, with my mother’s passing, I was given the family bible. I remember sitting on the living room floor when I was a child looking at the pictures and reading the large print. Bibles are family heirlooms. The Word of God lives with us and within us.
Several years ago, I was presented with my husband’s great grandfather’s bible. It turns out that great great (not sure how many “greats” exactly) grandpa Bentham published bibles in Cambridge, England. Inside the cover there is a record of marriages, births and Christenings dating back to 1776. As I turn the ancient, brittle pages, I wonder how many hands have held this sacred book.
In the “Born of the Spirit” Religious Education program, the fourth grade focused on the Word of God. Parishes and schools came together for a Liturgy of the Word and parishes purchased the Good News bibles to present to the students. It is unfortunate that this tradition has slipped away. Every child should have a bible.
I spent a day with my grand-daughter this week. She is 15 months old. We read many books throughout the day as she pulled them off the shelf. When she reached for the Bible for Children, she would turn the pages to look at the baby Jesus and the angel. Generation to generation, the Word of God brings us to encounter God. Jesus is the Word of God and the sacred scriptures bear witness to the incarnate Word. Thanks be to God.
Jan Bentham is a retired Religion Coordinator with the Ottawa Catholic School Board. She is a musician, serving in music ministry at St. Ignatius Parish in Ottawa. She currently works at St. Paul’s University with the Catholic Women’s Leadership Program.